By mid-week, the number of blogs and Web sites devoted to reporting on Katrina, or aiding the relief, were too many to count, even to locate. But of particular note were the Hurricane Katrina Help Wiki, which showed how the "wiki" citizen technology, until now mostly known for creating online encyclopedias, could be used during disasters; Technorati, the blog search engine, which offered a seemingly-infinite number of resource sites; and Craigslist, the mammoth online classified-ad site, which created a lost-and-found list for friends and relatives.
Needless to say, none of these activities operate in a vacuum. On the contrary, one of the greatest powers of the Web is that it enables discrete sites to link with one another. The result is a series of dedicated webs, formed around some topic or historic event, which in turn reside within the larger Web. What this burst of Katrina blogs suggests is that from now on these aggregator blog sites and dedicated webs are going to form spontaneously on the Internet in response to major events. Their size will be dictated by the magnitude of the event, and driven by individuals who, whatever their walk of life, are prepared to bring unique talents, dedication and time to the managing them.They will be equipped to disseminate mountains of usable information to millions of readers with a timeliness and depth no other medium can match.
To say this is ham radio in three dimensions, or a multimedia Early Warning System, is insufficient to capture the richness and the power of this new model. It really has no historic precedents. And just wait a few years, when every cell phone on Earth is Web-enabled.
All of this began just a few years ago with blogs -- "Web logs" -- that now seem humble as the Model T. What we are seeing now -- perhaps something good to come out of the horrors of Katrina -- is a much bigger phenomenon. Maybe we should reverse the term now -- "blog Webs," perhaps -- and try to understand them and how they may help save us in future disasters.