BBM Humanitarianism: More Than Simple Rumours

This post attempts to propose a format (or etiquette) for humanitarian BBM messages so that they can be effective. It is like an RFC (Request for Comments) for BBM Humanitarian messages with the aim of a coherent structure.

I have recently joined the world of BBM and slowly adjusting well. Like other social media information is shared instantly. I get a number of forwarded (broadcasts) messages which are mostly funny. We also receive updates on politics (for Nigerians, a lot on the Firstlady); including political mobilization.

Occasionally we get Humanitarian messages seeking to propel a cause. These are unlike the forwarded (FW:) email messages that claim that you risk 10 years of badluck if you don’t pass to 15 people. BBM Humanitarianism are usually personal. Here are a few examples (received the first one some hrs ago, which prompted this post):

“Please Fwd this Msg:
A baby Needs AB+ Blood Immediately.
Contact: pin, 233EDCC1
Don’t Delete…
Ur Small BBM Could Save a Baby… 0-)
Its workth ur 2 seconds copy and paste”

And another example…

“Messages:
——–
View recent messages
Gboyega Timileyin’s dad:
Joel(11), Chizom(9) and Esther (7)
Okwuchukwu are victims of the
aftermath of yesterday’s DANA Air
plane crash. They have been unable to
locate their parents since the plane
crashed into their home. However, the
children have identified that they have
an uncle, called Mr Tony Okwuchukwu
in Abuja. We request that Mr Tony
Okwuchukwu calls 08023414111. Pls
broadcast this till it gets to Mr Tony
Okwuchukwu “

NB: I left the contact information in the messages because I am yet to confirm whether their cause has been realized. Similarly, a friend’s car was stolen a week ago. A BBM broadcast was immediately dispatched. My friend found her car the same day (but I’m yet to find out if the forwarded messages helped).

Without going far (referring to above examples), your mind is probably flooded with so many questions that these messages don’t answer. Let us take just two oft-missing information as examples: Time and Location.

Time:

What time was the message originally sent? Does the cause (of the BBM message) have an “expiry date”? i.e. is there a time that the cause must be fulfilled?

A message could potentially be circulated for years if the expiry date is not known. Anyone who was suffered from repeatedly getting the same forwarded emails year after year knows about this.

Location:

Where did the incident happen? Where is action required?

This has two purposes, the sender who knows the location could forward the message only to those contacts in a location and also a potential helper can assert his/her relevance to the cause based on his location

Why these Questions are Not asked?

First, let us ask if indeed no one asks these questions. I recall only two people ever asking me for any further information regarding a BBM message I forwarded (I seldom send ones that flood me with questions). The information requested were simply personal; trying to find out if I was the victim etc. I think it is established that generally people don’t ask.

I think the reasons for that may be plenty but let here are two reasons I believe are in operation (esp in Nigeria): The thrill of rumor dissemination AND inability to see ourselves as potential solution-providers to that humanitarian issue but simply forwarders. A major result of these two-reasons makes it hard for a typical BBM forwarder to differentiate between humanitarian effort and a political joke.

Worries

We hessitate to help the unfortunate because the world is filled with tricksters who capitalize on our compassion to scam (or even rob) us.

What you should not be worried about when forwarding (or receiving) BBM messages:

  • Except there is a link to be clicked, I don’t see any possibility of a virus attack. (even with a link it might not be so easy)
  • Scam artists. If you are from Nigeria (which I expect many readers of this blog are) then we know how better to deal with our home-grown internet/social-media “Nigerian Princes”.

What is the worst that could happen when you forward a BBM humanitarian messages:

  • You take a minute of your time to broadcast it at no extra cost to your BB subscription.
  • You annoy your BBm contacts with “futile” and orchestrated sympathies

The second issue (above) could be addressed with a well structured, relevant and succint messages. These messages are what this post aims to call at. I will propose a structure to henceforthe BBM humanitarian messages but this is by no means comprehensive. I look forward to discussing with anyone what a better structure should look like.

Content Verification
In spite of slim likelihood of dialling a Nigerian Prince’s number/pin it pays to pay attention to the content. My attention was just brought to a BBM humanitarian message that was requesting blood-type AB for a baby who needs transplant of something like that. Simply reading this msg on the surface, one might be tempted to forward this to help the poor baby. However simply paying attention to the sentence one might notice that blood-type AB accepts any blood type and thus requires no BBM. Anyone, even the originator of the BBM message, could donate the blood.

Proposed Format

NB: This structure could be solved through software but that is a longer solution. However creating a standard structure (even manually) could make it easy to write a software that could process/disseminate these humanitarian BBM messages further.

TOC: XX:XX – XX/XX/XX
TOE: XX:XX – XX/XX/XX
RL: city/town
Message: including location of incident
FI: further information (including contact)

*TOC = Time of Conception: when the message was written
*TOE = Time of Expiration: when the message does not require response. This could be written in terms of TOC e.g. TOE: TOC + 2 days
*RL = Response Location: where a responder to the message is expected to be in order to help
*FI = Further Information: possibly including contact

Perhaps some messages should be followed up with “progress messages” to report if the cause had been successful or not. Those who participate would love to hear that it has been solved and the people could stop forwarding indefinitely (especially when TOE is long).

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “BBM Humanitarianism: More Than Simple Rumours

  1. badeeeya

    this is quite thoughtful. but can it be implemented?

  2. Tavi

    well thought, you probably should broadcast this to your contacts. http://thinkinthots.blogspot.com/2012/06/tribute-to-amina-idris-bugaje-and_16.html

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