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Have you ever walked into a conversation mid-stream or seen something without proper context that just makes you scratch your head and wonder why?

For a number of folks who jumped online at 12:30 p.m. EST yesterday, seeking the weekly #SMEMChat, the hour had been replaced by #SMEMWater which was our first live social media exercise among the Social Media & Emergency Management (#SMEM) community.

Today, I thought I’d answer some of the “why” questions that I’ve received over the past 24 hours to provide some context for this exercise, based on some of the feedback of observers and participants.

Why didn’t the exercise use a traditional exercise scenario like an earthquake or severe storm?

  • Traditional exercises have artificiality written all over them because they are conducted in a controlled environment.  Participants are able to stop play or use “safe words” and exercise facilitators know who is playing and have the power to stop play whenever something is unsafe or resources need to be allocated to a real world event.
  • In social media, you cannot control who will play or how they will engage with the information.  People wander into conversations mid-stream and it is impossible to facilitate safely in a viral world.
  • Those who know about my strong feelings on this issue have likely either seen my blog post or seen my talk from the 140ConfNW about Exercising Safely.

Why did you select Charity:Water?

  • I have no affiliation with Charity:Water.  Honestly, prior to this past week, I didn’t even know they existed.  When I was constructing this exercise, I wanted the outcomes of our crowdsourcing drill to have a positive influence in the world.  So, I considered how this drill could partner with an existing charity to do some actual good.
  • In looking for a charity to support, I sought a charity that had a solid social media footprint so that it would spur creativity in how participants could respond.  If I had selected a charity that had no web presence, this exercise would have become boring very quickly.
  • The point of crowd-sourcing is in giving a problem to the community and seeing where they will place their energy in fixing it.  I struggled with whether to affix points to cash donations or to the Charitii online game, but I did so in order to encourage actual real world activity over just “likes” or “follows” of their social media accounts which could be easily undone post-game.

Was this just a fundraising activity for Charity:Water?

  • Absolutely not.  In fact, if you perceived this to be only a fundraising activity, I would suggest that you may have missed the objective of this exercise which was to evaluate what a crowd of people would when posed a particular problem.  In fact, as you’ll see tomorrow, the “winner of this drill” didn’t donate a dime, but rather was creative in the type of actions they took in response to the scenario.
  • One of my favorite examples of crowdsourcing here in the Pacific Northwest is still the Astoria Cannery Fire that occurred in 2010.  Businesses were displaced and via the use of their website, the community was able to crowdsource solutions so that businesses could recover more quickly.
  • Emergency Managers, who get an effective grasp on crowdsourcing, will be able to encourage community recovery much more quickly than those who believe they still “control” an response.

Why was there no prize?  More people would have played if there was a prize…..I agree that we could have encouraged more participation with a prize, but here are my lame reasons for not having a prize:

  • Facilitating this exercise was a last-minute idea and I only had 7 days to prepare the scenario,
  • While prizes are good, they garner a different type of participation and often confuse the motivation for why people are participating.  I wanted people who were interested in learning about crowdsourcing, not those motivated by a prize.  Maybe next time!
  • By the way, did you read my blog entitled “11 Minutes“?  I was very satisfied with both the participation and the play of all of the participants involved.  If I had included a prize, I would also have needed the support of my EOC to manage the engagement.

Why wasn’t there more time between the scenario launch and the start of the game?

  • Because you are all very smart people and I am only one person.  This is an area that I might change next time because many emergency scenarios do provide responders with a couple of days of preparation, but I would also have needed to develop more support on the backend to assist the management of this game.  For example, a game with longer notice would have resulted in my call to a Virtual Operations Support Team (VOST) for help.
  • You know that I used a VOST team during the 140ConfNW this past year and have solid relationships in place with a number of VOST members already.  If you aren’t sure how you would seek additional help, I strongly recommend having great relationships in place with people who excel in the #SMEM Community, otherwise, you will struggle to manage your social media presence when disaster strikes.

Are You Really an Emergency Manager?  Seems like just a way to waste time online…..

  • Yes, I am absolutely an emergency manager who is passionate about communications.  Social media continues to be a very small subsection of my professional work although it is one that I treat with all seriousness.  That being said, being a “doom & gloom” emergency management isn’t my style.  There is no reason why we can’t apply creativity to this profession and engage in fresh & exciting ways.

There are at least 3 more posts coming in the #SMEMWater series over the course of this next week, prior to our next #SMEMChat this next Friday.

  • Summary of #SMEMWater statistics and announcement of the “winner”
  • After-Action Report: What Would I Do Differently
  • How You Can Conduct a Local Social Media Exercise Safely

Please keep providing feedback on your engagement with this exercise.  You can enter your feedback in the form available at this link anytime before next Friday.  I will incorporate all feedback into the developing after-action report on this activity.


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