So, did anybody hear tonight's mysterious southeast Portland explosion?

Apparently a lot of people, like my Portland friend, did. ("Tonight" was Sunday.)

What's interesting is how they used Internet tools to track down the location. As described in an article in the New York Times, people immediately started using Twitter to send did-you-hear-that messages, and within five minutes had agreed to use the hashtag #pdxboom for messages about the phenomenon.

Within an hour, a person had set up a Google Maps application to let people note their location, which triangulated on a particular location -- where, the next morning, police found evidence of a pipe bomb, and credited the map for helping them find it.

This sort of on-the-ground reporting isn't unusual; in August, 2008, not only was Twitter used to help pinpoint an earthquake, but a study showed that such reports were nearly as accurate as seismographs. But the it-takes-a-village nature of locating the scene of the crime made this one newsworthy.

Now, according to the Times article, there's talk of using the open source community to develop more robust tools for use in future situations. Granted, this sort of thing works best in tech-heavy communities such as Portland and the 2008 earthquake's Southern California.

About the Author

People thought it was weird enough that I was both a writer and a computer geek. So then I went and started getting involved in government to pull that in, too. And, y'know, there's a heck of a lot more connections than one might think!

That's pretty awesome. Triangulation rules!! :) seriously though... quite the powerful tools we wield.

I like how the techies use freeware to increase communication and awareness. If you think about the genesis of the Internet, it was created to so technology an facilitate communication.