Sunday, 16 July 2006

Mousetrap - 62

It’s been a bad week in this, my city. Violence and arson on Sunday, then the bombings. So, let me use the column this week to point to a set of citizen initiatives (one of which this column has mentioned before) that attempted to help in some way. Yes, the web worked when phones were down. (Disclosure: I was heavily involved with two of these sites, and invited to a third.)

Helping hands
Mumbai Help
Mumbai Help sprang up last year, post the Cloudburst, following a pattern set by earlier disaster relief blogging efforts: assembling and pointing to useful information. Post the floods, activity wound down. But on the 11th, it came to life again. Some of the original contributors, with a a bunch of new ones, rapidly put together info on the situation: traffic and train conditions, phone scenarios, shelter advice and more. Plus there was a new development. With phone networks buckling under the strain of what must have been everyone in the city calling simultaneously, many were completely cut off from their loved ones. One post (right on top) asked simply: “How can we help you?” and went on to offer to try and pass messages on. It was promptly flooded with requests. And, in a truly inspiring twist, others, readers, not just the blog team, equally promptly weighed in by making calls, sending SMSes and then sending reassuring messages back to the worried ones. Go read.

The Mumbai Help wiki
Blogs are great online collaboration tools, within limitations, like their native reverse-chronological order format. A wiki, which is a kind of website that works like a virtual blackboard―anyone can write, anyone can erase―lets you do a lot more in the way of organising information. MumbaiHelp moved some data to the wiki and then stepped back to let willing hearts and hands take over. The list of phone numbers to be called and an English transcription of the Devnagari list of the dead and injured that the Mumbai Police site released came up here, produced by the joint efforts of people in different parts of the world. There’s one section you may want to contribute to even now: an ideas page that invites suggestions on next steps.

Picture this
Flickr (and then put the words “mumbai” “bomb” and “blasts” into the search box)
These are pictures by ordinary folk, amateurs with cellphone cameras or digicams. Some of the sights you’ll see are not for the squeamish, I must warn you.

Is the pen mightier than the sword?
Writers against terrorism
This collablog came up on the night of the 11th. Its first post stated that it would try to “address issues of terrorism, fanaticism, bigotry, war, censorship, human rights violation, women's rights and any act which violates the idea of justice and fairness.” and went on to invite suggestions, opinion and comments. Already, a bunch of writers are posting (around 40 posts up as of this writing), some skilled, some with rougher edges, with opinions across the spectrum being debated. This is the way differences should be worked out. With reason, with minds engaging one another.

Reader suggestions welcome, and will be acknowledged. Go to for past columns, and to comment, or mail The writer blogs at

Published in the Times of India, Mumbai edition, 16th July, 2006.

Tags: ,

No comments: