Agile Community Building using Social Software

Social Nola.jpgLast week, Alan Gutierrez gave an excellent presentation at the Burton Catalyst Group titled "How social networking saved New Orleans: Powered by community, New Orleans residents exposed city hall and the power of social software" or "Innovating Your Way Out of Total System Failure" . Get the slide deck (powerpoint, 32MB)) and digg the story here.

It's a compelling tale of emergent behavior by a community to leverage the tools it has at hand to enact powerful change. Too often large tools are built to be the end-all-be-all solution to perceived problems and pain points. However, the actual tried and true method of cobbling together solutions from a variety of tools, each as appropriate, leads to agile toolsets and better communication.

On a very similar note, my talk for FOSS4G 2008 in Cape Town has been accepted. Rebuilding a City through Community Participation, Neogeography and GIS will present the technical details of utilizing open-data, open-source and closed-source GIS tools, loosely coupled systems, workshops and open discussion to build cartographic visualizations. As a developer I enjoy tech-talk, I find the application based presentations much more interesting.

The presentation will use the New Orleans mapping as the case study, and while I can't convey the "in-the-field" experiences Alan, Francine, Karen, and the others living in the city can tell, I hope I can share the experiences to inspire other communities to employ similar tactics to engage their neighbors and government.

The project is still very much a work in progress, but it's exciting for exactly the reasons Alan gave in his talk - people are already doing the effort and passion - just help them pull the pieces together to have a great impact.

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Andrew Turner is an advocate of open standards and open data. He is actively involved in many organizations developing and supporting open standards, including OpenStreetMap, Open Geospatial Consortium, Open Web Foundation, OSGeo, and the World Wide Web Consortium. He co-founded CrisisCommons, a community of volunteers that, in coordination with government agencies and disaster response groups, build technology tools to help people in need during and after a crisis such as an earthquake, tsunami, tornado, hurricane, flood, or wildfire.