Open Dialogue

From the start, we’ve known that a longer-form dialogue would be necessary for this site. We will be using this blog to help bring a bit of context to the site, what the data means and where it is going. We will have guest columns from nuclear experts in an effort to provide valuable analysis to the information.

To start, we wanted to offer a bit of background.

As we’ve watched the unfathomable footage of the tragedies in Japan unfold, we’ve recognized the critical role reliable information plays in helping people to understand and cope with what’s happened.

This site, and the idea behind it, started with fear. In the past week, the world has been inundated with various reports of radiation. Several government agencies were issuing conflicting reports regarding radiation levels in and around the Fukushima Daiichi plant.

Our hope in launching this site is that clear, reliable data can provide focus on the critical relief efforts needed in Japan. It is not, nor should it be considered, a replacement for official information. This site supplements information by providing several data feeds.

We’ve been working day and night to find and integrate new data sources that can help provide reliable data. For the time being, thankfully, it seems that levels are low enough that our friends in Japan can focus on recovery without worrying about increased radiation. In the event that the situation changes, our data will reflect those differences.

Since launching on Saturday, we have been inundated with support alongside thoughtful critique. We are thankful for both, and welcome an open dialogue for how to improve the data, functionality and reliability of the site.

In an effort to start that dialogue, we wanted to discuss some of the themes that have emerged.

Crowdsourcing

Though we’re extremely thankful for the individuals and media organizations who have helped spread the word about this site, we want to emphasize: We understand the sensitive nature of this data and are approaching it as such. Crowdsourcing, while an undoubted buzz word in the media, implies that unfiltered data is being pulled in and displayed as fact.

To help ensure the reliability of data, we will be introducing a flagging system to highlight suspicious readings.

Reliability of Data

Without question, this is a critical issue. We’re aware of it, and are working to make sure this site offers a responsible look at radiation levels. Since launching the site, we’ve been introduced to a number of organizations and individuals who want to help and we’re forming partnerships with nuclear experts to bring context to these important numbers.

We’re aware of the limitations in terms of required equipment, including well-calibrated radiation monitors used by knowledgeable individuals in a set location where background (normal) levels are known.

We understand the issues and are working closely with experts to close those as efficiently as possible. In the meantime, we have been working closely with organizations in Japan and abroad to provide new data feeds.

Mapping

We have had a number of suggestions regarding the mapping of this data. We are hoping to release new versions of maps soon – including average values over time, filters for different data streams, heat maps and data for areas outside of Japan. Though we don’t have an established timeline for these feature sets, they are in our plans.

Data

We have had several requests to provide data for use outside the site. Because of several of the issues above, we are working to produce a reliable data set before introducing an API for use beyond the site.

That said, a publicly available data feed is also being planned for the site.

Financial Aspects

We’ve been asked a number of times why we are doing this. In short, we are five individuals (alongside several partners outside our company) who want to help in whatever way we can. This turned very quickly from an idea to reality. We’re not being paid anything for our work.

All proceeds from our site links go 100% to charity organizations in Japan. We are not, nor do we intend to, seeking financial gain from this project, though we are actively investigating ways to make this a more sustainable endeavor for our company. We have each made independent donations to organizations, and encourage you to offer whatever you can to help the people affected by this crisis.

We will use this blog to continue dialogue in such a rapidly changing crisis — Including blog entries from guest writers. We welcome your thoughts on the site, the data, how to improve and, most importantly, how to help.