Open-sourced, Crowd-sourced Ushahidi Platform Following Snowmageddon
Snowmageddon is a website set up to help people dig out of the blizzard in New York. It was originally set up last year in Washington; it is an attempt to crowdsource information, where people can use their computers and cell phones to notify others of problems and solutions. It doesn't seem to getting a lot of hits, but there is a fascinating story behind it.
Snowmageddon is running on the Ushahidi platform, which was developed in a couple of days to track reports of violence following the 2008 elections in Kenya. (Ushahidi is swahili for "Testimony")
Our roots are in the collaboration of Kenyan citizen journalists during a time of crisis. The original website was used to map incidents of violence and peace efforts throughout the country based on reports submitted via the web and mobile phone. This website had 45,000 users in Kenya, and was the catalyst for us realizing there was a need for a platform based on it, which could be use by others around the world.
It is now used all over the world, and accepts information by email, text messages, twitter, iphone app and android app. They keep adding features, including their new Crowdmap hosted platform that can have you up and running in two minutes. They suggest that it isn't just for emergencies, but can be used for curating local resources, monitoring elections or even documenting a zombie invasion.
Ushahidi started small, but has grown dramatically:
Since early 2008 we have grown from an ad hoc group of volunteers to a focused organization. The team is comprised of individuals with a wide span of experience ranging from human rights work to software development. We have also built a strong team of volunteer developers primarily in Africa, but also Europe, South America and the U.S.
In Ontario, Canada, Thisplacematters.ca is a project of the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario to crowdsource information about places at risk, primarily buildings, but also for environments at risk. For it to be useful one needs to monitor it and have some way of reacting to listings, which can be an expensive problem. But it has been providing useful and timely information. I have found it easy to administer and use.
So if you are involved in an environmental org and need to know where and what is happening, try open-sourced crowd-sourcing at Ushahidi.