Tis the season for disasters and emergencies. There always seems to be something going on in the world where people need help. We’ve got a team of people trying to help solve the information drought that comes with localized emergencies.
About a year ago many of you know I played a small role in helping people get information about the 2007 wildfires here in San Diego. The response was positive, to say the least. But while I talked about what happened, one question still plagued me (from a BarCamp I spoke at): “What’s the next step?”
The thing is, even though the role I played was comparatively small – 1000 or so people in the midst of 3 million – we recognized the need. Citizen journalism was playing a roll that traditional media couldn’t. Now, with the popularity of Twitter and other very fast broadcasting/publishing mediums, we have an opportunity to impact the world for good, one person at a time, one post at a time.
I thought about this issue, advocated “the next step” to other organizations who had funding, manpower and drive. So far, few have stepped up to the plate. I even gave a prototype example of what small steps could be taken to prepare for the next emergency with little staff, leveraging the massive amount of information being put out by citizens, traditional media and governments. I’ve seen few takers. Only a handful of potential services being started that will do this kind of thing.
So, I thought… I’ll build it myself. I have one month before HeroCamp in Houston. I’ll build it and show it off there.
Enter Refresh SD.
Refresh San Diego is a group of people who are “working to refresh the creative, technical, and professional culture of Internet in the San Diego area.” Phelan Riessen, a local entrepreneur and the organizer of Refresh SD, wanted to solidify the group around a goal. Something that would be fun and potentially bring in extra money for everyone involved.
I attended the brainstorm meeting to figure out which idea we would work on as a team. I pitched the idea of an aggregated emergency informational system/site and I was surprised to see every person in the meeting raise their hand in agreement that this was the project to work on, even without money being the first objective.
In the next month a team of 15 volunteers will be working together to produce one of the most comprehensive emergency information aggregation, categorization, and broadcasting systems on the planet.
This team is doing so without funding, in everyone’s spare time, and for the good of humanity as a whole.
Now, I’m telling you this story for a few reasons. (1) I believe this team is doing some of the most important work of our lives and I want you to know about it. (2) I believe this team should be credited with thanks and admiration from you, the ones who will profit from it.
There are a few other things you can do to be a part of this adventure, too.
- You can vote up, comment, and give advice about this idea at IdeaBlob. (the team will win $10k, which would be a HUGE “thank you” as well as offset some costs)
- Comment on this blog with ideas and advice.
- Help us get the word out about what we’re doing to local and national media.
Please, feel free to share this story. I’ll be posting more about the project as we go along as well as the link to it when it’s ready for testing.