Verification Handbook Review

By: Rose Merritz

The European Centre of Journalism’s Verification Handbook [1] was released online at this week, with PDF, Kindle and Print versions to be released on 7 February, and an Arabic version soon after that.

The handbook discusses the processes of verifying user-generated content (e.g. pictures or information gathered from social media accounts in emergencies). It’s targeted at emergency journalists and aid workers, but is also a great resource for anyone wanting to learn the modus operandi of verification: it covers the basics of verification, is filled with lessons learned and examples, and can assist the reader in creating a verification checklist.

The length is short, the contents are to-the-point, and the collaborators have covered various topics related to authentication of user generated content through the entirety of of the verification process in an attempt to help the reader determine the best possible way to answer the age-old question: “How do you know that?”

The handbook cites lessons learned, in-field experience, and analysis of past emergent events.  Events cited include the violence in Jos, Nigeria in 2010, London’s July 7 Bombings in 2005, the Ukrainian Parliamentary Elections in 2012, and the Boston Marathon Bombings in 2013.  Studies directly referenced were Harkin 2012 on Syria [2], and Castillo 2012 on Predicting Information Credibility [3].

The Verification Handbook is expected by the European Centre of Journalism to have a significant impact on emergency journalism and aid workers.



OpenCrisis Townhall Meeting 23rd January 2014

What’s This?

Meeting: OpenCrisis TownHall

Date: 23rd January 2014

Agenda: a roundup of what we’ve been doing and deployments we’ve heard about in the past month; a check on what groups and people needed; and a vague plan for the coming month.

Last month: 20 December 2014 minutes

What’s Happened?

Past month: Deployments


  • What: South Sudan crisis

    • who:  HOT OSM, GISCorps, Ushahidi, OpenCrisis (unofficially)

    • where:  South Sudan

    • what:  OpenCrisis set up coordination skypechat and googledoc ( for groups mapping the South Sudan crisis. HOT OSM has mapped several affected areas, in collaboration with UNITAR/UNOSAT, HIU (State Dept)  with assistance from GIScorps and, for area identification, OpenCrisis (BOH). Info4Disasters helped Internews develop an inventory and overview of local media and social media. Ushahidi set up, but this initiative was stopped almost immediately after Christmas (possibly because of security concerns? – BOH). DHN call went out later for mapping in South Sudan  (to be carried out later in the year?) – Joseph shared the OpenCrisis googledoc with SBTF, to avoid duplication of effort.

    • Deployment dates:  24th December – continuing (contact Brendan or Sara)


  • What: Central African Republic crisis

    • who:  HOT OSM

    • where:  CAR

    • what:  HOT has been doing a lot of mapping – both settlements and infrastructure, since the crisis began

    • Deployment dates:  HOT has been active for CAR/RCA for over a year, but this activity has intensified since mid-late December 2013


  • Events with monitoring but not deployments:

    • USA cold.

    • Kyiv (Kiev) demonstrations – concern and willingness to map seen online, but no deployments as yet.


Past month: Activities


  • OpenGoodHacks

    • who: RHOK, Geeklist, Pat, Sara

    • what: Helped RHOK, Geeklist etc.with naming and creating a central neutral space for listing hackathons for good. Thea Clay is spearheading.

    • where: online

    • when: 22nd January 2014


  • Accademics

    • who: Joseph

    • what: Creating discussions spaces for academics in crisismapping (to discuss grant opportunities, create online course etc) and the SBTF (to improve SBTF training). The idea with Accademics is to enlarge the group by posting on the crisismappers googlegroup, and to create courses that we can offer credits for – together, creating joint courses; creating research consortiums and getting ideas flowing between top researchers.

    • where: online

    • when: January 2014 – continuing


Other activities:

  • Info4 and SBTF have partnered – Info4 will be the provider of ET/HR activities to SBTF.

  • OpenCrisis incorporation: OpenCrisis is now incorporated as a nonprofit in New Jersey, USA.  Thanks to everyone who helped make this happen.

  • OpenCrisis platforms: Long discussions about platform choices, all of which included some form of WordPress site. is being migrated to a wordpress site, to give more community members an easy way to contribute writings about crisismapping.  The original Drupal site remains at and; other platform choices remain (but are wider now that OC is incorporated, e.g. we can ask Confluence for a wiki like

  • OpenCrisis calendar created – this is for the entire crisis mapping community – not just OpenCrisis. Anybody who participates in the OpenCrisis discussion space can (or should be able to..if not, ping Brendan) enter events on it.

News, Announcements etc


  • Next TownHall meeting: 14th February 2014.   TownHalls are on the second Friday of every month (formerly Wednesdays), at 12pm EST / 5pm GMT unless otherwise stated.  Townhalls for 2014 are: 17th January, 14th February, 14th March, 11th April, 9th May, 13th June, 11th July, 8th August, 12th September, 10th October, 14th November, 12th December.

  • GDELT, the conflict data warehouse, has closed. This is a massive loss to our community (it’s a legal fight about ownership between the GDELT team and uni). And something we should fight to stop happening across the rest of our domain. If we have data, we should work on open licenses for it. GDELT, the huge datastore of everything conflict related, has closed. Apparently conflict between those who ran it and the university that was hosting it, and lending its datastore (may be significantly more complicated than that, judging from legal files associated with this fight…). NB recent new standard on data licenses just came out.

  • Andy Gimma has started digital humanitarian tools training in new york – first session is 25th january 2014 –

  • DHN meetup in Boston on 25th january 2014 too.

  • CDAC network report on SMEM is out:

  • The Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System (GDACS) is now providing an additional service: Overview of ongoing satellite mapping events.This service provides a short overview of the identified ongoing satellite mapping activities related to humanitarian disasters. It is intended for disaster managers, operations centres, desk officers and others that need syntheses of what goes on in this field. The service is operated by the GDACS mapping & satellite imagery coordination mechanism: UNITAR Operational Satellite Applications Programme (UNOSAT). See


What do we need to do?

Last month’s plan

  • Sara to make list of all the people and groups who email her about crisismapping (ongoing)

  • Platform discussion (DONE)

  • Incorporation discussion (DONE)


  • Blogposts for the new website – please write them!


Next month’s plan

  • Create agenda for next month (use template)

  • Sara to make list of all the people and groups who email her about crisismapping

  • Launch new site on Saturday 25th January… continue to populate this, and explore complementary platform options.

  • Sara – write a page about open data licenses and how to do them right

  • Lillian to write blogpost about the maze of finding open data in Thailand

  • Brendan writing blogpost about ‘Geolocation in context’

  • Rose – summary of verification handbook? Verification Handbook with guidelines to verify digital, user generated content.  Will have guidelines, tools, checklist, etc. Supposed to be released January 2014 (sometime this month), freely available.  Will write summary (REM)

  • Sara – post about open data cambodia (but only with permission from team)

  • Sara – run training session on open data.

Crisismapping Meetups Jan-Feb 2014

This weekend is going to be a busy one for in-person crisismapping events: Digital Humanitarian Training is launching its first meetup in New York, and the Digital Humanitarian Network is running its first in-person meeting in Boston USA (they’re both on our shiny new crisismapping calendar).

As someone who dedicated years to helping crisiscamps around the world and the CrisismappersNYC meetup (spawned from the CrisisCampNY meetups), this makes me both nostalgic and hopeful at the same time.

I’m nostalgic because even the most collaborative groups like CrisisCamp London & Crisismappers NYC are difficult to keep going from a distance (e.g. if you find yourself working 3500 miles from London or even 50 from NYC). Though distance may be short on the map, no amount of tech can fit the enormous gap of quality in meeting-people time. Keeping people engaged in training on crisis mapping, connecting them to other mappers in different cities and handling logistics is a lot for any one person to shoulder. Indeed, the planning, staffing & training work required at an event speak nothing of the ground work involved in identifying venues or maintaining networks and individual connections.

And I’m hopeful to see the next generation of crisismapper meetup organisers come through.  They’ll learn, like we did, about the things that do and don’t work, and hopefully will find some of the things we left behind for them, like the Crisiscamp-in-a-box packs describing everything from what stationery is good to have (post-it notes are always useful) to how to organise training (backstory: Crisiscamp London had a real cardboard box that they stored all their stuff in between meetings).   But hopefully, unlike many of us old ‘uns, they won’t burn out trying to train and map and organise meets all at the same time.

I wish you both luck, Andy and Willow – and if you ever want to drink a pint and talk about all the things that did and didn’t work in the past, I’ll see you sometime in New York!


Welcome to OpenCrisis

Welcome to the Open Crisis website: a repository for crisis data scientists to find humanitarian and development data, news and ideas.

OpenCrisis manages online lists of deployments needing help and crisis data-related events, monthly townhall meetings, and skypechats to attract and create conversations between crisis data responders who aren’t part of any formal VTCs. It also creates information and training materials on crisis data related topics, is involved where appropriate in encouraging crisis data technology creation, setup and use.

OpenCrisis started as a link between UK crisismappers and response organisations – it’s now a link between people who want to help with crisis data worldwide, people with technical, data and mapping expertise, and the organisations and communities that need that help.

If you want to come join us – Register!

If you want to go help someone – Volunteer!