I present the following story not to make a point about social media, the utility of Twitter, the power of the real time interwebs or any of that.
The only reason I’m sharing it is that I love the hacker spirit and what geeks can accomplish with the proper motivation.
Last night, about 8 PM Pacific, an extremely loud boom was heard all around Portland, where I live. I say boom because the cause of the noise was undetermined.
Reports immediately hit Twitter. I know because I noticed them, and yet, I hadn’t heard the boom. That’s not very significant because I’m oblivious.
Within the first 15 minutes, a hashtag was decided, #pdxboom.
Next, a friend of mine, Reid Beels (@reidab), created a Google Map to crowdsource and triangulate the location of the boom, which was still unknown, as was its origin. Update: Two friends of mine were responsible, Audrey Eschright (@spinnerin) being the other.
At this point and for most of today, no one knew what caused the boom. Local news outlets were scrambling, calling NORAD, the airport, strategic air command, the National Weather Service, the various geological agencies.
No one knew anything definite.
Finally today, Portland police discovered evidence that the boom was in fact an explosion caused by a pipe bomb.
Guess how they found the evidence?
They used Reid and Audrey’s Google Map just as designed to target their search efforts.
Epic win, FTW!
Oh, and the map even had a heat map, to make it more useful.
Why do I love this story? Because it underscores the curious nature of geeks, the desire to use technology for good, and the overall tightness of community.
Oh, and because I’m a geek too (and proud of it), was partially involved in the geekery and didn’t have anything better to do on a Sunday night.
The mystery turns out to be rather disturbing, so I’ll bet the police (and the community at large) are thankful that Portland’s geeks had nothing better to do on a Sunday.
Despite the unnerving cause, it was an unexpected and highly entertaining way to spend an otherwise mundane night.
The tweets are gradually rolling off Twitter search, and I recommend browsing them for some geeky fun.
Find the comments.