Colin’s IT, Security and Working Life blog

June 29, 2009

Social Networking in a time of crisis.

Filed under: Uncategorized — chaplic @ 11:50 am

Bit of a different posting this as its quite personal and probably of only benefit it to me.

Like many of you, I read and post on a few forums, some technical, some not. One particular forum has a large social aspect, and occasionally we meet for drinks.

Such an event was a few weeks ago. About 20 of us met up, had a few beers and set the world to rights. The next morning there was customary ribbing of the usual bad behaviour people get up to after a few beers.

But one thing was odd; one person was missing – he was sharing a room with someone else but never made it back. At first, there was little concern. After all, he’s a grown man.

Then as time wore on, it became a little worrying.

He wasn’t answering his mobile. Hadn’t posted online. His keys and train ticket were in the hotel room and it was past kicking-out time.

Alarm bells started ringing with me. I did a quick call round police stations and hospitals – no matches. Now, what else to do? None of us had his home details.

A quick check on his facebook page, and I found someone who he swapped a lot of messages with. Sent a message to them asking them to get in touch.

In the meantime, the shocking truth came out. The missing man had been killed in a road accident. His flatmate was in the opposite position to us; he knew the bad news, but didn’t know who he was with.

The flatmate posted on his facebook wall asking people to call; I did so and got told the shocking news. I relayed this back to the online forum who were obviously shocked.

The forum then turned into an online condolence book; those who knew him personally and online shocked, stunned and saddened all wanted to leave their messages of condolences.

The bereaveds family are not IT literate at-all. After a gentle sounding out it, it was agreed a paper version of the condolence notes would be appreciated by the family.

This required organisation, editing, printing.

To enable this, a private facebook group was quickly setup, where ideas could be shared and tasks agreed. The condolences were copied and pasted into word, then edited for style and content. IM was used to check some queries.

Whilst all this was going on the online forum was used to keep people informed, and ask for photos of the departed – his family didn’t have many recent pictures.

Naturally, people wished to show their respect by some token; the family had requested family flowers only but mentioned a favourite charity. A small, local charity with no online donation facilities. After a quick email to the charitys leader, a justgiving account was setup. This enabled the forum members to easily make donations, and a substantial sum was received.

The finalised document was then emailed to the printers to produce a high quality finished book, complete with condolences and photos.

Finally emails were used to set the funeral arrangements in terms of transports and timings.

His family were delighted and comforted by the book. It was over 60 pages and had as many photos.

A horrible afair all round; one might say if it wasn’t for the online forum then it never would have happened. What was for sure is the power and availability of online services allowed ad-hoc collaboration and integration to allow us to comfort his family, which was simply not possible even a few years ago.

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