Re: [working in parallel] Re: Samuel Rose: Online Assistants: Learning from Lousiania
- Hi Samuel
Some of what we are doing with Social Media Classroom also resembles some of what you describe you are trying to do. We incorporate chat, wiki, rss, blogging, microblogging, and social bookmarking all in one application In our case, it is targeted towards teaching/helping people learn about social media by using social media (the whole thing is built on Drupal/PHP/MySQL)
I am interested to see that "the whole thing is built on Drupal/PHP/MySQL". I have recently started to explore Drupal for my Dadamac projects (collaborations linking UK and Fantsuam Foundation in rural Nigeria). I have been doing stuff (Dadamac and my own) on the Internet since 2000 and it is all over the place. A lot is here in Minciu Sodas with Andrius, especially over the past couple of years. However I still need "my own place" to pull all the Dadamac stuff together, and to point to things outside or overlapping Dadmac (such as Minciu Sodas).
Dadamac online things started with emails, and a yahoo group, which lead to a wiki. I called the wiki my "information cupboard". It was filled up when I was in the UK, thanks to the help of my online friends and contacts. Then, when I went to Nigeria, I was able to use it in my role of "course presenter". I was able to go to my online "information cupboard" for the resources I needed for my course participants. However, although the wiki was fine for putting information into it was too cumbersome for me or the participants to easily find what we wanted, in our short times online with very slow downloading. We were too "bandwidth challenged" to search for things - in fact the wiki only worked usefully for us if our "bandwidth rich" friends came online with us and then told us exactly what urls we needed.
After I came back to the UK we experimented, on the UK side, with something we called "the friendly wiki" (a misnomer!). That gave us experience of "permissions" and helped us to clarify our ideas about re-organising our "information cupboard" so that people would easily find exactly what they wanted "waiting on their own special shelf".
Then we got the chance to explore Moodle - and the course structure of Moodle worked very well for us as for providing different spaces for different groups within Dadamac.
Meanwhile google docs and things came along, and we also made use of Skype, and blogs and audio-graphic conferencing and had various webistes and so on. Some of these things are still around and need pulling together - others have crashed or vanished into the ether one way and another.
I know there is help for Drupal from the Drupal developers and I have also looked at some of the Druapl dude videos - but I do best when I am learning by doing. I like what you say about "In our case, it is targeted towards teaching/helping people learn about social media by using social media". How can I connect up with that?
Pam2008/9/8 Samuel Rose <samuel.rose@...>Andrius,Wow, i am sorry to hear about the problems you've been running into with web applications.Yes, I think Ning can be a good starting point for general discussion, etc. P2PFoundation gets good response from employment of Ning.Some of what we are doing with Social Media Classroom also resembles some of what you describe you are trying to do. We incorporate chat, wiki, rss, blogging, microblogging, and social bookmarking all in one application In our case, it is targeted towards teaching/helping people learn about social media by using social media (the whole thing is built on Drupal/PHP/MySQL) I think for instance that a modified social media classroom set up, with some -ecommerce type tools added on to it, could become what you are looking for, possibly.PS. socialsynergy.typepad.com was indeed my blog, by I kind of let it go dead, and will probably be starting a new blog at socialsynergyweb.com/blog sometime soon.Let's have a skype session sometime towards end of Sep (I'll be kind of tied up over the next coule of weeks), ok?--On Sat, Sep 6, 2008 at 5:46 PM, <ms@...> wrote:
I'm interested to catch up with you regarding online social venues. (Steve
Bosserman also encouraged me.) I want to promote our laboratory's services
as a center for online assistants with chat room, wiki, twitter, RSS
feeds, discussion groups much as we were successful with our Pyramid of
Peace http://www.pyramidofpeace.net to help Kenyans during their crisis
I would like to build an economy around this where we encourage people
helping each other (most of the work) but also generate funds from
personal services (help shopping, making contacts, doing research) and
also from building teams for larger emergencies, contingencies, movements
and endeavors. This is in the spirit of the wiki gift nodes that we
discussed late last year.
I upgraded our server to MySQL 5 and that crashed our online web chat ARSC
which I have tried to replace with Ajax Chat but with no success so far.
Also our RSS feed software Carp broke and I haven't been able to fix that
either. Finally, I want to set up social networking software including a
registration system that all of our programs could access. I was thinking
of using Ringside Networks because it is open source but can run Facebook
applications and so we could develop for both at the same time. But I was
much encouraged by the article below to use Ning. It is indeed simple to
set up and I imagine I can learn to customize it as needed.
I hope to be in touch with you! I would like to build a team of software
developers to think through an architecture, a strategy that could be
distributed across many communities. I note your blog:
+1 312 618 3345
Lessons from Katrina Help Media, Volunteer Efforts in Gustav Coverage
(Copyright from the PBS website)
by Mark Glaser, 11:43AM
Map of evacuation centers and routes
When Hurricane Gustav hit the Gulf Coast, the evacuation of the area went
much more smoothly than during Hurricane Katrina three years ago. This
time, the local, state and national agencies were more prepared for a
Similarly, online media outlets and volunteer efforts were also better
prepared for this hurricane, having learned their lessons from the Katrina
disaster, when they were scrambling to deal with the chaotic scene of
widespread destruction and mass evacuation.
The New Orleans Times-Picayune's NOLA.com website, for example, spent the
past three years optimizing its site for breaking news coverage, adding
blogs, increasing opportunities for citizen contributions and arming
staffers with videocameras. And NPR social media strategist (and fellow
PBS blogger) Andy Carvin was able to quickly mobilize volunteers online to
create the Gustav Information Center hub and wiki thanks to his experience
covering Katrina, the Southeast Asian tsunami and 9/11 — not to mention
the wiki templates from these earlier projects.
In both cases, previous experiences helped inform a more mature response
to the oncoming storm.
How Things Have Changed
In 2005, NOLA.com editor in chief Jon Donley told me in an OJR story that
his staff had to radically redesign the site to effectively cover Katrina,
as New Orleans became a one-story town, and the site was inundated with 30
million page views in one day.
"Our website got a complete redesign [on the fly]," Donley said. "By the
time we evacuated we (had) a completely different design."
Ultimately, NOLA.com forums and blogs actually helped rescue teams find
stranded people in homes, and the site helped the newspaper win a Pulitzer
Prize for its Katrina coverage. Today, not just the siteâ€™s features and
design, but also its editorial processes, reflect lessons learned during
In a recent interview, Donley told me that the paper's reporters all file
stories online first; editors then decide which stories to pull and put
into the print newspaper each day. This makes it much easier for print
reporters to consider the web as their primary publishing platform during
breaking news coverage, such as Gustav, when the newspaper couldn't be
printed because of power outages. Plus, NOLA.com staffers all carry
videocameras with them around town in case they see breaking news. So it
was easy for them to file video reports of damage and rescue operations as
they traveled around New Orleans after Gustav hit.
Video shot by NOLA.com's Milena Merrill of a search-and-rescue operation
In addition, when Gustav hit, NOLA.com was already set up for users to
submit information in blog posts, photos or videos — all of which helped
tell a more complete story of the evacuation, damage and re-entry. As
evacuees started to come back to New Orleans, NOLA.com depended on user
input and updates from local bloggers to help recommend the best routes
back into town. Donley said his team created new blogs on the fly,
including Making Groceries listing businesses open in neighborhoods, and
Electricity, which tracked areas where power has been restored.
"So much of what we went through in Katrina was taking primative tools and
applying them in a kludgy way," Donley said. "We've been planning for
three years for the next evacuation coverage.â€
Dealing with 'Hellish' Heat
Katrina also taught Donley and his staff about the operational realities
of disaster coverage. During Katrina, NOLA.com and newspaper staff
eventually had to evacuate the Times-Picayune building and its "Hurricane
Bunker," part of the photo department that has generators set up to run
computers in case of a power outage. This time, staff was able to stay in
place, though a power outage made working in the office difficult due to
the extreme heat and humidity — something that came as no surprise. In
fact, Donley had predicted these conditions in a memo to staff:
At best, this will be an overnight or two, with little privacy, long
hours and only the creature comforts you bring with you. At worst, it
will be a [few] days in hellish heat and dark, and then an evacuation
to some godawful place for an undetermined time. You are free to bring
a couple of bags, ice chest, air mattress, etc. to the paper. There is
floor space to stash your stuff and stretch out. If we have to
[evacuate], though, you will have to leave behind anything you can't
carry on your back…
If we lose power…we'll have slots for two people in the photo
department, affectionately known as the Hurricane Bunker. The room
will be packed with people and computers. This means that people will
work in shifts in the hellish heat, and then rotate out into the
hellish dark. There will be no power or connectivity in the newsroom.
Just as Donley warned, the power did go out and the heat was pretty
oppressive in the Times-Picayune building. Luckily, there were enough
people on hand to rotate work shifts, so some people could try to get
sleep while others kept up on news coming in. As evaucees started to come
back to New Orleans, NOLA.com depended on user input to help recommend the
best routes back into town. Donley said his team created new blogs on the
fly, including Making Groceries listing businesses open in neighborhoods,
and Electricity to find out where power has been restored.
While NOLA.com staff was hunkered down for the storm, Carvin was helping
pull together 500 people to power a social media effort aimed at providing
aggregated information for evacuees and their worried extended families.
He told me that the collaborative effort came together quickly online
after he spread the word on Twitter.
"From the time I announced the project [last] Saturday night until the
storm came on shore mid-Monday, I managed to pull together around 500
participants who volunteered on a variety of projects," Carvin said via
email. "Thanks to my colleagues, with whom I'd volunteered during Katrina
and the tsunami, we had a wiki template that didn't take long to get going
and populate with relevant information. Similarly, our map team and the
volunteers working on transcribing ham radio traffic pulled off minor
miracles in a short amount of time."
Carvin focused on creating a Ning social networking site because it could
help participants keep in contact while also highlighting various widgets
with information on the storm. The Ning site, now dubbed the Hurricane
Information Center, in order to encompass not only Gustav but also Hanna
and other storms to come, includes a WeatherBug map, Flickr photos,
Twitter updates from Mississippi Public Broadcasting, an annotated Google
Map of Evacuation Centers and Routes, and much more.
I wondered if the advent of so many new social media tools since Katrina
made it easier to aggregate information on the fly for a breaking news
"We now have more tools available, but in some ways it makes it more
complicated, because we have to figure out quickly which ones will do the
most good. Even though a blog or a listserv doesn't have the same bells
and whistles, there's an elegance to them, plus a low barrier to entry,
that in some ways make them more accessible and productive."
Still, one newer tool, Twitter, proved to be a big help for Carvin in
publicizing his efforts and getting volunteers involved initially.
"Twitter has helped get the word out at an amazing rate," he said.
"Amazing numbers of people forward my tweets, expanding the pool of people
exposed to the project. So what was purely word-of-mouth before can spread
like lightning on Twitter."
Carvin's work on the project was completely separate from his work at NPR,
though he told me he might incorporate some of the lessons learned into
future NPR projects. That might help him make a bigger impact with such
aggregated volunteer efforts in the future. While the Ning site did get
more than 600 members, one evacuee from Lafayette Parish told me he hadn't
heard about the resource until I brought it to his attention. Having NPR
or another news outlet helping to promote this kind of volunteer effort
could give it more impact.
While most local and regional news outlets limit their coverage
geographically, a volunteer effort like Carvin's could help them broaden
their reach with something more national — or even global — in scope.
"I think one of the challenges faced by all organizations is that you have
your specific audiences, jurisdictions, goals, etc.," Carvin said. "That
means you focus on serving them well. So NOLA.com is going to do amazing
work for New Orleans, and Mississippi's emergency management agency might
be well prepared to help their residents — they're still different
spheres. By setting up a wiki, aggregations and other tools, we tried to
connect the dots, finding the best sources from news organizations,
government agencies and the general public, then presenting them in a
"From a public service perspective, I'd like to help give volunteers with
technology and editorial skills the chance to do their part. You don't
have to be an EMS technician or a trained Red Cross volunteer to play a
valuable roll in emergency response; there are roles we can play online as
well. But the journalist in me also hopes to demonstrate that there are
productive ways that journalists and the public can collaborate with each
other, even in the most trying of circumstances."
Mark, Congratulations on your embedded reporters, lively coverage and
floods of comments. I benefited greatly from your post because I'm trying
to set up a center for "online assistants" and I'm wondering what software
to use. I'm very impressed how Andy Carvin made great use of Ning. So I'm
thinking maybe indeed to use that. Also, your note on the use of Twitter.
I wonder how to link that with an online chat room. I upgraded to MySQL 5
and that broke our ARSC chat room and I have tried to put up Ajax Chat but
it's not working yet.
I've posted my second post for the Includer. http://www.includer.org
"Episode 1: Sisterhood". With your help they are ready to post at this
site if you can arrange for that or help with that. Peace, Andrius
By Andrius Kulikauskas 2:29PM on 06 Sep 08
Linkedin Profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/samrose