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January 17, 2010

Go meta with your Haitian people-finder via Google

From Chris Csikszentmihaly, Director of the MIT Center for Future Civic Media:


In the response to the earthquake in Haiti, many organizations worked to create sites where people could find one another, or least information about their loved ones. This excellent idea has been undermined by its success: within 24 hours it became clear that there were too many places where people were putting information, and each site is a silo. The site began scraping – mechanically aggregating – the most popular such sites, like and American Red Cross Family Links. As people within the IT community recognized the danger of too many unconnected sites, and Google became interested in helping, they turned their work over to Google which is now running an embeddable application at:

We recognize that many newspapers have put precious resources into developing a people-finder system. We nonetheless urge them to make their data available to the Google project, and standardize on the Google widget. Doing so will greatly increase the number of successful reunions. Data from the google site is currently available as dumps in the standard PFIF format on this page , and an API is being developed, and licensed through Creative Commons. I am not affiliated with Google – indeed, this is a volunteer initiative by some of their engineers – but this is one case where their reach and capacity can help the most people.

Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions about the reasoning behind this request. Any questions about the widget or its functionality or features are best directed to Google.

Christopher P. Csikszentmihalyi.
Director, MIT Center for Future Civic Media


June 2, 2008

Global corporate village? Maybe not so much

John Yunker telling points out — and documents with screen captures — that global corporations often marked their Chinese home pages with signs of mourning for those lose in the recent earthquake, while their non-Chinese pages remained dressed in their business-as-usual designs. (He has some more screen captures here.)

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May 24, 2008

A moment of Google silence

The China Vortex runs the search log for Google China that dramatically shows the three minutes of silence China observed on May 19th in remembrance of those who died in the earthquake. It is, eerily, like the inverse of a seismograph.

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