Monday, September 05, 2005

Keeping Up With Katrina 

If you're like me (and who isn't), the recent disaster in the American South has been preying on your mind, but you're not yet ready to risk your own recently settled life and family to drive a thousand miles to offer help you honestly aren't qualified to give.

But you want to do something, right? So, first, make sure you're getting the facts, so you can spread the word to those who can help more directly. For up to the minute details on the truth you won't see on the nightly news, BoingBoing provides a great snippet of bloggiverse-fodder (check the archives for all of September for a pretty full picture).

From numerous firstperson blogs (ongoing and recently deserted) at Ground Zero N'awlinz to horror stories about military mindsets gone awry to neat stories about how anthropological throwback social systems are emerging in the vacuum created by the lack of the other social structures to ongoing analysis about why and how fixing broken communications infrastructures are vital to a quick turnaround, you'll feel better informed by this evenhanded crosssection of the world's first totally flattened reporting system.

Then, if you can, give cash, goods, and time. Most folks recommend the Red Cross, which has been first on the ground and seems to have a pretty high rate of return for your buck. But geeks who followed the last clause in the previous paragraph might do well to consider one or more of the following:

1. Donate time to tightening up missing person databases so they actually work. This basically means logging on to any of these open-data-source sites (like this one), skimming random entries, and making sure the right info is in the right field. Do it freelance. Do it now.

2. Take your extra phones, blackberries, and other older-but-still-working technology and put in in a big box labeled "for anyone you can think of" and send it South via the usual routes (Red Cross, etc.) Heck, you could even send a pre-paid phone card with your old phone.

3. Donate money directly to those working to bring back the communications infrastructure necessary to coordinate subsequent aid and people-finding.

What are you waiting for? Go help.

posted by boyhowdy | 2:22 PM |

On the missing-person databases front: there's an effort underway to use volunteer labor to collect data from dozens of different missing-person and found-person lists, dbs, yahoo/google groups, craigslist forums, etc all into the same searchable db, to make it easy for people to find each other. You can learn about it here:

We've managed to transfer 15,000 records so far this weekend -- it's pretty awesome.
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