When famous computer scientist Jim Gray went missing a few days ago, the coast guard launched a large scale search that found absolutely nothing. On Thursday, they gave up.
Then Amazon stepped in. They arranged for a satellite sweep of the area and stored the images on their S3 storage service. They then created a task on their Mechanical Turk service to allow volunteers to scan the images to look for the boat. It’s a tough task – the boat would only be about six pixels in size in an image, and there was a lot of cloud cover obscuring large parts of the area scanned. But volunteers are pouring in to help out.
If you’d like to help, go to this task on Mechanical Turk. You’ll be asked to view five satellite images and note any that should be looked at more closely.
I hope that new web technologies will make helping people more common in the future. When tragedy strikes, people may be able to help in an effective and organized way instead of simply watching events unfold on their television.
I’m off to look at satellite images of the water outside of the San Francisco Bay. Please come help me.