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Friday, September 09, 2005

Katrina hurricane: citizens initiatives replace newspapers initiatives

At this weblog, we have much admiration for the work done by newspapers in Louisiana, especially the New Orleans Times-Picayune. For instance the "missing persons list" was launched very quickly by the newspaper and it is a remarkable initiative.

But I think to two other consequences:

1) If the goal of newspapers is not only to provide news, but to serve their communities, why have we seen so many "missing persons lists" and why were big newspapers in the US unable to organize any common initiative? It was a poor conception of competition that prevailed, when so many citizens initiatives appeared (see below).

2) How many developers and online specialists are working in newspapers or media companies? Why were they unable to set up any original "community content"? Has imagination deserted the online newsrooms?

The remarks are based on two new websites recently visited:

- one first innovative site is Scipionus.com. On its Katrina Information Map, people can post information about the status of an area that is not yet covered. Little red teardrops on a Google map indicate where postings are available. The site is intended to offer information to people affected by the Hurricane who want to know about the status of a specific location. The site was launched by Jonathan Mendez, a computer programmer, and Greg Stoll, a software engineer, reports Wired.com: "Since Scipionus.com launched Wednesday, it has become a giant visual 'wiki' page, attracting tens of thousands of visitors who are collaborating in creating a public document of astonishing detail."

Greg Stoll said in an interview with Wired.com: "Well, it was my friend Jonathan's idea. He's from New Orleans, but lives in Austin now. He wanted to do something to help, and he found these forums that had lots of information, but most of it was questions like, 'Does anyone know about this block or this street?' And so he was going through 50 pages of these and the thought occurred to him that this would be much easier with a map." However, as everyone can post information on the site there is no control over the accuracy of the postings.

- The Katrina People Finder Project is an open community effort by volunteers to aggregate evacuee data from across the web coordinated by Social Source Foundation, CivicSpace Labs and Salesforce.com Foundation. According to Cyberjournalist (from September 7) its searchable database Katrinalist.net includes more than 95,000 records.

Sources: Wired.com, Scipionus.com, Cyberjournalist

Posted by Bertrand Pecquerie on September 9, 2005 at 05:56 PM in a. Citizen journalism, i. Future of print, n. Online strategies, p. Newsroom management | Permalink

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Comments

Katrinalist.net has 400,000 data points.

The "official sites" will be focusing on new more structured data collected from people in shelters and from those interacting with government programs and relief organizations. http://www.Katrinalist.net is the complement to whatever official collection all the informal data from bulletin boards, discussion forms and sites across the web. Katrinalist.net will provide data to Katrinasafe.com

Those seeking information on family should first search www.katrinasafe.com and then www.katrinalist.net. These sites represent the best collection of data and the best hope for helping family and friends locate each other.

Evacuees wishing to inform loved ones of their location can register or post information about survivors at http://www.katrinasafe.com/WebEntryApplication/entryform.aspx

Report a Missing Person at http://www.katrinasafe.com/WebEntryApplication/InquiryEntryForm.aspx

These are all voluntary and self-reporting tools. All media outlets and those hosting discussion boards, search tools and other information on survivors or offering connections to families are asked to redirect search traffic and data input to these sites.

Posted by: Marty at Sep 12, 2005 10:18:36 PM