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The Devil's Advocate: Calamities and the Internet Response League

Column By Victor Barreiro Jr. on September 27, 2013

Call to Action

The images you’ve seen in today’s Devil’s Advocate all come as mockups from the Internet Response League website. While they’re rough ideas and some of the claims of reducing data sorting by a grand magnitude may seem hyperbolic the heart of it is there: Gamers who’ve chosen to opt-in to such a program would be doing something good for someone halfway around the world even while they’re engrossed in the game they love.

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Logistically speaking, hundreds of thousands of people working together to help sort out one picture each when a disaster strikes can accelerate the process of disaster response and mapping significantly.

When the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) tasked the Digital Humanitarian Network with tracking and tagging tweets with images and video made during during Typhoon Bopha when it hit the Philippines, it took Meier, his colleagues, and volunteers from Crowdcrafting 12 hours to complete, which was basically how long UNOCHA gave them to complete.

The results of their tracking and tagging, 30 minutes after UNOCHA received it, became the map above, the first official UN crisis map sourced from social media content that was shared on Twitter in real time and processed using open-source microtasking. (More information on this on iRevolutiion.net) Consider then that, with a gathered mass of thousands of gamers helping out in little bits, this could have taken far less time.

I’ve seen and known some conscientious gamers. Whether it’s the users of gaming Reddits who donate money and time to helping the less fortunate, to people shelling out money for an in-game pet that would benefit charity, the potential is there to do good.

The only issue now is getting a groundswell of support and getting eyeballs on such an initiative. It may take time for something like the Internet Response League to be fully developed and integrated into a game, but the ideas behind it — volunteerism, self-sacrifice, and the willingness to help a stranger in need — are powerful, and deserving of a call to action.

Victor Barreiro Jr. / Victor Barreiro Jr. maintains The Devil’s Advocate and ArcheAge columns for MMORPG.com. He also writes for news website Rappler as a technology reporter. You can find more of his writings on Games and Geekery and on Twitter at @vbarreirojr.


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Victor Barreiro Jr. / Victor Barreiro Jr. maintains the the Landmark/Everquest Next and Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn columns for MMORPG.com. He also writes for news website Rappler as a technology reporter. You can also find him on Twitter at @vbarreirojr.

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