Telling stories

What will you do when the screen goes black?

Posted by southwrite on August 7, 2009

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This week, when a denial of service attack brought down Twitter and for a short time Facebook, a great many people were left hanging. Someone even posted suggestion on what do with your time while the site was down. Slowly we began to discover that the outages at the two popular social media sites and similar coordinated attacks against Google and others were the result of a vendetta launched against a single blogger.   

While we laugh about being lost without our friend feed or constant stream of Tweets, we’re dependent on our highly wired infrastructure. Without an internet connection we tend to be lost and, for freelancers with a job to do, that can be a worrisome situation. As home-based free agent workers we’re dependent on the web and our access to it.

Most of my contacts with clients and sources are virtual. While occasionally going on the road to meet a source for an interview or a new client, most communication is via e-mail or phone. And, that’s another thing. At the same time that Twitter was down, I was also waiting for the phone company to send a repair man to fix my line. While I could live without social media, not having a phone put me in a real fix.

It’s hard for most people to imagine a world without the Web, but it did exist. My first job was with a weekly newspaper where reporters used typewriters [they were electric by then] to compose stories on sheets of yellow legal size paper. Editing required that the sheets be cut apart, a new paragraph taped in and then handed over to an older lady who types copy into a big clunky Linotype machine. Then we actually “pasted-up” the pages using wax rollers. In those days our readers were content to wait for delivery of the news on Wednesday evening to a street corner rack, not their e-mail in-box.

The newspaper’s owner finally gave in and bought computers about a year later and nobody missed those long rolls of yellow paper bound together with Scotch tape. While I sometimes think fondly of the “old days” I don’t miss the way I had to work then. Give me my computer, Word, the Web, and the other technology that have made my writing life so much easier and more productive.

As we’ve seen, with all these great tools has also come a great dependence as well. If you didn’t have them could you still get your job done? That a question worth asking. What would you do if a cyber attack brought down the Web as it did in Georgia just a year ago and a similar assault on Estonia made web sites inaccessible in 2007?

These latest high profile attacks seem to have originated in Russia and point to the new reality that aggression between countries has move into cyberspace. Instead of sending in troops, nations can now use hackers to punish adversaries. (Georgia, of course, felt both since the cyberattack coincided with a Russian invasion.)

How can you protect yourself from the failure (accidental or deliberate) of our wired world? If you keep all your data in a cloud arrangement such as with Google Apps, maintain files on your locally on your hard drive for use if you’re without an internet connection. Instead of relying only on a cell phone, keep your landline. The connection is dependable and even in an emergency, such as a storm, it’s more likely to keep working. And, finally, keep that old typewriter you have stored in the attic. It may just come in handy some day.

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