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.