2012 Jul 31

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These call-ins / check-ins are at their most basic a way to strengthen the connections across response organizations (traditional, digital, and otherwise), individuals, and projects. Some calls are focused or topical, but are always meant as open spaces for cross-sector and -organizational collaboration. Defined organizations, networks, and other ways of delineating and focusing response are absolutely necessary, but so too is a space external to that for emergent possibilities.


  • Willow Brugh - Geeks Without Bounds
  • Cat - Humanity Road
  • Sara - Hunch Works, SBTF
  • Chris - Humanity Road
  • David - Crisis Commons
  • Pascal - UW and Crisis Commons

Organisational Overview

Humanity Road

Cat and Chris with Humanity Road. Working on August and September. RIMPAC (Navy ex around Hawaii), did an HADR with crisis mapping. Following that in Sept is Pacific Endeavor in Singapore with 22 nations HADR simulation of crisis map. Going to be two weeks - a tabletop exercise followed by symposium and workshop. Also in September SMILE, a conference with the police in Richmond, VA. We're spearheading the 9/11 panel on communicating during a complex crisis. For Pacific Endeavor we are delivering a talk at the symposium and providing a directory of the digital humanitarian groups, still waiting for some of the responses for that directory. https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1ACMe6qA35Au86F3MEdITPte8mzbTOfPXT-Nx-XKCFeI/edit The directory will be placed in APAN (All Partners Area network) www.apan.org. Any orgs can be listed on the directory and are encouraged to join APAN as well.

Questions: Pascal?: can anyone join in? Yes, is part of APAN - any VTCs are invited to join in and sign up.

Hunch Works / SBTF

Sara ex Global Pulse, just started company to create Hunch Works (mixed human-data evidence management system, dealing with hunches) and do humanitarian data consultancy.

Wrote an API to data.un.org ; sucked in all their data and corrected countryname references; added two new columns to each dataset: UN stats code and ISO code for each country reference, and wrote code to upload it all to buzzdata.com/sara . That got attention from State Dept. team working on datasets for WWHGD Working Group (wwhgd.org); wwhgd is collecting pre-crisis info at the same level as FEMA collected for USA, but for other countries that might be affected by disasters.

Also talking to the ReliefWeb API team and the UNOCHA data team who are building pre-disaster country workbooks; this got me into building ontologies for disaster data needs - there are a half dozen of these, and they don't match: e.g. UNOCHA's COD/FODs, the UNOCHA draft of the work book, UNDP Sudan's metadata list, taxonomy from WWHGD. Need these ontologies (aka taxonomies) to help know what we're looking for with crisismapping - have put up spreadsheet to help with cross-matching.

Also building datascience toolkit specifications (a toolkit to make big data analysis accessible to non-programmers) and useful bits of code around crisis mapping, e.g. chat monitors for skype,

And working on conflict mapping technologies and ontologies for dayjob (plan to match these against disaster ontologies).

SBTF: did a deployment for a UNOCHA team in South Sudan, hunting down as much country data as possible for a UNOCHA team that was going into the country. As part of this, UNDP shared their South Sudan data with OCHA, which is a big deal. SBTF deployment this coming weekend is doing GIS and big data analysis on that data. SBTF also did deployment with USAID, correcting gis references on data on where USAID money is spent.

Questions: Outside of this forum, how do we get updates on data resources and hunchworks? After have a company name, we'll post everything on the company website. In the meantime, am putting personal stuff up on opencrisis.net, Icanhazdatascience.blogspot.com ,and overcognition.com .

CrisisCommons / UW Office of Global Affairs

Pascal has moved to University of Washington office of global affairs, working in university environment. International students doing research. Building tools using the free resource of the students. Global situational awareness tool. Don't push information into structure, but provide for other people to use. here are filters you can use, but not dictate how people act (don't want to mess with policy). Just provide information and people can deal with the info as per their policies.

Crisis Commons is dealing with legal container stuff, getting it registered in NC, becoming a full 501c3, doing global liability research. Missing person database project. Have a paper coming out August 30th or so on the legal liability of digital humanitarian response. Draft of version 1 strategy plan to get pushed out. Being sure we're legally covered in things.


Patrice Cloutier (CrisisCommons) is leading the development of a national VOST program in Canada (CANVOST), large group meeting tomorrow (second meeting) to move things fwd, all the right stakeholders from gov and volunteers are at the table.

Geeks Without Bounds

Was taking notes and you already read this blog.

Post- intro discussions

Satellite Imagery

Opinions on Tomnod hunt for missing climbers

Tomnod makes putting markers onto satellite images easy. Includes good process and algorithms for doing cross-checking across people's inputs on each tile. Was used by the SBTF to map buildings in Afgooye Somalia for UN refugee agency.

Do Tomnod do public reports of how it's used, effectiveness, etc? Probably: the outcome on the climbers was that their basecamp was found through the Tomnod search, which got the rescue team to it quickly. Satellite images always take a while to make available, which is why Sara et are also investigating UAV use for humanitarian applications; in this case, the UAVs would probably have had problems with the altitude (this affects smaller UAVs), so we still would have needed satellite imagery.

Data storage for the digital humanitarian space

There is lots of data coming available from deployments, exercises etc: where can we collectively put it? CrisisCommons is planning a common data area; digital humanitarians are working on one, as are the UNOCHA data teams. Sara suggested somewhere like buzzdata,which can have hidden datasets; or perhaps dropbox (with people invited in) for the moment. Agreement that any storage area should be accessible to all actors - i.e. if using a digital humanitarian area, should be available to non-members of it or won't be useful.