Technology Volunteers from CrisisCamp Support RHoK Events

Technology volunteers from across the CrisisCamp community came out to support the Random Hacks of Kindness global hackathon on December 4, 2010. Random Hacks of Kindness (RHoK) is a collaborative effort of Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, NASA and the World Bank. Three RHoK cities (Toronto, Chicago and Boston) were supported by CrisisCamp organizers. Many volunteers contributed their own time to support events virtually or by participating in the over 20 locations around the world. In total, there were over 1000 global participants.


CNA Insurance building lights up Chicago skyline in support of RHoK. (Photo by Deborah Shaddon)

Special thanks go out to Heather Leson, Melanie Gorka, David Black and Brian Chick CrisisCamp city co-leads for Toronto, Deborah Shaddon, CrisisCamp city lead for Chicago and Thom Goodsell and Monika Adamczyk who co-lead CrisisCamp Boston who contributed to organizing and supporting RHoK events in their cities. A special thanks goes to Chris “Spike” Foote from CrisisCamp UK who volunteered his time to support management of the RHoK Wiki.

City Highlight: RHoK Chicago

RHoK Chicago was one of five main stage RHoK cities. Deborah Shaddon, CrisisCamp City lead for Chicago (and Commons Infrastructure Workgroup lead) Deborah Shaddon supported RHoK to organize an event in Chicago that attracted 88 participants including Lionell Martin Co-Chair for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Regional Catastrophic Planning Team for the City of Chicago and Jackie Mitchell, Director of Communications for the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago.
Technology volunteers organizing at RHoK Chicago (credit: David Kelly Photo)

RHoK Chicago teams worked on six projects throughout the weekend effort. RHoK Chicago’s team awards included the following:

  • First place: Urban Search and Rescue Data Collection Application: USAR teams, Urban Search and Rescue, follow a prescribed methodology when searching buildings and locations after a disaster. Buildings are marked with an ‘X’ (Called INSARGAR), which is intended to provide 4 quadrants of data collection and gathering of the search. Often data of the various searches is collected manually on paper, to later be correlated into a larger situational report. This project aims to find ways in which technology can assist, expedite, and produce better quality of the collected data results.
  • Second place: I’m OK, I’m not OK Next Gen: This project aim was to develop a way to report and evaluate a given situation reported via a mobile (smart) phone.
  • Third place: Person Finder: The Chicago team further extended this existing platform in two ways: The first was to further extend the full-text search and indexing capabilities of the google appengine platform to address some limitations. A second track was the twitter (robot) interface, which allowed the person finder application to leverage twitter search results about ‘named people’ into their platform via an api and webapp, to assist in ‘finding’ people in a disaster.

Of particular note, RHoK Chicago championed the development of a Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) application in collaboration with volunteers from Sahana Foundation’s Free and Open Source Disaster Management System. Deborah Shaddon had recently completed her CERT certification and developed a specific problem definition to help support regional CERT coordination efforts.

Videos from RHoK Chicago will be available soon. Check out the great pictures from their event.

City Highlight: RHoK Toronto

Melanie Gorka, David Black, Brian Chick and Heather Leson of CrisisCamp Toronto organized Canada’s first RHoK event in Toronto by drawing on their collective experience with CrisisCamps and the development of CrisisCommons. RHoK Toronto partnered with the Open Data Hackathon to encourage collaboration between the events.
Population Centres in Disasters project team working at RHoK Toronto. (Photo by Ben Lucier)

RHoK Toronto benefited from the experience from Heather Leson who during RHoK 1.0 was supported by the World Bank to help Australia create their first RHoK and to further introduce CrisisCamp in the Oceania region. RHoK Toronto attracted over 52 participants including Will Pate, Digital Strategist, of the World Bank’s Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery. RHoK Toronto’s team awards included the following:

  • First place: Stolen Bicycle Serial tracking, an open data project, was an iphone app to track bicycle history.
  • Second place: Tweak the Tweet-User Experience Testing: This project supported usability testing for the Tweak the Tweet project at the University of Colorado at Boulder’s Project EPIC. Tweak the Tweak utilizes Twitter as a two-way communications channel for information during crisis events. This project asks users to format their “tweets” so that machine reporting is easier to do and that data can be categorized. Team members collaborated wtih Kate Starbird of Project Epic.
  • Third place: Payout to Mobile project was created to seek out and to obtain crop insurance money to small farmers.

There were many other projects which received volunteer development such as Population Centres in Disasters a project for Humanity Road supported by Chad Catacchio of Santa Barbara CrisisCamp and Cat Graham of Humanity Road. This team also imported hospital data from OpenStreetMapinto the tool. Other projects included supporting Person Finder.

RHoK Toronto was honoured to have University of Toronto students like Jon Pipitone providing training and mentorship on multiple projects. As a result of RHoK event, the students at the University of Toronto are interested in how to keep up the momentum through a campus “CrisisCamp” club. This would be the first of such clubs in the world. For more information about RHoK Toronto click here.

City Highlight: RHoK Boston

RHoK Boston was organized by Engineers without Borders (Boston University Chapter) with collaboration and support from CrisisCamp Boston’s Monika Adamczyk and Thom Goodsell. Local Boston businesses such as ITA Software, Microsoft New England Research & Development Center and Fama PR. RHoK Boston attracted over 22 participants who collaborated on such as HeightCatcher, Geo data File Format Converter and Person Finder.
Technology volunteers hacking at RHoK Boston (Photo by CrisisCamp Boston)

The projects were judged by representatives from CrisisCamp Boston, Microsoft New England Research & Development Center and David Stephenson a Bostonian technology expert on open data strategies. RHoK Boston awarded first place to both the HeightCatcher and Geo data File Format Converter projects. For more information on RHoK Boston, visit the wiki or check out their photos.

Participation Highlights

CrisisCamp volunteers participated from around the world to support RHoK events. CrisisCamp Seattle lead Pascal Schuback volunteered with the RHoK Seattle team and worked with Willow Brugh of Geeks without Bounds to provide momentum for possible new CrisisCamp Seattle while GWOB’s Johnny Diggz worked with RHoK in San Franciso. Sara Farmer, founder of Open Crisis Network and supporter of CrisisCamp responses for Haiti, Chile and Pakistan, participated in the United Nation’s “Global Pulse” projects at RHoK New York. Sara Farmer also helped organise RHoK Birmingham. Chris “Spike” Foote from CrisisCamp UK who collaborated RHoK maintain its 134-page Wiki. CrisisCamp Paris, Claude (Mao) Sung of CrisisCamp Paris provided a Cover-It-Live feed of all the social media RHoK content. Shoaib Burq, who inspired us to connect with CrisisCamp Sydney (Australia) for 20-hour Global CrisisCamp Marathon for Pakistan, was part of a team that won at RHoK Berlin for Disaster Maps.

We <3 RHoK

CrisisCamp events and the ongoing development of CrisisCommons deeply supports RHoK and their efforts to provide innovation opportunities to improve crisis management and global develepment. We especially want to highlight the support and friendship of Stu Gill and Will Pate at the World Bank, Patrick Svenberg and Nigel Snoad at Microsoft, Jeremy Johnstone at Yahoo! and Prem Ramaswami and Christiaan Adams at and Robert at NASA for their continued support of CrisisCommons problem definitions and our valued partnership between RHoK and CrisisCamp volunteers. We also want to highlight are deep appreciation to Second Muse for their unwavering support of our supporting efforts as an operational partner for RHoK.

Here’s to more RHoK and CrisisCommons synergies in the future!


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