I tend to think that one of the more important distinguishing features of Web2.0 applications is the collaborative nature of the technology, which has opened up previously arcane vocational amd professional specialties to amateurs. This is what Clay Shirky refers to as “mass amateurization”. The really interesting thing about mass amateurization is that it has made it possible for amateurs to collect the data that have been traditionally undervalued, or too expensive for public and private enterprises to collect, or in the case of Open Street Map, where no public domain data exist. Thus the term “crowd sourced” data. (I’m not fond of the term as, in my mind, it has connotations of unruly mobs.)
So who would have thought that seismology would become a field where crowd sourced data are collected? Well, if you own a certain model of laptop, you can use the hard drive shock detector as a sort of seismograph and post your results. Yes, I know there will be concerns about the data quality, but that misses the real point, which is the sudden ability to increase the density of observations at a very low cost, at least where the laptops are located.
Link to the Quake-Catcher Network Home Page here.