[Tech Tuesday] TomNod – How To Crowd Source a Crisis

Innovative, creative, addictive, mind-boggling, problem-solving and social; modern technology has come a long way over the last quarter century – if not justwithin this past decade.  After Nevada voted to allow autonomous automobiles in 2011,  Google has been feverishly developing a self-driving car technology adorably named ‘Google Chauffeur’.  Championed by the brilliant Sebastian Thrun – director of the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Lab, expert Google Engineer and last but certainly not least the co-inventor of Google Street View, the project is still in closed beta testing mode up at their Mountain View campus.  Since the inception of the application, 3 more states (Florida, California and Michigan) have all put laws into effect allowing self-driving vehicles on the roads. Two years ago, the One Laptop Per Child‘ experiment oversaw the distribution dozens of iPads to a pair of remote villages in Ethiopia. Five months later – without instructions, assistance and only themselves to trouble shoot with- children had learned how to read and write English, and even hack the machines.  And now, thanks to TomNod – even the most disastrous of a crisis is transformed into a resourceful and useful technological tool.


TomNod first made headway back in November during Super Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines and were soon acquired by Digital Globe; using Digital Globe’s satellite imaging technology, thousands of users from around the world explore real-time maps to solve real-world issues.As of right now, Malaysian  Airlines Flight 370 has been missing from sight, sound and radar since this past Sunday morning.  Until resolved, this event will be the first thing on every flight attendant and pilots mind, an unnerving thought of every conscientious traveler and while every news station, outlet and blog tries to make sense of the calamity.  My first reaction was (and still is) two-fold: (a) I still (at 29) plug my ears while the flight attendants breeze through the security pamphlet; which means the empath inside is shaking in her boots and (b) want to help; somehow, someway.  In the past few years, whenever a global crisis has hit I’ve managed to donate a small bit of what I make; it isn’t much, but it’s more than nothing – and to me, that’s something. So, when my boyfriend leaned over this morning to show me a great way to use, and crowd-source, data – I was all eyes, ears and heart.

The application is fairly simple – head over to the TomNod page and you’ll get a quick description of the program and a bit of background on the types of anomalies you might come across.  It takes a bit of time to load, but quadrants satellite imagery over the Gulf of Thailand will populate right in front of you.   If you think you’ve found something questionable, click one of the neon stamped circles on the left of your screen.  You’ll then be taken to a new window, where you’ll essentially take your cursor and drop a tag onto the map and don’t forget to add a description.  On the right side of your screen, you’ll see three metrics: the first is the number of quadrants searched, second is how many objects you’ve tagged and finally, how many other sources agree with your tags.  Below, you’ll see a map of how the quadrants you’ve searched stack up in the grand scheme of things.  If you have a few moments to spare, please lend your eyes to the TomNod team and the families of those affected; you never know what kind of a difference you can make until you try.


Wednesday Watercooler: The End of The World (As We Know It)

It’s been a while since I’ve done a Weds Watercooler and not gonna lie, I’ve been missing it! Between traveling to Arkansas, going back to the Bay Area for Thanksgiving and my birthday celebrations over the past week I realized that I’ve kind of been slacking and basically sleeping on the blog. Well, no more! I’m back in action and excited for the things that 2013 will bring but first – let’s end 2012 the right way and go out with some pizzaz!

What’s Your Number?

For numerologists, and just regular number freaks like myself, today marks an incredibly monumental day: it’s 12-12-12The number 12 is an important recurring number in human history –

12 months in the Roman calendar year, 12*2 hours in a day, 12*5 minutes in an hour and seconds in a minute; the Zodiac had 12 signs, there were 12 Gods of Olympus and the Chinese hold a 12-year time cycle called Earthly Branches. There are 12 Gods of Olympus, 12 apostles, 12 tribes of Israel, 12 Jyotirlingas in Hindu Shaivism, 12 days of Christmas, 12 cranial nerves in the human body, 12 pitch classes in an octave, 12 hues on the color wheel, etc, etc, etc….

To numerologists and the Chinese, the day represents good luck, fortune, love and fulfillment; but to me, this represents the last repeating date for several generations – in fact,  the next repeating date will be on January 1st, 2101, 89 years from now. Dubbed ‘National Sound Check’ day by some and the ‘End of the World’ by others – today’s a fairly auspicious day that everyone will recognize.  If you’re looking for a way to celebrate (and let’s get real, any excuse is a good excuse to celebrate), the folk’s over at Mashable have you covered.

Tweet Goes the Pope

Along with today being 12/12/12, today is also the day that Pope Benedict XVI, aka @Pontifex on Twitter, sent his first official tweet.  Now, his tweets aren’t exactly the most interesting things in my opinion, but the reaction to the Pope is kind of priceless…

Kim Jong-un: The Rocket Man

North Korea says it successfully launched satellite into orbit

If all the world’s countries got together to play house, I’m fairly certain that North Korea would be one of the red headed step-children.  Not to sell everyone’s “End of the World” prophecies short, North Korea decided earlier to launch a long range rocket and place a satellite in orbit.  Their closest ally in the region, China, lamented about the poor decision, citing concerns in the international community – specifically  from Great Britain, South Korea, the United States – and groups like the UN Security Council.  The cost of the rocket launch cost are estimated around $1.3 billion dollars, however it could be even greater if the United States decides to apply sanctions to both financial institutions as well as members of the North Korean government.

Not So Misérables

Anne Hathaway inadvertently pulled a Britney at the premiere of Les Misérables the other night; after deciding that underwear just wasn’t supposed to be part of her nightly ensemble, Anne picked an awkward angle to exit her ride and oops, there goes the neighborhood.

Wish Upon a Star

First things first, us Earthlings dodged a huge bullet yesterday and I didn’t even realize it! A pair of asteroids, one three miles in diameter, were headed towards us – narrowly, and thankfully, missing. Certainly brings this whole idea of the ‘End of the World’ a little closer to home.  But secondly, the Geminid Meteor Shower is going to touch down in our atmosphere on this Thursday and Friday.  According to the folks over at AccuWeather, the East Coast will have the best view as some clouds and rain are set to fall on the West coast over the next few days.


Geminid Meteor Shower