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[chox] Freier Modus in der Katastrophenerfasssung

By Ryan Singel 
Wired September 2, 2005

Of all of the websites tracking the Katrina disaster, surely one of the 
most remarkable is Scipionus.com:


Visitors swoop down over a map of the Gulf Coast that's awash in 
hundreds of red teardrops, each denoting information about specific 
geographical points in the area. That's pretty amazing in itself, but 
there's more: All of the information on the map has been provided by 
ordinary citizens, most of whom presumably have come to the site in 
search of information on the flood themselves.

Since Scipionus.com launched Wednesday, it has become a giant visual 
"wiki" page, attracting tens of thousands of visitors who are 
collaborating in creating a public document of astonishing detail. 
"Corner of 1077 and Brewster. Had contact with parents. Lots fo trees 
down, but no water damage. No electrucity and no phone at the monebt 
8/31 2:00pm," reads one of hundreds of entries.

The site is the brainchild of Jonathan Mendez, a 24-year-old computer 
programmer living in Austin, Texas. Mendez says he grew frustrated 
combing message boards trying to find out if his family home -- the one 
his parents and brother had just fled from -- had been destroyed.

Mendez turned to his co-worker, Greg Stoll http://gregstoll.dyndns.org/, 
a 23-year-old software engineer who had experimented with Google Maps' 
API, and asked him to code a way for people to report and find damage 
assessments on a Google Map.

Wired News caught up with Mendez and Stoll and spoke with them about 
their project.


Wired News: How did Scipionus come about?

Greg Stoll: Well, it was my friend Jonathan's idea. He's from New 
Orleans, but lives in Austin now. He wanted to do something to help, and 
he found these forums that had lots of information, but most of it was 
questions like, "Does anyone know about this block or this street?" And 
so he was going through 50 pages of these and the thought occurred to 
him that this would be much easier with a map.

He IM'd me Tuesday night, saying this would be a cool thing to have 
people add information about locations and how high the water was. I 
spent a little (time) playing with the API, figuring out how to let 
people add information to it. I finished it for him and went to bed.

About noon on Wednesday, Jonathan posted it to the forums, and that was 
the end of it as far as I was concerned. Later that afternoon, I was 
checking it and there were tons of markers and useful information. It 
really just took off from there.

Jonathan Mendez: I've been reading stories about how journalism is going 
to the people in cases like this, so I figured this might pick up well 
from that, but at the same time, I had no idea how big it would get.

WN: Have you heard from people your map has helped?

Mendez: I've seen a lot of feedback. I just put up my e-mail, but before 
then, I'd seen comments in various forums about how people had found 
good information. That's a very cool thing. 

One website said hopefully 
the government will do this in the future.

Stoll: People found my blog http://www.livejournal.com/users/gregstoll/ 
and have left comments saying it's useful. The only thing is, we can't 
be sure that the information people put in is right. We've already 
removed some things that are clearly just people messing with us or just 
playing around.

WN: Are you surprised by Scipionus' popularity?

Stoll: I was surprised. But the map interface is so organized, it's so 
easy to find what you are looking for. If you are looking for how your 
home is, you just click on the right place on the map and look at the 
markers around there.

WN: How long did it take you to code Scipionus?

Stoll: I had some existing code for putting markers on the map from an 
XML file, so adding the extra functionality took about an hour and a 
half. I spent another hour or two on Wednesday just making sure it was 

WN: Doesn't it seem funny that you spent an hour or two of working and 
now you are serving up better information than FEMA?

Stoll: I trust the information from FEMA and the government a lot more 
than just the aggregation of information anyone can enter. But it is 
pretty cool, and it does show the power of the internet, the kind of 
collaborative effort that can put together a lot of information in a 
very short time.

WN: Have you found anything about your parent's house?

Mendez: We did find some markings kind of close to (our) house, but just 
before I got this going, I found a post on the forums talking about my 
street. That was the very first marker I put on there. It seems to have 
done OK, at least in terms of flooding.

WN: How did you get the website up so fast?

Mendez: I had a friend I met through a game I play. She has a hosting 
company, WebGeist http://www.webgeist.com/, and she helped me get it up 
within a couple of hours. They are either not charging me or not 
charging me that much, it's not clear, but they are being very helpful.

WN: How are your parents?

Mendez: They are thankful for having gotten out of there and are 
relieved in terms of hearing their house seems to have avoided the 
flooding. They are obviously pretty stressed, but they are holding up 
pretty well, and are happy I have a house here for them. 


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Organization: http://www.oekonux.de/projekt/
Contact: projekt oekonux.de

[English translation]
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