Today there is still a lot of buzz on many social media and the press about the Skype downtime, presumably due to a software problem. Many users felt lost, often also in corporation that rely on Skype for communication with remote clients and employees.
Earlier this year there have been cases of downtime for other major platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, Gmail. In many cases people have ask themselves to what extent they can personally or professionally rely on this somewhat alien tools, they have no control or oversight of. In a couple of cases here in Europe, people have brushed up the old theme of the excessive reliance on US companies and technology and the need for home-grown solutions (often re-igniting another old theme, i.e. the importance of using open source).
I do not believe these technologies can be replaced, given how widespread they are in their everyday’s use by millions of people, nor am I sure the alternatives would be any better, given the many failed attempt of European governments at developing domestic alternatives to US or Asian technology.
I guess that we have to learn from previous generations, or some of the developing countries, where some of the infrastructures – such as the electric grid or analog phone lines – that we give for granted as being available almost 100% of the time are still unreliable. Nothing will ever be 100% reliable and – especially in IT – nothing is going to stay the same forever (or even for a long enough time).
So, besides learning to feel less desperate if tweets are stuck or VOIP does not work, we all need to really understand that technology is fallible and we will always need to exercise our creativity to react to unexpected situations. How many of us had their hard disk crash, or their phone stolen with all our contacts, or our electric drilling tool run out of battery, or our TV decoder die at the last 15 minutes of the soccer final? The good news is that we have survived all this “disastrous” events. The bad news is that we seem to be unable to leverage these experiences to deal with the inevitable failures of the latest technologies. For some mysterious reason we seem to believe that the Internet and – even more – the cloud shield us from painful experiences. But that’s not the case.
So here’s a thought for the new year. Let’s roll our sleeves and figure out how we can face the interruption of consumer social media or VOIP or email, keeping our business up and running and our stress at manageable levels. And, please, for those of us who live in Europe, let’s just give up the idea that we can do better by building our own homegrown technologies, since it is very likely that we would be as bad as (if not worse than) our friends on the other side of the pond.