As my constant readers know, i’m speaking at BlogHer in two weeks in San Jose.  In preparation, I asked some of my blogging peers for questions they would like answered during my trip to Waveland.  Here are the answers.

Who else is on the panel? 

I’m going to be joining Grace and Dina on the panel.  The moderator is Betsy.

What will you talk about?

My objective is to tell the story of a Microsoft Blogger who became an accidental relief worker after Katrina destroyed her hometown of 7,000 people.

Overview

  • Use the resources available to me as a Microsoft blogger to get the story out about Waveland
  • Provide tangible results
    • Had reliable communication to both people in Waveland and City Hall within the first 3 weeks – Triaged requests from people wanting to help and relayed that info to City Hall and individuals "on the ground"
    • "Save Waveland" Fundraiser – used my blog to collect supplies and donations, since we were driving down to Waveland to donate the truck.
    • Family on NBC Nightly News.  Never in my life did i think i could say, "Thank you Brian Williams for not getting emotional when interviewing my parents, so we didn’t appear on The Daily Show w/ Jon Stewart."
    • Reunited dogs and owners – at least we were able to reunite someone
    • Provided the American Miniature Horse Association with the info regarding our neighbor’s horses (they saw the segment w/ Anderson Cooper and didn’t know what the current status was)
  • Reaction back home – “Thank you for not forgetting about us”
  • What to do next time?  (Given what I know now, what I would have done differently)
  • Journalist versus Blogger
    • What’s my obligation to my reader base / online repository, if I’m creating the online history of Waveland’s destruction and aftermath?
    • After driving 5 days across country to donate a vehicle specifically to the needs of the shelter, Waveland Animal Shelter is accused of animal neglect and cruelty.  What’s my obligation to figure out the truth behind this story, or is it okay for me to live in my fantasy world of “the truck is being used for its intended purpose?”  Can I pick and choose which truth to convey?

Will your presentation be available on-demand?

Elisa answers the question How to attend from afar.  Highlights include a "live-blogging" transcript (available immediately afterwards) and audio-recordings (available a couple of weeks after the conference).

Can bloggers build networks to help out during disasters?

Yes, check out Dina‘s World Wide Help Group Blog.

Is there a way to build a blog for disasters that is already established so that everyone knows where to go and doesn’t need to form a new network after a disaster happens?

You’ll definitely like Dina’s discussion.  Some disasters, like hurricanes, can be predicted days in advanced.  Others, like a Mount Rainier eruption, could be planned for, even though we have no idea if and when it will occur.

How are the people in Waveland using blogs?

At first, i was all ready to go ask questions to people how they are using blogs or the internet to find out anything they needed.  But when i got there, i felt embarrassed to ask the questions.  I saw one family of 5 living in a FEMA trailer, the same size as my parents’.  Then, as people made the connection "Oh, you’re Louie’s daughter that works for microsoft…", they would ask me to get their PII computer up and running with some games or the Internet.

I was able to ask the question to a couple of people.  If you need supplies, you get answers via word of mouth or drive to the nearest Home Depot (or simliarly locally owned store).  Otherwise, the internet for those sticking it out is just a means to keep in touch with friends and family, like email.  The only consistent site that people knew about was the MSNBC Rising from Ruin, but then again, it was Waveland specific.

It felt like the blog thing hadn’t caught on yet in the small town.  Just check out town’s homepage and you’ll see what i mean.  People kinda knew about a MySpace, but no clue what a blog was.

What’s your biggest takeaway?

My biggest takeaway from the past 10 months with respect to blogs and Katrina is that the use of blogs were more for people outside of the area trying to find out information or trying to assist in some way.  Maybe Grace or Dina can offer an excellent counterpoint (as my view is limited to just a small handful of Waveland residents), but the residents, the actual people "on the ground" and staying on the ground really didn’t use blogs or the internet at all, beyond just keeping in touch with one another.