The Web 2.0 Disaster

I keep wondering if the current fires in southern California are the first Web 2.0 disaster. No, not for the whole idea of Web 2.0, or even for a specific company, just the first disaster to use wholesale the various Web 2.0-ish technologies.


  • A live Google Maps mashup of incident information on a regional map
  • A continuous Twitter feed of breaking news
  • A major newspaper using a Blogspot blog instead of its own website to break news and allow community conversations


  1. The task force I lead during Operation Hurricane Katrina used Livejournal, Google Maps, and Skype extensively.
    -Jesse Robbins
    O’Reilly Radar

  2. You’re overreaching.

  3. I’m not sure I care whether or not Paul is over reaching. I will say this though, at the mesh conference last year we had a panel called, “An inch wide and a mile deep” – the concept being that thanks to technologies like RSS which allow us filter our news so we can follow our niche interests, we gain deep understanding of our niches, and can become out of touch with “society” at large. I know I feel this way…my news comes through RSS and the news that matters to me is mainly technology and business oriented.
    The point being I am awfully sorry San Diego is going through this, but I am deeply grateful for your on going coverage of the developments. Keep up your spirits and the great work Paul, and thank you.

  4. maybe a bit of a reach but an interesting thought anyway. Here’s a great site

  5. Paul – I’d give the award to Katrina. I remember the Google maps mashups with details on the extent of the flood damage, craigslist and other sites coordinating volunteers and family member matchups, etc.

  6. I don’t think Paul’s overreaching at all. Although certainly Katrina efforts had lots “Web 2.0” help, this is the first time it’s really been accepted in the mainstream media.
    Besides mainstream media it also helps at local level. For example I work for Travature, a San Diego based company, that had to temporarily close due to the fires. We are a travel company, not a news company, but we ended up quickly throwing together our own San Diego Fire Mashup, so we could see sources we were interested in one place. Its rough, but it didn’t take very long, and it was nice distraction.
    It ended up fairly useful for us, so we offered it to other people too, so they could see all in one place: the KPBS Google map of the Fire area, Flickr photo stream of the fire, news feeds from Signonsandiego, KPBS, and the LATimes, plus the latest grassroots Youtube videos of the fire.
    Anyways, just thought I’d say that Paul is right on.
    -Stay safe San Diego

  7. Sahana Project, which came together during the Asian tsunami in 2004, has involved putting together open source components and building a rapid Disaster Management System, which has since been utilized in other global disasters.
    While Katrina drew attention to what could have worked better, in most of Florida’s hurricanes the last few years, various technologies have worked pretty well as I blogged below

  8. As someone who experienced the fires and evacuation firsthand (and one of the lucky ones who’s house did not burn!), I can say definitively that the Web 2.0 technologies cited by Paul were extremely useful. Even moreso because they provided information germane to myself and my family during the time we needed it most.
    The Google Maps mashup was the resource to give me peace of mind that the fire line was actually 1/4 mile from my house.
    Twitter first revealed that my area’s mandatory evacuation had been lifted on Oct. 24 and we could return home… Talk about news you can use.
    And finally my own company’s SightSpeed ( video conferencing technology that allowed me to be face-to-face with concerned loved ones.
    Altogether, these technologies had far greater impact than any TV newscast. Without a doubt, this was a Web 2.0 disaster. And no, Paul is not over-reaching to say so.