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Posted at 1:26 PM ET, 03/11/2011

2011 Sendai earthquake and tsunami: The Internet response is a wonder

By Melissa Bell
Specialist Christopher Gildea watches images from the earthquake in Japan on a television screen at his post on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. (Richard Drew/AP)

I want to take a quick pause to follow Louis CK's advice and wonder at the world we live in.

Within hours of the earthquake, a Wikipedia page popped up with information on the event and a list of tsunami warnings. Twelve hours since the earthquake hit, that page has been edited more than 500 times and is rife with information, including other affected areas and international response.

Google created a people finder in Japanese and in English and deployed it shortly after the event. There are currently about 6,100 records, The Post's Hayley Tsukayama reports. A map on Google marks possible shelters. YouTube immediately started compiling citizen videos of the quake. Ushahidi build a database to help those offering aid connect to those in need.

(For a full list of all these resources look here.)

With phone lines down, people took to Twitter and Facebook to connect and reassure their friends and family of their safety. Mashable reports tweets in Tokyo topped 1,200 per minute.

I know. These things have occurred frequently over the past few years, after every major crisis. Twitter starts furiously reporting the event. Wikipedia's editors move to update the page. Google and Facebook deploy resources. It happens. But 10 years ago, this didn't happen. This wealth of information, this constant awareness, this ability to help immediately and effectively was not around. And for this moment, I'm in awe of it all.

(Thanks, Marjorie!)

By Melissa Bell  | March 11, 2011; 1:26 PM ET
Categories:  The Daily Catch  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Japan earthquake and tsunami: DAY IN PHOTOS
Next: Japan earthquake and tsunami: Live updates


It is amazing how media effects our proxemics in our every day life! The moment something happens that is national I take to the web to find out information to lower my uncertainity. We live in such a world of technology I have to force myself to put my phone down and BREATHE!!! My professor acutally took our phones away from us and put them in a box for the course of the class ( 2 and a half hours) the moans and tears and converstation were appaling!

Posted by: shannonlace | March 11, 2011 2:48 PM | Report abuse

Lets hope they get real help by people with no agendas. Let hope the religious leaders don't insult the people of Japan by their usual lack of faith claims during natural disasters.

Posted by: StacyBrowny | March 11, 2011 3:02 PM | Report abuse

Even though technology can be a double-edged sword, think back to the haunting days of 9/11, when people stood on corners with pictures of their lost loved ones, desperate and with little resources. There were posters everywhere the eye could see of the lost. Now we have 'people finder' at the click of a mouse.. How far we have come!

Posted by: ellesarah01 | March 11, 2011 3:03 PM | Report abuse

Shortly after the tsunami struck I picked it up on GoogleNews. I quickly found that the news was slow, patchy, with limited reporting and factual quality, and searching further could find two video clips. Most of the material was just being continually recycled. Is this possible in this day and age?

It just suddenly struck me to search Wikipeda. It seemed ridiculous to find anything. Its an online encyclopedia isn’t it? But there it was… structured, clear, factual, seeming reliable compared to other sources, and it was being updated and improved regularly. A veritable goldmine!

I opined about this (istitgoodforyou) on the I hope they picked it up. Certainly lots of people did pick up this issue.

You “news guys” have got to get your heads out of the sand. The public who read this stuff are not goofs…. they are generally highly informed, well educated. They are demanding quality reporting. This is what Wikipedia provided in this instance. It should be a wake-up call to you all. Wikipedia (or something similar) will send you right where they sent Encarta and Encyclopedia Brittanica. I for one, hope so…..

Posted by: jeffjohns99 | March 11, 2011 9:26 PM | Report abuse

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