There are some exciting events coming up. If you like sharing, working together, and/or doing awesome stuff keep reading!
Feb 9-10 - Science and the City - People who want to build a better city with technology will be meeting at NYU’s ITP Center (721 Broadway, New York, NY 10003) all weekend to work on projects (Registration is free). The Network Mapping team will be hosting a project and we need your (non-tech) support! (more info below)
Feb 23 – Celebrate International Open Data Day - by joining our friends from #OccupyData to digitize and pre-process any and all #OccupySandy data. Canvasing forms, Amazon Registry records, anything at all. Why not take a nice relaxing day off and do some data entry! Group will be meeting at the CUNY Graduate Center on 365 Fifth Ave room 5409 from 12-6PM. More info here.
March 1-2 - #OccupyData Hackathon- The Feb 23th data cleanse is just a warm up to the main event. Data heads from #OccupyData will be parsing and sifting through #OccupySandy data to find out just what happened in the weeks and months after the storm.
If you have, or know of any “data” (canvasing forms, spread sheets, etc.) that relates to Sandy, please let me know: Drew@nycga.net
Why is this crap important?
I’ve been developing tech solutions for Occupy for over a year now. It’s easy to build tools, it’s hard to build tools people will use. We need non-technical people to help us. We the keen insight of people on the ground doing the work, using the systems. At Science and the City we will be brain storming how to improve occupysandy.org on Day 1 (Feb 9). More information about this will be forthcoming.
The #OccupyData events are also very important. Many of us were out in the streets going door to door asking people what they needed. The data that was collected (and is mostly sitting unused) paints a dramatic picture. Those who were living it and those out on the front lines know how unjust the city’s response was. They know how long the power was out and basic needs were unmet, but the public at large doesn’t.
Data projects like these illuminate in ways that statistics can’t. We need to open up our data to shine a light on injustice. We need the data to tell a story that can’t be refuted, dodged, or denied.
If you are interested in participating or have a project that relates to either of these events please contact me or visit the links above and contact the event organizers.
Nearly a month ago “Super Storm Sandy” ravaged communities from Cuba to Long Island. The aftermath has seen communities leading the relief and rebuilding effort. One group is said to stand out, a surpriseaccording to the media, #OccupySandy.
While it may seem like #OCCUPYWALLSTREET has “changed,” it hasn’t. Anyone who was present at Liberty Plaza (Zuccotti Park) last year knows that OWS has always been a network with mutual aid at it’s core. Just beyond the characters surrounding the park was a show room floor of how a better world might work. Food for anyone who is hungry, clothing for anyone who is cold, and community open to all.
#OccupySandy is simply the realization of a major aspect of #OCCUPYWALLSTREET, mutual aid.
Some are asking how did a group with no disaster relief experience out perform the Red Cross, NYC disaster response, and FEMA? But this is a much more complex question. Community groups can’t repair subways or bridges while the establishment clearly cannot provide comfort and aid to the people who most need it. The community is like water filling in the cracks in between these massive bureaucracies.
Our response was swift and powerful because we had a strong infrastructure in place. Both human and technological, this post will focus on the latter.
The basic structure of #OccupySandy consists of distributions centrals that take donations and volunteers then send them out to front line locations in affected areas. Here are some Occupy and non-occupy projects currently in use or development.
The InterOccupy team spans the globe and closely collaborates with Occupy Tech Ops and Occupy.net. Their system is based on HUBs, each HUB relates to a project within Occupy. As the hurricane made it’s way up the east coast an InterOccupy HUB was created: interoccupy.net/occupysandy. This provided a platform to organize local Occupy networks together. Currently the HUB acts as a central clearing house of information. Erica Heinz, member of Tech Ops, details the five day redesign of the Occupy Sandy HUB.
InterOccupy is also managing a Google Fusion table that provides a way to track changes of locations and place them on a map. This map pushes data to Google’s Crisis map.
Volunteer Intake with CiviCRM
InterOccupy (IO) also manages nearly all volunteer intake. Using the OWS CiviCRM IO can create forms and lists of volunteers. Special lists are being put together for rebuilding efforts along with other needs. Mass e-mails are sent to volunteers or segments of that list. This service is provided by MayFirst/People Link
I’ve come to loathe the term social media. It’s a silly way of saying “the internet”. Though it is good short hand for when you want to say Twitter and Facebook but don’t want to spell them both out.
There is currently a sophisticated operation going on via Facebook. A Facebook group and accompanying chat is used to manage the administration of Occupy Sandy’s Facebook page. With a mix of information and opinion the Facebook page keeps people up-to-date on the dire situation our neighbors are still in while also fielding questions and sharing stories of hope.
Like facebook the main Occupy Sandy twitter account (among many) @occupysandy also spreads the news and answers questions. The account is also used to promote very important information to a feed on the InterOccupy Hub. This allows coordinators to tweet to @occupysandy who can then re-tweet that message on to the home page.
When power goes out, so too do cell towers. Connectivity is very difficult in disaster areas which makes technology less effective. Here are some apps that use SMS and mobile networking to provide information and relief.
OccupySMS uses peer to peer matching to connect needs with relief. Using simple SMS gateway provided by Mobile Commons NYC area users can text SANDY to 69866 to post personal needs while people seeking to help can text MUTUAL AID to 69866 and be connected with someone directly. This system allows needs and offers to be crowd managed with little admin overhead.
Contact OccupySMS: firstname.lastname@example.org
Mobile Disaster Relief App
Said to be created in just five days the Mobile Disaster Relief App provides a powerful iOS (Android coming soon) app to record pictures and audio for first responders and canvassers. It has mapping and peer to peer need/fulfillment. I haven’t personally been able to use this application.
Maps Maps Maps!
At a recent hack-a-thon put on by #HurricaneHackers there was a general sentiment that we sure have made a lot of maps but aren’t connecting the data dots. Most of these tools and ventures aren’t talking to each other, more on that later. Here are some notable maps:
Google Crisis Map
Many of the maps are ending up here. From InterOccupy’s map of relief locations, to Senior Services map, and a Gas map. Here is a great example of centralizing data into a highly useful map.
Another powerful map that covers many relief topics. SparkRelief.org provides a great user interface and allows for clear and simple peer to peer relief.
When far removed from a disaster it can be easy to lose touch. When we deal with data, points on a map, we can forget that those points of data are all embedded with a human story. The story of tremendous loss, courage, and solidarity.
Artur Kasprzak, 28, NYPD officer, drowned after saving his family, South Beach. Lester Kaplan, 73, lawyer, hypothermia, Brigantine, N.J. Edith Wright, 52, teacher’s aide, swept out to sea, Montauk. Read more about this.
StoryLine is a collaborative documentary for us to share experiences of Hurricane Sandy and relief efforts. Using any phone or mobile device, you can create a story by calling or sending a text or picture message. StoryLine is a project of HousingisaHumanRight.org, Interoccupy.net and the MIT Center for Civic Media (civic.mit.edu)
Sandy has proven that given access to the right tool people can extremely effective. There have been a number of tools used and developed around Sandy. Within #OccupySandy Google’s integrated apps have been put to heavy use. In the first few days Gmail addresses were set up, Google Docs shared, Google Voice, and Google Groups.
While I’d rather see stronger use of Free & Open solutions, Google products do perform quite well and illustrates how strongly integrated tools can increase effectiveness. Being able to share and collaborate on a spreadsheet between two locations is very remarkable.
When we look at the problem that people had to solve after Sandy it’s fairly simple: report needs, fulfill needs, and let others know a need has been fulfilled.
One of the now many spreadsheets used within “the” Occupy Sandy shared Google Drive folder is an unassuming document named OS Requests. This document currently tracks all the requests and dispatches to and from locations on Long Island to Staten Island. It is used between both of Occupy Sandy’s main distribution hubs 520 Clinton and Jacobi Church.
I was asked to come into Occupy Sandy to make a task management system. It became clear that something much more powerful was needed. As it turns out around that same time Mark Prutsalis (@Globaliist) was doing the same thing. Mark is the CEO of Sahana Software Foundation.
Sahana is a disaster relief software that came out of the 2005 Earthquake and Tsunami in Sri Lanka.
Mark and developers Fran (@franboon) are currently working on site to get Sahana configured for Occupy Sandy. Mark wrote a blog post about setting up a kitchen in Bay Ridge where most of Occupy Sandy’s food prep is moving to.
Sahana looks very promising and I will surely write more about it soon. It is currently being adopted by the Occupy Sandy team both here in New York and in New Jersey. Adoption is tough in a decentralized network like Occupy Sandy. Sahana is mostly in use at the higher level dispatch locations rather than “front line” locations.
Each location, from Staten Island to Red Hook to the many locations in the Rockaway are finding their own tech solutions. As we expand Sahana’s use will work to integrate into existing systems rather than trying to replace them.
I was also able to catch a bit of a lesson on a FEMA system being put in place for VOADs or Voluntary Organizations Active in a Disaster. I will share more on that soon as well.