UPDATE: Emergency Social Media For Good: The Funeral

Hello all. Many of the readers of this blog would know I can be fairly irreverent when it comes to most things, but for once I’m being completely sincere.

The other night my partner’s grandmother passed away in country New South Wales, Australia. She had been sick for some time but was still a powerful force in the family, the very definition of a matriarch. While the news was expected, she had been fighting cancer for years, the loss of such a strong figure has rocked the family.

Her husband, Doug, has also been on oxygen for emphysema for years, and was actually admitted to hospital during her final stay, where he still remains. It is unlikely he will leave again other than to go to a palliative care facility. Patricia and Doug have been together since they were teenagers, with both now in their 80’s, and it was some comfort that they were at least together when Pat passed the other night, but this brings me to the point of this post.

The funeral will most likely be held this weekend, Saturday, February 20th, and with Doug confined to hospital he will be unable to attend. It saddens me greatly that this would be the end of their story together, but it dawned on me that through technology and harnessing my social networks it doesn’t have to be.
Essentially my goal is to have Doug at least be able to watch a live feed of the funeral, and preferably to even be able to speak should he wish to.

It isn’t that this is that much of task, technically. The funeral will be held in the town of Orange while the hospital is located in the nearby town of Blayney. By my count, and from suggestions already made to be via Twitter, what I need is two laptops with webcams, one at each end, two Telstra NextG USB modems to provide the connection, and a service to stream the content, with most people on Twitter suggesting uStream or Skype.

The real thing I need is this equipment though. I don’t need it permanently, just for the weekend, but I am essentially throwing myself on the kindness of strangers to:

a)    trouble shoot the technical side
b)    loan me the hardware, data packages etc need to pull it off.

Please leave any comments below this post and share this with anyone you know who would be willing to help. If any companies are keen to assist I will of course be happy to give you a shout out across my network for being awesome (but please remember I’m not selling branding rights to a funeral.)

Only thing to say is, go team!

EDIT: OK, some of you may have seen the original tweet from the @Telstra account but I just got off the phone with Scott from that team who said they’re in the process of sending me two NextG Cards for free to support the streaming side of the equation. There are details in the posts below but this is an amazing result and I want to thank Kristen Boschma, Telstra’s Head of Online Communications and Social Media, and the whole @Telstra team.

We’ve also managed to secure two MacBook laptops for either end. The one in the hospital will have a Input Mic and headphones, both of which I have, and we’re just in the process of looking into a better camera input for the funeral end, given the fact it wont be a close up but a wider shot. I’ll also run some tests tonight on Skype Vs uStream and see which works best for our purposes.

Finally, thank you to everyone who made calls, sent emails, retweeted this post, commented and generally lead to this result. It’s crazy to think this started just a few hours before, and while it’s incredibly soppy, you lovely Internet people never fail to amaze me.

Will update this post if any more information comes through. I’ve noticed a number of people talking about blogging about this and if you want to make sure you’ve got the whole story I can be contacted at Warlach [at] Gmail [dot] com, or hit me up on Twitter at @Warlach.

38 Comments so far

  1. billyjoebob on February 16th, 2010

    many people have iphones with tethering enabled - may be easier to get hold of than a 3g modem. Are you in Melbourne? I can probably dig up a webcam or two.

  2. Warlach on February 16th, 2010

    No, living in Sydney, probably going down to Orange either on Friday night or Saturday morning.

  3. uberVU - social comments on February 16th, 2010

    Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by Warlach: Really need your help: Emergency Social Media For Good - The Funeral http://bit.ly/cyVltI (please RT and spread)…

  4. Jono on February 16th, 2010

    I’d not bother pissing round with lots of moving parts.

    1. Check Telstra and see if they have coverage in the two locations.

    http://www.telstra.com.au/mobile/networks/coverage/
    @telstra are probably good places to start.

    2. Get two NextG phones with a cameras and the ability to make video calls.

    3. Test

    THIS WILL ONLY WORK IF TELSTRA DO NEXTG dongles
    If you want to get fancy pants, consider using streaming software that is recording to the cloud somewhere Qik, UStream whatever. Get a NEXTG dongle and laptop for the hospital end so you can have a decent viewing device.

    I’d start as small as possible two phones and go from there. The fewer moving parts the better, people aren’t going to want to be pissing around with technology at a funeral.

    As to why NextG and telstra, you are in the middle of BF nowhere and they are likely to be the only people with coverage; NextG because you want to be able to move lots bits.

    Jono

  5. Jono on February 16th, 2010

    Hmm as for gear, you could contact telstra and see if you can hire what you need for the weekend.

    Jono

  6. Dean on February 16th, 2010

    A pair of laptops with Skype will be the easiest thing to set up, but if you have problems getting the gear, there are other options.

    If someone attending has an iPhone 3GS (or other capable phone), they could use the Qik app to send video to a site that Doug could watch from the hospital. Doug won’t be able to address the funeral live, but perhaps someone could take a video camera to him in hospital and he could record something there to be played at the funeral.

  7. Warlach on February 16th, 2010

    Thanks Jono,

    I’ve already accepted that Telstra will have to be the go, as you say both locations are in the middle of nowhere.

    Only concern of using a phone at the hospital end is of it being too small for Doug’s eyes to easily follow what’s happening, hence I’m leaning towards a laptop at least there.

    Getting a feed of the funeral for Doug to watch is priority number one, certainly, getting a two way feed is the next step. Obviously also the less slap-dash a setup I can get access to the better.

    As for the technology at the funeral, I’m already planning on my end for a second person to help me so we have someone taking care of it at the hospital and the funeral without bothering the direct family at all.

  8. Anna Rose on February 16th, 2010

    I have a digital camcorder which you are welcome to borrow if this helps with a pre-recorded message from Doug or plugging into laptop to use as a webcam?

  9. Beaney on February 16th, 2010

    Do you want to borrow my laptop for the weekend? In theory I’ll actually be outside all weekend, so I shouldn’t need it.

    Let me know :)

  10. Kristian on February 16th, 2010

    You might want to check with the hospital about using mobile devices, there may be restrictions.

    And while you’re doing that, you might ask whether the hospital has it’s own wired connection that you might be able to borrow.

  11. Maralyn K on February 16th, 2010

    Hi. Have contacted a client in Orange who has passed me details of someone who may be able to help you. DM me your contact details and I’ll call you.

  12. Stuart Livesey on February 16th, 2010

    You might also find that the Blayney hospital has some form of video-conferencing link available.

    I lived in Orange for quite some time and went through Blayney frequently … they’re not really in the ‘middle of no where’.

    Stuart

  13. billyjoebob on February 16th, 2010

    social media? fuck yeah. Telstra’s Head of Online Communications and Social Media saw these tweets, contacted her team and is going to organise the provision of all of the tech needed to make this happen. Inside 2 hours. Who says this twitter thing’s a fad?

    It’s also, I think, important to note that she has specifically said there will be no press release or publicity about this.

    Top work Kristen Boschma. Top work.

  14. Kimota on February 16th, 2010

    She won’t need to. Social media is such that the publicity and wom will happen automatically - as it already has by it being commented upon on Twitter. We reward those who deserve it. Being selfless and generally a ‘good egg’ is it’s own best PR in social media. Far from cynical brand involvement (like those brands who plaster their logo over reality shows while helping a family in need) this is how it should be and the resulting publicity coming from the people and not the brand is therefore a million times more genuine. I know I’m already planning a blog post on this story.

    Top work indeed!

  15. Sheila (@stinginthetail) on February 16th, 2010

    that’s just brilliant :)

  16. @steve_happ on February 16th, 2010

    I could have done it for you with my laptop and skype.
    but i am in melbourne at the moment.
    skype works really good. i talk with my son on it with no problems at all.

    good luck with it and its good to see the compassionate side of technology.
    lets do good!

    cheers,
    steve

  17. Rob Sharp (@quannum) on February 16th, 2010

    Condolences to your partner, Lachlan.

    I’m touched that Telstra - who to all extents and purposes have a rather grey face round these parts - have been able to help you. Great work both to yourself and Kristen Boschma for making it happen.

  18. Dean on February 16th, 2010

    Throw Livestream into the testing mix too if you’re considering one of those broadcasting type services. I reckon that Skype’s your best bet for point-to-point though.

  19. Warlach on February 16th, 2010

    I think Skype will be the go - don’t want to broadcast the event, it really is just for Doug.

  20. Tony Hollingsworth on February 16th, 2010

    Lachlan
    I am sorry to hear of your loss - best wishes to you, your partner and her family. I am just picking up on this post late on Wednesday. Sounds like you are sorted for laptops, but I have two Eee PCs with webcams you are welcome to borrow them.

    Tony Hollingsworth

  21. @eunmac on February 16th, 2010

    Warlach, glad to see that in times of need people still care. Heart goes out to you, the family and Doug. Thanks @telstra for helping out when it mattered.

  22. caronnect on February 16th, 2010

    Condolences to your partner, her dad Doug & you. What a great partner you are to come up with this wonderful use of social media and internetz.

    Good on @telstra for doing something worthwhile and supporting this initiative. Skype will work well. I hope all the connections connect and that the funeral is a wonderful celebration of Pat’s life and her marriage with Doug.

    Warm regards
    Caronne

  23. Maralyn K on February 16th, 2010

    Hi Lachlan. Good to see that @Telstra has come to your assistance. Social media community is awesome, and happy to be a part of it. Best regards Maralyn

  24. [...] Lachlan Hibbert-Wells posted the request for help yesterday afternoon, telling readers of his blog: “The other night my partner’s grandmother passed away in country New South Wales, Australia. [...]

  25. [...] acting like a human leads to good that you can’t immediately measure in dollars but that has a profound impact (BTW, great job on this Telstra. You won a lot of friends for this).At the core of behaving like a [...]

  26. [...] now the Monday after I cast my plea for help to the social media winds. You can read all about it in the previous post, and I’m going to writing here with the assumption that you know what I asked for, and how people [...]

  27. Topical on February 23rd, 2010

    You came with such great idea man, even though Doug finally can actually attend the funeral with some great help from the hospital. It made me realize that: we can humanize our technologies.

  28. [...] an amazing response from Telstra, and others, for a call to action through social media, [...]

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