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i-Technology & Katrina: Fighting Unstructured Data via the Katrina PeopleFinder Project

"All you need to do is help read unstructured posts about missing or found persons, and then add the relevant data to a database

'After Katrina many friends and family members have been separated and left with no clear way to find each other,' notes Rebecca McKinnon. 'Hundreds of internet web sites are gathering hundreds, and probably thousands, of entries about missing persons or persons who want to let others know they?re okay. The problem is: the data on these sites has no particular form or structure.'

So it's almost impossible for people to search or match things up," McKinnon continues. "Plus there are dozens of sites - making it hard for a person seeking lost loved ones to search them all."

Thus was The Katrina PeopleFinder Project born.

"The Katrina PeopleFinder Project NEEDS YOUR HELP to enter data about missing and found people from various online sources," McKinnon says. "We’re requesting as little as an hour of your time. All you need to do is help read unstructured posts about missing or found persons, and then add the relevant data to a database through a simple online form.”

The Help Needed page of the wiki is here.

Business blogger Bill Ives (pictured) reports:

"I have started working on this. It seems a bit complicated at first but there are good instructions and a non-technical person like me can do it. You take data from one of many separate databases and add it into a central one.

There appear to be several benefits in addition to a single source to find people. You are taking databases with different formats and putting them into a common format so searches and sorts can work better. Also, many entries are multiple people and you are creating separate records for each individual.

Your work gives a closer personal look at the displaced people. It lets you see who is looking for who and the status of this search. Some of the individual stories emerge. It is small thing to do but you see the names of people directly impacted by Katrina and hopefully help a few people find people or get notified of the status of these people close to them. I plan to spend as much time as I can on this effort. I hope that you have some time also."

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The XML-Journal News Desk monitors the world of XML and SOA /Web services to present IT professionals with updates on technology advances and business trends, as well as new products and standards.

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