Behind the headlines: raising local voices in Haiti

At 16.53 local time on Tuesday 12 January, 2010 an earthquake with a Moment magnitude of 7.0 struck Haiti, with an epicentre approximately 16 miles from the country’s capital Port au Prince.

Almost immediately the country hit the headlines and was rarely out of the news for a few weeks. NGOs and the media came flying in to help and report. Yet, often the voices heard in the media were not those of the locals, but of crisis professionals, analysts and politicians.

This didn’t mean that locals weren’t involved in picking up the pieces, simply that we rarely heard from them. Some of this could be put down to a matter of language translation – a fairly predictable scenario when going into a foreign country, and whilst the first language of Haiti is the less spoken Creole the second language of the country is French. But there are many other possible reasons.

Two projects have attempted to rectify this situation:

The Kenyan Ushahidi, a non-profit tech company that develops free and open source software for crowdsourced information collection, visualization and interactive mapping, was founded to re-balance these very situations, as this video explains:

When the earthquake in Haiti struck, Ushahidi and mapping volunteers quickly got into action. Both enabling the reporting of incidents and information on the ground (via mobile SMS, emails and online) and mapping the dramatically changed landscape, infrastructure and cities from satellite pictures above. The result was a constantly updated interactive map.

The following presentation given by Juliana Roitch at the International Journalism Festival in Perugia shows what was involved and just some of the challenges and processes that they had to learn on the job. Processes and reports that are still ongoing.

The web and film documentary Goudou Goudou, the ignored voices of reconstruction is another project that aims to re-address the balance of voices telling the story of Haiti.

Filmed and produced by Benoit Cassegrain and Giodarno Cossu – who together run Solidar’IT – it tells the stories of several characters and their lives since the earthquake. The film was recorded in Creole and French during 2010, and has yet to be fully translated into English (I’m sure the film makers would be up for discussions if you are interested in changing that), but the following trailer is available, and gives a glimpse into the day to day lives of those that the earthquake effected.

Both projects highlight in their different ways that we need to change how report crisis’. That we consider who can report as well as what and how language should be considered right from the start.

Newsletter launched

Following on from yesterday’s post on email newsletter software I’ve tried to be as good as my word and give Mail Chimp a whirl. The result is that you can now subscribe here.

There were a few teething problems in registering, as quite rightly Mail Chimp wanted me to register for the service using a domain email (eg. not gmail, hotmail, yahoo). Unfortunately this wasn’t made clear on the page until I went over to using IE8, where happily everything worked. Thankfully IE8 has not been essential since.

It’s then been a step-by-step process of setting up a list and designing the different pages for subscribe, unsubscribe, thankyou etc. which is all been incredibly straightforward, once you get used to the editing tools. There’s lots of help and videos to take you through what to do.

I’ve decided to host all the pages on Mail Chimp’s site for now as that keeps things simple. So do sign up and let’s see where this takes us.

I’m planning the first newsletter in a few weeks, so expect a post on how the service works in putting a newsletter together.

More soon.

Announcing: free digital media and communications clinic

UPDATE: All places for this clinic are now booked. Please contact me if you are interested in attending a future clinic.


teaandbiscuitThis idea sprang from a conversation at the Btween 09 conference a few weeks ago, and is aimed at anyone who would like a short burst of free one-to-one consultancy.

In this first instance the sessions will be in 3/4 of an hour bursts and will be held at a venue in Kings Cross, London on a first come, first served basis. For those who live outside London, do contact me, and we can take things from there.


What? Digital Media and communications clinic. Que? One to one sessions of 3/4 of an hour, covering all areas of digital media and communications – social media, PR, advertising, marketing and business development. Think of it as a cosy, modern-day Miss Marple chat – problem solving over cup of tea (and may be a bit of cake).
What kinds of problems can you help with? I’ve worked professionally in the digital and communications space since about 2000. Take a look at the kinds of things I’m involved with and do here or have a look at my LinkedIn profile as a possible starting point.
Where? Kings Cross, London
When? 10.00-17.00, 24, July 2009

Time slots available
10.00 – 10.45
11.00 – 11.45
12.00 – 12.45
13.30 – 14.15
14.30 – 15.15
15.30 – 16.15
16.30 – 17.15

Price: Free, but gifts of tea and cake most welcome
Where do I sign up? Please contact me, if you would like to book a session.

Habbo Hotel virtual world of choice for American Idol

‘American Idol’ Teams Up With Habbo For Virtual World |

Asked: Why not Second Life? An American Idol spokesperson responded:

“The biggest thing is we weren’t looking for an open universe; we wanted something controlled and safe. Also, Second Life is far older and skews towards men. Habbo is teens.” And Habbo’s research shows that one in three of its users are American Idol fans.

Not to mention the higher visitor numbers and traffic.