What's The Sickness Forecast For Today?
Sickweather uses social media posts that mention sickness to create a geographical "illness map" so that users can navigate their way around potential "storm activity."
Kecia Lynn has worked as a technical writer, editor, software developer, arts administrator, summer camp director, and television host. A graduate of Case Western Reserve University and the Iowa Writers' Workshop, she is currently living in Iowa City and working on her first novel.
What's the Latest Development?
A Web site could be said to be a kind of Weather Channel for hypochondriacs: Sickweather's algorithms pull posts from Facebook and Twitter that mention sickness (such as, "I think I'm coming down with the flu") and use their location data to create a visual "under the weather forecast" to help users avoid illness. It also allows sick people to report the symptoms so they can see whether they may correspond to any of the 20 common illnesses that are tracked. Coming soon is a smartphone app that will use the owner's geographic location to alert them when they're in a potentially "sick" area.
What's the Big Idea?
At this point, few people disagree that social media is an effective tool for spreading information, good or bad, true or false. A post on Sickweather's blog says it was able to predict last year's flu epidemic weeks before the government could. However, writer Jam Kotenko notes the downside of depending on social media: "[D]igging for disease data on sites like Facebook and Twitter is not a perfected science. Sometimes, sick people are too sick to post about…being sick."
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