Have you ever had something happen to someone, and wanted to lend a hand? Well Amazon.com and the family of Jim Gray have brought the Good Samaritan into the Web 2.0 age. Amazon ordered up and stored images from a satellite pass of his last known location, and put up a job on their "Mechanical Turk" service, which organizes people to complete large tasks that only humans can do (think SETI@home in reverse (still not sure why they call it a Turk... isn't that kinda racist?)
Yesterday, I got an e-mail from Amazon stating that they had added higher-resolution imagery to the Mechanical Turk group, and asked if I could come back and continue the search. When I showed up online, there were over 2,000 images that needed to be processed. 35 minutes later, the community had processed every image on the site. It was just amazing, not only to be a part of something like that, but also that it felt like we were making a tangible difference, earmarking images we thought needed further study... helping searchers narrow their search.
Hopefully, this concept is expanded into a full-time Web 2.0 service that uses AJAX and what-not to enable armchair Samaritans with a couple extra minutes during the day to make a difference. But more importantly, I hope it helps bring Jim home. Amazon put up another 3,000 images today, so please go take 5 minutes and scour as many pictures as you can.
If only this was available when James Kim went missing...