Ben Schneiderman and Jennifer Preece of the University of Maryland, have called for the government to create blogs and wikis to organize a broad web-based community approach for dealing with disasters in this weeks Science (subscription). Community groups, and bottom-up media have increasingly been first responders in providing pictures and video of disaster and relief efforts.
Within hours after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, a volunteer blog, called the South-East Asia Earthquake and Tsunami Blog, was set up and quickly became the primary way to coordinate damage assessment, relief, and the volunteers flowing in from all over the world. Blogs and wikis certainly have the distributed power to organize huge efforts over large geographical distances, but putting the government in a top-down control position of a bottom-up system doesn't make much sense. What I think is a better idea is organizing existing bloggers and wikis (like treehugger) who already have the distributed network in place to appoint a 'contact' person who is a liaison with government officials to bridge information systems and support efforts. By building a pre-existing relationship between blogs and relief organizations when a disaster strikes it will be easier to know what the next step should be. What do you think? ::Nature News