Tag Archives: Internet

No TV, No Internet, The Crisis That Wasn’t

What a strange moment.  The car, the music, and suddenly, in the midst of unwarranted stress, an unexpected peace. Sort of like the right mellow music at just the right time. When the mood changes all at once.

I was driving home from the office at night. I’d been home for dinner, but gone back to the office for a while after dinner. The car drove smoothly over a newly paved street under soft street lights highlighting shade trees in the darkening dusk of late summer or early fall.

Hours earlier, a truck ran over and knocked out our Internet and our television. “Our” in this case means most of the Willamette Valley, from Eugene north about 100 miles to Portland. A fiber optic cable trunk line was cut by a dump truck, or something like that.

What to do? First, the shortness of breath, the shudder at contemplating hours without web or TV. It took effort not to panic. I went to the office, finished up some things pending before leaving for California later this morning.

And then, later, that moment of realization when things came together correctly: the car, the trees, the darkening sky, the music.

Then I realized, with a long peaceful exhale, enjoying the heat of the evening, the people playing on the streets, the truth of the crisis that wasn’t. We have books. We have movies, on DVD and on our iPads. And we even have email on the iPad, and on our phones.We have books and magazines. We have each other. We’d be fine.

We could even talk to each other.

And so we were fine. Comcast was restored before midnight. We were asleep when it came back. Peacefully.

(Image: Aleksi Markku/Shutterstock)

The Web as Random Acts of Kindness

Researchers put a cute-looking cardboard robot on the streets of New York. It could only go forward but it had a note asking people to help it to its destination. It got there quickly with the help of 43 people. They asked for nothing in return.

A teenager got caught on YouTube with a humiliating video that spread like wildfire. Editors at Wikipedia make a point of keeping his name off of the story.

The Wikipedia itself is a marvelous example of people helping people, for free, because they want to.

People helping people, asking nothing in return. In the TED talk here, Harvard Law professor Jonathan Zittrain talks of the web as random acts of kindness. Node by node, computers are shared. Volunteers run the soft spots and correct problems. There’s a very refreshing optimism here, a reminder that technology isn’t necessarily making us all more lonely and isolated.


(If you don’t see the video here, you can click here for the original on the TED site.)

Here is more on Jonathan Zittrain from the TED site:

He is an investigator for the OpenNet initiative and co-founder of Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society, has long studied the legal, technological and world-shaking aspects of quickly morphing virtual terrains. He performed the first large-scale tests of Internet filtering in China and Saudi Arabia in 2002. His initiatives include projects to fight malware (StopBadware) and ChillingEffects, a site designed to support open content by tracking legal threats to individual users.

(Photo credit: that’s a screen shot from the video of the talk, about 17 minutes in.)