As some of you know, my brother Steve lives down in Southern California near San Diego which is where all the fires in California are burning. I've talked with Steve last night and he and his family are fine. There was a fire about six miles away but it is now contained and they are in no immediate danger and have not been evacuated. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it stays that way.
Before I talked with him I was pretty worried when I found the below google map marking the fires, evacuation areas, etc. He's pretty much surrounded by fires but they are fortunately far away still. Take a look at that map and see how wide spread the fires are. (Steve lives in San Marcos near Oceanside).
I've also been using Twitter to keep track of the latest news. News seems to break there way faster than the media networks. It's a great use for the technology. If you haven't used twitter it's like the Facebook status messages (*) but much more flexible in that you can choose to follow particular people or key words (tags) and be notified of new messages via twitter.com, SMS, Instant Messaging, etc. There is an API to the service so there are many different clients to access the service. Careful if you use the SMS feature because it can potentially send a lot of messages to your cell phone and may cost you some big $$$
(*) If you have no idea what a Facebook status message is, it's basically a simple way to tell people what you are doing, thinking, feeling, etc. It sounds mundane but it is actually a nice light weight way to keep people up to date on what is happening in your world. Twitter takes this a step further.
Examples of Twitter Commands
follow slangevi - this tells twitter to follow this user and notify you of their updates
leave slangevi - this tells twitter to stop notifying you of the users updates
track sandiegofire - this tells twitter to notify you of any twitter messages that contain this keyword
untrack sandiegofire - this tells twitter to stop notifying you of any twitter messages containing this keyword
Anyways, I thought the use of Google maps and twitter as public announcement tools was interesting and thought I'd pass it along.
Here is some Help on Twitter Commands. Note that the track/untrack command isn't listed as its a fairly new feature.