Technology That Took on a Hurricane

By Franklin Paul

While big media covered the mass destruction brought by Hurricane Katrina with helicopter images and satellite weather maps, blogs have been telling stories with similar force, but on a much more personal level.

Linking to the Internet's global computer network with a combination of old-school and newfangled technologies -- namely backyard diesel generators, mobile phones and stubborn will -- several web sites related often graphic first-hand accounts and snapshots.

"Trees down everywhere. Neighbor (has) three trees on house. Southern yacht club burning to the ground," said the Gulfsails blog

formatting link
launched by Troy Gilbert as a local sailing and boat racing resource that turned into a blow-by-blow of Katrina's effect on a New Orleans neighborhood.

More and more, bloggers, who frequently post short messages on Internet Web Sites, are becoming an information source, particularly for fast developing stories in remote areas. Blogs gained prominence during the 2004 U.S. Presidential election, when conservative and liberal writers became regulars on the campaign trail.

The audience for the narratives is growing. According to comScore Media Metrix, more than 1.7 million online searches were conducted on August 29 containing the words "Hurricane" and/or "Katrina," a more-than-tenfold increase over the daily average during the five days ending August 26.

"Bloggers outside the area are doing their best to amplify the first-hand accounts," said Mark Crispin Miller, professor of media studies at New York University.

Richard Lucic, a Duke University Computer Science professor, said the reports from the U.S. Gulf Coast region may have helped propel the acceptance of blogs, as well as podcasts, or audio files than can be recorded and listened to on a computer or digital music player, like Apple Computer Inc.'s popular iPod.

"It adds immediacy and on-site appeal," he said. "What it does is brings it down to the human level since anybody can do it with a very small investment and no training."


From a room crammed with dozens of racks of computer servers, cooling units, and wires, Michael Barnett, remained holed up in a downtown New Orleans high rise, posting to his "Survival of New Orleans" blog

formatting link
while running a domain name registration and Web hosting service. He and his partners stayed connected when 80 percent of the city was underwater.

"I can leave (but) I won't leave. My city is drowning and burning at the same time. We are the only Internet connection still alive in the city and we're going to stay here because our customers are counting on us," Barnett told Reuters via instant messenger from his post not far from the New Orleans Superdome.

Key to his service's survival was a stockpile of food and water that the company kept on hand for weekly lunches, and most importantly, a massive generator installed for backup power.

Local media also hosted blogs including WWL-TV

formatting link
and The New Orleans Times-Picayune's breaking news feed
formatting link
which featured items about rising insurance rates, bodies found at a nearby hospital and free textbook given to displaced college students.

At the blog Slimbolala,

formatting link
a husband and father of two details the family's travels to Memphis -- away from the storm -- and decision to head back to the Gulf Coast. On Monday, He posted: "We just found out that the first floor of our house is chest deep in water."

Later in the week, hoping to raise the spirits of those around him, he asked for blog readers to send in good -- or even bad -- jokes. More than a dozen did, including one from a Washington D.C.-based journalist about pirates who wear, ahem, "ARRRRgyle" socks.

In Katrina's aftermath, the flood waters have begun to recede in New Orleans, but local blogs late this week continued to giving tidbits of information to those who had evacuated and detailing other unforseen health issues.

"With everyone's swimming pools turning stagnant and fetid, the mosquitoes are becoming a major issue," the Gulfsails blogger wrote. "We need, in the least, to have ... pesticide spraying planes and/or chlorine. I really don't think it'd be such a good idea to have New Orleans turn into a malarial swamp again."

Copyright 2005 Reuters Limited.

NOTE: For more telecom/internet/networking/computer news from the daily media, check out our feature 'Telecom Digest Extra' each day at

formatting link
. Hundreds of new articles daily.

Also see headlines at

formatting link

Reply to
Franklin Paul
Loading thread data ... Forums website is not affiliated with any of the manufacturers or service providers discussed here. All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.