Working on CoexistSTANCE

Tonight, Paris is Beirut. Paris is Aleppo. It is also Kano, Nigeria, too.

Yesterday I was Tweeting with the Syrian Civil Defense — the “White Helmets” — the people who pull bodies out of buildings. I was favoriting messages they posted. They were favoriting mine.

The new Twitter “hearts” were gruesomely out-of-place. I was not “liking” or “loving” these images. I was marking these tweets as important. The hearts were ghoulishly surreal.

I was watching video of the Russians who had dropped white phosphorus (WP) as an anti-personnel munition. A violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). The U.S. did the same thing in Fallujah in 2004. The tactic then was called “shake-and-bake” — burning out positions with a chemical that burns its way through clothes, flesh, all the way down into the bone — that bombs didn’t work against. I was pointing out to the Russian government how the OPWC had condemned the use of WP as an anti-personnel munition by the Americans in 2004. It is still illegal today. Yet hardly any media outside of those of us closely watching the Syrian crisis said a word.

Also yesterday, in Beirut, ISIS had twin suicide attacks. 43 died. Over 200 wounded. People sneered, and even cheered, that the bombs went off in a Hezbollah stronghold. To them, the Lebanese were getting what they deserved for supporting Assad.

Day-in-and-day-out I’ve been monitoring these conflicts, from Boko Haram to Al-Shabaab to ISIS, al-Qaeda, the Taliban.

Yet elsewhere the web was filled with fashion shows inspired by the Kardashians, or the typical Silicon Valley marketing spiels: “Is your cloud data secure?” I was attending a conference up in San Francisco. The talk about creating business community sites to debate benefits packages or to support brand loyalty sort of paled in comparison to what I was seeing on my laptop and cell phone.

And then, tonight, there was Paris.

This terror goes on every day. Just in places around the world not quite as familiar to us as Paris. Tonight, Paris is Beirut. Paris is Aleppo. It is also Kano, Nigeria, too.

For all that I am aware of intellectually and whatever I feel emotionally, my understanding is not experiential. It cannot compare to the day-to-day existence of a young girl living in rural Nigeria under threat of rape by Boko Haram, nor can I say I have walked the steps of a moderate Sufi cleric towing a very fine line in Yemen with Shiite Houthi rebels to one side, and Sunni Al-Qaeda affiliates on the other. Nor can I speak of how a mother must feel harboring her family in an Iraqi village under the control of ISIS. Nor can I truly comprehend what it is like to be a father crossing the cold waters of the Mediterranean in a barely-buoyant vessel with only part of my family still alive.

My hope is not just to witness these truths and do nothing. My goal is to connect with communities, with advocates, with organizations, and to offer them aid and to empower them.

If anyone wants to help me monitor and make sense of the ongoing sources of human carnage, and hopefully identify opportunities for changing the narrative and creating an alliance for peace, my project is called ‪#‎CoexistSTANCE‬ ( It is part of my work in

I am open to donations and volunteers for CoexistSTANCE to continue and expand our work. Contact me privately if you would like to help in any way.

Also, if anyone wishes to help with the Syrian refugee crisis, my friend Alison Thompson is bringing solar lanterns to help them have light in their time of darkness.

AL AMAL FOR ALL! One Light Emergency Syrian and Iraqi refugees solar light and supply drive

Twitter: @Peter Corless

Original Post:


It Wasn’t the Day, It Was the Night, and the Morning After

[Reposted from Rockaways – Hurricane Sandy News group on Facebook.]

Today across New York City many people commemorated the landfall of Sandy. Yet it all seemed so ahistorical to me. Because Sandy will ever be irrevocably linked not with the daytime of October 29th, but with the night.

At this time three years ago I was at no personal risk. I was across the nation, in San Jose, California. Yet I was still very much riveted. I was hunched over my laptop in the darkness here, listening to the FDNY Queens fire scanner. I typed out what little tidbits I could put together from squawked and clipped conversations spoken between dispatchers and engines in the midst of the flood waters.

I knew Sandy had been approaching for days. I knew, too, my stubborn Irish-American mother had refused to evacuate. She was determined to stay put in the same house she had lived in since 1970. I also knew that she so-often fell asleep early, and moreover, preferred to sleep in a room in the basement.

So I listened all that night to the FDNY on headphones, praying that there was one block they did not have to go to. Long after everyone else here in California was asleep, I kept listening and typing away here on Facebook, and on Twitter. I heard from the FDNY scanner the fire trucks getting stranded and breaking down in the flood waters. To bypass a fire raging out of control to go to another fire beyond it. Of trucks unable to reach Breezy, and the growing alarms as the blaze raged out of control. I shared what I learned with friends: P.S. 114 and Beach Channel classmates from decades ago. We made a loose confederation of news collection points during the night. There were a few scattered reports from the ground before cell service was cut off. We heard about the fires and the floods. For a moment there we had false alarm St. Francis de Sales was ablaze. By some miracle (and I do not use that word lightly), the flames did not reach that bastion of Rockaway’s faith.

Ruth Domb DeSantis, elsewhere in California, was in tears and begged me to “do something.” I promised her I’d do it.

The next day, October 30th, I started this group. Over the coming days, I soon discovered Katie Honan & team’s indispensable Rockaway Emergency Plan. Rockaway Community News (Rockaway100). And so many other voices! More and more folks started getting plugged in. More and more of a picture of what had occurred began to emerge.

So for me, for all times, I shall ever remember it was the night when Sandy made her fateful landfall. And it was the morning after, in that wan dawn of devastation, when Rockaway began to reunite, recover, and rebuild.

Three years now later, we can celebrate all that has been accomplished for the rebuilding of so many lives, so many homes. It has taken years to put back together what was devastated in just one night. We must also recognize the unevenness of the recovery: for every family that can celebrate, there are still others who have yet to feel that sense of normalcy since the night of the storm. We must commemorate those who survived yet lost so much, and those lives who were lost forever.

Though we can look to the past so vividly, we must also look forward with similarly intense vision. We can look forward to the work that lies ahead. I would like you to use this date of commemoration of loss to find some cause you yourself would like to pledge your efforts towards. It need not be an abstract philosophy or far-flung cause around the world, either.

As those who are so actively working on community gardens, free flea markets, elder care, youth programs, ecological causes, lively arts, holiday efforts for those-in-need, and so much else can attest, there are many ways to do good, and so many unmet needs, right in the 1169x zip codes.

For me, the work on Rockaways – Hurricane Sandy News has now led me to do disaster recovery via social media as a pretty intense personal cause. In the past month alone I have been active on Hurricane Joaquin / SC Flooding, Hurricane Patricia in Mexico, Typhoon Koppu in Philippines Typhoon Aid, Pakistan Earthquake Response, and more.

My hope is to take the lessons learned with Sandy and apply the best practices, tools and methodologies to other communities-in-need. And to expand from disaster response and recovery to deal with other crises and conflicts using social media to help bring communities together in times of dire need.

Such activities also intersect with my work and interests monitoring war and extremist violence around the world. In Afghanistan, for instance, earthquake response is being complicated by the presence of the Taliban. And also just tonight, I am monitoring a cyclone that may hit war-torn Yemen in a few days.

Let me know if anyone would like to be volunteers in such work. I’ll repeat an expression I learned in the relief tent across from St. Francis on a cold day, “There’s plenty of disaster to go around.”

My best prayers and wishes are with you all.

Peter Corless

Advisory 11

[SMEM] Hurricane Joaquin / South Carolina Flood Recovery – Part 1

This diary serves as a day-by-day guide of the establishment of’s Social Media Emergency Management (SMEM) response to the disaster caused by Hurricane Joaquin (#HurricaneJoaquin) as well as the related “1,000-Year” storm system it fed into which produced the disastrous and deadly flooding in South Carolina (#SCFlood). Though the storm only lasted from the end of September to early October 2015, its impacts affected the lives of millions, plus devastated infrastructure and altered the very landscape of the affected communities. The impacts to individuals, businesses and whole communities will take weeks, months and years to repair and rebuild.

This first part discusses the surveillance of a major tropical cyclone that formed off the U.S. east coast, until the point that an SMEM social media community, based on Facebook groups, was created to respond. Major natural phenomena require active monitoring and surveillance long before activation of your SMEM team. Proactive communications with existing communities-of-interest can help seed awareness to make activation rapid and widespread.

Read more:

Also see Facebook:

Open Letter to Sandy Survivors (and Others)

Dear friends, companions, and disaster veterans, I wanted to write to you to reassure you that, no matter where Hurricane Joaquin makes landfall, you have in your souls the strength to face what is to come.

You know all-too-well: it *is* traumatic. It *is* devastating. And it must be faced with immediate and sustainable vigor, resources, and energy. That you can do. That’s what you can offer. I know from direct side-by-side work with so many of you.

I would like to appeal to the Sandy Survivor community to begin to prepare and commit to aid *whichever* community Joaquin makes landfall against.

Maybe, if you have some extra travel miles you can spare, you could plan to help in the Bahamas. Or donate those miles to someone else who can use them. Or, if you want, maybe you and a buddy can pack up a van or a pickup with the sorts of supplies and tools you were short on in the days and weeks after Sandy made landfall.

Maybe get together a canned food drive at your faith community, or through a local politician’s office. Maybe get some gift cards together to take the brunt out of expenses for families in need. Maybe you can establish some sort of directed aid to a specific sponsored family, like Family-to-Family offered during Sandy.

Maybe you might ask your boss for a few days’ time for a humanitarian road trip. Maybe you can pledge to help through Social Media Emergency Management (SMEM) as we have done here for the Rockaways.

However it is you wish to help, please post your plans, personal commitments, ideas, questions and requests to this forum.

We have between now and Sunday, 4 October, to ready ourselves and our families to aid another community, as we ourselves were blessed by the thousands who came to our aid in the aftermath of Sandy.

Time to pay it forward, Rockaway!

Thank you,

Peter Corless
Moderator, Rockaways – Hurricane Sandy News

p.s. For those interested in getting involved with Joaquin response:

“Claiming the Beloved Community”

Peter Corless, founder of, attended a meeting in San Jose entitled “Claiming the Beloved Community: Black and Brown Lives Matter” at the Bible Way Christian Center, Friday, 20 February 2015. His views were published on his personal blog.laurie-smith

The meeting was created by Silicon Valley church leaders and the local San Jose NAACP, and was attended by faith, community and youth leaders, as well as members of law enforcement and elected officials, including San Jose Mayor Sam Licardo, Santa Clara County Supervisor Dave Cortese, and Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith.

GlobalCommit Calls for Data Scientists, Developers and Big Data Experts

Origins of GlobalCommit in Social Media

GlobalCommit has its origins in Social Media Emergency Management (SMEM). People who use free and open social media tools such as Facebook and Twitter to communicate with communities-of-interest gathered around a crisis, whether that is a hurricane in New York City or a typhoon in the Philippines.

Yet there is only so much that can be done by social media alone. Social media often leaves great gaps in knowledge. You might get a burst of information from one highly-connected cluster of plugged-in individuals, while other needs and interests remain utterly unaddressed due to issues of “digital divides” that either pre-existed the crises, or were created as a result of it.

Combing Data Sources

Beyond social media data, there is also organizational data from community-based organizations, faith-based organizations, and even small or medium sized entities, such as companies or local non-profits or governmental agencies. These groups are usually already plugged into communities, and can assess needs that external groups would not have historical insight into.

On top of that, there are “big data” collections, often gathered by large corporations, high tech organizations, governments and large NGOs. Such data is often open for public review, though there are also more private data sources where needs of privacy, confidentiality, and identity protection are paramount. (For instance, public health data, or information about refugees, etc.)

Between these three main types of sources — crowdsourcing/social media, small/medium-sized organizations, and large-scale collections — problems and crises can be mapped and modeled in new ways that have never been possible before.

The Vision: A Global Conflict & Crisis “Weather Map”

It is the goal of GlobalCommit to eventually produce its own “global conflict and crisis weathermapping system.” Imagine a virtual globe that can be spun around. Zooming in on any major problem the world is facing, and then seeing different “layers” of the problem. If there is Ebola in West Africa, how does that impact the economy of the suffering nations? How does it affect food production and food security? Where are resources presently allocated, and where are there gaps? What groups are on the ground in which communities, and how can a globally-concerned citizen donate to help them? How can a student, a parent, a teacher, or a professional “double-click” on any of these crises to get more information on more granular levels?

There are already many diverse systems existing in the world that address such critical problems that the world faces. Where possible, GlobalCommit will not re-invent the wheel, but will partner with or refer users to other well-known resources. Wikis, forums, and other mapping and data visualization sites. However, in theory, it should as much as possible act as an aggregation source for such open data collections, to provide a broad and deep perspective on critical global problems.

Call for Participants

If you are a data professional, a developer, or are otherwise interested in actively participating in this project, please join us at our Facebook group:

Sign up, and introduce yourself. Let us know of your experience, what other projects you have worked on (or are currently working on), and how you could see yourself participating in our project.

All participation is purely voluntary.

About GlobalCommit

“Commit Yourself to the World”

Imagine you want to do something to help change the world for the better. There is a community where you can start right now. Do it. Join GlobalCommit, and commit yourself to the world.

Founded in January 2015, GlobalCommit was created to begin a U.S. West Coast “non-profit incubator” as a fiscally-sponsored project of Lend a Hand and Foot (LAHAF, Inc.), a New York City-based IRS-recognized 501(c)(3) public benefit non-profit corporation.

LAHAF began in response to the long-term recovery needs following the January 2010 Haiti Earthquake. Today, it has expanded its programs to cover many domestic and international needs.

The predecessor programs for GlobalCommit date back to the 2012 Hurricane Sandy, and before that, philosophically, to projects for global understanding spanning back as far as 2006.

However, what has become apparent in this millennium is that “understanding” is not enough. We have to get involved and stay involved if we are going to change anything for the better. With the rapid changes of technology and society, we can no longer rely solely upon large governments or corporations to see to the needs of the world. Large organizations take time, sometimes years or decades, to respond to emerging needs and issues.

Instead, it is up to concerned citizens of the world, self-organized and self-governed, to help fill in the gaps between existing government agencies, NGOs, corporations and non-profits. We cannot replace the “heavy lifting” capability of entities with billions of dollars at their disposal. Yet we can fill in the gaps and direct these large entities to apply their major capabilities to where they are needed most. We can be the “interstitial tissue” in chaotic situations, helping tie together different and disparate organizations, communities, and viewpoints.

GlobalCommit will not seek to replace or supplant de jure or de facto authorities or organizations, yet will seek to enhance and empower their capabilities, foster community around issues, share information, and generally serve, where and how possible, as at least a stop-gap for individuals and communities for whom no other organization has yet stood up to provide remedy and resolution.

A Bit Disappointed in Bill Gates, Seriously

Just days after I launched, there was a big hullabaloo that came out regarding using “Big Data” to solve global problems. That’s fine. I believe in that too. I mean, that’s the point of starting I want to create some really cool projects to address big world problems. I want to create a global model of crises and conflicts. I believe it is vital to crowdsource data, and blend it with information from NGOs, governments, businesses, and non-profits.

Yet it was who was behind this other movement that got all the media attention and sucked the oxygen out of the room for everyone else.

Because the person making the news was no less than Bill Gates. His gatesnotes summary was entitled “A Call for Global Citizens.” The media was all atwitter this week about it, including a Forbes article about an initiative that Mr. Gates is endorsing, called

It was right up there in my same philosophy for Sweet! Great minds think alike! So, the same day I read the article, 21 Jan 2015, I joined it too, and posted on Facebook for my like-minded friends to join it too:

Bill Gates is asking me to be me: a Global Citizen. I wonder how open Bill would be to giving me a million or two to help GlobalCommit get off the ground. Anyway, Bill, if you’re reading this, get in touch. I have a plan to help you win your bet. Meanwhile, yes, I registered at I hope my friends do too.

‪#‎CivilityMovement‬ ‪#‎GlobalCommit‬ ‪#‎CoexistSTANCE‬ ‪#‎FeedingLiberia‬ (Link)

Then I started poking around. Wait. Some projects seemed to date to early in 2014, or 2013. Huhn? I thought this was just announced. Poke poke… Hrm… Why were there so few comments in each group? Well, there’s a story here.

Bill Gates is not starting; he’s just now going to be funding it. The organization itself has been around since 2012.

Bill and Melinda Gates have been doing some great stuff. Yet anyone who has ever used Microsoft software can attest: not everything he touches turns into quality product. Sometimes it takes a few years, or a decade, to shake the bugs out of the system.

Ahem. Bill, know I love you like a brother. Please hear my feedback honestly and forthrightly offered. The initiative has its heart in the right place, but it can be done far better. (And yes, I am speaking about this from my own little anemic website which is barely little more than a just-installed vanilla WordPress site myself… I’ll honestly admit I need to do a lot with my own site. One major difference, of course, is that I don’t have your wallet, Bill.)

Let’s get into the specifics:

“Like and Share” Won’t Save the World

When doing crowdsourced collaborations on chronic and acute world problems, you need to do a few things more than “like and share.” The process is an increasing intensity of effort.

  1. Awareness – Can you even perceive a problem exists? Can you sense it?
  2. Knowledge – Do you have data to scope the problem? Its structure, symptoms, size and severity?
  3. Interest – So you know there’s a problem. Are you interested in learning more? Helping out?
  4. Understanding – Can you define root causes of the problem? Its nature? Contributing factors?
  5. Concern – Are your sympathies sincere? Is your heart in the right place to help? Check your motives.
  6. Vision – Can you imagine a solution to the problem? How should the world actually work in your vision?
  7. Expression – Do you share your concerns and desires for change with others?
  8. Influence – Can you persuade others to change their course to align with ideal solutions?
  9. Involvement – Even if you care to do something about it, do you take action? Deeds beyond words!
  10. Commitment – Do you work on a problem until it’s solved? Traction and action!

That ten-step process — from initial awareness to commitment of action — is what differentiates passing ephemeral extemporanea from world-changing personal passions.

When I went to, I had all the passion of someone running his own small and nascent non-profit initiative that wants to tackle major global problems: violent extremism, domestic civility, food security, historic preservation, disaster response.

“Take Action” — Awesome!

“Ebola Action Center” — Great!

Err… Then I am presented with a bar of logos, and a bunch of photos. Hrm. Uhm…. Okay. What do I do here?

I click on “Most Recent…”

And the page doesn’t change.

I click on “The Campaign.”

And I see two pictures of “Thank You @Yale President Salovey for Being a Global Citizen!” and “Universities Must Help Their Staff Work on Ebola.”

Hrm. Okay. That’s not what I was looking for…

“Updates” (with a bullhorn logo)

And I get a bunch of pictures of … One Direction? Legos? A couple of other pictures, but… all of this looks like newsfeed stuff. “Ebola in NYC and We’re All Still Here.” (No kidding. Why are you pandering to #Ebolanoia?) “Ebola Outbreak in the UK – Should We Worry?” (Answer: No.)

I don’t get what they want me to do. This isn’t a call to action. Instead of Legos, where’s the logos to contribute to MSF? International Mutual Aid? Where’s the links to the WHO Situation Reports or UNMEER?

Seriously, with all the faux-newsish alarmist questions and the celebrity pix, this page looked like it was disaster relief organized by People Magazine. And that’s an insult to People Magazine.

“Ending Ebola.” Okay. Finally we’re getting somewhere. “16 Organizations That Are Working To End Ebola in West Africa.” Yay! Yet why is this buried so down deep? One of a bazillion links to click on, many of which are in-the-past news stories of little current interest or urgency.

For instance, in “Take Action,” two of the articles are from August 2014. That, in “virus time” is over 19,000 cases and 7,600 deaths ago. The virus has grown 12x in terms of cases, and 9x in terms of deaths since that time.

The user/community comments under the One Direction-photo-leading “Band Aid 30: Friend or Foe?” were terse and useless. “Very inspiring,” and “Be proud and yolo.” (For those who don’t know, “YOLO” stands for “You Only Live Once.” Which the Urban Dictionary defines as “The dumbass’s excuse for something stupid that they did” [sic]. Take that for what it’s worth.)

Seriously, Bill. Is this what you’re backing? It utterly belies the Forbes’ article which gushes about “Big Data.” This is just social media pablum. Comments and little else. There’s no geoindexed mapping system here. There’s no public health database behind this. There’s no time-series regression analysis, real-time newsfeeds, or anything that would constitute “data,” never mind “big data.”

For instance, if you go to HDX, you’ll find no less than 49 datasets of information about Ebola, in formats from XLS and CSV, to JSON and GeoJSON, Geonode and Shapefile. The UN is waiting for someone to slurp up that data and make something useful out of it.

That’s the sort of data I want to get at for

I truly see success, traction, coming from a triad of input sources, with three legs:

  • Tactical Data — from social media-connected individual perspectives and groups.
  • Operational Data — from local non-profits, community-based organizations, businesses
  • Strategic Data — from governments, multinational NGOs and multinational corporations

What I’d like to do with it is to create a close-to-real-time global “conflict and crisis weathermap.” It’s been my vision for years, since my early foray at Global Understanding, to create such a global map, and then have “problemspace portals” with maps, lists of organizations active in the area, ways to get involved, etc. A very similar vision. Only… Far more focused on activity and accessibility. Something that works and was pragmatic, rather than looks great.

What I got from was not really… well… it felt like it was a pretty-looking site, and with some good articles, and possibly something inside it that was worth finding if you wanted to keep clicking to find what you needed, but not with great methods exposed to actually engage towards these initiatives. It was not really collaborative. There was no workflow. There was no Wiki. There was no way to roll-up-your-sleeves and get down to business. Do I have that yet with No. But that’s what the world needs. In a serious way.

Crickets Chirping or Crowds Cheering?

Exploring further in, in some groups, there had been little or no comment for months or a year, or ever. Why draw people away from, say, Facebook, to join up at, just to hear crickets chirp? There are lively groups on Facebook, such as the Ebola Social Media Coalition, with nearly 600 social media advocates, or Ebola Virus Information and Awareness Campaigner, with over 19,500 West African and global citizens all attuned to listening for Ebola updates. I know what I do for these groups, including the weekly Ebola Situation Report Analyses.

When I post my updates, I get thank-yous from people who are hungry for pertinent information. When I stop to answer a question about a false alarm of Ebola in New Jersey, I get a grateful “Whew! Thank you!”I couldn’t tell who was behind each of the groups. How many people were part of it? What were they working on, if anything?

The content and call-to-action on GlobalCitizen looks good, but doesn’t pass the scatch-and-sniff test. It needs to be curated more aggressively, getting weeks-and-months-old data archived. There need to be more conversation starters in each of the discussions. There needs to be more watching for comments, and fishing up people’s interest into deeper commitments. There needs to be more policy and process around getting involved. More workflow. More traction.

Frankly, if I, as a web site and content professional, was confused with what to do, imagine what your typical off-the-street citizen is going to make of it.

Now, maybe all this will come with a top-to-bottom site redesign now that Mr. Gates is going to contribute his vast resources to I really engaged with the site with the best of intentions. Even now, I see it as a problematic and flawed idea, but one worth pursuing to perfection. I harbor them no ill-will, and, indeed, would love to work with them as some sort of peer or partner. Yet it would be vital to not be distracting from where real work and attention is needed. and where real communities already exist to address the problems the world faces.

Let me end by also sharing my follow-up comment on Facebook from 22 January 2015, after I had a chance to poke around on

Bill steals my thunder again! I just had started when he launched this. Reminds me of the time in the Cisco Executive Briefing Center when, one day, I was telling customers about this remarkable thing called “the World Wide Web,” which was going to change their world. When suddenly Bill Gates walked by. “Did you see that?” “Yeah! That was Bill Gates!” His cult of personality trumped my little demo. Bill, I love you, but you keep stealing my thunder, dude. Anyway, I appreciate what they are trying to do with I signed up. I’ve contributed a few comments so far. It’s going to take a lot to really get people plugged in together. I hope to partner with them with my efforts, Bill, next time you’re down here in the Bay Area, look me up., 650-906-3134. We should talk.

Peter Corless is the founder of

Twitter: @PeterCorless
Facebook: GarethBeaumains

Phone: 650-906-3134