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Kenyan startup proposes solution to modern-era information overload

In an age of information abundance, curating meaning is key. Nine months ago that is just what Jon Gosier set out to do as he took over the reins of the SwiftRiver initiative at renown crowd-sourcing activism site, Ushahidi. Recently he announced the Beta release, and unveiled a new website at

What is SwiftRiver?

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SwiftRiver Open Beta Announcement. from Ushahidi on Vimeo.

“SwiftRiver is an open source intelligence gathering platform for managing realtime streams of data.”

Using five different tools in the toolbox, you can create a host of useful applications. Tools ranging from natural language processing to handling duplicates, or a source’s importance in the ecosystem. Much like a box of Lego, the value and usefulness of the apps created are up to the creator.

SwiftRiver lets users

  • Manage realtime data streams (e.g. RSS, SMS, Twitter, Email)
  • Identify relationships between content (e.g. email and tweets)
  • Set parameters to auto-filter incoming feeds
  • Curate content based on preferences

Swift code and web services

Like all Ushahidi work, the code is free and open source, anyone can download it, contribute to the code, and run it on their own server. Due to its complexity, SwiftRiver also offers a software-as-a-service solution (SaaS), allowing you to tap their servers for your own needs. Swift Web Services (SWS) is their cloud platform. The platform offers a number of different APIs to developers. With this platform you can easily beef up your applications with natural language processing & active learning, reverse geocaching, distributed reputation, content filtering and web analytics.

This first app, called the Sweeper is the first project to enter Beta and now ships with SwiftRiver. “Sweeper”, is a term Ushahidi uses to refer to people who “sweep” through a system, performing certain tasks — and it was for this reason that the Ushahidi resources were put behind the whole initiative.

SwiftRiver | Sweeper

History, contributors and code

The origins of SwiftRiver are in the community of Ushahidi developers and users. Chris Blow and Kaushal Jhalla asked some hard questions after the Mumbai terrorist attacks in 2008, discussing the need for something that can help with this information overload we have in the first few hours of an emergency or disaster. Now, we’re seeing the first fruits of that technology, and it’s exciting to know that the potential for its use goes far beyond the crisis scenarios that we first envisioned.

Matthew Griffiths (Uganda) and Neville Newey (South Africa) have done a great job hacking out much of the code and designing the architecture for the platform. They’ve been joined by an army of volunteers and contributors.

  • Find out more on the website at
  • Download the code, v.0.5 Cape Jazz
  • Erik Hersman is also the Co-Founder of Ushahidi, a groundbreaking crowdsourcing website created to map incidents of violence during the 2007–2008 Kenyan crisis.

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