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The Power of Facebook as a Tool For Local Response to an Accident

facebook.jpgLast week, I gained some fascinating insight into the power of Facebook for local organizing in response to a need. As some of you may know, my wife was injured last Wednesday when she was hit by a car while out walking. She's doing much better now and our 17-month-old daughter seems so far completely unharmed. We're extremely thankful.

What was fascinating to me, though, was the role that Facebook played in the response to the accident.

When my wife called me to let me know what had happened, I was 3,000 miles away in Los Angeles getting ready to go out for a run before a long day at the ITEXPO conference/trade show speaking on a panel, meeting with analysts and recording some video interviews. There was obviously not much I could do from 3,000 miles away beyond try to reach a couple of people on the phone to see if they could help.

But what I did do was post a status update on Facebook.

What happened next was what we in the security community would refer to as a "denial-of-service attack" on our phone line... our home phone started ringing and pretty much didn't stop the entire day. (And the "DoS" aspect is that we do not have call-waiting, so new callers got a busy signal for most of the day.) Our truly wonderful friends and family in the greater Keene, NH, area reached out to my wife with so many offers of help and support... it was incredibly humbling and VERY much appreciated. Email messages and Facebook messages poured in... to the point that there was simply no way my wife could even begin to answer them all. The word spread from Facebook out through email and phone to other channels, as well, letting people know at our daughter's school, for instance.

As someone remote it was extremely reassuring to me to see the comments on my status updates, to see the posts on my wife's Facebook wall/updates and to see the messages coming in. As I rearranged my schedule and spent most of the day on planes flying home, those messages certainly gave me a sense of reassurance that even though I personally could not be there to help, others were there to help.

It was a powerful personal reminder of the power of a connected community - and an interesting view into using a global tool like Facebook for local action in your community.

And yes, we've had tools for building online communities for 30+ years now.... BBSs, email lists, online services (think CompuServe), web forums... and a hundred other forms. Facebook is only the latest major player in the well-worn space... and 5 years from now maybe we'll still be on Facebook or maybe we'll have migrated to something else.

There is power there, though... the power of bringing people together - and so easily distributing news and information. Much more to write on this, methinks...

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