Haiti Earthquake + Social Media = HaitiXchange.com

Yesterday, there was an horrible earthquake in Haiti that measured 7.0 on the Richter scale‎. We won’t know until the sun comes up how horrible it was, because electricity AND telephone service was knocked out.

Haiti National Palace destroyed in earthquake, Port-Au-Prince

My long time friend and college homeboy, Pascal Antoine is Haitian. He founded and has been maintaining a website called HaitiXchange.com for a lot of years now.

I normally don’t watch the news at all, but I’ve been fascinated by the recent trend of channels showing 3% news and 97% punditry (people giving their OPINIONS about what the news means instead of showing us a bunch more news stories). So I turn on the television around 8pm and flip to CNN, where the slot says “Campbell Brown”, so I’m like “*yawn* Here we go!”, and she has a different look on her face and the marquis below her reads something like “Hospital Collapses In Haiti”.

The fact that I randomly flipped to a channel and they were DELIVERING news instead of GIVING THEIR OPINIONS about the news told me this was something serious.. On top of the fact that there are only three news stories that any of the channels are talking about at any given time. ‘Matter of fact, they just brought back the White House party crashers! :/

So anyway, I was like “I need to make sure my homeboy Pascal heard about this! :O”. So I punch up his number on the cell, and he’s like “Hello?”. I’m like “Yo. It’s Bill”. He goes “My friend Bill just called me…” and I’m like WTF is he talking about??? 😀

So I’m like “Listen man. I’m watching CNN and they said a hospital collapsed in Haiti..” and then I’m listening to what he’s saying and I realize he’s got to be broadcasting on the air, live. hahaha I thought I was offering him a SCOOP and here he was already broadcasting the latest information to his HaitiXchange viewers! 😀

Realizing what time it was, I hustled off the phone with him and pulled up his site on my computer where he was using Livestream (formerly Mogulus) to embed live video & audio on his homepage like I do on http://billcammack.com/live/. I was like “SWEET!!!”….. until the embed informed me that he had already reached the maximum number of viewers on his stream…..

When I saw this, I first thought it was some kind of Fail Whale, like Twitter loves to do, so I refreshed the page and it gave me the exact same message. Now, I was like WHAT. THE. ****?!?!?!?!?!?! I couldn’t believe it. What the hell is a maximum amount of viewers to a ******* live stream? :/

I found the answer in the Livestream FAQ:

“My channel is limited to 50 viewers, why is this?”
When you create a new Livestream Free channel, it is by default unverified,which means that you can stream to a maximum of 50 concurrent viewers at a time, and that your channel is not listed in the Livestream Channel Guide. Verification is designed to give all of our best producers maximum exposure, and to ensure consistent quality and compliance, throughout the Livestream Network.
To apply for verification first, make sure your content complies with the Livestream Terms of Use
Next, log into the Livestream Account Center. In the channels tab you will see the Verification status of each of your Livestream Free channels. To Verify a channel, click on the link and fill out the Livestream Free Channel Verification Application.

So, at least this was Pascal’s fault and not an imposed limitation by Livestream (disclosure: I have friends that work for Livestream). I used to use the service lightly when it was called Mogulus, but I pretty much stick to Ustream because it’s simple, reliable, I can broadcast to it live from my g1 (google phone) at any time, and relevant to this topic, I’ve seen HUNDREDS of people able to simultaneously watch a stream.

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So anyway, I kept hitting ‘refresh’ until someone’s connection dropped and I got in. Pascal was sitting there on camera, laptop open, cell phone in hand, taking calls from people who had LITERALLY the latest information. A friend of his, Francois, I believe, was there in Pascal’s studio speaking to his sister in Haiti who suddenly reported that another aftershock was just starting. Another guy was calling from Peru, I believe, and he was in touch with ham radio operators who were broadcasting information from Haiti. I put in my two cents by typing hyperlinks into the meebo chat that was embedded under Pascal’s live video and letting people know via Twitter & Facebook that we were getting up-to-the-minute info over @ HaitiXchange.

I stayed tuned in because this was really fascinating. This was FOR the people, BY the people. No spin. No Executive Producers. Purely people that were concerned about the situation and trying to do whatever they could to get a handle on the situation. Telephone service was basically nonexistent. Some people were able to communicate because they were down @ the Red Cross where they were able to share an internet connection with potentially THOUSANDS of people looking for refuge or aid. The chat room was buzzing. People were calling in from all over the place with the exact same story that they weren’t able to contact their families in Haiti. Rumors went around that Hotel Montana had been destroyed and that a rapper associated with Wyclef Jean named “Jimmy O” had died in the earthquake. People were concerned about their friends from the HaitiXchange forums that currently live in Haiti and that they hadn’t heard from since the earthquake hit. Pascal’s pops called his cell phone to make sure he was ok and see whether Pascal was in Haiti or in the USA…

This was international community coming together, communicating, brainstorming & consoling each other when it really counts. Instead of people being absolutely alone wherever they were, they had a site where they could get information they didn’t have and share information they did have. To Me, that’s one of the best things about Social Media. Yeah, it’s all cute that people get to shill for their businesses and try to make some money *yawn* but way more importantly, you don’t have to sit around watching some television channel that has zero interest in a situation other than the fact that it’s “breaking news” and they know they’re going to get ratings by talking about it. You get to be there when the people that are being affected reach out to each other and come together for the common good.

The sun still isn’t up yet, so we’ll know more in a few hours about the extent of the devastation. Good Luck to everyone that has friends, family & loved ones in Haiti and especially in Port-au-Prince that they’re safe but just without the ability to communicate. I’m sure that cell phones were left inside houses when people fled, phones and computers have run out of batteries, electricity’s failed to modems & routers… Keep the faith that they may be minus some material possessions, but they’re hopefully alive and as well as they possibly could be in this extreme situation.

Good Luck to the people of Haiti…

~ Bill Cammack | @BillCammack

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