Tech

Social Media Tracks Oil Spill

A New Orleans advocacy group is proving social media can be used for more than telling your friends what you had for dinner. The Louisiana Bucket Brigade's website logs eye witnesses' texts, tweets, and email messages on a map and into a database of oil spill-related damage in the Gulf Coast. The oil has yet to hit Louisiana's bayous, so dispatches are few and far between, but over the coming weeks the brigade is expecting thousands of briefings to flood in about odors, wildlife and the approaching oil. The technology is called Ushahidi, which means "testimony" in Swahili, and was also used to track political violence in Kenya and during the Haiti earthquake. It's an open-source platform built by volunteers in 2008 and a way to keep records and personal accounts as events unfold. To add an observation, texts can be sent to (504) 272-7OIL.