Mining the now: Real time sense making

Here’s an emerging idea about how we can and will make sense of the vast amounts of data becoming available about what is happening right now…

Juliana Rotich (whose work at Ushahidi I’ve discussed on this blog about a year ago) writes on her Afromusing blog about pulling together the ability to crowdsource the gathering and making sense of data in real time (which is what Ushahidi and the related Swift River project do) with the concept of the internet of things (objects and systems connected to the internet and making data available continuously):

Allow me to use the word holistic. As in holistic near ‘real time sense-making‘, incorporating the internet of things, with crowdsourced data delivered through channels that encourage participation. There is an opportunity to see things dynamically and not just do after-the-fact post mortem. This could work for flash point events like the Haiti earthquake (taking data [from] Geiger counters etc + crowdsourced data like that available on the haiti deployment run by It could also work for longer term events such as the BP Oil spill in Louisiana.

Juliana quotes Jeff Jonas, a scientist at IBM:

…the closer to real-time one can get the right answer and respond, the better. And milliseconds matter.

The concept of real time sense making offers so many tantalising possibilities, from predicting the behaviour of human social networks to helping those networks (countries, companies, NGOs) respond to emergencies and more broadly to the challenges we face globally.

Be sure to check out Juliana’s original post for some amazing examples of how this concept is being put to work.


Image: Literally, a swift river…