Monthly Archives: October 2012

Web 2.0 Technology and Hurricane Sandy

One of the biggest storms in the history of the eastern seaboard hit a few days before Halloween this year. Officials knew far ahead of time that Sandy would be something for the record books; a variety of atmospheric and weather conditions were likely to combine into a disaster.

Sandy was the perfect storm. The “Frankenstorm,” as it was named, hammered the New Jersey coastline as well as New York City and everything in between. Flooding, fires, power outages, sinkholes, and much more occurred as a result of Hurricane Sandy. Many people have died throughout the storm’s path.

But, at the same time, the technology that powers the Web 2.0 movement saved many lives. Twitter, one of the beacons of communication and interaction, and also a keystone of Web 2.0 philosophy, played a huge role in helping residents prepare for Sandy. Twitter was an easy way to get timely and vital information out to millions of people in a split second. NYC officials and NJ officials could inform residents through Twitter about evacuation zones, shelters, and numerous other preparatory steps.

People were able to get their questions about storm preparation answered quickly and easily. People even relied on Twitter to reach emergency authorities when 911 or 311 were overloaded. Facebook was also a great tool of communication and information during Hurricane Sandy. The Red Cross used data from Twitter and Facebook to create a real-time map of information and people who needed help. This allowed them to respond to emergencies faster and more efficiently.

A few weeks ago, we wrote about the h4d2 hackathon. The work done at the conference is exactly the type of work that needs to be done to integrate Web 2.0 into disaster relief. Because of Hurricane Sandy, it looks like emergency officials have been paying attention to how useful Web 2.0 can be in a disaster. Hopefully, the integration of Web 2.0 tech will continue to improve the response to crisis in the future.

Has Web 2.0 Made Us Smarter?

The shift to Web 2.0 concepts changed the internet as we know it. It went from being rather boring and information-based, to becoming interactive, dynamic, and social. This change has taken a few years, but it’s really starting to sink in and sit well with people all over the world.

We know Web 2.0 has become very useful for educational purposes. Teachers who know how to integrate the internet and social platforms into a child’s learning can provide an extra level of education compared to traditional book learning. This is important because the internet is going to be increasingly used for all academic and commercial endeavors.

But for the general populace, has it made us smarter? Do we know more now? Cass R. Sunstein wrote an interesting article for the NY Times about the effects of Web 2.0 on our general knowledge. Of course, figuring that out would be almost impossible, but it is possible to make some informed estimations about how we’re smarter because of Web 2.0.

Cass acknowledges that “it is clear … [that] the cost of getting knowledge is at an all-time low.” The internet now gives us access to millions of documents and untold information. It really is amazing what is at our fingertips and how easily we can share it with others.

Cass says that because of Web 2.0 and the development of the web in general, people “are finding it easier to make informed decisions about health, finance, politics and much more.” But at the same time, it is easier for people to reinforce incorrect beliefs or perspectives on some topics. This can happen when people find the social groups on the web that hold the same incorrect beliefs. That can lead to the person becoming a “zealot.”

Ultimately, everyone can agree that Web 2.0 has been overall good for us when it comes to knowledge. Think about all of the countless things you can learn, and learn easily, throughout the week because of the internet. The possibilities are endless!

Fascinating Perspective on Web 2.0 History

Anyone who is familiar with the concept of Web 2.0 has heard it all before. The web slowly developed into the massive social and interactive hub that it is today. Facebook, Twitter, Google, and others helped drive this development and push the Web 2.0 concepts that were first talked about in the early 2000s. But like all narratives, there are other perspectives.

Here is where Alexis C. Madrigal comes in with an article he wrote for The Atlantic, which outlines how the history of the Web is wrong. He basically espouses that the “vast trove of social traffic is essentially invisible to most analytics programs.” He refers to this idea as Dark Social.

The more you read his explanations and discussions about Dark Social, the more it makes sense. The idea of Dark Social is that we were always inherently social online, even before any social media or interactive sites came about. It’s human nature to be social, so that’s no surprise. He’s not saying that the concepts of Web 2.0 are wrong, he’s saying that we might want to look at the narrative we tell ourselves; that might be what’s incorrect.

What’s fascinating about Madrigal’s idea is that it flips the idea of what drove the Web 2.0 movement. Instead of thinking “‘social networks’ and ‘social media’ sites created a social web,” Madrigal says we should think of it the other way around. The web was already social, and technology had reached a point where these new sites could harness and bring that activity to the surface.

In his case at The Atlantic, they discovered that “almost 69% of [their] social referrals were dark!” That’s a huge number when people today assume that all of the traffic comes from these social media and Web 2.0 heavy sites. Maybe eventually the big names in Web 2.0 will take over the role of Dark Social. For now, though, the individual directly communicating and sharing with others is still a major part of the internet, just like it always has been. Be sure to check out his article; it’s very interesting!

Web 2.0 Hackathon a Success

Don’t worry, in this case, a hackathon is a good thing! Today we’re writing about something that we wrote a blog post about a few weeks ago. The h4d2 hackathon took place from September 21st to September 23rd at Aston University in the UK.

In case you didn’t see our original blog post that covered the hackathon, this was essentially a gathering for tech masters and disaster relief professionals to get together and examine how Web 2.0 tech can be put to better use in disaster response. The goal is to make disaster response teams work easier and more efficiently while ultimately saving more lives through preparation or rescue.

The hackathon took place over the announced dates and was a success. According to the conference “explored a range of areas, including how to best make relevant date easily accessible to key personnel and the use of online street maps” to enhance and improve the ability of rescue teams to do their vital work.

There were plenty of speakers at the event that shared their opinions and expertise about the topics. Some came from the United Nations, others from the Sahana Foundation, and a few more respectable organizations involved in rescue and Web 2.0 work.

Another big focus of the hackathon was discussing how social media can and should play a role in helping with disaster relief. There are a lot of possible applications of social media in disaster relief as the technology continues to get better. Twitter can be used to easily organize large groups of rescue teams spread all over a region. It can also be used to get important emergency information to people in need. These are just a few of the uses discussed at the h4d2 event.

There’s plenty more work to do, and lucky for everyone involved, the next h4d2 hackathon is going to be in April of 2013. Web 2.0 technology is already involved in disaster relief and as creative minds continue to get together, it’s only going to get better.

Web 2.0 Tech Can Help in Drug Rehab

The Web 2.0 concept has been around for quite a few years now, at least six or seven years at this point. We’ve seen the concepts that define it take over much of the web in the last few years. Technology is getting better—and faster—at linking people together and storing and displaying user-generated content.

The real life changes to websites and technology that came out of the Web 2.0 philosophy have allowed us to be more interactive with others online, as well as share content and ideas better than we ever have been able to in the past. Web 2.0 concepts and technology have helped a wide variety of communities and organizations to accomplish their goals, or simply to do everyday work. One area that is recently turning to Web 2.0 to support its efforts are drug rehab programs.

Believe it or not, but Web 2.0 has come into the drug rehab world, helping not only organizations, but individuals as well. There’s an interesting article written on Technorati that expands upon this, but we thought we’d share a little bit of our own thoughts, too.

The article discusses how “it was easy to feel alone” if you were dealing with addiction or drug problems, even more so in the past, before Web 2.0 tools. You had to physically go to a meeting or go to a rehab center to deal with your problem or avoid temptation. Now, people have the ability to connect with a virtual community that they trust and can count on to get them through rough times. It’s easy for a rehab organization or a group of people to create a spot for themselves on the web and let their users decide how it grows.

Another example is that people are now capable of sharing and communicating their ideas while also having a great deal of information available to them. Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and other portal based websites can, according to the aforementioned article, “help you gain a deeper understanding of the issues at hand.” At the very least, those sites can help you get connected to people who have been through the same thing, in addition to traditional rehab and recovery methods.