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[liberationtech] MEDIA: Tech camp yields Haiti programs -- Delete if not interested
ycompanys at gmail.com
Tue Jan 19 13:57:40 PST 2010
For those of you who missed Tech Camp like me, you may find the following
If you attended Tech Camp, I would be interested in hearing your
perspective, specifically whether you found it to be a valuable exercise or
not. If so, why? If not, why not?
Given the importance placed on brainstorming in the design world, I believe
such a discussion would be of interest to the group.
Tech camp yields programs for Haiti
By *Doug Gross*, CNN
*(CNN)* -- A weekend meeting of technology pros looking to help victims of
the Haiti earthquake yielded some ready-to-roll projects and a few more
Perhaps more important, participants say, the gathering produced a framework
that could keep aiding disaster-relief efforts in the months and years to
CrisisCamp Haiti brought together developers, programmers and other
volunteers for meetings in Washington, Los Angeles, California, and other
Results included a digital map to help relief groups in Haiti coordinate
their efforts and applications for the iPhone and other
including a Creole-to-English dictionary.
"There was virtually no moving around," said Noel Dickover, a CrisisCamp
co-founder and one of more than 200 people who attended the session in
Washington. "Everyone was sitting there working and really getting stuff
done for the entire time."
Dickover said an open-source, interactive map that the group worked on
already is being used by relief organizations working in
help coordinate their efforts.
A Craigslist-style Web site that would allow groups in Haiti to exchange
supplies and other assistance is almost ready, he said. Apps for the iPhone
and Android smartphone system also are on their way.
One application would allow real-time communication in Haiti, where the
telecommunications network was ravaged by the earthquake. That app, and the
Creole translation app, must win approval from Apple and Google before they
will be available to smartphone users.
Participants called the Saturday sessions hectic, but rewarding.
"It really did feel like we were actually being able to help out, even
though we were so far away -- just using our skills and what we do normally
to bring this information together for people," said Brendan Lim, who works
for Intridea, a Washington-based Web development and consulting firm.
"It was really gratifying and it feels good to keep working on those things
and, hopefully, make something useful."
Several of the sites that hosted camps on Saturday already are planning
follow-ups, while other events are being organized in other cities.
The work is not just to make the participants feel good, they say.
Volunteers included representatives from government agencies, including the
State Department, and such tech companies as Google. The search-engine giant
is looking to incorporate some of the group's work into its own mapping
system, which has been used heavily in Haiti, Dickover said.
Organizers also are inviting people who can't attend any of the planned
get-togethers to pitch in from where they are. Several of the projects are
open-source, allowing remote users to improve coding and other aspects of
They've set up a wiki page <http://wiki.crisiscommons.org/wiki/Main_Page> and
a Twitter account so people can stay up to date on their progress or
volunteer to pitch in.
They're also stressing that while advanced technical skills are nice,
they're not necessary.
"Probably about 30 percent of the folks who came to the camp in D.C. were
coders, but there were 30-35 people who had never done any kind of mapping
before," Dickover said. "We had folks just entering data ... . There's a lot
of stuff somebody can do who's just
They're hoping that their volunteer work, which came together with virtually
no pre-arranged framework or schedule, will have an impact throughout the
response to Haiti's disaster and beyond.
"The hope is that it saves lives," Dickover said. "This is really a test
case. We're just testing the idea out, but imagine three years down the road
when we've done this three or four times."
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