For 7 days it’s felt like we’re fixing an airplane engine while flying. If you could see the madness that ensues in our Skype channels regularly – usually revolving around critical feature updates, overloaded servers, traffic spikes and coordination with organizations handling the response to the needs we collect – you might be surprised that anyone on the team is still operational…
That last one, “handling the response”, has been a big deal for us as we’re trying to complete the feedback loop between people with needs who use the 4636 shortcode to text in needs and emergencies, and the organizations who can help them on the ground.
On Tuesday 1/19/10 we received a request for instructions on how to use Ushahidi’s feed from the US Coast Guard and Joint Task Force Command Center, and currently the following organizations are using Ushahidi to track incidents in Haiti:
- Red cross
- United Nations Foundation
- Plan International
- Charity Water
- Clinton Foundation
- US State Department
- International Medical Corps
- US Coast Guard Task Force
Getting these organizations to let us know when they’ve taken action on a need is difficult since they’re still in full emergency response mode and don’t have much time to fill out completion surveys. In any case, we are trying to divide up this list of organizations between us and contact the liaison for each one twice a day for updates. This will soon become the Ushahidi Non-Tech team’s primary efforts.
We’re working very closely on the tech side with InSTEDD (Ed Jezierzki is sitting next to me in a coffeeshop in Nairobi hacking away right now, as he has been for the last 2 days), Sahana and EIS to ensure that messages coming into the system are being shuttled to people who are on the ground in Haiti and who can help meet the emergency needs as fast as they possibly can.
Technically, we’ve come up with a solution within the platform for administrators to annotate when action has been taken on an issue. The basic theory is that until this is marked, then the ticket is still open and it whatever item you’re looking at hasn’t been resolved.
As an aside, there have been a number of people helping us out with these code revisions, bug fixes and implementing new features. Amongst this group has been PHPDiva who has done 5 commits, 93 additions, 13 deletions to the core Ushahidi Haiti code, and freed up the core devs to finish other critical elements. To those like Anastasia, we want to give you a BIG thank you.
UPDATE (via Josh Nesbit):
Breakthrough from Nico of InSTEDD the ground; aid group clusters [such as: water, children and shelter] will now be receiving SMS updates. Meeting in the AM EST to work out details. Likely these will be processed through daily email or print-out reports given to team leaders.
This opens up the possibility of closing the feedback loop, asking receivers of information to mark which items where acted upon — that will not be critical for them, so the easier we can make it the better the chance it will happen.