Monday, September 19, 2005

Back in a couple of days

I'm taking a couple of days off to donate bone marrow, but I should return to blogging by the end of the week. Thanks!

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Boing Boing: Cell phone map of Graz

Link: Boing Boing: Cell phone map of Graz

Could something like this be used to help coordinate relief efforts at disaster locations? Maybe show the movements of survivors after an event, or track where the most people are (where more relief supplies are needed)?
MIT researchers tracked tens of thousands of (anonymous) cell-phone users traveling through Graz, Austria and used the data to generate a real-time map of the city.

Yahoo! News: Katrina Shows Need to Computerize Records

Link: Katrina Shows Need to Computerize Records - Yahoo! News

Federal health officials are working to open a database of prescription drug records to help Hurricane Katrina evacuees piece their health care back together.

The project, still developing three weeks after the disaster, underscores the glaring reality that the hurricane destroyed medical records of untold numbers of people, possibly complicating treatment decisions for years to come.

And it's focusing new attention on the need for computerized medical records, accessible in an emergency even if the patient is far from home or their doctor's office no longer exists.

Wired News: Open Internet, We Hardly Knew Ye

Link: Wired News: Open Internet, We Hardly Knew Ye

Short article on potential legal issues that could stall information sharing in the future...

In a variety of cases, courts are holding that people can't access internet computers without first getting authorization from the computer's owner. Judges are assuming that the public has no right to use unsecured computers connected to the internet, and are requiring the public to get permission first.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

FEMA Needs to Tell People What It Intends for Their Homes

Via: Boing Boing

Link: Kathryn Cramer

Satellite images from Google can help recovery workers determine the conditions of neighborhoods before they get there.
Clearly, some of the houses are a total loss and need to be torn down. On some portions of satellite images houses formerly aligned in neat rows now look like they were casually dropped and haven't been lined up yet. Those homes are gone. There is no question that they need to be replaced. But many others, some in quite deep water, may well be reparable.

How to: Create an Out-Of-Band Dialup Router

Link: MAKE: Blog

Tom Bridge writes: In the aftermath of Katrina, with our T1 gone in our Jackson, MS office, we had to create a simple dialup router that could share one connection across many devices. This is how we did it. For less than $200. In an hour. Link

Monday, September 12, 2005

Missed Call: Internet Response to Disasters

Via Conversations with Dina

I'm sorry I missed this: Yi-Tan Weekly Tech Call #50. I'll try to hunt down some notes or blog posts from the participants:
Starting with a review of the relief efforts after disasters from 9/11 to the present and accompanied by friends who participated closely in Net relief efforts, we'll discuss issues such as:

* What have we learned from event to event? How are the responses improving?
* What is missing? What would responders like to do that they can't do yet?
* How is this changing the dynamics of disaster relief?

Sunday, September 11, 2005

What might Google do to help in the aftermath of Katrina?

Via Doc Searls, a discussion on the Omidyar Network

A great discussion, along with some good links in the comments...

This is a thread to brainstorm ideas about better world ideas that Google might implement to help the situation in the aftermath of Katrina.

There are many needs to address in this area, some of which are best done through formally planned and coordinated activities. The other end of the spectrum, involving large numbers of folks coordinating lots of little things, is suitable for decentralized, 'swarm' dynamics.

This becomes more of a discovery process, rather than an 'organization' process. Google excels at this kind of find-the-needle-in-the-haystack search... they just need to be pointed to the haystack


The question for this thread is: given Google's stated goals, resources and capabilities, are there any innovations that we can suggest to Google that would help out in the aftermath of the hurricane?

Katrina Metasearch

Via Photo Matt

I don't know how I missed this earlier. It seems like maybe creating a tagging structure for relief efforts, then getting Yahoo, Google, or another search engine on board might be one way to go.
Yahoo has done a Katrina people metasearch, possibly the most useful thing anyone in the tech community has done thus far. Yahoo just went up several notches in my book

Friday, September 09, 2005

Astrodome Radio Station Blocked

Via Wired News

More detailed article on the low-power radio station that was blocked at the Astrodome:

Although the group trying to organize the station has wrangled three 90-day licenses from the FCC, as of Thursday, they were being stymied by a handful of temporary administrators content to maintain radio silence.

While basic needs -- food, water, clothing, shelter -- have been met with remarkable hospitality, the survivors of the hurricane inside the Astrodome complex say they continue to suffer from a lack of information

News junkies find Wikipedia more than encyclopedia

Via CNN Money

Wikipedia's gaining popularity, though I'm still wondering where people think to turn first in times of crisis. Yahoo? Google? CNN?

From CNN Money:
The Wikipedia, which has surged this year to become the most popular reference site on the Web, is fast overtaking several major news sites as the place where people swarm for context on breaking events

WiMax deployed for Gulf Coast reconnect efforts

Via Boing Boing

Xeni writes, "The high-speed wireless networking technology will be deployed at a shelter and various locations throughout the Gulf Coast where Katrina destroyed communications infrastructure:
WiMax will bring the Internet to remote areas where the existing infrastructure has been destroyed or never existed. The network will be used for Internet telephone service and information exchange.

Intel Corp., a major WiMax supporter and maker of chips, shipped equipment Thursday to San Antonio's decommissioned Kelly Air Force Base where thousands of evacuees are being taken. The gear is expected to arrive on Friday.

But those hotspots need to connect to the wider Internet to be most useful — and that's where WiMax comes into play, said Nigel Ballard, a manager Intel's state and local government unit.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Several great posts from Dina Mehta

Blogger Dina Mehta, influential in the creation of the South-East Asia Earthquake and Tsunami (SEA-EAT) Blog has a lot of great posts about the blog and resulting wiki, and particularly about the use of Skype in disaster relief. She's been volunteering with the virtual call centre for the Katrina Help Wiki using Skype. Here's a list of some posts relevant to Recovery 2.0:

Evacuation Radio Services

Via Boing Boing

An FCC-approved low power FM radio station set up to provide info to evacuees has been denied access by officials. How can this type of thing be approved in advance of the next disaster?

From the Evacuation Radio Services site:

Dome City Radio is a volunteer-operated low-power FM (LPFM) station that serves the Reliant Complex in Houston, Texas. Our mission is to provide these new Houston residents with the timely information that they have been otherwise unable to obtain, such as school enrollment procedures, vaccination availability, and mail forwarding assistance.

and later

Despite its far-reaching support network (including its three special-puropse FCC licenses), KAMP has been denied access to the Astrodome due to an official's refusal to provide electricity to the station. This dictate was handed down by RW Royal, Jr., Incident Commander of the JIC (Joint Information Committee). Our offers to run the station from battery power were declined.

Sat Phones Surge After Katrina

Via Wired News
Satellite phones, which transmit calls through networks of low-earth-orbiting satellites, have been popular among emergency responders for years, but never took off with the general public following their introduction in the late 1990s. While the phones are technically capable of transmitting calls anywhere on earth, they have the drawback of not working inside buildings and being much heavier and more expensive than cell phones. In emergencies, however, they're extremely handy.

'Certainly right when a disaster happens, if you want to make a call within a few hours, without a satellite phone, you're pretty much out of luck,' said Dave Mock, a wireless industry expert and vice president at Instream Partners, an investment banking firm.

Typically, cell-phone providers are able to roll out temporary networks fairly quickly after disaster strikes, but the scale of Katrina's devastation promises to make service restoration much slower than usual.

Two firms -- Iridium and Globalstar -- dominate the satellite-phone market, and both have reported a spike in usage following the hurricane.

Getting the Gulf Back on the Grid

Via Wired News

Hurricane Katrina wiped out communications systems throughout the Gulf states, and much of the impacted region remains cut off from voice and data service. But some connectivity is coming back from unexpected sources, thanks in part to tech industry volunteers who've teamed up with the Federal Communications Commission.

On Friday, the FCC held a conference call with wireless internet service providers and infrastructure experts to coordinate volunteer efforts for storm-ravaged areas. FCC staff asked organizers to help gather data from those offering to donate resources -- from satellites to power generators to spare parts -- to help reconnect the effected areas.

Tagging Katrina

Via Common Craft - Social Design for the Web

Is tagging the answer for organizing information?
When it comes to testing the online tools we talk about so much, few things can compare to how they are used in these types of situations. Like people and agencies, they get tested.

I was interested to see that Alexandra has provided a guide for how people can use tags to increase the discoverability of vital information through tagging-- related to Katrina.

With the Katrina tagging guide, she is lowering the barriers to understanding how people can participate in the recovery online, in plain English. She even includes code that can be used for the Technorati tags."

International Blogging For Disaster Relief Day

Via Crossroads Dispatches
Evelyn Rodriguez speaks from a survivor's perspective with ideas on what information's most needed after a disaster:
In an emergency, think: Cheap. Simple. Ubiquitous.

Perhaps cellphone SMS messages that go directly to a central wiki that is hosted by an large easy-to-remember-even-if-I-never-imagined-I-would-be-in-a-major-disaster organization whether it is Red Cross or Google?"

FCC Coordinating Tech Aid for Katrina Disaster

Via Boing Boing
FCC personnel are working throughout the weekend to coordinate these efforts with private industry, with wireless technology groups, FEMA, and state governments in Mississippi, Louisiana, etc.

Craigslist Versus Katrina

Via Wired News

Craigslist has a following and a wide user base in place already. Could it serve as an ally for Recovery 2.0?
Where organizations like the Red Cross discourage anything other than financial donations, sites like craigslist allow people to meet up with victims for face-to-face aid. Craigslist users have flooded the New Orleans site with offers of shelter and comfort.

Tech Firms Pitch In

Via Wired News

What alliances already exist with tech firms?
...Intel, Microsoft, Cisco Systems, SBC Communications, Dell and others are working with the Red Cross to build voice and data communications at hundreds of evacuation shelters, and link them together

A Disaster Map 'Wiki' Is Born

Via Wired News

Site uses Google API to map location-based information about affected areas...
Visitors swoop down over a map of the Gulf Coast that's awash in hundreds of red teardrops, each denoting information about specific geographical points in the area. That's pretty amazing in itself, but there's more: All of the information on the map has been provided by ordinary citizens, most of whom presumably have come to the site in search of information on the flood themselves.

Screencast of the London bombings Wikipedia entry edits

Via The Social Software Weblog
...a screencast of the Wikipedia entry for the London bombings that traces the first 923 edits to the page, with date and time results at the top. It’s oddly moving. The body of the post on citizen media and its impact on/symbiosis with mainstream journalism is worth the read, as well...

Software to help workers get home after quake

Via TP Wire Service that shows on a computer screen the safest route home from a person's workplace as well as the distance he will have to travel on foot when transportation service is disrupted due to a major earthquake.