Is there anything we can do to help? May 25, 2011 7:28 AM   Subscribe

DisasterFilter Pony: This spring has seen some horrific devastation around the world. Is there any way, using our profile locs or something where we could compile a list of mefites near disasters so we could make sure they're ok, or see what help we can get to someone who is already on the ground where it's happening?

Or would that be a big invasion of privacy? Or perhaps make it harder for the responders and people on the ground? I feel like we as a community have pulled together and done some amazing things, and I'm wondering if our community-foo would be any help in disasters like these.
posted by dejah420 to Etiquette/Policy at 7:28 AM (17 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

You can change your geographic coordinates in your profile to be in the disaster area, then look at your own profile to see mefites near you.

Also, maybe it wouldn't be too much of an abuse of IRL to have a "I'm ok, checking in" thread there when something like that happens? Although that doesn't sound out of the question for MeTa either.
posted by ctmf at 7:34 AM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


See mefites near you... if they've set their own coordinates, that is. Which takes care of the privacy concern - they don't have to set them if they don't want to.
posted by ctmf at 7:35 AM on May 25, 2011


I think having a MeTa post about the region and asking for Mefites in the region to check in works great.

If people in those regions wanted to contact another Mefite as a "i'm alive buddy," before a disaster, that might be a good idea. That way, they could just email or contact that single person, who would then let the community know they're status.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:37 AM on May 25, 2011


I think people in those areas are already sick of reassuring people they are fine.
posted by smackfu at 8:18 AM on May 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


I think people in those areas are already sick of reassuring people they are fine.

....Maybe, maybe not. After 9/11, I did a lot of reasurring family I was okay, but I also heard about all my other friends getting calls from people they hadn't heard from in years asking if they were okay -- and I didn't get a single one. Which had me miffed for a whole other reason ("what, people dont' care whether I'm alive or dead? How dare they!")

At least sending the message that "more people than just your family wants to know if you're okay" can be a nice gesture. They can accept that attention or not.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:38 AM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


If an experimental, "post"-something, straight-faced, bearded, synthesyzer-slinging band called DisasterFilter Pony doesn't emerge soon, I am going to be so very sad.
posted by herbplarfegan at 9:23 AM on May 25, 2011 [7 favorites]


Honestly, I think the informal 'Mefites of [Japan, Southeast US, NYC, etc] are you okay?' works best here.

That sort of 'how's it going, disaster area Mefites' thread lets people who want to respond, respond (and often they've found a way, even if the internet is down in their area) and those who are too busy/private will be contacted by Memail or left alone. It's not instrusive, doesn't confer 'privilege' (terrible word choice, sorry) on one disaster over another (I'm thinking Japan earthquake, where we had a thread asking about the many Mefites there, versus Haiti, where we didn't), and can be done by anyone who's a member.

The offers for help and whatnot that you're thinking of trying to organize are perhaps better left as spontaneous and generous rather than expected and formalized.

It's a really good idea and I agree that watching Metafilter pull together and help out is really awe-inspiring. I tend to think, though, that a 'what's up' thread is best mechanism for that.
posted by librarylis at 9:37 AM on May 25, 2011


smackfu: "I think people in those areas are already sick of reassuring people they are fine."

Truly, they're the real victims.
posted by Plutor at 9:49 AM on May 25, 2011


Disaster Pony
posted by Favorites Pony at 10:13 AM on May 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


Is the KML file still being updated? If so, you can point your Google Earth program at metafilter.com/metafilter.kml for a look at current MeFite locations.
posted by carsonb at 10:34 AM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm gonna disagree here smackfu. I had to do a lot of email/calls check-ins not just on behalf of myself, but for friends on/after 9-11 as getting calls through was a bit hit or miss. (For example, my mother couldn't get a call through to me, but a friend's mother was able to call me.) I didn't mind at all even when I was just passing info along.

I agree with librarylis that the "check-in" threads are a working solution. While I like the idea of a "check-in" buddy, you can do that simply by arranging that privately with a trusted mefite friend who will, hopefully, be honored to be your point person in case of disaster. I'm not sure a formal check-in buddy mechanism is nec.
posted by miss-lapin at 2:17 PM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Maybe a more proactive approach could supplement this. Let's have a check-in thread for the disasters-waiting-to-happen MeFites.
posted by StickyCarpet at 2:47 PM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


"After 9/11, I did a lot of reasurring family I was okay, but I also heard about all my other friends getting calls from people they hadn't heard from in years asking if they were okay -- and I didn't get a single one."

Don't take it personally, it was probably just phone line luck-of-the-draw! There was a *lot* of "behind-the-scenes" information passing taking place amongst people outside of NYC about people they knew inside NYC because communications into and out of the city were so poor for several days.

For example, I called a long-ago ex-boyfriend just because he was the only person I knew who lived in Manhattan. Somehow I got him on the first try, whereas none of his friends and family had been able to reach him all morning. Since none of his outgoing calls were going through either, he gave me phone numbers for a few key people ("Hi, you don't know me but I dated your brother a few years ago and he's alive") and his closer social network took over spreading the news at that point. Presumably part of the message being spread was "don't bother trying to call, we've been trying all morning and no one is getting through."

So lots of people might have been initially trying to call you but they got the news that you were OK before they were able to get through, and then they quite reasonably assumed that it would be best if they didn't further jam the phone lines by trying to connect to you directly.
posted by Jacqueline at 5:01 PM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Never knew about that KML file. That's pretty slick.
posted by jquinby at 5:01 PM on May 25, 2011


@jacqueline I remember hearing at a disaster preparedness training that if possible, families/friend networks should have a designated out-of-state contact person. For some reason with the way the phone system is set up, local and in-state lines are more likely to be overwhelmed during/after a catastrophe than out-of-state lines.
posted by smirkette at 9:58 PM on May 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think people in those areas are already sick of reassuring people they are fine.

....Maybe, maybe not. After 9/11, I did a lot of reasurring family I was okay, but I also heard about all my other friends getting calls from people they hadn't heard from in years asking if they were okay -- and I didn't get a single one. Which had me miffed for a whole other reason ("what, people dont' care whether I'm alive or dead? How dare they!")
At least sending the message that "more people than just your family wants to know if you're okay" can be a nice gesture. They can accept that attention or not.


Oh man, I kind of agree with both of you. I have heard from a ton of friends (and acquaintances even) this past week (and I don't even live in Joplin, they wanted to check on my family there), and I have to say it is really touching and comforting. On the other hand, I talked to my dad today and he said he has received over 200 emails so far (some from people he hasn't seen in decades) and ended up writing a standard "We are fine, thank you so much for your kind concern" (but longer) note and just pasting it into all of his responses, because it would really be a bit time consuming otherwise. And Plutor, it's not about being "the real victim" - obviously the people who survive these things are very lucky - but they do still have a lot going on. My family is finding housing for my dad's now-homeless employees, visiting friends in the hospital, looking for missing people, babysitting, etc. right now, and it's not that he didn't truly appreciate the notes - I am sure he absolutely did - but it's an exhausting time.

I think it's awesome that MeFites care about each other and want to support each other and help out, but if it can be done in a minimally intrusive way that is probably ideal.
posted by naoko at 1:14 AM on May 27, 2011


This seems like a not-good idea.
posted by hal_c_on at 3:11 AM on May 28, 2011


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