November 03, 2011 00:00
By Parinyaporn Pajee
Gamling.org has become an overnight hit by pinpointing the water's progress street by street
Gamling.org has swiftly emerged as one of the more reliable sources of information about the flood crisis as reports from government agencies and the social networks tumble to and fro.
More than 30,000 people are already using Gamling’s Google Maps guides to view or report where the water is flowing, as pinpointed with icons of different colours.
You register with the fledgling Thai-language site via Facebook and can then pin your location with the appropriate icon to indicate the water level and write a brief report, adding a photo if you like.
The site’s young founders – Rungrith Kittayapong, Tanun Niyomjit, Tanin Na Nakorn and Nilobol Ariyamongkollert – are programmers at Whowish, a year-old technology firm with a small staff that creates applications and websites that make life a little easier. They design, engineer and maintain the systems they conceive.
Rungrith says the company has yet to turn a profit on any of its applications – which include CollegeSwap and SwapSquare – but they’re happy to be benefiting people, especially in the flood crisis.
Gamling involves “a kind of cloud sourcing”, says Tanin, who recently won the HLP Hackathon, a mobile-programming competition.
“A lot of people want to help alleviate the flood situation, but not everyone can volunteer their time or make a donation. So Gamling is an opportunity for them to help by sharing their own circumstances.”
The four founders finance the site themselves and say they’re coping with that. Before they launched Gamling, Tanin says, they were filling sandbags and collecting donations.
“But I was in agony with sore muscles at the end of every day,” he chuckles. “The point is that you don’t have to go sandbagging to help people. Just do what you’re good at!”
The problem with the social networks and mobile applications already addressing the flood disaster, says Tanin, is that they’re inundated with text information. Appeals for assistance float in a sea of user comments that are often trivial or downright unhelpful.
Gamling instead goes for “quality, quick details and easy information”, he says. “I hope people can use it to handle their flood situation better.”
The reliability of the information presented depends, of course, on the users’ goodwill. “I don’t think anyone’s going to start playing pranks in a crisis situation like this,” says Rungrith.
He’s seen a few cases of false information, but other users in the same area check to verify and quickly correct the posting. Just the same, the team is developing a “warning system” to make sure no serious false alarms are set off.
They’re also going to add a traffic-update function with its own icons and will soon let users upload video clips as well.
“Traffic problems come with the floods,” Rungrith points out. “People want to know which streets are dry or wet and if they can drive there.”
With the crisis now expected to continue until late this month, Tanin says, no thought has been given to the site’s termination. “So far, we’re just concerned with squeezing in all of our ideas to make the site as complete as possible. I think we’ll eventually just know when it’s time to take the site down.”
Gamling.org lets mobile-phone users tag and report their situation using the iPhone’s Thai Flood Reporter application. And they can post flood photos for the iPhone and iPad using the Instagram app. Android and Nokia gadgets handle Gamling’s app networks with ease.
“Creating Gamling has taught me that when a website focuses on something very specific, it can do much more,” says Tanin. “Instagram, which was also created by just four people, zeroes in on photography, and now millions of people use it.”
Get involved at www.Gamling.org.
The name is an alternative spelling of kaem ling, meaning “monkey cheek” – His Majesty the King’s concept for irrigation and flood management.
His Majesty’s concept was inspired by by the monkey’s habit of stuffing its cheeks with bananas to eat later.
In the Bangkok area, there are around 20 “monkey cheek” swamps and reservoirs.