Sunday, September 25, 2005

Why do we need open source nonprofit CRM infrastructure?

Three distinct disaster response situations come up recently underscoring the need for a solid open source NPO/NGO CRM platform.

  1. The Katrina PeopleFinder Project created a single unified database of virtually every missing and found person record on the web (640,000+ records).
  2. The ShelterFinder Project created a comprehensive listing of Katrina evacuee shelters (from large Red Cross shelters to small 10 bed churches).
  3. The Fluwiki is building an infrastructure to deal with the potential bird flu pandemic.

Each of these projects needs to quickly and efficiently build an application based on individuals and organizations (missing persons, shelters, flue victims). Each started with CiviCRM, but moved on to another solution because CiviCRM isn't quite ready.

The PeopleFinder experience allowed us to optimize CiviCRM, achieving a 100x efficiency improvement. What we need is your support to continue the development of CiviCRM and, most importantly, support its broad adoption in the nonprofit and non governmental sectors.

Open Source means that no one has to ask permission or buy a license to mount a disaster response. We don't have to wait for a philanthropically minded corporation like Yahoo to send 40 engineers to Houston. The nonprofit/ NGO sector can put together a response that leverages volunteer skills into a complete solution within a matter of days (as demonstrated by the PeopleFinder project).

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Evacutating for a Hurricane Sucks

I live in Beaumont, TX, and the day after I arrived in Beaumont a few years back, I stayed in town through a "mandatory" evacuation. Didn't do it this time with Hurricane Rita.

Right now, Michelle and I are fine in Dallas in a hotel. The news coverage seems like the house might be fine as well, which would be quite a relief.

Thanks for all the inquiries after our health and well being.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

PeopleFinder Project Follow-up/ Thank you.

In early September, I sent out an urgent call for resources for the Katrina PeopleFinder Project. I wanted to follow up, share our achievements, and thank you for your support.

We have combined virtually every missing and found person listing on the web (currently over 640,000 records) into a single searchable database at in less than a week with an all-volunteer effort.

Goals & Achievements

The Katrina PeopleFinder Project set out to solve a single problem: an evacuee needed to search up to 40 different websites to find out where their loved ones were located and whether they were OK. We laid out three goals:

  1. Create a technology specification for easily exchanging evacuee information.
  2. Assemble and coordinate volunteers building technology to get all evacuee data into a central database provided by Foundation.
  3. Organizing a massively parallel volunteer data entry project to enter refugee data posted to online bullitin boards into a central database by hand.

We mobilized over 3,000 volunteers and accomplished these goals.

  • The project started on September 1, 2005 with the Social Source Foundation, CivicSpace Labs and the Foundation committing ourselves to the three basic goals.
  • By September 5, we had finalized the Peoplefinder Interchange Format (PFIF), a technical standard for storing and exchanging refugee data.
  • By September 6, virtually every message board post was hand-entered by volunteers into the PeopleFinder database (~100,000 records).
  • By September 10, almost every missing and found person record on the web was searchable at (~350,000 records).
  • By September 19, over 620,000 records are searchable.
  • Our data is being processed by IBM and the San Diego Supercomputer Center to form part of a central database of evacuees for the Red Cross and Microsoft.

On-going efforts

Two major sister projects have been spawned from the volunteer community:

ShelterFinder is creating a dynamic, comprehensive national listing of shelters (including small community based churches, etc).

PeopleFinder volunteers are coming together to make sure that the technology, procedures and relationships between institutions necessary to duplicate our achievements are ready for the next major disaster.

Learn More

For me, this entire experience is about non-profits having the capacity to leverage technology and massively parallel resources to better fulfill their missions... helping people. The same work I do at the Social Source Foundation.

It is time that we invest in pre-positioning technology, capacity, plans and knowledge so that we’re not building the bridge as we cross the river in the next disaster. I was proud to have led part of this dynamic, distributed effort. If you would like more information, please send me an email and I will connect you to the appropriate person(s).

We are at also offering an overview of the project in a Webinar sponsored by the Nonprofit Technology Enterprise Network (NTEN), HumaniNet, Aspiration, and the Innovation Funders Network. Hurricane Katrina: Innovative Information and Communication Responses is a free online event. You can register at

Thanks from the many volunteers of the Katrina PeopleFinder Project,

And a personal thank you from me,

David Geilhufe
Social Source Foundation
Connect with me on Linkedin...

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

537,180 people as of 9/14/2005 5:51 PM

I think we now have most of the Katrina missing and found persons on the web in the database. You can search at

Now the Red Cross needs to get itself together and get a common database together. We keep hearing it will be .... get on with it. There are survivors that need to know where their friends and family are.

We of course, built the PeopleFinder Interchange Format to avoid the need to have a common database, but unless it's widely adopted, it will not solve the problem.

Kieran Lal's Personal Story of PeopleFinder

The PeopleFinder effort has been incredible fast, distributed, disconnected and effective all at the same time.

If you've been involved, I engcourage you to write a personal story of your involvement. I'm writing mine now.

Eventually, we might actually figure out how a bunch of unpaid volunteers created the most comprehensive directory of survivors and missing persons on the web (and A LOT more including ShelterFinder) .

Keiran's story.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Search PeopleFinder Data

Paste this code into your HTML page to provide a search into the Katrina PeopleFinder Project data.

Katrina PeopleFinder Project

Enter a name, phone number, email address, city, zip or neighborhood of the person you are looking for. Powered by the community of volunteers from the Katrina People Finder Project.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

346,521 records as of 9/11/2005 10:43 AM

This is our effort in numbers. On the 4th the technology went up. By the 6th, the majority of unstructured data was in the database (craigslist,, etc.) through thousands of volunteer data entry folks and "scrapes" of Gluf Coast News, IDRC, MSNBC and other structured sources were ready to go into the database, but not there yet.

Unfortunately, it took another couple of days working through technology issues for stuctured data to be bulk loaded into the PeopleFinder database and today we have the comprehensive database we wanted to have up by the 7th.

People ask me where survivors should search. I tell them (1) Yahoo People Finder (good name, I approve) because it constantly is crawling the various boards and resources. (2) Katrina Safe becuase it is destined to be the "official" repository. (3) since we have some records that Yahoo doesn't and our data is in a more structured format, allowing potentially better matches with partial information.

We are doing this becuase survivors need to find their loved ones now. Eventually, the technology instrastructure will exist, hopefully based on what we've done here, to make quick massive reaction a plan rather than a struggle that requires Yahoo to fend 40 engineers out to Houston and Microsoft to have engineering teams working around the clock in Houston, or thousands of Katrina PeopleFinder Project volunteers work straight through the holiday weekend.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

246,108 Records as of 9/10/2005 5:20 PM

Includes scrapes of Gulf Coast News and IRDC familylinks data. As always our data contains a hyperlink back to the original source so survivors can evaluate the original source of information.

All data is in the PeopleFinder Data Interchange Format and can be syndicated via RSS between organizations (like shelters) and websites.

200,984 records As of 9/10/2005 10:09 AM, the search engine into the Katrina PeopleFinder Project data, has over 200,000 evacuee records in it as of this morning as uploading data from other existing databases has begun. We know there are duplicates in there, but figure folks would rather find 6 records about their brother than no records at all.

The Katrina PeopleFinder Project has another 300,000 records qued up to enter the database.

Thursday, September 8, 2005

Katrina PeopleFinder Project: Community-based information

Today was a bit of a roller coaster. PFIF uploads are functional on the server. We parsed our first inbound PFIF feed. Volunteer data entry started up again. We had a little community "crisis of conciousness" as it became aparent that would become a defacto standard.

And the community came together again, thought about it for a sec, figured we still had a niche, then redoubled its efforts. Very cool. Check out the Shelter Project, a massively parallel effort to identify shelters and gather PFIF compliant data for the search engine. Current community thinking seems to be that we may be more effective at nationally aggregating shelter data quickly, especially from small community based agencies.

Status of sites implementing PFIF feeds is here.Link

I have to say that I've been really, really blown away by the response and support that Microsoft has given to this project, both the company and the people. Here in Austin, we've not wanted for anything ... food, drinks, everything is brought in and, in some cases, brought to us at our desks. (Eating fajitas while coding can be somewhat challenging.)

From one of the developers of, which seems to be on its way to being the central repository of survivor data. We will, of course, be providing date to it.

Next time I develop a survivors database, I'm gonna do it for Microsoft.

First PFIF feed loaded into PeopleFinder Project

I am proud to announce that the first PeopleFinder Interchange Format data feed has been read into the PeopleFinder database. Earthlink, a critical participant in the PeopleFinder Project provided the first feed this morning.

When you go viral and call in the calvalry, sometimes it pays to take a deep breath.

I have issued a call for full time project management in a number of areas to help out with the Katrina PeopleFinder Project. Our all volunteer leadership is pretty worn out, as you might imagine. Lots of new leadership is emerging in the community, so we might yet self-organize our way into an even bigger sucess (email list volumes are pretty staggering, so it may already be happening).

I would prefer a single organization came in to marshal resources, improve communications, help the community set goals and assemble volunteer teams to meet those goals from within the community. Pre-existing relationships go a long way-- you don't have to learn a new person's name every five minutes. It will be chaotic.

The team that will manage the official "selection" (which up to this point has been the first competant person to show up) gave me a great analogy. The first stage of the booster rocket has burnt itself out. We are in that momentary lull between the first booster rocket shutting down and the second booster rocket ignighting. The second stage is all about nourishing and supporting the community of both highly technical and regular people volunteers to self organize. From there, we break free of gravity.

The project management people are human routers, they don't develop project plans and just implement them. They over-communicate and create opportunities for the community to come together over certain goals.

  • Priority 1. We need to get very specific offers from organizations. Include resumes.
  • Priority 2. The selection team will look at your stuff. Hopefully you have already oriented yourself to what is happening in the community, or better yet, have been part of the community since the weekend.
  • Priority 3. The selection team will train and orient the full-time volunteers. This process should take at least six hours, you'll talk to a lot of people, each with a different vision and view on what is going on. It is pretty much that complex.
  • Priority 4. The project management team needs to enter the community and just start being human routers, being patient as volunteers check in and out, most not able to keep up with traffice on the email list, or even figure out what changed over the last 5 minutes.
How to help:
  1. Contact me. I will forward offers to the selection team.
  2. Be patient. Lots of people, lots of activity.
  3. Up till now, we have been entriely self-organizing. You are welcome to just wade in. Like our data entry, the process of organization can be viral and massively parallel.

Wednesday, September 7, 2005

How to collect data on every shelter in America in 72 hours

OK, maybe not 72 hrs, but hey, who thought we could do 60,000 records in a day?

  1. Build a database of shelters by calling on volunteers to record the location of every shelter in America (validate the addresses with USPS so you don't get duplicates).
  2. Allow volunteers to "claim" shelters. Once a shelter is claimed, they are comitting to putting together an excel spreadsheet with a PFIF record for each person in the Shelter. Probably have to prequalify people and offer them a little training.
  3. Volunteer uploads their excel sheet on the web (software can make sure its in the right format).
  4. Another volunteer or maybe staff checks to see if the data looks accurate and in the appropriate format.
  5. The excel sheet of PFIF records is uploaded into the database.
  6. Those results are immediately avaliable at and syndicated to any other database on the web.
The prototype for this was posted today in our message boards. Sure wish we had some full-time project managers to implement this stuff so we don't have to waste more time chasing CNN stories so people can understand the value of massively parallel volunteer efforts and I could get some sleep. We could have the software up in 48 hrs, volunteers mobilized in another 24, and the whole process done perhaps 72 hrs latter.

Press discovers Katrina PeopleFinder Project, Now we just need 6 or 8 full time engineering and project managers

I love this Red Herring story. It is exactly as tired as I feel. Key point. Send us engineering teams (actually we more need engineering and project managers).

SF Chronicle

Thoughts on Implementing PFIF

The PeopleFinder Interchange Format has strengths and weaknesses. It's strength is that it can syndicate a missing persons request far and wide quickly and easily. It's weakness is that the more personal information you put in the PFIF record, the bigger a threat to privacy it is.

But what if you only put the minimal personal information into your RSS feed? Just the stuff required to identify that this is Bob Smith, lived on Sampson Street, in the 9th Ward, son of Doris and Kathy?

Privacy is not compromised and people who know one another can still find one another. The source URL field of a PFIF record can point back not necessarily to a record containing personal information, but a record containing the name, address and phone of the shelter where that person was located when the record was created. Privacy is safe and you can still find people.

Trusted providers can still exchange large data sets in PFIF with all kinds of personal data in them to facilitate automated matching and notification.

Lets build this stuff, people.

Tuesday, September 6, 2005

Search over 88,000 volunteer-entered records is live, allowing users to search 88,000 records hand entered by volunteers from forums accross the web.

Volunteer engineering teams are hard at work preparing additional data from a variety of sources for entry into the database. We hope to provide a robust repository of quality data.

We could use full-time engineering and project management teams. Your small corporation's full-time staff of 4 dedicated to the project for a couple weeks could accelerate our progress and increase our effectiveness. Please consider joining us.

Implement PFIF NOW

Evacuees Find No Easy Way Locate Family Members
by Joseph Shapiro
Morning Edition, September 6, 2005 · From the airport in New Orleans, tens of thousands of medical patients are airlifted to shelters in hospitals in often distant cities. That effort was coordinated by the U.S. military and government agencies. But there was almost no coordination to keep good lists of who was sent where.
The problem can only get worse. The Katrina PeopleFinder Project released the PFIF specification on Saturday to address just this issue of scattered refugees with no good lists of who went where. By Sunday, a massively parallel volunteer effort had hand-entered virtually every missing and found forum posting on the web (almost 80,000 records).

Our volunteers are tired. They worked all weekend and had to go back to their jobs. Companies should contribute an engineering team or two to the cause.

We need engineering teams

The Katrina PeopleFinder Project is an all volunteer effort.

Its crunch time and we need full-time engineering teams. Yahoo got a crawler up becuase they have full time resources dedicated to the project. The Katrina People Finder Project needs full time engineering teams.

Wouldn't you think a Silicon Valley technology company could spare an engineering team for a week to work with us in making refugee information more accessible to the displaced people of the Gulf Coast. Folks need to step up, we have the plan, the vision and the specification. It's just a matter of resources.

We need a administrator, project managers and engineers to implement the PFIF spec for other organizations (, and engineers to do scrapes of external websites and put the information in PFIF.

We can create the largest, most useful structured data set on the web. We just need a visionary company to donate a full time engineering team or two.

Overall PeopleFinder Project Goals

The Katrina PeopleFinder Project is a massively parallel volunteer effort to solve the problem of dispirate refugee/ missing persons databases and forums.

  1. Enter unstructured data on refugees from forums across the web to the highest data quality standards possible with volunteers giving a little as one hour of their time.
  2. Enter data from databases across the web into the central database via the PeopleFinder Interchange Format
  3. Minimize duplicate records
  4. Support other organizations in implementing the PeopleFinder Interchange Format
  5. Make the central database avaliable to be searched
  6. Use the Salesforce API to implement innovative technology solutions to the missing persons problem

(1) Is currently implemented by dividing forums like Craigslist into "chunks" of about 25 records through software and/or volunteers. Volunteer data entry people "claim" a "chunk" and enter it into the central database. They follow instructions on how to enter the data to maximize the data quality. This effort entered over 68,000 records in less than 36 hours.

(2) Is currently implemented by software engineers either scraping or transforming existing databases into that PeopleFinder Interchange Format (PFIF) and then loading that data into the central database OR by missing persons database owners implementing the full ProjectFinder Interchange Format (PFIF) wich allows an RSS feed of refugee data to be passed from database to database.

(3) Is handled by trying to coordinate among all the different teams and volunteers so that duplication of effort is minimized. The "chunking" and record claiming process is also critical.

(4) Is handled by contacting organizations to make them aware of the PFIF format and helping them decide whether to implement it. We might also try to provide some volunteer assistance to sites in implementing PFIF.

(5) Is being handled by a search interface into our main data repository.

(6) Once data is in the repository it should be processed to try to match missing people to found people, facilitate communication and just generally help refugees out in any way possible via data and technology.

This is a massively parallel volunteer effort. Please figure out a small part to play in these very large goals. Enlist some people to help, make sure other people know what you are doing and just go to it.

Monday, September 5, 2005

PeopleFinder Interchange Format (PFIF)

Some amazingly smart folks have completed the data specification that is the cornerstone of the Katrina PeopleFinder Project. Use it. Convince others to use it :)

The PeopleFinder Interchange Format (PFIF) is well described in the FAQ, even with a handy little diagram (

49,995 records As of 9/5/2005 7:52 PM

A volunteer data entry operation of the Katrina PeopleFinder Project has entered information on 49,995 people listed in message boards like Craigslist in about 24 hours. With extraordinary contributions from nonprofits, companies, regular volunteers and key partners like, we have only just begun.

All our data conforms to the PeopleFinder Interchange Format (PFIF), allowing it to be combined with other structured databases that convert their data to PFIF. Data on missing persons from around the web can be combined into a large, central, searchable repository.

Go here for a link to the PFIF

The next step is to add data to the central repository from structured databases like the Red Cross. They can help by transforming their data into something conforming with the PFIF spec. Their records can then be combined with ours allowing people to search for missing persons listed accross the web. Earthlink is the first organization to implement their database according to the PFIF specification. Great work guys.

The Katrina PeopleFinder Project is a distributed, community effort led by dozens of amazing volunteers and made possible by hundreds of people giving their time. Thank you all.

Why enter data when I can't search it?

We have a massively parallel volunteer effort going on. Step one was to design a data standard, the PeopleFinder Interchange Format (PFIF). Step two was to start up a volunteer effort to enter data in. Step three was to implement the PFIF for data entry of message boards, hence our move from to new servers. Step four is to enter all the data that is in databases on the web. Step five is to make it all searchable.

We are doing steps 4 and 5 right now. A wide variety of volunteers and companies are creating software to bring the existing databases into ours. We actually would prefer them all to implement PFIF so that we can just parse their feed and they only minimally change their site.

The search interface is being lead by The status of that project is publically viewable on the project wiki.

We're for real folks. Nothing nefarious going on.... just a lot of tired people on a holiday weekend away from their families for a good cause. Thanks to all of our volunteers. This wouldn't work without you.

Volunteer Data Entry works: 11,643 entries in Central Repository at 7:13 AM up from about 7,000 at 3 AM

Add this to the 2,600 we did yesterday before we melted down the server and we have put about 14k forum postings into a database format with the help of volunteers. Good job folks!

Another Database? Aren't you part of the problem? NO!

The Red Cross has a missing/found persons database. We have identified another 10+ databases on the web. Web forums like craigslist are posting missing/found persons information there are probably 25 major ones of those.

We are consolodating all this information from all over the web. Hundreds of volunteers are entering craigslist and other forum entries by hand. 10,000 of them since yesterday.

We have published an open data spec, the PeopleFinder Interchange Format (PFIF), that can facilitate all the various databases syndicating information into a single database.

We are an open and community process working as quickly as possible to get information for individuals impacted by the hurricane. Please Join Us.

Hard core technology volunteers- hackers, Google engineers, super data heads are critical to the effort. Join the hard core techie email list by sending mail to

The hard core techie Wiki with the data standard is at

3AM Central 9/5/2005. 10,000 records entered. Great Work!

3AM Central 9/5/2005. 10,000 records entered. Great Work!

The Katrina PeopleFinder Project is creating a central repository for all refugee records on the web.

Two main efforts are:
Massively parallel volunteer data entry of refugee records into a central repository, conforming to the PeopleFinder Interchange Format (PFIF).
(2) TECH
Volunteer techies effort to publish the PeopleFinder Interchange Format (PFIF) and collect data from refugee databases across the web.

Great work! got slammed.

We are now at:

Thank you.

Sunday, September 4, 2005

We need community leaders to step up.

We need community leaders to step up.

Self-organizing is hard. Thank you for investing your time. It will make a HUGE difference.

1. Pick an area.
2. Organize a leadership team on Omidyar Network (links below) [(3) is done already]
3. IM me so that I can publicize who the leaders for each team are and keep this blog post updated with the current information.
4. Leaders should post their contact information so that people can contact them.
5. If you can't lead, just subscribe to the email list ( and stand by while we get organized.

Keiran Lal (Kieran AT civicspacelabs org) will organize a conference call and IRC for latter to help with organizing.

To stay informed, send email to

If you are involved with the Katrina PeopleFinder Project, or want to be, it is critical that we improve our organization structure as soon as possible. Luckily, Jon Lebowsky has shown us the way. Thanks Jon! You can see how they organized the leadership team by following the Omidyar Network link for the volunteer data entry project.

Self-organizing is hard. Thank you for investing your time. It will make a HUGE difference.

The project has four main goals. Each on needs a few leaders and back-ups.

(1) DATA SPECIFICATION. Create, disseminate and support others in using the PeopleFinder Interchange Format.
Leader1: Ka-Ping Yee (ping AT zesty ca)
Leader2: (kleinpeterj at
Leader3: ?

(1a) Contact all existing structured data sites ask them to implement the data standard
Leader1: Katrina Data Project (?)

(1b) Help developers implement the data specification

(1c) Whatever else needs to be done.

Organize your leadership team here:

(2) WRITE SOFTWARE. Write software that gets other people’s data into the PeopleFinder Interchange Format.

Leader1: ?
Leader2: ?
Leader3: ?

(2a) Assign folks to scrape specific databases

(2b) Create central data repository.
Leader1: Jon Plax (jplax AT salesforce com)

(2c) Other items

Organize your leadership team here:

(3) VOLUNTEER DATA ENTRY: Organizing a massively parallel volunteer data entry project to enter refugee data posted to online bulletin boards into a central database by hand.
Leader1: Jon Lebowsky ( #globalvoices)
Leader2: ?
Leader3: ?

(3a) Don’t exactly know since Jon Lebowsky has it under control

(3b) Don’t exactly know since Jon Lebowsky has it under control

Your leadership team is already organized here:

(4) Market the Katrina PeopleFinder Project and recruit volunteers.
Leader1: Andrew Hoppin (Andrew AT civicspacelabs org)
Leader2: ?
Leader3: ?

(4a) Recruit full, deep leadership teams for all segments of project

(4b) Other Items

Organize your leadership team here:

Saturday, September 3, 2005

Gave money already? Give an hour of your time right now online. Katrina PeopleFinder Project

Refugees can search 20 web sites for lost relatives and still miss their entry on the 21st web site. There is a need to combine all the refugee data from big databases like Red Cross, large posting forums like Craigslist and many other sources on the web. The Katrina PeopleFinder Project seeks to create a single repository combining as many sources of refugee data as possible from all over the web without interrupting existing momentum.

We need help for both regular people and software engineers. Everybody is critical to building a central repository of ALL the refugee records we can find on the web. The Social Source Foundation, CivicSpace Labs and Foundation are coordinating hundreds of people and organizations, including Craigslist and Earthlink.

Please consider giving us just an hour of you your time to do volunteer data entry. The PeopleFinder Project is seeking volunteers in four primary areas:

(1) Creating a technology specification for easily exchanging refugee information. A volunteer effort is working to assist online databases in implementing the specification.
Volunteer here (techies):

(2) Coordinating volunteers that are writing software that takes information from online databases and putting it into a central database provided by Foundation.
Volunteer here (software engineers):

(3) Organizing a massively parallel volunteer data entry project to enter refugee data posted to online bullitin boards into a central database by hand.
Volunteer here (regular people):

(4) Market the Katrina PeopleFinder Project and recruit volunteers.
Volunteer here (marketing folks):

Katrina PeopleFinder Project

What is the Katrina PeopleFinder Project?
Refugees can search 20 web sites for lost relatives and still miss an entry on the 21st web site. There is a need to combine all the refugee data from big databases like Red Cross and large posting forums like Craigslist. The Katrina PeopleFinder Project seeks to create a single database combining as many sources as possible from all over the web without interrupting existing momentum.

How did the Katrina PeopleFinder Project start?
Community organizers from the League of Pissed off Voters, themselves refugees from New Orleans, needed a tool to help people in the New Orleans and Gulf Coast area stay connected to the communities they love. Enlisting the aid of nonprofit technology assistance providers Radical Designs, Social Source Foundation, and CivicSpace Labs, the site was created with open source technologies designed by and for nonprofits.

Realizing the PeopleFinder tool could be used to aggregate databases and information from around the web, the Foundation joined the effort, combining corporate technology and resources with the power of the grassroots.

What is the Katrina PeopleFinder Project doing?
(1) Creating a technology specification for easily exchanging refugee information. A volunteer effort is working to assist online databases in implementing the specification.
Volunteer here:
(2) Coordinating volunteers that are writing software that takes information from online databases and putting it into a central database provided by Foundation.
Volunteer here:
(3) Organizing a massively parallel volunteer data entry project to enter refugee data posted to online bullitin boards into a central database by hand.
Volunteer here:

Who is involved?
The Social Source Foundation, CivicSpace Labs and Foundation are coordinating hundreds of people and organizations, including Craigslist and Earthlink.

IM: dgeilhufe yahoo com

A blog to keep up-to-date (
Social Source Foundation (
CivicSpaceLabs ( Foundation (
Craigslist (
Earthlink (


Refugees can go to 20 different websites to find information on their loved ones. We are publishing a spec to facilitate data interchange among sites and that would allow the creation of a central database of most refugee databases on the web. We are also connecting database owners with volunteer programmers that can help implementing the spec. Special thanks to Ka-Ping Yee. Peoplefinder is a community effort lead by the Social Source Foundation, CivicSpace Labs and Foundation.

The "official" data exchange format for refugee data is defined here:

If you run a refugee database, please publish your data via RSS in this standard. If you need volunteer programmers to help with implementation IM me at dgeilhufe AT yahoo com.

If you can volunteer to contact refugee databases (Red Cross, Gluf Coast, etc.) and help them implement the standard, please go here:

If can be a lead community organizer of programmers actually implementing the standard for websites, or for efforts to scrape databases, please go here:

Please diseminate this information far and wide.

Katrina: Gave money already? Give your time right now online.

A significant problem for refugees is that information on people is spread all over the web. If I was looking for a loved one, I could search 20 websites and still miss and entry about them. There are a number of technical solutions people are working on right now, but the old fashioned grassroots approach may be best.

Can you spare one hour today and enter missing persons data from forums accross the web into the peoplefinder database at ? We have people working on importing the major online databases on the web (Red Cross, Gulf Coast News, etc.) in addition to your data entry.

The first thing we need is community leaders that can help coordinate a massively parallel data entry effort so that thousands of volunteers can enter information from message boards across the web without too much duplication of effort.

The thing we need to resolve first is how to coordinate such a significant effort.

Go to where you will be coordinating the volunteer effort.

Please publicize this message far and wide.

Calling community organizers!!

We need some leaders to step in a organize some efforts. Are you up for it?
Email me dgeilhufe --AT socialsourcefoundation --DOT org

Goals we need leaders for:
(1) Organize a massively parallel volunteer data entry project.
(2) Organize programmers to populate a central database from the variety of databases on the web.

Katrina Refugee Database Data Standard

CiviCRM is being used for a refugee database at

So we built a data standard that we are trying to get used in as many places as possible (to facilitate data exchange).

The current as final as we can get it dat standard is here:

Hurricane Katrina: Volunteer Data Entry

Information on missing persons is in hundreds of forums accross the web.

If a thousand people spend just one hour today entering information from forums into a database, hurricane victims will have a much easier time finding out the status of friends and loved ones.

We have a repository for this data at a grassroots website built with grassroots technology (CiviSpace & CiviCRM) by grassroots folks Radical Designs and League of Pissed Off Voters.

Step One:
Figure out how were going to coordinate a massively parallel volunteer data entry effort.
Sites that need to be entered by hand (we can't write software that will put their information in our database) are tagged in delicious.

Step Two:
Write clear instructions on how to participate.

Step Three:
Let as many people know about it as possible.

We are on step one. Send me an email at dgeilhufe at-- sourcialsourcefoundation dot-- org to help with the planning.

Current organizing locations/ how to help with central "distributed" database

OK, things are slowly taking shape.

First email coordination:
Our friends at civicspace labs have put up an email list:

If you are a techie/programmer, please drop me a line at david at-- socialsourcefoundation dot-- org and we'll get you on the mailing list.

Non-techies, please stand by :)

Second IRC:
either #civicrm OR #civicspace
Coordination was going on there last night.

Friday, September 2, 2005

Screen scrapping targets

We want to get as many missing persons records into a single database as possible.

(1) Get techies to build software to "scrape" info from structured sites into a standard datamodel.

(2) Get volunteers to read forums and postings and manually enter that data into a standard datamodel.

Here are some of the places we need to have scraped/ entered into our standard datamodel. We'll of course be syndicating the unified database.

Lists of lists:

Red Cross has got their database up which is huge, so that is another good scrapping opportunity.

The big list so far has been the Gulf Coast News site.

Our goal, again, is to combine all these databases into a single data model, offering a unified view of who is OK so refugees don't have to spend their time searching message boards and databases.