What would it have been like 10 years ago in the face of a significant news event in the world?

We certainly would not have access to the level of info we do now.  Social Media has become an integral part of sharing info and getting it out to people all across the world as well as in the areas being impacted.

I now browse to the Twitter.com’s Trending Topics list as soon as I hear about something happening to see what is being said.

In that same vein I tuned into coverage of the impending tsunami that is racing across the Pacific right now due to the Chile earthquake last night.


That search resulted in me finding this page – http://hitsunami.info/ – that was put online through a joint effort of John Garcia (@johngarcia) and Kaeo Kepani (@kaeok).

When I tuned into the live USTREAM feed of the KHON2 News broadcast from Honolulu it had just barely 1,000 viewers.  As of this post, at 2:20PM EST, there are over 20,000 people watching the stream to get up to date news on what is happening in Hawaii.

They have even established a Twitter hashtag – #hitsunami – that lets you see everything coming across Twitter that is tagged about the tsunami event.

CNN even put their site up during their live coverage of these events on a monitor – http://twitpic.com/15ok01.

I contacted John and Kaeo about their efforts to establish this website and here is what they had to say:

Why Do It?

  • @johngarcia – To provide an open communication stream and alternative to traditional media in the event of a disaster. Words spreads quickly around the islands as a tight-knit community, the more people we can touch, the more people we can ensure will be safe and well informed.
  • @kaeok – I wanted to have the local news information available to everyone possible, especially those without a TV and cable. When you have such a small population, sharing accurate information as quickly as possible is so important.

Do you already know each other or come to know each other through this effort?

  • @johngarcia – We know each other from social media circles and from local SM events/networking. We just quickly locked together and ma de it happen. Split second decisions to flip the switch and grab a feed that was not available by local media outlets. We were initially scrambling due to capacity reasons, but finally found an un-capped viewer solution through Ustream. Kaeo agreed to handle the stream, I registered domain, hosted, posted the embed and built the website, immediately started posting links for locals to access.
  • @kaeok – I knew John beforehand initially meeting on twitter. Our interests are very similar. But being able to finally work with John has been great, even during the hectic hours of the morning. Setting up the stream had its challenges initially, but it all kind of came together when it needed to the most.

Any stats on traffic load/number of visitors, downloads at the website?

  • @johngarcia – Not yet. Google analytics have been installed but the site is too new for any measurements. Can release later. Live stream views grew from 200 to 1000 in about an hour, 5 hours later the stream topped off at about 13,000 viewers.
  • @kaeok – The viewership accelerated after the story made its way to Mashable, definitely. Prior to that, Hawaiian viewers grew from 100 initial viewers, and then hung around 3,000~4,000. The traffic watching the stream topped at 13,000+ before my broadcaster failed. Then I went into panic and didn’t get a good look at the numbers.

Did you all create the hashtag #hitsunami?  Any idea how many tweets that is generating.

  • @johngarcia – I created the hashtag originally with some criticism from others that it was too early to do so. Against other’s judgment, I stuck with it and it quickly began to trend. Hawaii was #2 on twitter trending for most of the morning.
  • @kaeok – John always comes up with the best hashtags. During the rainy season, we see #hirain come out, and during the winds we see #hiwinds come out. He definitely comes up with the most useful hashtags. This is the first one that made its way to a domain name, as far as I know. But I do not know how many tweets the hashtag has garnered.

Any other comments about the site, stream and efforts that you can think of?

  • @johngarcia – It’s important for us to pull together and utilize technology to our advantage. Quick action and speed to populate channels will ensure an effective delivery of such an important message. It helps to bring people to ease and that they can rely on a source of information that is fair, unbiased and open. Much props to Kaeo Kepani for running the feed with professionalism and local television station KHON2 and for staying live all morning long, un-interrupted with no flack for us grabbing their feed without permission. Credit was given and many people are grateful for their service to the community  and it should be commended.
  • @kaeok – When used properly, the social media engine can bring so much more enhanced information when paired with a traditional news media outlet. I really want to thank local news center KHON for not sending us a cease and desist order for picking up on their broadcast and re-streaming it over the internet. There were many many people who came together, both professionally and in passion, to provide as much timely information as possible.

Terrific responses guys and thanks for taking the time to provide them.  Great work – just make sure you stay safe as well.