Monday, July 23, 2007

Guatemala Photo Essay

Ann Harrison, our Communications Director, just pulled together a great photo essay on our work with the National Police Archive in Guatemala.

Bringing Ann on board has been a key part of improving our communications as an organization. Ann's extensive experience as a journalist brings improved story telling to Benetech: combining our technical skills with the social impact that drives us.

I think this essay really brings home the reality of our work in Guatemala: the stories of interrupted lives buried in an archive being brought into the daylight, as well as the larger context of how this work connects with the issues facing Guatemalan society today.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Harry Potter all-night online party

Well, it's 3 am, and I've just checked out of the all-night Bookshare.org Harry Potter on-line party. It's been going for 7 hours already, and the moment of truth is approaching. We've been getting regular updates from our volunteer scanning crew, who have chopped, scanned, OCR'd, paginated and are now doing the final prep work to release the newest Harry Potter book to the Bookshare.org community. Within the hour, it should be available for download.

I love technology for its own sake, but it's always good to experience how technology promotes connections among people! Folks have set up, in addition to the traditional listservs, an online channel for the Bookshare.org community that allows both voice chat and text messaging in a way that is highly accessible to people with disability. Of course, the great thing is when accessibility works but is just invisible, and that's the case. Good design is universal!

So, it's just a lot of fun to engage online with a group of people who share a passion for books (specifically, Harry Potter books tonight, of course). We ended up talking about Harry Potter, JK Rowling, had people playing different Harry Potter characters, talked about home-brewed scanning systems (how to build a Google-style scanning station for less than $1000), other science fiction authors, great teen fiction and so on. I thought I'd just show up and wave the Benetech flag for a few minutes, and ended up staying for nearly two hours because it was so engaging.

Technology serving humanity: our motto. It's a blast to see it in action!