Yesterday, I opined that not enough social media actions aside from donations actually benefit disaster relief or other humanitarian efforts.
However, it seems that at least one organization is helping Web users make their time and clicks count for a good cause, and I've never been happier to eat my words. The Haiti Earthquake Support Center, a project from The Extraordinaires (more on that later), allows users to make possible matches between submitted photos of missing persons and photos of Haitians post-earthquake.
It's something facial recognition software should be able to do, but in the absence of suitable technology, perhaps the power of human effort and social media will have some positive effects for those searching for loved ones.
The premise of The Extraordinaires is revolutionary but simple. Organizations can create missions. Users can complete micro-tasks from their mobile devices or computers toward those missions. Currently, the site has around 50 participating organizations and about 6,000 members who have completed in excess of 35,000 micro-tasks. Missions range from mapping safe places for children to play to helping first-aid responders reduce fatalities.
For this particular mission, photos of missing people are submitted to the site. Then, users are asked to tag images captured during disaster relief efforts. These images are sometimes graphic, depicting the living and dead, the wounded and children. So far, more than 30,000 tags have been recorded. Next, users are asked to spend time deciding whether a particular tagged image matches a photo of a missing person.
To date, the site has led to only three possible matches between missing persons in Haiti and people in images captured after the Haitian earthquake. Clearly, more users are needed to make this site's mission a success.
Finally, if a family member or friend has Internet access, he or she can search for a missing person on the site using keywords that are likely to be used as image tags, such as "male" or "teenager." So far, 640 such searches have been made.
We hope that you will take a few minutes (or longer) to use this site yourself and help tag or match images. Also, if you know of similar efforts for social media users to help with disaster relief in Haiti, please let us know in the comments.