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"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

Sunday, September 4, 2005

Just saw this post from Andy Carvin ... where he called for an International Blogging for Disaster Relief Day. Andy says :

Why haven't we see a Katrina-related blog of TsunamiHelp-like proportions? You would think that the US, the birthplace of blogging, would have been able to catalyze a who's who of bloggers to coordinate information sharing, just as TsunamiHelp did. Instead, we've seen a scattering of blogs pop up here and there, doing their best to share information. But it's distributed and dispersed, with no coordination between them.

Meanwhile, I've also noticed that many blogs have gone on with their daily lives as if Katrina never happened. Sure, they may have mentioned it once or twice, but have they posted any Katrina resources? Have they linked to the Red Cross? Have they encouraged people to donate blood? Some, yes. Most, no. Anti-Bush blogs continue to bash Bush, while pro-Bush blogs continue to praise him. Travel blogs continue to talk about travel. Tech blogs talk tech, pet blogs talk pets. Can't we all just take a break and focus on helping disaster victims for just a moment?

We now live in an age of tagging, RSS and distributed computing. Perhaps we don't need to have all of these great bloggers posting to one site, or have bloggers focused full-time on the disaster. All we really need is to get as many people as possible using the blogging tools available of them, posting whatever Katrina-related information they're comfortable with, then use tags and RSS feeds to bring it all together.

While I do feel the situation during the tsunamis was a little different - with news being so scattered and difficult to come by, and the affected areas more spread-out, hence the relevance of real voices in real time greater, I can't help being surprised by the absence of a large blogger community effort to help victims this time round. Especially when so many of the movers and shakers and developers of 'social tools' and their adaptations and iterations live in the same country or closeby.

The KatrinaHelp wiki and blog teams, made up of people across USA, Europe, Bahrain, India and many more places, are currently also working with some of the developers around the Skype API and the SkypeJournal team (all independents, and Skype too has been supportive by offering up free SkypeOut minutes) and have managed to set up a kind of messaging centre between volunteers on the ground to connect those needing help with those that have it to offer. Also, working on sms-Skype-sms transfers of info around aid and relief. I'm currently manning the calls out and in, sitting in my living room in Mumbai, and taking and making calls to volunteers close to New Orleans .. it's just my turn.

Lets see how it emerges. What we could build around blogs and wikis and RSS and tagging and VOIP ! There are so many possibilities.

10:30:35 PM    comment []  trackback []

Being Poor ... In India

Peter is really upset with a post on an American's notion of what being poor is. He has his own version :

Being Poor my arse : BoingBoing quotes [via Making Light] John Scalzi's Being Poor. And for the first time, I find myself genuinely upset with how little people in the USA know about how the rest of the world lives. Fercrying out loud, that piece is about luxury that some people in this part of the world can never aspire to.

Here, with no apologies to Mr Scalzi, is my version.

Read it in full to understand what being poor really means for people in India. All of his poor-isms resonate - this one in particular - "Being poor is where the only way you leave is when you die." I was on the field earlier this week, and I spent a few hours with just such a family. Agricultural labourers who live in Nallasopara, now almost a suburb of Mumbai city. They have been living these conditions for the last 20 years. They see no hope, they cannot even afford the middle-class aspirations of living their dreams through their children. There is change around them - lots of high-rise buildings coming up around them - they see no benefit, rather they feel because trees are being cut down, there is no firewood left for them to cook on.

Here are some pictures (with their permission, and using a flash since they didn't have lights in their home) - I wasn't going to blog them earlier because I felt they were too sensationalist in the utter despair they reflect - but Peter's post touched me, and I thought I'd let them speak for themselves ....

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Their home from the outside

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7 year old son, who will attend school only till he is 10. After which he will work with them earning money.

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Cooking instruments and utensils they own

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Bathing area for the women .. a little shack outside the home

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Cradle for their baby

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The family

Being poor .. is so relative.

8:46:33 PM    comment []  trackback []

The Flood

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Amardeep Singh shares a poem by Robert Frost and the 1927 Mississippi Flood, in this amazing post - am re-posting it here in full because an edit would do it no justice .... hope that's ok Amardeep.

"The Flood

by Robert Lee Frost

Blood has been harder to dam back than water.
Just when we think we have it impounded safe
Behind new barrier walls (and let it chafe!),
It breaks away in some new kind of slaughter.
We choose to say it is let loose by the devil;
But power of blood itself releases blood.
It goes by might of being such a flood
Held high at so unnatural a level.
It will have outlet, brave and not so brave.
weapons of war and implements of peace
Are but the points at which it finds release.
And now it is once more the tidal wave
That when it has swept by leaves summits stained.
Oh, blood will out. It cannot be contained.

Amardeep comments :

"This poem was published in 1928, in a collection called West-Running Brook.

I believe it is a response to the great Misssippi River flood of 1927, which killed and displaced thousands of people -- including, again, many African Americans. Herbert Hoover, one of the most incompetent Presidents in U.S. history, supervised the rescue efforts. His betrayal of African American victims of the flood led blacks to leave the Republican party, and may have changed the face of American politics.

Here is a PBS timeline detailing the events. The racial nastiness of the era makes this week's FEMA failure seem almost small.

With "blood," I think Frost is in some sense referring to the ugly human politics that came with (and followed) the disaster."

12:45:52 AM    comment []  trackback []