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Katrina PeopleFinder Project
Thursday, September 29, 2005
Around 3:30 pm today, an email arrived from Kaliya to alert me to a meeting of PlanetWork a few hours later in neighboring Emeryville. I showed up at 6:00 pm, having missed the fact that while the doors opened at 6:00, the actual event was to start at 7:00 pm. We met in a building that looked slummy on the outside but turned out to be a marvellous, modern open space inside. I had plenty of time to eat and schmooze before Eugene Kim called the meeting to order. A dozen of us sat in a circle to talk about the process of collaboration.

An hour and some minutes later, we turned to the main topic of the evening, Katrina FriendFinder, the grassroots response to the New Orleans disaster that showed that a couple of guys could pull together an impromptu team, the likes of which neither the Red Cross nor FEMA could do with a boatload of taxpayer dollars.

Kieran Lal read the situation and leaned on salesforce.com to provide the net infrastructuve. Ping Yee, a grad student at Cal who had brought together a similar response following 9-11, coded the software. Fighting bureacracy and recalcitrance at every step, they pulled it off. Katrina PeopleFinder became the ultimate source for getting word of who was alive and where.

Talking with Ping one-on-one, I asked if he had considered becoming a force for social good. Instead of FEMA hardwiring inadequate pre-packaged solutions to future uncertainties, the Feds need to develop the capacity to turn on a dime. I remember Ping from Bar Camp, the flash conference that came together in six days flat. Rather than wasting money on retainers for just-in-case disaster adminstrators, the Federal Government needs the phone numbers of a few Pings and a supply of hero medals and bonus payments to reward them.

DSC01246 DSC01241
Ping & Kieran


Blogger Ben Watson said...

is there a URL to the site?

I think the challenge is

a) spreading the word of the site to people outside of the Katrina area

b) spreading the word to people inside the Katrina area who likely will not have phone or Internet access.

10:04 AM  

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