Tom Evslin blogs from an Aspen Institute meeting about media, disasters, and better planning. I was supposed to be there but got swamped and besides, my real contribution was getting Tom, Jon Donley of Nola.com, and Brian Oberkirch there. Important work.
Posts about recovery2
Tom Evslin and Jeff Pulver, two gods of the VOIP industry, has filed a formal petition with the FCC — needing your comments and support — asking that “all phone companies who are currently required to provide E911 service also be required to make voicemail and call-forwarding available to ALL their customers any time those customers phones are inoperable or unusable (as in an evacuation) for more than twelve hours.” The problem post-Katrina was that people couldn’t use their phones or phone numbers, thus people couldn’t get in touch with them. Go here for instructions on how to comment.
The Times asks whether corporations are ready for a pandemic. I’ve been asking myself the same question about schools, local government, telecommunications, technologists, local retail, and the rest of life.
The internet provides entirely new means of keeping life going even if we have to quarantine ourselves like Charlton Heston in Soylent Green. A few possibilities and questions:
* Schools should be ready to teach students remotely. I have no idea whether my district has a plan; I doubt it does. The last thing we want is children put at risk and putting communities at risk with their tendancy to spread germs. The next-to-last thing we want is for their education to stop. So they should be able to receive schooling thanks to technology. At best, this is via computers and the internet (insert “digital divide” PC screed here). At a minimum, this is via phones and conference calls.
* Cable companies, telephone companies, and power companies should make passing every home with bandwidth a priority, a matter of national security. They should be doing that for business anyway. If they don’t, then why not nationalize them before they implode on their own? And where do we stand with technology to enable large-scale wireless networks?
This, by the way, is FON’s opportunity to take off and do good. (And, no, I’m not on their advisory board.)
* These same telecommunications ventures need to provide easy and cheap or free means of running conference calls for schools and businesses.
This is Skype’s opportunity to rescue the economies of stricken regions. If I were Skype, I’d announce today that the company will provide free, large-scale conference calls for all schools.
* PBS, NPR, and commercial broadcasters should be prepared to air classroom instruction and educators should be prepared to give it.
* Every office needs a plan for running the business across distributed, distance networks. And if, God forbid, they have to do this, I’ll predict that this will become the new way to do business overnight. It will save rent.
* Every local retailer, especially supermarkets, should have plans for online and phone ordering and for delivery to homes, without face-to-face contact.
* Similarly, if I had a restaurant and a prayer of survival, I’d pull a deliver-and-run strategy out my hat.
* I’d sell Starbucks stock. Which makes me wonder whether some stock analysts have bird-flu pandemic strategies already mapped out. The sad thing is, they’re probably the best prepared.
What else should we be doing to use the internet to prepare for a pandemic (or another natural disaster or another terrorist attack)?
Tom Evslin writes to FCC Chairman Kevin Martin to ask the FCC to urge him to make this happen in the event of a disaster:
Stuart Henshall at Skype Journal had a brilliant idea for making these people reachable: have their drowned numbers terminate in voice mail. Those looking for family members generally know their phone numbers. Numbers are much more precise than names in the chaos of a disaster. There is no longer any technical reason why a NUMBER has to stay associated with a physical LINE when the line is inoperable.
About 45 good people came to our Recovery 2.0 meeting in San Francisco, called there by nothing more than a few blog posts and a desire to find ways to improve the internet’s response to the next disaster. I didn’t know what, if anything, we could accomplish in an hour and a half. At best, I hoped for a simple list of simple starting points and that’s what we got:
* We need to work on standards and APIs for the tools and data bases people create to help in disasters. The peoplefinder standard is already underway and some of the folks from Yahoo at the meeting — who had experience on the ground in Houston and also at the Red Cross network operations center — are working on improvements. At a minimum, we need to do a better job harnessing the internet to help people find each other.
* We need to meet face-to-face with government, NGOs, and business to offer help and coordinate. There is a meeting in Washington on Oct. 17 about just that. Folks from this meeting will be there. Details on the wiki.
The meeting began with introductions, during which I stood there in awe of the internet and its ability to bring together such a group. Brian Oberkirch, who’d just started a weblog business, fled his home in Slidell and, sitting in Dallas, was desperate for news so he started his blog to bring the news to him and his community. He wanted us to make sure we don’t think this disaster is over as we try to prepare for the next one. One man started one of the first missing boards and when he was overloaded and Yahoo contacted him to serve it. The Yahoo people were there and so were people from Google. One man works in the Bay Area — which he called God’s theme park for natural disasters — to prepare for rescuing special-needs people in a disaster. Others came from charities that help in disasters. I finally got to meet Evelyn Rodriguez, the marketing blogger who happened to survive the tsunami and shared her experience so compellingly on her blog. I was glad that former FCC Chairman Michael Powell came (and, no, I didn’t make Howard Stern jokes, to answer the question some of you already asked) and talked about lessons learned reestablishing communications after 9/11. Scott Anderson, a Tribune Company online exec and blogger, said he wants to make sure that media companies are prepared as well (and learn from the amazing experiences of Nola.com, WWL, and WDSU in New Orleans); he plans to get this added to the Online News Association’s agenda and I’ll join in there. And on and on.
Then we spent some time listing key needs and characteristics of recovery 2.0: how we need to be even more concerned about preparedness than recovery; how systems need to be open; how we need to find ways to connect to the unconnected (e.g., the Skype virtual phone room idea); how it needs to connect with authorities; other characteristics: searchable, fluid, matchable, swarmable, transparent, trustworthy, discoverable, accountable, tested… and more. We ended up with many words describing what it needs to be.
But, of course, there is no “it.” There is no one system or authority or organization. This is the distributed internet, where people’s best efforts will pop up everywhere. The real goal is, as I described here, to get us to communicate and swarm better around needs, around the best replies, and around making the best better.
Thanks again to John Battelle and company for providing the space at Web 2.0. And thanks to Greg Burton for creating and managing the wiki and to Ross Mayfield for contributing it. And thanks to everyone who came — passing up the siren calls of Web 2.0 cocktail parties — and who blogged about it.
Josh Hallett predicts version inflation for the internet:
Web 2.0 is a popular topic, but how soon before somebody starts to talk about Web 2.1 or even Web 3.0? Who will be the first to say, ‘Our product draws on the social networking capabilities of Web 3.0’ We always talk about ‘internet time’ being so fast, yet it’s taken us 10 years to get to Web 2.0. A quick Google search shows:
Web 2.0 – 9,230,000 results
Web 2.1 – 19,700
Web 3.0 – 38,300
Web 4.0 – 16,100
I’m practicing version deflation. On the first night of Web 2.0, I’m going to Web 1.0, where we’re all supposed to wear new-media-blue shirts and Gap khakis and argue over how to say gif. “Whenever you say “monetize,” “font face,” or any of a variety of secret 1998 words, everyone drinks.”
: LATER: And there really is a web 2.1 and I’ve registered.
: And since we’re having fun with numbers, I hope many come to Recovery 2.0 (see our fancy new wiki for details); no need to sign up for or pay for anything…..
: LATER: Rick Segal says enough with this 2.0 thing!