web 2.0: getting real

NetSquared's picture

Back from my visit to CompuMentor and the Web 2.0 conference, I have now almost recovered from the overload of meeting or re-meeting so many excellent people doing so many excellent things. For instance, I bumped into Stewart Butterfield, co-founder of Flickr, and he joined Marnie Webb and I at the big noisy Web 2.0 dinner on Wednesday night. When he pointed his camera phone at me, I made the usual stupid face. The caption refers to my review of the food.


stewart butterfield dinner pic

While yeah it was tasty, licking my chops over the filet mignon seems a bit obscene in light of the reason I was in San Francisco in the first place.

Marnie was amazing, blogging the conference as it happened -- a multi-tasking skill I've never mastered. You can read all about it at her blog, ext337. Especially relevant to the nonprofit sector was the Recovery 2.0 Meeting. I encourage you to check that page and Thoughts on Recovery 2.0, as well as the Recovery 2.0 wiki on Socialtext, which Marnie's post points to. Jeff Jarvis of BuzzMachine weighs in with Recovery 2.0: We meet (the wiki links to other posts on the same subject). Jeff writes:

About 45 good people came to our Recovery 2.0 meeting in San Francisco, called there by nothing more than a few blog posts and a desire to find ways to improve the internet’s response to the next disaster.

Planet of SlumsWe didn't have long to wait for "the next disaster," as the South Asia quake hit soon after, taking a toll that looks to be at least ten times that of Katrina -- followed in rapid succession by the floods that have buried whole villages in Central America. It's clear that the need for both ground-level support and global relief is growing fast, and that this reflects profound changes in the so-called global economy. Over the weekend, I stumbled onto a notice for Planet of Slums, a soon-to-be-published book by Mike Davis (City of Quartz, Ecology of Fear, Magical Urbanism), which includes this chilling statement:

Planet of Slums ends with a provocative meditation on the "war on terrorism" as an incipient world war between the American empire and the slum poor.

Leaving aside the dire geopolitical implications of such a view, it's clear that governments alone are incapable of adequate response to large-scale disaster relief. More to the point, the "disaster" is ongoing. Behind the attention grabbing headlines in today's papers, there is a world of human suffering obscured by the self-important posturing that passes for "the news." The Internet has played no small role in surfacing the reality of that "other" world and the immediacy of its needs.

But what's needed now is more than awareness. The web is finally bringing together people who care and are ready and able to do something with the millions of people worldwide who need something done. Not another white paper, not another impact assessment, not tomorrow. Now. That's what this site is all about. Stay tuned for news of the many nonprofits who are doing something now, and significant elements of the tech sector that are bringing new tools to bear on global social problems -- problems that are not going to disappear by wishing things were better.