'Hacktivists' Work on Software for Sandy Recovery and Future Disasters

Todd Miner, from Friends of Rockaway, outlines a network of databases that would coordinate the needs of property owners with the services provided by various agencies.

Six months after Sandy struck much of the eastern Seaboard, a group of ‘hactktivists” are working out ways digital technology can improve the response to future disasters.

Dozens of people from the Rockaways and beyond gathered in a large domed tent on Sunday to discuss websites, apps and other ways local communities and service providers can collaborate better. Todd Miner, from Friends of Rockaway, wants to streamline the interaction between private service providers, government agencies and property owners, using a special network of databases.

"If this is in place before the next disaster, then the space between the day of the disaster and when I’m up to speed, with databases, which has been about four months, goes to one day, three days, four days, five days," Miner said. "You can actually make a difference."

Miner was speaking with Atul Varma, a designer from from the software and search engine firm Mozilla, and Jessica Roff, an attorney-turned-activist.

"If I had a dollar for every hour I have spent in a meeting discussing how you properly share information without privacy concerns and without undermining organizations’ restrictions, I could fund a lot of this rebuild," Roff said.

Sunday's two-hour workshop was in advance of a much larger event planned for Saturday, June 1st, that organizers hope will draw a big crowd of community members to contribute ideas.

The goal for that all-day “hackathon” in the Rockaways will be to take all the notes on Sunday’s worksheets, posters and post-its, and build them into rudimentary software programs that contributors can try out and respond to on the spot.