CrisisCamp DC: A Retrospective
Responding to the earthquake that devastated Haiti in January 2010, the CrisisCommons group organized CrisisCamps at locations across the globe. Among these locations was Washington, DC, the area where I currently reside. The CrisisCamp goal was to assist with the Haiti relief effort through the "use of creative problem solving and open technologies." I heard about the CrisisCamp DC effort through a friend and decided to attend to see if there was any way that I could help.
Information describing the even was vague, with little information regarding the types of technologies to be used to assist with the relief effort. These technologies turned out to be mostly social networking related. Seeing first hand how social networking technologies could be employed to facilitate communication and assist with relief effort organization really changed my view of them. Prior to attending CrisisCamp DC I hadn't seen much value in social networking technologies. Seeing them used as crisis response tools really opened my eyes to the potential for providing innovative systems and services that social networking technologies, and cloud computing in general, had offer.
The first CrisisCamp DC event was hosted by the Sunlight Foundation at their DC office on Saturday, January 16, 2010. At this event I became involved with the group building the wehaveweneed.org website for connecting organizations making donations with organizations accepting donations. The tool of choice for the website development was Django. Although I am fairly proficient with Python, Django itself was fairly new to me. I was familiar with its existence and had been wanting to learn more about it for a while, and this seemed like a good opportunity to do so. I ended up helping implement the RSS feed capability, but felt that my lack of Django knowledge really inhibited by ability to contribute. Even so, Django was a very impressive tool and I wouldn't mind getting to know it better in the future.
At the second CrisisCamp DC event, hosted by NPR at their DC office on Saturday, January 23, 2010, I joined the Long Distance WiFi group. At the request of Inveneo we worked to add support for the Quagga routing suite to the firmware of the Bullet outdoor radio device from Ubiquiti Networks. This basically involved rebuilding the Bullet's open source firmware with Quagga enabled, an effort I was better prepared to help with than that of the previous week. My description of the process can be found here: Compiling SDK.UBNT.v5.1 with quagga enabled.
By the time the third CrisisCamp DC event was organized, again hosted by NPR, there were fewer technical projects in attendance that required assistance. So, this time I helped to organize OpenStreetmap.com hosted GIS data.
These were some good events with great intentions, which exposed me to some excellent new (to me) technologies. Last month an After Action Report for these events was released for review. It was reading these reports that got me thinking, and writing about, my experience with CrisisCamp DC. Reading the reports also made me aware of the YouTube presence of the video summary of the Long Distance WiFi project, which I wanted to share here. I'm the second one to make an introduction at the start of the video: