Smoke signals in an ash-clouded sky would not have helped matters for the thousands of stranded travellers that found good use in Web 2.0 when reaching out for help.
Social networking websites, including Facebook and Twitter, surfaced as essential tools for those stuck as a result of the ash cloud plume disaster emerging from the Icelandic volcano. As several travel and airline websites crashed under the pressure of online inquiries, these websites enabled people to connect with others that were stranded, or those that offered help.
The Swedish carpool movement set up a Facebook group called Carpool Europe to facilitate the connection between people asking for, and those offering lifts. The group seems to have been very effective, with wallposts such as “I was stranded in Budapest for 5 days and thanks to you I found a link here to a bus going back to Sweden and I contacted them and now Im home safe and sound. So keep up the good work and thanks again” and “Thanks to carpool europe, I got home from Hamburg via Stockholm last week. Otherwise, would have been stranded there for quite some time. This rocks!”. Users from all over Europe, and even some from Australia and the United States have made use of the service, as per the wallposts.
The hashtag ‘#ashtag’ on Twitter gained enormous popularity soon after the eruption on Friday, as did #getmehome and #roadsharing. People posted experiences, asked for advice, lifts and accommodation, while others offered the same. Someone even created an account for The Ash Cloud, offering creative respite floating through all that distress, like starting the hashtag #ashtunes which asked people to post song titles that should have been about the ash cloud. @TheAshCloud also offered news updates, but written entertainingly from the cloud’s point of view.
Some really great photos of the ash cloud were posted to Flickr by people like Baldvin Hansson who flew above the cloud or were around the volcano site, and by others who photographed their surroundings and the situation.