Thursday, October 14, 2010

Social & Digital Help Inspire the World

On October 13th, the eyes of the world were focused on Copiapo’ Chile, a small northern city and site of the trapped miners. The world witnessed an entire 23 hour live feed of the capsule “Fenix II” as it made 70 trips underground to retrieve the 33 miners who had been trapped under ground for 69 days. Every angle of the rescue effort was covered thanks to the utilization of digital technologies. Social media played an integral role building community around the event as well as in sharing live information about the rescue to the masses.

Here are a few of the highlights which caught my attention:

Live Streaming Video from the Mine to the Ground
Early on a web cam and fiber optic cables were sent down a small bore hole to the miners, 200,000 feet below. At earth level the cables connected to a standard PC which displayed and captured live video feeds of the miners trapped underground. The trapped miners created a video of themselves saying hello to their family and singing the Chilean national anthem on August 27, 2010 giving the world and their families hope.

From then on the camera was used for family members to connect with their miners. Psychiatrists and counselors also used the web cam to check in on the emotional and psychological health of the miners.

The evening of the rescue effort, the rescue team used the technology to watch the Fenix II enter the mine to determine how far the capsule went down in order to accurately position it on each descent. They also used it to communicate back up to crew on the ground so they were aware of when the miner was in the capsule in order to know when to begin the ascent. Back up at the top, the video footage was projected onto a large screen so those outside could watch as well.

One of the extraordinary things was watching as the first rescuer, Manuel Gonzalez, made his way to the miners and was greeted with hugs and cheers. It was quite a moving (and historic) moment.

A web cam.

Who would’ve thought it would play such a vital role in the sustained well being of the miners, an inspiration to the world, and such an integral part of the rescue operation.

Live Blogging, Photo Sharing & Video of the Rescue
A number of media sites, such as PBS, HuffingtonPost and WorldNews, used Ustream to stream video broadcast of the live rescue Ustream stated it served 5.3 million streams over the course of the rescue event, making this the most streamed event. (The memorial of Michael Jackson was the prior record holder of 4.6 million.)

Many news sites provided life blog updates of the event. The Chilean Government even set up an official Flickr photostream, the Rescate Mineros' Photostream. Photos started with the early preparations on October 11th, through all miners, to the last rescuer, Manuel Gonzalez and final photos of the press conference.

A quick Google for blogs under keyword Live Chile Miners Rescue yielded 333,293 results. One of my favorites was the Chilean blog, I Love Chile, the only Chilean blog translated to English. Many media and news site kept readers abreast of the updates of each miners rescue via their blogs as well.

Communities Formed to Provide Support & Share
Naturally Twitter fans and followers assembled around an infamous hash tag, the most vibrant one being #chileminers. On October 13th, the community counted down the number of miners brought back. The conversations were positive, encouraging and hopeful.
“@Notashopaholic. 19 miners out now. Just amazing. Humans, I am proud of you today. #ChileMiners

Of the tweets I analyzed using SearchTastic, the reach as incredible – 60 tweets reached 20M followers/impressions. CBS News was a big contributer.

There were also a few communities which rallied together on Facebook. One group, Chilean Miners Rescue Attempt. LIVE, tracked the progress of the rescue effort. The last post I read was from Ireland:
“Congratulations to all the miners on being rescued, God bless you all and I hope you all recover well from your terrible ordeal, and well done to the rescuers your country must be so proud of each and everyone of you. I spent the last 24 hours watching it live from Northern Ireland and am so pleased it's all over. GOD BLESS.”

Another group, entitled Rescue the Chilean Miners, had 480 fans. It’s community mission statement read “We want this page to show the brave miners, their families and their rescuers how much the whole world supports them.”

Hope. Unity. Strength.
The sprit, unity and determination of the Chilean miners, government and rescuers inspired the whole world. Thanks to digital and social technologies, we could participate in and watch this historic human event in real time.


Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Jetsons, Trading Posts & Social Business

Robots are creeping me out this weekend.

That’s an odd thing to say from someone whose career has been in technology and who adored George, Jane, Judy and Elroy Jetson. The cartoon, The Jetson’s, was my favorite, slightly nudging out Scooby Doo. I loved its futuristic graphics and theme. Rosie the Robot seemed almost human to me as she cleaned and helped the family with daily life. At times she would malfunction but always with humorous results. The family had a snazzy vehicle too - the flying saucer car which drove itself. The Jetson’s had a very leisurely lifestyle enabled by robots and labor saving devices. One press of the computer button a day was all it took to set their day and life in motion.

The Jetson's Are Here.
Yesterday, The New York Times published its story on Google’s experiment with a car that drives itself. The advantages, it claims, are to save lives. The car uses GPS and motion detection to help it navigate and drive. Google claims that this artificial intelligence is safer and more reliant than humans. The intelligence won’t get sleepy at the wheel, be intoxicated or make bad judgments. And this will ensure fewer accidents whereby more lives are saved. Really? Cars driving themselves - the technology is here.

In the same day as the NYTimes article, my brother and I were talking about artificial intelligence running our financial markets. We talked about computers programmed to make trades at the Board of Trade which could be programmed to make financial trades at a much faster rate than humans could keep pace. I don’t know much more than that but isn’t that a bit scary (and illegal)? One press of a button to run a financial market – the technology is here.

Yesterday as well was the first time I experienced, not once but twice, the Twitter robots unleashed and spamming me and my peers with RTs after various words were detected in our tweets. Annoying . Robots reading and sending out messages on their own – the technology is here.

Robots Can be Creepy.
Before I went to bed I tweeted, “… feel like I'm in a bad sci-fi where the bots start overtaking humans!”

I’ve always been forward thinking, futuristic, opportunistic by nature. “Yes, let’s create it!” “Wow, look at this new technology!” “Just think if we designed …x, y, z…” But last night was the first time I started to get a bit creeped out by it all.

What’s the impactof robots/artificial intelligence on human intelligence? Will humans start to become less intelligent as we create technology which does our thinking? Evolution has proven that which is not used over time disappears. Will our language change? Will we lose basic skills? Are we moving too fast? Will we revert back to cave man drawings to communicate as we continue to create symbols like :) to depict emotion or figure out how to make our language fit 140 characters or less? I don’t get psychics but at some point don’t we run into ourselves in the here and now and the virtual? And could we tip the scale to the artificial and virtual too far?

Do we have technology and innovation ethics? Where do we draw the line?

Social Business and Trading Posts?
Over the course of the past month I’ve more than once stated I’d like to get back to the time of the trading post. I say it in jest, but deep down I really mean it. Sometimes, the speed at which technology is innovating is overwhelming. My draw to the trading post is that humans interacted person to person. They interacted and exchanged on a very basic human level. Is social business our way to ensure we continue to humanize our technological experience and create human interaction and value with one another?

Deep thoughts for a late Sunday night. Lots of questions and few answers at the moment.

What do you think?