Ten days on, the default Darfur layer in Google Earth is still making waves — on blogs and on bulletin boards, in columns and presidential speeches. Purely in terms of media exposure, this is without a doubt the most successful default layer ever added to Google Earth, and that is entirely a Good Thing ™.
Several further thoughts on the past week:
- I think the media were generous towards the idea of rallying to the cause of Darfur, because there is certainly a will among news people to give it more exposure, but in an event-driven news cycle “Darfur still suffering” just doesn’t cut it. The Google Earth layer, however, provided the media with a timely pretext for raising the issue again, and the tech angle gave the stories something other than just despair and doom, which news editors were eager to highlight. That’s what drove the wide coverage.
- Many people are passively aware of the crisis in Darfur, but do not necessarily know where exactly Darfur is, though they may even feel that they probably should know. The Google Earth layer provided a ready opportunity to turn that passive awareness into an active and rewarding quest, and many embraced it. As a result, far more people now know where Darfur is compared to two weeks ago.
So what’s next? Tobedetermined! has a good point:
Why not include a button in the Google Earth layer where I can immediately put my money where my mouth is (even if it’s a single euro) in order to help the relief effort, or better, help rebuild the particular village I am looking at at this very instant in Google Earth.
It’s one of the possibilities that was mooted, in the abstract, early on in the process: Wouldn’t it be nice if we could add donation placemarks, so that people could make a connection and then immediately send microdonations? But the project soon took on a life of its own, and the focus became documenting the atrocities, which is best done neutrally. The canvassing can always come later.
Well, how about now? The Darfur Wall is an an initiative by the Seattle-based Darfur Foundation, and it sends 100% of the proceeds to four Darfur relief organizations: Doctors Without Borders, Save Darfur, Save the Children, and the Sudan Aid Fund. Plus, the website is a cool piece of savvy programming:
Ogle Earth’s traffic spike this past week resulted in some windfall advertising revenue. I’ve just sent all of that to Darfur via the Darfur Wall.