Smarter crowdsourcing

Paul Currion has written a critique on Ushahidi and crowdsourcing in humanitarian crises. I think he misses quite a bit of what actually went on, it’s like me judging the effectiveness of institutional aid based on what I see and hear on TV. Robert Munro has answered Paul’s critique with a more in-depth review of what happened and didn’t show up on Ushahidi.

I do agree with Paul’s (somewhat hidden) observation that tapping into an existing infrastructure (in the case of Haiti: the Open Street Map community) is a next step. I’d generalise that: tap into an existing social infrastructure. Consider the Haitian diaspora as such.

One way to look at crowdsourcing is as "a random group of people connected by technology figuring out processes to address a one-off goal". But that’s still a rather centralised view: an unconnected mass of people coming together like a flash mob.

A better way would be to consider socio-technical architectures: groups of people connected by technology, establishing (new) patterns of collaboration for on-going goals. That’s more a peer-to-peer view: an ad-hoc configuration of groups of people with different skills coming together to address a complex situation.

ResRap 3, 2, 1, Go!

Two weeks ago the #resrap 2009-2010 project kicked off at the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs: the biannual reporting of results of Dutch international development aid. It’s the second time the Ministry works together with civil society (this time at a more ambitious level through Partos 1) to report on our joint Dutch contributions to the Millennium Development Goals as completely as possible.

Earlier, I used the 6-minute film A Case For Open Data In Transit” to illustrate my drive as member of the #resrap web advisory group, to not just collect data for analysis, but also make it available as raw data. Using the approach presented by Joshua Robin at the Gov 2.0 Expo 2010, last May: Focus on 3-2-1.

“A Case For Open Data”

Yesterday, Adam DuVander wrote on ProgrammableWeb about “A Case For Open Data In Transit”, a 6-minute film about public transit agencies opening up their data. The Streetfilm production provides some excellent examples and quotes to also make the case for (more) open data in international development aid. As Tim O’Reilly puts it: government should be a platform for society to build on.

Switching from Beagle to Tracker and solving the performance problems

When I update my laptop to the next version of Ubuntu (Lucid Lynx or 10.04 this time), I usually have a look at the general direction for some of the “ desktop core elements”, like desktop search. I decided to switch from Beagle to Tracker and hopefully have tackled the performance problems it seems to come with.

OpenOffice as (blog) writing tool

I’m a geek. So when it’s not a writer’s block keeping me from producing a blog post, I’ll dive into tools and techniques to “optimise” my writing experience before I start typing out sentences. Lets call it preventive productivity: getting a lot of related things done in order to be more efficient later. Like getting the tools and the work flow right. Perhaps I managed that, now that I can really use OpenOffice to write blog posts, with Zotero to manage my reference, and the Sun Weblog Publisher to push the result towards my website.

Goodbye to the gatherers, welcome to the web: mammoths and modernity.

Imagine the first farmers: they lived in a society of hunters and gatherers. Every so often, you’d pack up your stuff and move along, to follow your food. Find new things to eat, because you’ve exhausted the place you lived in.

CC-BY-SA-NC-20 by farmers introduced a new way of thinking: what if we could just grow our food in one place? That would save the effort of travelling around. So they started experimenting: sowing seeds, taking care of the young sprouts, trying to cultivate their plants. Until it was harvest time: reap the benefits of your labour, indulge in cornucopia for a while, store a bit, and start working on the next cycle.

The hunters and gatherers must have looked upon those folks as weird people: building houses ("sure, nice to live in but not very practical on your travels!"), creating ploughs and tools ("great way to move dirt, but how are you going to catch a mammoth or pluck a berry with that?"), storing food in storages ("won’t the mice and the rats just run with it?"). The hackers and nerds of their times, saying "go ahead and chase your mammoth, I’ll see you around, next Summer".

The farmers prevailed. They changed the way society works in most places on the world. We try to stick to where we are, and we even make rituals and routines around that, to affirm our convictions and location. And most of us are no longer involved in producing food, but rather in pursuing other goals.

I’m working in the field of international development collaboration. I often feel like a farmer, talking to hunters and gatherers, about what "web 2.0" is really about. Oh, he’s a techie, an engineer. But I’m experimenting with ways to grow compassion, engagement, collaboration. Online communities? Blogs and  bookmarks? RSS and wikis? Social networking? Sure, but won’t the rats just eat your products while you’re having a party?

We don’t eat a lot of Mammoth Burger these days. And we could cultivate collaboration towards a common goal, without sacrifice or giving up (a lot of) our current live. We can build a global society based on solidarity, without loosing identity or community.

Lets move from chasing to cultivating.

(photo: CC-BY-SA-NC-20 by Poo-tee-weet?)

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