Jul 9, 2009

Little Brother's growing up

Brandon Buck - Amateur Extraordinaire

(Republished from the Causecast Blog)

by Brandon Buck

Last week I was doing my morning run (and by "run," I mean walk halfway down the block and have 2 grilled cheese bagels sprinkled with smore's flavored protein powder), and down the block were two men crouching next to a company van. Did they hit something? Didn't look like it. Then I noticed two large paint buckets, one of them being poured out by one of the men. I moved a little closer and saw that the van was a carpet cleaning service, and the water they were dumping out was blue and foamy. They were dumping their waste cleaning chemicals down the storm drain! As I walked up faster and pulled out my iPhone from my pocket, the two men saw me and quickly got in and drove away before I could take a picture.

I'm still amazed at how people do something so clearly illegal in broad daylight in open public. How stupid could they be to do this in the suburbs and think no one would notice? Or how inconspicuous it looks to quickly drive away when someone walks up? I was furious for the rest of the day that my phone was too slow to load up the camera and I could have emailed the pictures on the spot to the Santa Monica police.

The term "Citizen Journalism" has been tossed around a lot for the last few years. "Little Brother," the reversal of 1984's "Big Brother" to describe how we're being watched by the common everyone, has been used for decades. It's always been a pretty novel movement and a huge headache of dead-tree newspapers for the last ten years. In fact traditional news sources were pretty dumbfounded on how to handle it (remember Steve Jobs' death? No, the one before that that headlined CNN for a day). Major things happen everywhere all the time, the challenge has been getting the information out. Thanks to the digital age, information is fast (and as the case with Steve Jobs' falsely-reported death, sometimes too fast). But ways to take action are limited. Sometimes impossible.

The first step to making a difference is to know the problem at hand. The second step is knowing how to take action, and the third step is informing those who need to help you take action. We here at Causecast spend every day just filtering through the information to try to give you the second and third steps. But that's a truly daunting task. There's nowhere near the capability for us to cover it all. So we have to rely on our users to tell us what's going on.

We've been working really hard on the new Causecast site to do exactly that: give you the tools to let let the world know what needs to be done and how to take effective action. There's no one more excited about Causecast 2.0 than us, but what's really exciting is seeing what you guys are able to take out of it.