The Web Is Flat -- The World Responds to Haiti's Earthquake Online

The Web is flat. Technology makes the world feel smaller and more connected, with the Internet serving as the hub of activity. Look at the response to Haiti's terrible earthquake.
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We've said it before and we'll say it again: The Web is flat. And in a world made smaller by the Internet and new technologies, we become each others' witnesses -- one text, one tweet, one Facebook status update, one YouTube video, one Wikipedia view and edit at a time.

Thoughts and prayers are followed by money donated online and sent through text messages. Yesterday afternoon, four out of the top 10 trending topics on Twitter were related to Haiti's devastating earthquake, which is estimated to have killed more than 50,000 people and leaving thousands more homeless and injured. It's now up to five trending topics, including #YELE; #Help Haiti; and #Text.

On Facebook, a group called "Haitian Earthquake Relief" had 3,709 fans yesterday. It's now up to 13,000, and the group page lists the links of organizations that are helping out with the aftermath, from the American Red Cross to the Salvation Army. As we reported yesterday, there's also a group called "Haiti Needs Us, And We Need Haiti" that had 13,000. That figure has now doubled to 26,000. Within the first minute of the earthquake, some 106 people updated their Facebook status with something about "tierra" -- or earth, according to a Facebook spokesperson. Since then, more than 1,500 status updates per minute contain the word "Haiti."

Wikipedia, as always, has been a source for thousands of info-seekers. The Wikipedia article titled "2010 Haiti earthquake" was created at around 8:30 a.m. EST on Jan. 13, just a few seconds after the 7 magnitude quake struck near Port-au-Prince, the capital city. The article has been edited about 800 times in the past 24 hours, Lise Broer, a long-time Wikipedia editor whose username is Durova told HuffPostTech. It got 168,000 page views yesterday, Broer added. As of 6:30 p.m. EST, the 2,745-word article lists 106 sources -- from a news perspective, it's the most comprehensive article on the tragedy.

"Wikipedians do a really great job of synthesizing all the confusion and tracking down the information from hundreds of sources," Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales told us in a phone interview. "People all over the world have a desire to understand what's going on, and the interesting thing is, Wikipedia responds in a different way than, say, Twitter. Wikipedians are looking for sources, for validated information. They spend a lot of time in the discussion page of the article talking about whether that fact or this fact is correct. Who said it? Is it true?"

Wikipedia isn't capturing all the eyeballs, of course. There's a ticker on top of every page on YouTube that links to disaster relief via Oxfam. Within the past 24 hours, more than 4,150 Haiti-related videos have been uploaded on the video sharing site. Google, meanwhile, has created a disaster relief page, containing the most recent news about Haiti and information on its hospitals. You can easily donate to UNICEF and/or CARE, and SMS shortcodes are provided; in the U.S., text "HAITI" to 90999 to immediately donate $10 to the Red Cross and text "YELE" to 501501 to donate $5 to Yele Haiti's efforts. Here at HuffPost, our very own IMPACT vertical provides information on the ways we can all help out, including the latest news from non-profits on the ground in Haiti.

And kudos to the folks at TechPresident, which covers the intersection of politics and technology, for checking out if mobile donations to Haiti are being decreased by mobile fees. Katrin Verclas, a mobile expert at MobileActive, said that donations to the Red Cross are being processed without any carrier fees.

The federal government, too, has stepped up its online offerings, with DipNote, the State Department's official blog, taking the lead.

In times like these, technology makes the world feel smaller and more connected, with the Internet serving as the hub of activity.

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