Pinpointing devastation

As New Orleans was flooding, and burning, and suffering, two young computer programmers quickly launched Scipionus – a visual wiki of the calamity, charted onto Google Maps. On this site, users mark a location and report on it. The markers are color-coded – indicating new (green) and updated (purple) posts. A snapshot:

Screenshot of Scipionus

As this Wired News article notes, some of the postings are less than helpful – some beg for information on a particular spot, rather than report any – and none of the postings is authoritative. But at least it’s some communication.

Imagine if FEMA or some communication arm of the government had a disaster wiki like this ready to go. Any given marker could be made up of various layers: documented damage, immediate needs, community discussion, updated satellite images…. Properly marked, official and anecdotal data could share the same platform and the same goals: letting everyone know, asap, what’s happening at a given place under assault.

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