Weapons of Mass Collaboration

Post by: Kim Stephens

The term “weapons of mass collaboration”, from the book Wikinomics by Tapscott & Williams 2008, seems like an appropriate description of the various new web technologies used by volunteer organizations in the response to the flooding in Pakistan. [picapp align=”right” wrap=”true” link=”term=pakistan+floods&iid=9596750″ src=”http://view.picapp.com/pictures.photo/image/9596750/pakistan-flood-devastation/pakistan-flood-devastation.jpg?size=500&imageId=9596750″ width=”234″ height=”351″ /]

Crisis Commons, which really matured as an organization during its response to the Haitian earthquake, has been able to harness the power of the internet, open-source software applications such as Ushahidi, and people’s desire to contribute during a disaster, into a concerted international effort to aid the Pakistani people. The tasks that volunteers are asked to complete run the gamut and are listed by task-type. The entire list is available on their wiki page, below is just a sampling:

  • translate Urdu and Pashtu messages into English
  • create a facebook datafeed
  • convert tweets into a language easily understood by computers (Tweak the Tweet)
  • read through volunteer agency activity reports and then plot them onto a map
  • verify and translate data input
  • map roads, towns, etc. in areas impacted by flooding

This web-based mass collaboration allows anyone to help, even without extensive computer skills. People can either go to a physical location during one of their crisis camps, happening all over the world from London to Silicon Valley; or they can help via virtual crisis camp from their home if they have a computer and an internet connection.

How does a “wiki” work?  Crisis Commons describes their own wiki page as “a volunteer and project collaborative space for organizing projects and efforts around disaster relief”. Anyone can edit a wiki page as long as they have logged on. The system is self regulating, if false information is posted then other contributors will delete it; furthermore, the page-history link keeps track of changes and who made them. The Crisis Commons’ page reminds me of  a virtual command center and includes situation reports, after action reports, strategic frameworks and deliverables: things familiar to any emergency management professional.

We have been hearing for a while about the global competitive economy, now there is also the global collaborative volunteer.

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