Liz Gannes

Recent Posts by Liz Gannes

Sickweather Says Social Data Analysis Has Already Detected Two Illness Outbreaks

Sickweather, a start-up that’s attempting to forecast illness outbreaks by tracking Facebook and Twitter updates, says its method might have already worked.

That is, Sickweather noticed increased occurrences of the word “cough” near Algonquin, Ill., dating back to Oct. 5, about one month before whooping cough reports hit the local news. About a month later, the service recorded the same trends in Milwaukee, Wis., another area hit by whooping cough.

That doesn’t necessarily mean the cough tweets were actually cases of whooping cough, or that Sickweather figured out what was going on before the general public did, but it does give the start-up confidence that it’s onto something.

Sickweather co-founder Graham Dodge said the company tracks about 20 symptoms and illnesses across public geo-tagged Facebook and Twitter updates, and will soon add Google+.

The company has found it must filter out messages with any mention of the word “fever” that also include the word “Bieber.” That might be my favorite part of this story.

Sickweather users can sign in with their own Facebook and Twitter accounts to track illness indicators among their friends and in the local area. The Baltimore-based company will also soon release an iPhone app, and it is currently raising funding on AngelList.

Other online sources for illness tracking include Google mapping flu trends through its users’ searches and HealthMap aggregating publicly available reports.

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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald