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Crowdsourcing takes center stage at TEDxOilSpill Event

By Ford Cochran

If there’s a theme to the morning’s presentations at today’s TEDxOilSpill event beyond the dire consequences of leaking oil, it’s this: Much of the best hope for addressing problems created by the BP Deepwater Horizon well rupture and the world’s larger dependence on fossil fuels lies in large numbers of people collaborating through crowdsource tools such as social media websites, community-built GIS map layers, and citizen reporter networks.

The smartphone may not be mightier than the tar, but it can help you figure out where to go if you’d like to help scrub some off a bird or a beach–and maybe speed the process of finding sustainable energy sources as well.

“We believe this is the future of disaster response,” said software developer Sean Soper–“Crowdsource it with a smartphone, upload it, and share it so folks can act on it.”

Soper was demonstrating Oil Reporter, a free mobile application developed for Crisis Commons that enables people to “help with the recovery effort by using real-time check-ins to report what they’re seeing on the ground. Users can upload photos, reporting oil sighting, harmed wildlife sightings and much more.”

The TedXOilSpill event comes at the end of the week-long TEDxOilSpill Expedition. A team of photographers and videographers traveled to the site of the ongoing oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico and to some of the Louisiana and Alabama cities, towns, marshes, and beaches most affected by the leaking well.