well, i'm safe, and importantly, so are all of my friends,,,
however, when watching the rolling news-24 coverage and viewing web news sites, i noticed some things about the disaster reporting that were different to earlier news reports. one thing i discovered was the wikinews collaborative news site. the most interesting was the footage and pictures from the evacuation of an LUL train - they were shot and taken on a camera phone. now, these are images that have never been broadcast before. the tube has been evacuated several times, and people got escorted through the tunnels to safety each time. before now, there was nobody with a camcorder around to document it... now that almost everyone has a camera phone, and video recording mobiles are getting more common, somebody was able to take these pictures
there must be hundreds of other newsworthy events taking place that we only have eyewitness spoken accounts of, which are notoriously unreliable and inaccurate, and these could now be backed up with pictures. also consider official statements and news agency reports about sudden events on the other side of the world - these could be verified by people at the locations being discussed by taking pictures, rather than the usual phone interviedw with a still image of a reporter. viewer's confidence in the truthfulness of the news media would be greatly increased if they knew it was being backed up by evidence from non journalists.
i was able to follow the reporting not only on the BBC site, but also using the flickr photo gallery services. people have been tagging their pictures as londonbombblast or london and bomb so i was able to add an RSS feed of these tagged images to my news aggregator, alongside the official BBC feed. the feed even presents the images in chronological order by timestamp, not in order of upload, to preserve an ordered view of events.
what this means is a lot more news imagery and footage will be available, of things as they happen from an eyewitness perspective, since tools like flickr allow uploading immediately from your mobile. so we will no longer have to wait hours for the camera crews to arrive to verify the official version of events, or be restricted to the one amateur video made by a tourist who happened to be in the right place at the right time. it will also become difficult or impossible to supress or modify images of events since before the police can rip the non-existant film out of the non-existant camera, you have uploaded the picture over the air. i think we are entering an exciting time for news and media, and will see a lot of things that just eye-witnesses experienced before. now, along with the interviews, we will see a slideshow of camera-phone pictures and films as illustration.
the big problem is, of course, managing this information. not as in censorship, but image overload. a flickr RSS feed is fine now, but this will become unmanageable. i think better tagging will allow filtering to be intelligently applied, and when GPS becomes more prevelant, pictures can be sorted by location too, with the attendant possibilities that provides. we will need to have news articles annotated with relevant meta-data to allow automatic linking to picture search engines, and even normal searching. this is just part of the whole 'semantic web' movement, really, where every document is tagged with some meta-data giving it a real-world meaning and context. the semantic tagging allows other programs to provide the links between different content streams in a useful way.
i'm going to the open tech 2005 event on 23 july, so maybe they will have some interesting ideas since BBC backstage (content feed providers) is sponsoring it...
(the other obvious issue is verification of the identity and hence trustworthiness of the photo-taker. this is another problem entirely, however...)