Can we really trust Rappler.com? Seeing the world from God’s eye view may sound scary or an overstatement but that’s exactly what this young, radical journalism company just demonstrated they can do.
The PH+SocialGood summit was held yesterday (21 Sept, 2013) at the Asian Institute of Management in Makati and was made possible by the efforts of mainly Rappler and Google. During the event, Rappler’s CEO, Maria Ressa herself explained how they have been watching the Philippines, or the world for that matter, from God’s eye view.
The key for them to be able to do this is big data. By processing vast amounts of data collected on the internet via social media, they are able to draw a picture of what the world really looks like from high above.
You gave Rappler the ability to see us from God’s eye view
Yes you did. Well, I was part of it too. And this is part of how Rappler.com rose to become one of the top websites in the Philippines in less than 2 years.
The video above is Maria Ressa’s portion of the PH+SocialGood summit yesterday and in there she makes a case study of Rappler. She may not have said it directly but here’s what I think how they we’re able to accomplish such a great feat using big data. They outsourced the collection of data to the people, the users. They were able to devise a unique and fun way for us to help them. This way, their readers become engaged and that’s always a good thing for any website.
Then they process these data and give it back to us in a more sensible form, one that we can easily understand. I’m talking about their mood meter that they put in each story on their site. With this easy-to-use tool, people can provide Rappler with the data about their emotion in just one click. The collected data is then presented back to the users in a colorful graph that is easy to understand.
This made Rappler.com unique and cool. They are the only one in their field which employs this feature. With this, people can easily engage and they also get to easily share to their social networks how they feel about the article they just read. This way, Rappler’s content spreads fast, far and wide.
I benefit from it
Rappler is actually doing a great job for us. They provide us with a reliable, scientifically produced and real time picture of the status of our country and the Filipino people as a whole. Because of what they do, we gain a heightened sense of awareness in our society. We get to participate and contribute to the live recording of unbiased information.
If, for example a new law that is very uncool is passed by our lawmakers, we can show them how the people feel about it. They will then know that the people is not cool with it. If they see that we feel very angry about it, they would think twice about actually implementing it, else they would risk having an uprising. And if I can’t go out to join street protests, I can still show my disapproval through a tool such as this provided by Rappler.
And as an entrepreneur and an internet marketer, I can get useful insights as to what sort of stuff appeals to people. I wouldn’t have to run my own trials anymore just to see if something I’m thinking of promoting will be gladly accepted by my target market. If Rappler has published a story related to it, I can just go and check the mood meter for that article.
We are creating a superorganism
Because of social networks, it has become easy to collect big data and to crowdsource the human computing that can’t be done by machines at this stage. And organizations like Rappler and Google which appreciate the power of being able to make sense of big data are leading the way into developing the “human superorganism“. This is a system, a vast network of small networks of people who each does tiny little things that contribute to an enormously huge task!
When aggregated, these tiny contributions will actually make possible tasks that are otherwise impossible. Tasks like accurately mapping disaster zones, determining extent of damage, number of people affected and help needed in remote locations in the planet. This is a very important task for rescue and relief organizations to be able to mobilize and efficiently allocate resources. It is also a very huge task to be done in less than 24 hours. Yet a small task group working for UN was able to do it with the help of people from all over the globe via the internet.
During the PH+SocialGood summit, Rappler announced Project Agos which gathers critical info from social media to aid local rescue organizations during calamities. A practical application of processing big data and crowdsourcing to address a serious issue. People don’t have to loose their lives if we can each contribute a little help. We can do enormously great things if we work together, we can build a human super organism that can withstand any crisis it is subjected to.
The “Minority Report” age is coming
Towards the end of her talk, Maria Ressa rightly mentioned the dark side of things when it comes to collecting big data. She mentioned the movie Minority Report as a comparison, that we are soon coming into an age when bad things such as crime are prevented from happening and criminals are arrested before they commit crimes.
Although in that movie they were using psychics to predict the future, in the real world today we are not far from having the ability to predict the future ourselves using big data. Because in collecting big data, not only will we be able to see the “current” big picture, we will be able to see patterns also. Probabilities can be calculated with high accuracy. Human behavior can be mapped, weather patterns, economic patterns, social, political, etc.
Data will then be used in making decisions moving forward. Will data then become the dictator of societies? And like in the movie, what can a person do when patterns deduced from big data say that he will commit murder before he does it?
Going back to my question above about trusting Rappler with regards to being able to see us from God’s eye view, I say yes I can trust them. Having attended the summit, I was one of the audience whom they have shown how they were able to put big data into good use and not just good use to them but to everyone since they make their technology available to everybody.
And now they are making another huge impact to society with the help of the crowd by launching the Project Agos. With organizations like them and people like Maria Ressa and her team leading and uniting people from different sectors to make something great happen, they have my full support.
But at the same time, I’m also wary of what the power of big data can do if used in the wrong way. Because it can also be an immensely powerful tool for oppression and tyranny.