Thursday, July 30, 2015

#ComeBackHome - Join hands to find missing children

In continuation to my earlier post Finding Missing Children in India I have been looking out for more ways by which we can help track and find a missing child. In that process came to know from my friend about comebackhome.org

On the first look it definitely sounded like a great idea. The concept of this plugin is by just adding one single line of code in all websites we can get the entire internet search for the missing children. When the visitor click on the banner it will show the missing children in their geographical region. This plugin is integrated with multiple missing persons databases including Interpol, NCMEC (The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children) and NAMUS (National Missing and Unidentified Persons System). That said, if we know of any other countries authentic databases the code can be integrated with that too.

If a user of a website navigates to a page that does not exist, either because the user has mistyped an URL or trying to open an old bookmarked link which is not valid anymore it throws an error message: "HTTP 404 - Page Not Found". Why not make use of these pages to locate missing people? That's exactly what comebackhome.org does. It adds an unintrusive banner with photos of missing people to any website's 404 error pages, with a hope that someone who visits the site might recognize the missing people.

"Saving one life is all it takes to make it worth the effort!"

Refer the below images to see how it would look for example in Google.com


If clicked on the banner this is how it would look like


There were few obvious questions which I wanted to get it clarified from the creators of this plugin - Bipin Suresh & Yang Su. So reached out to the contacts listed in their site and Bipin responded back with his detailed response. Thought would write about couple of those Q&A here.

1. Why are we targeting only "404 page not found" page alone? On production environment the probability of seeing this is very minimal isn't it?

When they built this plugin, they knew that the only way to make this an easy sell would be to make it as easy and painless as possible for website owners. Any obstacle (like the potential loss of traffic) would add to the inertia of not integrating. The reason they chose to promote this on 404 pages are:

  • These pages are high volume but low value
  • Convincing website owners to add this to their main pages is a harder sell
  • '404 - Person Not Found' is catchy and memorable

That said, yes, if we could convince people to add this to other pages, that would work well too, especially since, as we observed, those pages offer a magnitude of order more traffic.

2. How do we validate the authenticity of data?

As mentioned earlier the plugin is integrated with national / international databases of missing people. All vetting of records is done by these authorities.

So as a reader of this blog post what can you do?

A. CSR - My humble request is as part of CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) if organizations integrate this in their website it would be a great help to the society. This will definitely show your company as progressive, socially very responsible and more importantly will create a social pressure for your competitors / others to follow suit. If the entire internet is searching for missing people I strongly believe they would be found. Can you please try to champion it in your organization? No harm in trying isn't it?

Think about this - somebody kidnaps a kid, based on the complaint it gets logged in the countries authentic database, from the next minute it will be flashed to users in appropriate geographical region - this will effectively restrict kidnappers movement to a very small circle & help find the kids quickly.

B. Have an Idea - Do you think you have an idea to make this better? The source code can be found here - https://github.com/bipsandbytes/comebackhome please help them improve and make it better OR send it to the contact details mentioned in their site.

C. Help find databases in non US region - As we know this may not be the most current or up-to-date datasource for non US region. Reason being most of the international data is taken from Interpol which might not be up-to-date. The results are ranked based on recency and geography, but the underlying datasource should be rich and plentiful for relevancy. Please help find authentic databases of missing people in your country: especially in places like India, where data is sparse, and distributed.

Everybody in the world lead their life with hope and with this little effort from our side we can hope that there is a chance that someone who visits our site might recognize them. At the end of the day, even if one child is found with this effort, that's the end of one parent's nightmare.

If God knows everything that happens on Earth, and he can communicate with us, why doesn't he tell us the whereabouts of children that go missing? - Geronimo Jones

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