On Discoverability of Crowdmaps

As Ushahidi adoption has grown, so has the problem of discoverability of Crowdmaps. In the guidelines for crowdsourcing, emphasis is made on multipronged strategy of not just setting up the Crowdmap, but also finding ways to let the intended audience know about the goals of your Crowdmap and how to report. This is because the base platform provides several channels of participation which can be set by the administrator as they see fit, and as it fits the technological landscape. For example, if your intended audience is in areas of low connectivity, setting up the SMS channel becomes important. The following options are baked into the core platform and Crowdmap.

  • Clickatell - an SMS Gateway
  • FrontlineSMS – A simple way to turn your mobile and laptop into a communication hub
  • SMSSync (An application that will turn your Android phone into an SMS hub.

In addition to the options above, there is the standard email, twitter or reporting form as channels of participation. A mix of these channels can be made in consideration of the context, duration, and scope of the Crowdmap. With this in mind and the fact that we have varying levels of connectivity around the world. One of the ways the organization is working to help deployers and users of the different Crowdmaps to know what is available to contribute to is by:
1. Adding deployment search functionality to the mobile applications. This has been incorporated into the Ushahidi iPhone/iPad and Android applications.
Using your smartphone, you can search for Crowdmaps based on your location by specifying the radius you are interested in. For more on that either click on the graphic below or read more in the recent blogpost from Henry Addo regarding the new Android application.


2. Adding deployment search on Crowdmap.com. You can search by any Keyword, e.g elections, uganda, Amnesty International – Give it a spin and see which Crowdmaps are available for you to contribute to.


3. Our community site has a listing of deployments and is the congregating point for sharing information, plugins/add ons with the rest of the global Ushahidi community. You can add your deployment onto the listing on the site. These two systems are currently separate but we plan on integrating them soon.

The decision to be listed on this public listing remains that of the deployer. For instructions on how to change your settings so that your deployment is more discoverable, please see this brief video made by Brian Herbert.

We welcome your feedback regarding these steps in helping our users and deployers deal with discoverability. There will be more enhancements in future. As always let us know how we can make things better.

5 Responses to “On Discoverability of Crowdmaps”

  1. Thanks for writing about this. I think it’s a really important topic as basic awareness and discoverability can be a massive limiting factor in the usefulness of things like Ushahidi.

    With 311 and 911 services in the U.S., this is less of an issue because the services are quite ubiquitous and in the case of 911, legally required, but the shortcodes themselves also provide a consistent user interface that will dynamically route to the local services. This architecture is much more of a challenge with the distributed nature of the web, but at least with respect to official services like 911 tied to local jurisdictions, there are some proposals to provide this same kind of experience.

    With Open311 we’re using a very basic Service Discovery spec for a canonical API endpoint for the jurisdiction and at a higher level we’ve discussed a proposal called GeoWeb DNS. I’ve also been in touch with folks at the FCC about how this relates to their work in coordinating Next Generation 911 services (NG911). In the case of NG911, the proposal is called LoST – Location-to-Service Translation Protocol. Below are links for these specs and reference implementations:


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