Sept 2, 2005: International Blogging for Disaster Relief Day
Late last night, tossing and turning in bed, images of Hurricane Katrina coverage echoed in my mind. I started thinking about how the online community has responded to the hurricane. Many people are truly doing yeoman's work, working around the clock to help cover the hurricane and disseminate resources. The coverage on Wikipedia has been extraordinary, as has been the case on Nola.com. Craigslist and NowPublic have certainly stepped up to the plate; even the amazing team from the TsunamiHelp blog, halfway around the world, have done their part by creating a KatrinaHelp wiki. Their generosity humbles me.
And yet as I think about all the work that's been done, I'm somewhat surprised that we haven't seen the Katrina equivalent of TsunamiHelp rise to the top. For those of you who may not remember, bloggers from around the world formed an alliance to publish an international blog and clearinghouse of tsunami-related information. Far and away, it was the best resource out there as the horror of the tsunami unfolded. (Full disclosure - I was a contributing blogger on the site, but I joined rather late. All the credit goes to them.)
Why haven't we see a Katrina-related blog of TsunamiHelp-like proportions? You would think that the US, the birthplace of blogging, would have been able to catalyze a who's who of bloggers to coordinate information sharing, just as TsunamiHelp did. Instead, we've seen a scattering of blogs pop up here and there, doing their best to share information. But it's distributed and dispersed, with no coordination between them.
Meanwhile, I've also noticed that many blogs have gone on with their daily lives as if Katrina never happened. Sure, they may have mentioned it once or twice, but have they posted any Katrina resources? Have they linked to the Red Cross? Have they encouraged people to donate blood? Some, yes. Most, no. Anti-Bush blogs continue to bash Bush, while pro-Bush blogs continue to praise him. Travel blogs continue to talk about travel. Tech blogs talk tech, pet blogs talk pets. Can't we all just take a break and focus on helping disaster victims for just a moment?
We now live in an age of tagging, RSS and distributed computing. Perhaps we don't need to have all of these great bloggers posting to one site, or have bloggers focused full-time on the disaster. All we really need is to get as many people as possible using the blogging tools available of them, posting whatever Katrina-related information they're comfortable with, then use tags and RSS feeds to bring it all together.
Therefore, I'd like to unilaterally declare tomorrow, Friday September 2, as International Blogging for Disaster Relief Day.
If you have a blog, here's what you can do. Sometime tomorrow, take a break from whatever it is you usually blog about, and post something constructive related to disaster relief. You can keep it topical to your blog: for example, if you usually blog about pets, blog about Noah's Wish or another entity working to rescue and reunite hurricane-affected pets with their families. Or, you can just dedicate blog space to listing websites where people can donate money (maybe even challenge people to match your donation), or share a story of a hurricane survivor. This goes for photo bloggers, podcasters and video bloggers as well - there's no reason why this should be text-only.
For those of you outside of the US, you could post about a disaster relevant to your community. Post lists of supplies needed for victims of yesterday's stampede in Baghdad. Post an update on how your family is recovering from the tsunami. Post multi-lingual resources for African families in Paris displaced by the recent apartment fires. Blog about whatever you choose, as long as it supports some kind of disaster assistance in a constructive way.
One thing I'd discourage you from doing, though, is making this political. There will be plenty of time for recriminations about who's to blame, if anyone, for Katrina, and the political ramifications. No doubt this will be a major topic of conversation in the blogosphere, but it can wait. People need help now.
So please join me tomorrow and participate in International Blogging for Disaster Relief Day. Take a break from whatever it is you normally blog about - even if it's just for one post - and give back to the Net. -andy