Category Archives: Crisis Communication

H4CK3D: Why my web site? What now?

Your web site will be hacked. It is inevitable. It’s not a technology problem, it’s a people problem. Wetware is the weakest link and it is us.

H4CK3D: Why my web site? What now?

Motivations and mitigations when your site gets owned, because there is no true prevention. And if the OPM, Chase, Target, Ashley Madison and many more have fallen, then you will too. It is no longer sufficient to consider perimeter defenses. Your only consideration is to understand why you were attacked and how to limit, but not prevent, damages.

Questions to consider for SXSW Panel, or no panel, as regardless this is a topic worth of discussion.

Why did someone bother to hack my site in particular?

Is this a vendetta?

How can I prevent this in the future? (hint: you can’t, but let’s talk)

Egypt Social Media Activity Unexpectedly Small

I have been digging into the background story on the 2011 revolution in Egypt. Follow that last link for a good recap of how the police beating of Khaled Said created a maelstrom that has turned into massive protests and labor strikes in Egypt. A man named Wael Ghonim has emerged as a symbol of the revolution in Egypt after his CNN Interview as a rebuttal of Omar Suleiman, the General now promoted to a VP, did an interview with ABC News.

Regarding the politics of Mubarak’s autocracy, I think we can agree on some fundamentals:

  1. The killing of Khaled Said was unjustified and horrible.
  2. The government response to these allegations in Egypt was insufficient.
  3. The protests are right to object to 30 years of “Emergency Rule
  4. Mubarak should step down immediately
  5. The US historical support for Mubarak, while unlike the situation with the Shah in Iran, will likely not win us many friends in post-Mubarak Egypt.
  6. Social media has played a key role in the protests as evidenced by the Internet blackout implemented by the government.

Wait. I’m not so sure about number 6. The role of social media is unclear.

Working in social media I was curious and looked up the facebook group and the twitter accounts. What struck me was that for a country with a population of 77 Million, the page and the twitter account have relatively few followers. Right now Wael Ghonim on twitter has 46,035 followers

and the Khalid Said page on Facebook has 61,687 fans

Both of those numbers seem small to me given the scope of the protests. My first thought was “you must be looking at the wrong page. Surely there is an arabic page that is the real FB connector. I emailed a politically active Egyptian friend (Fayza!) and her response was:

I think that’s probably as good as you’re going to get. It’s a very active page, so my guess is that it’s the best resource for his supporters that Facebook has to offer. Lots of Egyptians speak fluent English because of the prevalence of tourism. It doesn’t surprise me that the primary FB presence is in English at all.

Perhaps Gladwell is right that the Revolution will not be tweeted. When Gladwell in his post talks about networks he says:

The drawbacks of networks scarcely matter if the network isn’t interested in systemic change—if it just wants to frighten or humiliate or make a splash—or if it doesn’t need to think strategically. But if you’re taking on a powerful and organized establishment you have to be a hierarchy.

So either social media isn’t the huge driver for change, or it is a very small subset of the population communicating through social media that is facilitating the action. But you certainly can’t say that hundreds of thousands are responding to direct tweets with a central call to action.

So to me the role of social media in the revolution is still a conundrum. And as I type this, it looks like the rumors of him stepping down tonight on 2/10/2011 were false.

More to follow….

students were four times as likely

Social networks were apparently a more significant means of transmission than seating arrangements. Students were four times as likely to play with children of the same sex as with those of the opposite sex, and following this pattern, boys were more likely to catch the flu from other boys, and girls from other girls.


“Our social networks shape disease spread,” said Simon Cauchemez, the lead author. “And we can quantify the role of social networks.”

(source and the full report is here.

PR 2.0 New Media Communications Model

New Media Communications Model from PR 2.0. An evolved version of Lasswell’s model per the book:

Says what
In which channel
To whom
To what effect
Then who
Hears what
Who shares what
With what intent
To what effect

Explained in greater detail in PR 2.0, Solis, Breakenridge. pg 190. This is mostly a note to myself as I wonder about how to measure such things in the Personal Brand Era.

Technology and Crisis Communication Panel at SXSW. Vote?


Please vote for my panel at SXSW DON’T PANIC – The Geek’s Guide to the Next Big Crisis


A little more than four years ago I wrote my first blog post. It was about the need for a form of Emergency RSS. We can share celebrity gossip headlines through feed readers faster than we could use technology to respond to a crisis. And this was an important point as I started blogging in 2005 right after and in response to a need to share after Hurricane Katrina. Katrina Lower 9th Ward PhotoCrisis response and crisis communication has always been a passion of mine, and seeing our government’s mostly failed response in New Orleans compelled me to start blogging and contributing where I could.

Running the company I chose to stay in town during the Hurricane Rita evacuation. While Rita did not hit Houston, instead crushing the gulf coast near Beaumont with little news coverage in the wake of Katrina, we did learn from the Rita evacuation. We used a wiki page on Tendenci (our software) to track down all employees. Employees on the road, which for some of them was 10 to 20 hours during the evacuation, would text their manager’s who then updated the wiki to account for everyone. We quickly knew everyone was OK.

Then last year we prepared for Hurricane Ike which went over our town. When the storm hit the ONLY thing that worked was SMS messaging. No power, no water, no data, no TV. Just radio and text messaging. Hurricane Ike hits at nightLuckily we had set up a product called Yammer, which is like Twitter for your company (and they have a business model) and we were able to keep in touch. Data services, which is what your cell phone depends on to get to web pages, went down. Voice went down. The only thing that allowed us to keep in touch with all of our employees and their families was text messaging sent directly and through Yammer.

We learned a lot about the role of tech in a crisis combined with human behavior. Example – an employee’s cell phone would die. They would use someone else’s cell to text a message to their manager saying “we are OK and staying near College Station”. Except that is ALL they would say. We didn’t recognize the number and had no idea WHO sent it! The solution was to train all of our people to put their NAMES at the end of each text message. Seems like a small thing. It is. But it makes it possible to do a head count!

Since 2005 our firm now does the web site for the Houston Red Cross and Reliant Park, both of which are key for Houston Emergency Response planning. We have the privilege of working with Firestorm Crisis Communications and Preparedness and long time clients like crisis communicator Dan Keeney. I have attended Netsquared Houston meetings when David Geilhufe taught us about People Finder Information Format. And I work with people like Jonti and Katie who have helped all of us set up our ICE cards for our families.

Now I need your help. I’d like to continue the dialog on Social Media and Emergency Response. What IS the role of twitter beyond updates? What are the alternatives for Yammer? Is there a cost effective solution for businesses and families? We have come a long way, so let’s talk about it.

PLEASE VOTE AND COMMENT on this SXSW Panel I hope to moderate. Without your vote and your comments the panel might not make. And I believe in this topic too much to see that happen. Spare a minute? Please VOTE!

DON’T PANIC – The Geek’s Guide to the Next Big Crisis

Are you and the people you care about prepared? Our panelists will share their crisis stories and tell you how to be ready, both online and offline. PFIF, Yammer, Facebook and iPhones – the technology and strategy is there and getting better, so let’s take it to the next level.

  1. How does emergency response and communication relate to the Web? Do developers and small business owners really need to care about Crisis Communication?
  2. How can our emergency teams (fire, ambulance, police, etc.) benefit from standardized data sharing? What can I do about it?
  3. What does the rise of Mobile Web mean for the next natural disaster or other catastrophe?
  4. What tools (Web, mobile and otherwise) are out there right now that my family, friends and company should be using now?
  5. As a geek, what are 5 things you should do TODAY to keep your family safe and your business running when disaster strikes?
  6. If practice makes perfect, what kind of drills and regular training should your business be doing right now that won’t break the bank or kill your billable hours?
  7. What are some of the technical lessons we learned from Hurricane Katrina?
  8. Tech and communication stories and lessons from Virginia Tech, Hurricane Ike and beyond…
  9. What is a crisis to you and how do you strategically and technologically deal with it internally and for the rest of the world to see?
  10. How can you best identify your strongest and most reliable communicators and rock stars during times of crisis? How do you deal with employees that book it and vendors that disappear?

Why am I doing this?

Well, it isn’t for business as I have no financial ties to yammer or twitter or any other messaging services. Tendenci is a content management system that powers associations and sites like the Houston Red Cross, but they are already customers. And ANY emergency response technology must be open source for maximum adoption long term. I just believe passionately in our need to share information and I think technology can help with crisis communication. Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter bring a lot to the table. If you, like me, are passionate about this, please vote for the panel “DON’T PANIC – The Geek’s Guide to the Next Big Crisis” and I hope to see you in Austin next March!

Chron Post: The roaming chainsaw gangs of Houston

Recent post on the Chron: The roaming chainsaw gangs of Houston.

Hurricanes bring about unexpected responses in us humans. It’s like the first time you see your dog or cat catch a squirrel and they go all primal on it. And you are looking at your little FeFe thinking “WHERE the $#(@ did they learn how to do THAT!?” And of course the answer is instinct.

And the morning after Hurricane Ike went over our house, once we accounted for our loved ones, our instinct was twofold.

  1. Clean up!
  2. Stay put

This makes little sense to me why these desires were so strong, but they were. Arguably a third response was “find a way to make coffee” but coffee is probably more an addiction than an instinct (and YES, you CAN make coffee on a gas grill). I’ll talk about the “stay put” instinct in a future blog post, but for now, let’s talk about that “clean up!” stuff.

So that morning we all wandered out of our houses, the wind from Ike still blowing, and began to assess the damage and clean up our yards. Yup, first response after a hurricane was yard work. Really. Dog instincts are much more interesting if you ask me. In instinct-heaven dogs are throwing squirrels 20 feet up into the air waiting for the bounce while I’m raking the yard. Baroo?

Anyway, there we were cleaning up the yard. Stacking branches by the curb. And cutting up the bigger ones with an axe left over from my Totin’ Chip days. Because I didn’t own a chain saw.

Then from elsewhere in our neighborhood emerged a strange phenomenon. The men who had the forethought to purchase chainsaws, once they finished cutting up their yards, moved to the neighbors’ yards. A small group of three of four would go in and cut up the tree limbs. And another larger group of men and teenagers followed and stacked the wood by the curb. What I observed was they did this for all comers responding to both requests and simply walking to a neighbor’s yard and getting started if they were in town or not! With no money changing hands.

Definitely the first self-organizing philanthropic chainsaw gangs I had ever encountered.

Read complete post here. And of course comments are encouraged on the Chron site!