Katrinalist.net and the PeopleFinder Project

Katrinalist.net, a volunteer effort to pull together the huge amount of data about missing people and evacuees, is up. The 88,000 records were entered by hand by volunteers from information gathered around the Web.

Katrinalist.net, a volunteer effort to pull together the huge amount of data about missing people and evacuees, is up. The 88,000 records were entered by hand by volunteers from information gathered around the Web.

This is the work of the PeopleFinder project, a group that is using a Wiki to organize a very ambitious goal of making sense of the data in different digital forms that's being published to Web sites such as Craigslist, posted in chat rooms and entered into databases at non-profits.

I talked to David Geilhufe, one of the people involved in the project last night. There's a good explanation of the project on a his blog. But briefly, this project is akin to work Yahoo is doing with its metasearch tool. But instead of scraping Web sites, the PeopleFinder volunteers have created a spec, called the PeopleFinder Interchange Format (PFIF) to structure the data. They use the spec to enter information into the database and are trying to get nonprofits and other organizations to adopt the spec to use it as well to allow the sharing of data.

The Social Source Foundation, CivicSpace Labs and Salesforce.com Foundation are collaborating on this project, providing storage space and software engineering expertise. Marnie Webb, who started the NPTech del.icio.us tag project kindly pointed me to the PeopleFinder project as an example of a group using tags for a project I am working on. And yes, they're using tags, but that's not the real story.

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