TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Technology That Took on a Hurricane

Technology That Took on a Hurricane

Franklin Paul (
Sun, 18 Sep 2005 13:23:35 -0500

By Franklin Paul

While big media covered the mass destruction brought by Hurricane
Katrina with helicopter images and satellite weather maps, blogs have
been telling stories with similar force, but on a much more personal

Linking to the Internet's global computer network with a combination
of old-school and newfangled technologies -- namely backyard diesel
generators, mobile phones and stubborn will -- several web sites
related often graphic first-hand accounts and snapshots.

"Trees down everywhere. Neighbor (has) three trees on house. Southern
yacht club burning to the ground," said the Gulfsails blog, launched by Troy Gilbert as a local sailing
and boat racing resource that turned into a blow-by-blow of Katrina's
effect on a New Orleans neighborhood.

More and more, bloggers, who frequently post short messages on
Internet Web Sites, are becoming an information source, particularly
for fast developing stories in remote areas. Blogs gained prominence
during the 2004 U.S. Presidential election, when conservative and
liberal writers became regulars on the campaign trail.

The audience for the narratives is growing. According to comScore
Media Metrix, more than 1.7 million online searches were conducted on
August 29 containing the words "Hurricane" and/or "Katrina," a
more-than-tenfold increase over the daily average during the five days
ending August 26.

"Bloggers outside the area are doing their best to amplify the
first-hand accounts," said Mark Crispin Miller, professor of media
studies at New York University.

Richard Lucic, a Duke University Computer Science professor, said the
reports from the U.S. Gulf Coast region may have helped propel the
acceptance of blogs, as well as podcasts, or audio files than can be
recorded and listened to on a computer or digital music player, like
Apple Computer Inc.'s popular iPod.

"It adds immediacy and on-site appeal," he said. "What it does is
brings it down to the human level since anybody can do it with a very
small investment and no training."


From a room crammed with dozens of racks of computer servers, cooling units,
and wires, Michael Barnett, remained holed up in a downtown New Orleans high
rise, posting to his "Survival of New Orleans" blog while running a domain name
registration and Web hosting service. He and his partners stayed connected
when 80 percent of the city was underwater.

"I can leave (but) I won't leave. My city is drowning and burning at
the same time. We are the only Internet connection still alive in the
city and we're going to stay here because our customers are counting
on us," Barnett told Reuters via instant messenger from his post not
far from the New Orleans Superdome.

Key to his service's survival was a stockpile of food and water that the
company kept on hand for weekly lunches, and most importantly, a massive
generator installed for backup power.

Local media also hosted blogs including WWL-TV and The New
Orleans Times-Picayune's breaking news feed which featured items about
rising insurance rates, bodies found at a nearby hospital and free textbook
given to displaced college students.

At the blog Slimbolala, a husband and
father of two details the family's travels to Memphis -- away from the
storm -- and decision to head back to the Gulf Coast. On Monday, He
posted: "We just found out that the first floor of our house is chest
deep in water."

Later in the week, hoping to raise the spirits of those around him, he
asked for blog readers to send in good -- or even bad -- jokes. More
than a dozen did, including one from a Washington D.C.-based
journalist about pirates who wear, ahem, "ARRRRgyle" socks.

In Katrina's aftermath, the flood waters have begun to recede in New
Orleans, but local blogs late this week continued to giving tidbits of
information to those who had evacuated and detailing other unforseen
health issues.

"With everyone's swimming pools turning stagnant and fetid, the
mosquitoes are becoming a major issue," the Gulfsails blogger
wrote. "We need, in the least, to have ... pesticide spraying planes
and/or chlorine. I really don't think it'd be such a good idea to have
New Orleans turn into a malarial swamp again."

Copyright 2005 Reuters Limited.

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