Al Jazeera Labs is Testing Ushahidi

It made sense that Al Jazeera‘s new media team got in touch with us via Twitter – email and Skype came later. A week ago they asked us for the alpha code to see what they could do with it around the recent activity in Gaza. This was the first time a non-Ushahidi team had deployed the alpha-level software. You can see it at http://labs.aljazeera.net/warongaza.

Instructions from Riyaad on the Al Jazeera team:
“If you’re anywhere in the world and an event is taking place to do with #gaza #israel send a text to: +45609910303 – Start it with GAZA.” You can also, SMS 37191 / +45609910303 – Twitter: @ajgaza

Al Jazeera testing out the Ushahidi Engine in Gaza

Al Jazeera is estimated to be the second largest international news/media house, reaching 100 million households. That kind of organization testing Ushahidi gives us a lot of insight into what we need to do in the future for enterprise-level deployments. This is our first Arabic language deployment, which the Al Jazeera new media team has been working on in the last week – more to come on that soon.

Benjamin Doherty has also played a role in helping get the site up. He also brought up an interesting point that he’s helping us figure out how to work into the system. How do you deal with synonymous names of locations? That’s an especially good question to ask in Gaza, as there are multiple names for the same place used by different groups.

Lastly, this is also the first time that Google Maps was not chosen as the default map, but Microsoft Virtual Earth Maps were instead. We can already see some areas there where we need to fine tune the clustering at the higher elevation levels (as you drill down closer you see that the reports are in the right spot on the map).

So, a big thanks to Riyaad at Al Jazeera New Media Labs for giving it a try. We’ve already learned a great deal from just one week on this, and we’re looking forward to seeing what they do in the future.

A video from Al Jazeera TV:

20 Responses to “Al Jazeera Labs is Testing Ushahidi”

  1. Nice work.

    Would be great to combine the geographical and temporal visualization of the data, i.e., animation of the conflict over space *and* time. At this point, the map provides an initial at-a-glance spatial understanding of the conflict but the geo-referenced data is aggregated and the time element somewhat “hidden”.

    Combining spatial and temporal dynamics is easily done on Google Earth, so I would give users the option of downloading the KML version of the static map. That way the data can be viewed dynamically using GE’s time-slider.

    What do you think?

  2. Wow, interesting thought Patrick. I think that if they have not considered it, they would likely do consider now. I know they are still feeling the BETA phase and have a lot of things to hammer out. Maybe it’s something they would add after getting a full 1.0 launch out.

    One issue (outside of the technical coding ability to do it, I’m no coder), it would require use of GE. As mentioned in the article above, Al Jazeera chose to use Microsoft’s mapping.

  3. Congrats. This is a great example of what Ushahidi can do in the world and aid in reporting conflict. Great work people.

  4. Wow. I was just wondering how things were going with Ushahidi, and now this news. Great to see that the guys at Al Jazeera Labs like it.

    I guess you’ll also get a ton of valuable feedback out of this.

    I hope that the efforts of Ushahidi in the future will contribute to ending the violence.

  5. @tn thanks, the required use of GE is not a problem. as long as the underlying data exists in a structured format, a time-dynamic layer can be downloaded for visualization on GE regardless of whether the data is first displayed on VE. So all Ushahidi platforms should provide a KML download option.

  6. we’re learning quite a bit with this project- the reason we went with the microsoft map was because google maps did not have enough detail for the area. we are huge google fans and it is our number one choice.

    we havent seen much coming in from gaza/israel- i’m assuming thats for a number of reasons:
    1) with such a huge amount of activity going on people dont have the time to send out texts- those who are sending out information are sending video/images (if they get a connection) to show the aftermath of a missile strike etc.
    2) the networks are going crazy and are very busy, also with the power outage in the area getting hold of people in the conflict zone is difficult- so i’m guessing sending information out is just as difficult

    we’re going to try and make a push to get the numbers known within gaza over the coming days- will update you on results as and when it comes in.

    as we’re one of the only international news orginisation with journalists in gaza itself, we have an extensive network of news coming in- so we are trying to update the map as quick as possible based on news from our correspondents.

    our head developer, Morad, added a cool feature as well- people can submit a report to us via twitter. We have an official twitter account providing updates on the situation, if you reply to our account @AJGaza it comes into the Ushahidi console (eg: @AJGaza fighting with ground forces in bayt hanun)

    thanks the everyone for helping us get this up the ground…. we have quite a lot of feedback and ideas for platform. will try and provide updates at a later stage

    thanks for the support!

  7. Really excellent work here Ushahidi. I noticed some issues with the timeline (it defaults to a 21 month window), but I’m mostly interested in how you guys ultimately deal with Arabic language support. Good luck! See you in D.C.