So Yahoo hired Kevin Sites to report on war for them. On the one hand, sure, that’s cool: multimedia man hired by the thoroughly modern media company. But does anyone else think it’s strange to have a site and a reporter who covers just war? Yahoo emphasizes that this doesn’t mean they are “building any kind of news organization.” So that means, instead, that they’re just going for the bloody bits?
Posts about Internet
With all the ways people are using the internet after Katrina — for news, relief, advice, finding the missing (covered incompletely here), even getting rescued – - what angle does The Times Monday online column choose to cover: nutjobs, racists, and religious kooks and Katrina. Yes, I come to believe that there is an agenda at work: the old trying to belittle the new.
Out of all the good efforts to use the internet to help Katrina’s victims, I’ve been thinking about the ethic of the swarm.
One thing the internet does well is bring people together around shared interests, needs, functions, and lines of communication. We swarm around standards and make them standard. We swarm around tags on Flickr or Del.icio.us so we can find each other’s stuff. We swarm around applications — BitTorrent, IMs of various flavors, and so on — so we can all use them together. We swarm around news and decide what matters.
And when people don’t respect the swarm, others will bring them in line: If you go into a support forum and ask a question that’s in the FAQ, you’ll quickly be directed there because other people had the same question and we all shasre the answer.
The swarm is useful. It’s efficient. It’s good citizenship.
So I wonder whether we should discuss the swarm ethic in relation to recovery 2.0 efforts. Try this:
If you see a need, first look to see whether someone else is already trying to meet that need and doing it well. Then you have a three choices:
1. You can decide that incumbent efforts are lacking in some way that you can fix and you do so.
2. Or you can decide to throw your support — your work, your promotion, your links — behind that effort.
3. Or you can decide to work separately but around shared standards to allow you to work together.
And in any case, it would be a courtesy to communicate with the incumbent.
In the case of the missing boards after Katrina, it was quickly obvious that people could miss connections because there were so many separate repositories of names. One option is to swarm around just one, but I’m not saying that’s what should happen; that’s the 1.0 way to work, it’s antithetical to the distributed nature of the internet and to people’s inclination to gather around their own communities (some people will look for each other around their churches, for example).
That’s why we have efforts to compile the names in one place (the Katrina peoplefinder project), to search the names across where they are (see Yahoo’s search), and to create standards for tagging the names (the people finder interchange format).
These are efforts to help us swarm. Swarming is the way we capture not just the wisdom but also the work of the crowd.
This is one of the things I hope we discuss at the Recovery 2.0 meeting in San Francisco. I think all we really want to accomplish is to provide ways — wikis, email, blogs, you tell me — for people to more readily communicate their needs and solutions. We need help swarming.
: And here’s an AP story that illustrates just why we need Recovery 2.0 to at least communicate among good efforts:
It took Priddy and three other volunteers from the First Baptist Church most of the weekend to post details online on about 500 refugees.
Each person’s data had to be typed in five times to populate just five of as many as 50 online databases and message boards created to connect those displaced by the disaster with loved ones.
“It’s incredibly slow when you have to input each one,” Priddy said. “What’s aggravating is they are not in the same format so it’s not like you can cut and paste.”
Although the Internet makes it simple for people around the world to help out with disaster relief, all the well-intentioned but largely duplicative people-finding efforts have led to confusion, frustration and wasted time….
The Red Cross believes its Family Links Registry, previously used during civil wars abroad and the Asian tsunami, can perform that role. By Wednesday, more than 117,000 entries had been submitted by people seeking a loved one or reporting that they are safe, and many more people visited the site to conduct searches.
“Our Web site is so widely known and so heavily used that I think it’s got a momentum of its own,” said Sara Blandford, manager of international family tracing services at the
American Red Cross.
The site even has the blessing of the
Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Nonetheless, the U.S.
Department of Justice turned to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children when it wanted a database for refugee children and parents.
Having worked for years with local law enforcement agencies, the nonprofit organization was glad to build a database that, unlike the Red Cross’, has room for photos and the types of physical attributes familiar to police.
And then there’s the National Next of Kin Registry, a nonprofit group that is willing to work with relief organizations but can’t share data directly for privacy and security reasons, spokesman John Hill said. Its database isn’t publicly searchable.
Media organizations such as CNN and MSNBC have also created databases, as did the Web-only GulfCoastNews.com.
Fred Wilson doesn’t get why eBay is looking to buy Skype. Drat. I figured he’d explain it to me because I didn’t get it either. My ignorant theory: Just as eBay was seen as a benign investor when some Craigslit equity was out there looking for a home, I wonder whether eBay with its Omidyar roots is seen as less venal than other potential acquirers of Skype. Phone companies would buy it to destroy it. eBay would understand letting the customers rule. Still, Fred’s right: I don’t see what’s in it for eBay.
Thanks to John Battelle and Web 2.0, we have a date and a room for a Recovery 2.0 meeting: Thursday, Oct. 6 at 7 p.m. at the Argent Hotel, 50 3rd Street, San Francisco. The aim, again, is to just to bring together smart people trying to do good things so we can do them better, not to create any giant organization and bureacracy (we already have FEMA and we know how well that’s working…). Background here; wiki here.
: LATER: See Chris Nolan on Recovery 2.0.
Thanks to Greg Burton as well as N.Z. Bear, we now have a wiki to gather the wisdom and work of the crowds who are trying to better use the internet to respond to crises such as Katrina. Greg took the Recovery 2.0: Call to convene post and wikified it so you all can now adapt it and, most importantly, add:
1. Projects you are working on
2. Needs you see
3. Standards to rally around
4. Your names, expertise, and willingness to work.
I will be redirecting Recovery2.org there soon (otherwise crazed with work today) but in the meantime, please see the wonderful work Greg did here, at 4setup.com. And see Bear’s list of projects underway.
Also, please, please, tell me whether you can join a Recovery 2.0 meeting around Web 2.0 in San Francisco in the comments to this post. Depending on the response, we will or won’t get a room and a time thanks to John Battelle.
And I’ve been using the recovery2 tag; please do likewise with your posts. Thank you!