A picture named dd10.jpg

"Conversation. What is it? A Mystery! It's the art of never seeming bored, of touching everything with interest, of pleasing with trifles, of being fascinating with nothing at all. How do we define this lively darting about with words, of hitting them back and forth, this sort of brief smile of ideas which should be conversation?" Guy de Maupassant

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Blogs or Wikis ... What's the best platform for building a collaborative disaster-relief resource on the web?

On hindsight I wish we had set up the SEA-EAT (South East Asia Earthquake and Tsunami) blog on a wiki instead. It was such a quick and spontaneous decision driven by Peter Griffin and Rohit Gupta that we just wanted to get on with building the resources rather than fuss about the platform.

We now have 28 contributors at last count, and every few moments one if us gets asked if someone can pitch in and the answer is most always yes. Because its a community that is open, a community of people wanting to pitch in and make a difference as we watch the horror unfurling in this part of the world. We know the magic of community in coming together for a cause. Perhaps a wiki might have captured the spirit better?

As a result, there's lots of great stuff coming in, and as blog posts roll back into the archives and disappear from the front page, some amount of duplication too. Moreover, we did not set categories as we didnt know where we were going with this except that we wanted to gather resources together into one space. And i only just realised that Blogger doesnt allow categories !

We've got much much appreciation for our efforts - i won't get into a wild linking spree because thats not the objective - still large traffic generating blogs and publications like Boing Boing, Worldchanging, Smart Mobs, Internet.com, The New York Times and many many many more have pointed readers to the blog. Blog stats shows around 2000 visitors per hour, more than 20,000 in less than 24 hours. Thank you to each one of you and to all the contributors, and to the hundreds of other blogs that are putting a link up on their pages for us.

As a reult of the traffic, requests for all sorts of things are pouring in. We've had requests to allow translations into different languages, requests to mirror the blog onto other pages, requests to set up pages for people who are looking for their loved ones gone missing. As I write this we are discussing the taxonomy for categories and looking at Blogger templates. Some pages/categories/navigation bars we need to build - country specific, enquiry/helplines/emergency services, personal stories from the scene, update on news and stats, a space for missing persons, message board, rescue operations, contribute by country/NGO's, and perhaps more as we go along. Because we are building the resource so fast and in a completely open manner - there are now 28 contributors, and the pages are getting muddled and lost. Blogger doesn't do categories i am told - so maybe a navigation bar or sub-blogs linking back to the main blog, with posts appearing on both may be the way to go. We definitely donot want to lose the url we have already. Any suggestions ?

This only reinforces my belief that a wiki might have been a much better medium - not only would these pages be separate yet part of a faceted collection and linked to each other, it might have been much easier for someone to navigate and jump in and post as well. Or to open a new page that they felt was relevant without checking back with admin. Morover, the layers we might have wanted would be so easy to build. And few entry barriers about asking whether they could post or not. Owned by all - a true community.

All we might have needed then is a wiki gardener!

9:32:06 PM    comment []  trackback []

Asia Earthquake and Tsunamis : Making a Difference by Blogging

Its been a strange two-three days. Much shock and horror about the devastating earthquake and tsunamis. Much helplessness too. And a desire to do something, as the reports just keep on pouring in with more and more horrible news. I was speaking with a friend earlier, when i said i just feel like packing a bag and going off to the disaster areas to volunteer to help. Then i know thats not practical, maybe i am lazy or selfish ... i don't really know.

Then i got involved in two community projects that have consumed all my energies and have made me feel i am contributing more than by just sending off money or clothes, which is what i would have done otherwise. I've been blogging at WorldChanging and in the last two days have felt the support of a community that is truly worldchanging - i feel the blog has moved to a very influential position where real action can come out of conversations and dialogue. Like the relief fund that has already collected a good amount of dollars for victims of the earthquake and tsunamis.

The other is SEA-EAT (South-East Asia Earthquake and Tsunamis) Blog - pulling together news and information about resources, aid, donations and volunteer efforts. It is a living document and i have seen it grow in a few hours to an amazing resource, as a result of so many wonderful people volunteering to share information and resources here. It both leverages and stregthens our beliefs in the strength of community and an open space where anyone can contribute in real time and real voices, that have driven us together to work on this project.

As far as i know, it was a spontaneous gesture from Peter who is a blog buddy - who sent a few of us an invitation to blog here - and without any discussion or question we jumped in and pitched in. Since then, it has grown - we now have requests of all sorts coming in - some to allow translations into different languages, requests to mirror the blog onto other pages, to set up pages for people who are looking for their loved ones gone missing.

And some stats - almost 21,000 visitors in just about 24 hours ; around 30 contributors until now.

I think this blog would help people find resources on how to help/contribute quickly and efficiently. I'd like to believe we are making a difference.

9:30:15 PM    comment []  trackback []

Asia Earthquake and Tsunamis - Update on Death Toll

Some more updated figures of estimated dead as at 4.45 pm December 28 :

TOTAL : almost 34,000

  • Sri Lanka: 17,000
  • Indonesia: 5,700 - upto 25,000 expected to be dead
  • India: 9,499
  • Thailand: 1,500
  • Malaysia: 60
  • Myanmar: 30
  • Maldives: 52
  • Somalia: 100
  • Tanzania: 10
  • Kenya: 1
  • Seychelles: 3
  • Bangladesh: 2

[Sources : Hindustan Times, NDTV, CNN]

4:48:30 PM    comment []  trackback []

Asia Earthquake : More deaths expected in Indonesia

It gets worse ... and worse.  Already 27,000 dead and millions homeless. 

A picture named SGE_SAA18_281204015802_00_quicklook_245x163.jpgThe Indonesian Vice-President says that although they have confirmed around 5000 deaths, the number could go up to as much as 25,000 in Indonesia alone.  Most of the deaths have been in Aceh province, on the northern tip of Sumatra Island.  However, towns on its western coast that were facing the epicenter of the quake, are yet to be visited by either reporters or relief and rescue workers.  

Here's a tragic account of Aceh, at Channel News Asia.  Aceh has been under military lockdown for the last 18 months, while trying to surpress separatist rebellions :

BANDA ACEH, Indonesia: The rotting corpses of quake victims piled up Tuesday in Indonesia's Aceh province where up to 25,000 were feared dead and the possibility of disease outbreaks threatened to claim more lives.

So far, at least 5,774 people have been confirmed dead and another 1,164 are missing.  There were post-apocalyptic scenes in the main city of Banda Aceh where the stench of death hung over the rubble of houses demolished by tidal waves as survivors struggled to dig graves in tropical heat.

Along the region's isolated western shoreline, there was only eerie silence pierced by an SOS call from what remained of the main town, where police said time was running out for survivors as looting broke out and starvation loomed.  With medicines, water, body bags, electricity and communications still in short supply, the threat of disease epidemics was growing while foreign aid agencies struggled to get relief to the area.

Aceh has been under military lockdown for the past 18 months during a government drive to crush a long-running separatist rebellion.  A ban on foreign aid agencies and media was only lifted Monday.

Earlier, Indonesia's Vice President said the total fatality figure could reach as high as 25,000 as information comes in from areas which have been cut off since Sunday's catastrophe.   "He's probably right. It's a total devastation," said senior United Nations official Michael Enquist. "We don't know the situation on the islands."


3:45:21 PM    comment []  trackback []

Tsunami Coming - 90 Minutes before it hit India

As relief work continues, there's now lots of talk around warning systems for earthquakes and tsunamis. 

One such report seems to suggest that if we were part of the Tsunami warning system, we'd have had 90 minutes to prepare !  Indian Express reports :

"NEW DELHI, GOA, DEC 27: After yesterdayís earthquake, there were 90 minutes before the first wave of the deluge crashed into the Indian coast. Within 15 minutes of the earthquake, scientists running the tsunami warning system for the Pacific had issued a cautionary from their Honolulu hub, to 26 participating countries. India was not among them.

This tsunami warning stated: ëëRevised magnitude based on analysis of mantle waves (8.5). This earthquake is located outside the Pacific. No destructive tsunami threat exists for the Pacific basin...There is the possibility of a tsunami near the epicentre.íí

The last part of this warning was crucial to India, as it was this very ëëpossible tsunamiíí that ravaged the east coast.

But such was the level of ignorance that even National Institute of Oceanography (NIO) director Satish R Shetye admits: ëëI got to know about the tsunami at around 10 am on Sunday, I was completely taken by surprise.íí  The irony could not have been sharper. For, one of the people who helped set up the Pacific Tsunami Warning System and the Canadian Tsunami Warning System three decades ago was a Canada-based Indian, Tad Murty."

More here.


2:49:58 PM    comment []  trackback []

Worldwide Earthquake Activity

Worldwide Earthquake Activity in the Last Seven Days, from the United States Geological Surveyís (USGS) Earthquake Hazards Program :

Updated as of Tue Dec 28 08:28:01 UTC 2004.
DATE-(UTC)-TIME Latitude Longitude Depth Magnitude Comments
yyyy/mm/dd hh:mm:ss degrees degrees km    
2004/12/27  20:10:48 2.86N 95.59E 10.0 5.8 SIMEULUE, INDONESIA
2004/12/27  19:28:49 8.57N 93.64E 10.0 5.4 NICOBAR ISLANDS, INDIA REGION
2004/12/27  14:46:45 12.36N 92.50E 10.0 5.8 ANDAMAN ISLANDS, INDIA REGION
2004/12/27  11:57:53 8.07N 92.28E 10.0 5.1 NICOBAR ISLANDS, INDIA REGION
2004/12/27  10:46:45 13.58N 93.07E 10.0 5.4 ANDAMAN ISLANDS, INDIA REGION
2004/12/27  10:46:35 13.63N 93.10E 10.0 5.2 ANDAMAN ISLANDS, INDIA REGION
2004/12/27  10:36:23 38.75N 122.73W 2.9 4.3 NORTHERN CALIFORNIA
2004/12/27  10:05:00 4.78N 95.12E 10.0 5.9 NORTHERN SUMATRA, INDONESIA
2004/12/27  09:39:03 5.38N 94.71E 10.0 6.3 NORTHERN SUMATRA, INDONESIA
2004/12/27  06:59:12 3.01N 95.54E 10.0 5.4 OFF W COAST OF NORTHERN SUMATRA
2004/12/27  05:10:49 5.98N 93.22E 10.0 5.0 OFF W COAST OF NORTHERN SUMATRA
2004/12/27  03:04:38 4.26S 152.68E 64.7 5.2 NEW BRITAIN REGION, P.N.G.
2004/12/27  00:49:26 12.98N 92.45E 10.0 6.1 ANDAMAN ISLANDS, INDIA REGION
2004/12/27  00:32:13 5.50N 94.46E 10.0 6.0 NORTHERN SUMATRA, INDONESIA

Its an interesting site with a lot of information on each quake felt.  Follow links on the left panel when there.  There's even email alerts for earthquakes in the United States of America.  It might be useful for other countries to follow.

Now i wish they had something that could provide early warning signals too. 

2:20:53 PM    comment []  trackback []