January 2010

As something to distract me from work I decided to do a photo a day project this year.  I started mine, storing them in a folder in my normal flickr account – then heard via twitter about a flickr group. Joining that, and seeing what other participants choose to publish each day perfectly illustrates to me the joy of flickr. You see things you would never otherwise look for, and get ideas for different approaches and styles.

Early days at the moment – although I’m pleased to have made it to the end of the first month. Besides recording the moment (my favourite  sort of photography), I also have plans for themed weeks. However, to date, the only days I have made plans, I have actually found good images purely by chance.

One of the best pieces of advice I read on a blog (definitely not an original idea, this photo a day thing) : always have your camera with you.

Other photography-related items which have caught my eye around the web recently:

  • Britain Loves Wikipedia – an interesting crowd-sourcing project which asks members of the public to visit participating museums and photograph the collections. Photos will then be made available under a free licence on Wikimedia commons
  • British Wildlife Photography awards – being promoted by the National Trust. Which reminds me, still have time to go and see the Veolia wildlife photographer of the year exhibition at the Natural History Museum
  • Not just photographs, but another interesting crowd sourcing project is Wildlife near you
  • Also found another site specifically designed for people doing photo-a-day projects: Blipfoto
  • Finally, via flickr, a useful site with various tools to help you do fun things with your photos – I like the look of mosaic maker

Awful scenes from Haiti, its hard to imagine what people are going through, but this BBC article: Social networks and the web offer a lifeline in Haiti describes well how social media tools can really help co-ordinate response, and in some cases, provide up to the minute information in a way that simply hasn’t been possible in the past. Ushahidi, which provided an amazing service during the riots in Kenya, have sprung into action again.

The DEC – Disasters Emergency Committee has a web page and can provide banners for others to place on their sites – with direct links which make it easy to donate. They are also encouraging people to donate via SMS – with instructions that are simple enough to convey in a 140 character tweet: Text “GIVE” to 70077 to donate £5 to @decappeal for #Haiti. £5 goes to DEC. You pay £5+std. network SMS rate.

My colleagues at DFID have also been using all the social media channels where we have accounts to make information available : main page on the earthquake. I’ll blog more on the details when we have time to review all the things we have done and analyse how our information was received. Early insights though echo the BBC report – social media tools provide a really powerful way to get information out quickly, to people who are interested to hear it.

More examples of how online communities are reacting:

And the last message to leave you with, which I wish could be shared much more widely, as Colum writes with first hand knowledge: Killing relief with kindness – a blog post from one of the DFID bloggers.

Update: I’m not the only one thinking along these lines this evening: blog post from Ari Herzog – Haiti and social media: how they merge goes into more detail – and points out that some of the facebook groups are fake.

Update number 2 – Article in the New York Times: Ushahidi – Africa’s gift to silicon valley – how to track a crisis.

Also, how the online community again proved useful in responding to the earthquake in Chile – a personal blog post from someone with family links there: Why google is the last place to go in a crisis

I’m finding it slow going getting back into things post Christmas, but I just read an excellent short post by Euan Semple: Why blogging will (still) change the world and it reminded me why I believe this is an interesting medium to use to communicate.

In fact over the holidays, when I really was trying to take a break from all things web, I still found myself checking feeds, dropping in on twitter etc. The good thing was feeling less guilty for getting sidetracked by items that were completely nothing to do with work – after all, I think some of the best ideas come from seeing what is happening in other sectors, and its great when you get that eureka moment and find something you would never have thought about, but which is a perfect solution.

A selection follows of the sort of things I found interesting over the last week or so, social media and development related:

And finally, an amazing set of photographs from a  photojournalist who spent 6 weeks living in the slums of Nairobi, then Jakarta, Caracas and Mumbai: Planet Slum