It made sense that Al Jazeera‘s new media team got in touch with us via Twitter – email and Skype came later. A week ago they asked us for the alpha code to see what they could do with it around the recent activity in Gaza. This was the first time a non-Ushahidi team had deployed the alpha-level software. You can see it at http://labs.aljazeera.net/warongaza.

Instructions from Riyaad on the Al Jazeera team:
“If you’re anywhere in the world and an event is taking place to do with #gaza #israel send a text to: +45609910303 – Start it with GAZA.” You can also, SMS 37191 / +45609910303 – Twitter: @ajgaza

Al Jazeera testing out the Ushahidi Engine in Gaza

Al Jazeera is estimated to be the second largest international news/media house, reaching 100 million households. That kind of organization testing Ushahidi gives us a lot of insight into what we need to do in the future for enterprise-level deployments. This is our first Arabic language deployment, which the Al Jazeera new media team has been working on in the last week – more to come on that soon.

Benjamin Doherty has also played a role in helping get the site up. He also brought up an interesting point that he’s helping us figure out how to work into the system. How do you deal with synonymous names of locations? That’s an especially good question to ask in Gaza, as there are multiple names for the same place used by different groups.

Lastly, this is also the first time that Google Maps was not chosen as the default map, but Microsoft Virtual Earth Maps were instead. We can already see some areas there where we need to fine tune the clustering at the higher elevation levels (as you drill down closer you see that the reports are in the right spot on the map).

So, a big thanks to Riyaad at Al Jazeera New Media Labs for giving it a try. We’ve already learned a great deal from just one week on this, and we’re looking forward to seeing what they do in the future.

A video from Al Jazeera TV: