ruok? imok.

Matthew Bietz —  October 24, 2007 — 2 Comments

Yesterday Dan got a text-message on his cell-phone from the UCSD emergency response system:

“classes r canceled 4 week du 2 uncertnty of fires & xtreme bad air. Res. dining halls, & studnt health centr open & opn 2 serve. resume norml class & work sched Mon. Oct 29. chk ucsd.edu”

Dan wasn’t sure if it was real at first – it was hard to believe that an official message would be written in txtspk.

I recently saw Leysia Palen speak at the e-Social Science conference about “Crisis Informatics.” One of the points she made is that in times of crisis, the official/unofficial dimension of information is often separate from the reliable/unreliable dimension. The text message (at least at first glance) seems to be low on both scales. It comes from an unrecognized number, has few authority cues, and doesn’t follow any of the genre conventions of official communications. On the other hand, it is both very official (coming through a tightly controlled emergency system) and completely true.

For this message, it didn’t matter much. But if you got a text message from an unknown source that said “evac asap. xtreme dngr. leave valubles bhnd.” would you do it?

Matthew Bietz

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2 responses to ruok? imok.

  1. Wow. I had no idea UCSD was so l33t. I think what redeems this message is that it has an independent authenticator — “chk ucsd.edu” (now, whether you can is a different matter.)

    It’s a pretty clear and concise message. I wish our communication was this clear. (“will b 6 mo late. bff?”)

  2. That’s very strange — why *wouldn’t* they bother to take the extra couple of seconds to actually do it in (full) English, if only for the very reason to convey more authority and veracity? Or from the other direction, why make the decision to do it in txtspk, particularly for a message going out to a wide audience with broad demographics?

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