I Learn More From You Than You Do From Me


In North America, Netflix and YouTube are the main traffic culprits, according to its twice yearly Global Internet Phenomena Report. Combined, they account for 50.31 percent of the downstream traffic during the peak part of the day.

The single most important technical advance in human history, the ability to connect nearly every person alive to any source of information he or she might desire, the stuff of science fiction that allows you to obtain a Harvard-level technical education via a device you can fit in your back pocket, and half of the time it’s being used to watch television. Furthermore, we all know that the percentage would be higher if every corporation in America didn’t firewall most of the video stuff.

Oh, that the Roman people had but a single neck!

When I took my first trembling steps onto USENET via my university DEC VAX some twenty-four years ago, I had no idea that my entire life would end up revolving around the Net. But it does. Ninety percent of the income I’ve earned since 1999 has been from administration/development on connected systems and freelance writing for online sources. Without the Internet, you wouldn’t be reading me in any form. Although I was a print-magazine writer in the bicycle field, I left that behind in 1998. I didn’t take a conventional journalism or engineering path in my twenties, and the magazines didn’t take an interest in me until I’d already written a quarter-million words online.

So I owe everything from my house to my guitar collection to the Internet, and that’s nice. More importantly than that, however, I’ve made the vast majority of the personal connections there. It’s brought me dozens of unforgettable adventures in the past decade, from an Air Force retirement ceremony at Tinker AFB to standing on the podium at Sepang. I’ve met more brilliant, kind, and thoughtful people online than I could have met during five lifetimes otherwise.

And yes, I’ve done a little bit of macking online as well. I’ve been a participant in that most strangely modern of ceremonies, sharing a bed or a back seat with someone almost immediately after meeting them for the first time “IRL”. There’s been romance and wonder and delight. As Joni said,

There’ll be icicles and birthday clothes and sometimes there’ll be sorrow

Oh, how I love that line. “Sometimes there’ll be sorrow.” Yes there will be.

Then there are the simple daily miracles that come from a connected life, from being in communication with all of you, all my readers and friends. This morning, I wrote an article on Toyota’s decision to do a limited “retro” run of the Series 70 Land Rover for the Japanese market. It’s a really neat decision, one that unfortunately won’t have any impact to Cruiser enthusiasts in the United States. One of the “Best&Brightest”, Signal11, offered a comment:

Toyota still makes LHD and RHD versions of 78 and 79 model Land Cruisers for direct sales to NGO and intergovernmental organizations. Generally speaking, most large fleet operators have them shipped to their regional logistics bases for final outfitting before they’re shipped out to their eventual destinations, but in emergencies, Toyota will assist in airlifting vehicles directly from the factory out to your destination country.

Is this the same “Signal11” who used to amuse me when I was reading Slashdot in 1999? I have no idea. Is he really involved with all sorts of overseas madness and blue helicopters and whatnot? But I started doing my research, and sure enough, he’s right. So I know more about Land Cruisers now than I did this morning — and that same experience has been repeated, time and again, in topics from materials science to Led Zeppelin.

Like many people, I’ve occasionally dreamed about living in the past. I’ve permitted myself to think that I would have been better-suited for a more decent, a more honorable, a more thoroughly comprehended era, if such a thing ever existed. How ridiculous. For me, as for most of us, these are the good old days.

6 Replies to “I Learn More From You Than You Do From Me”

  1. Avatarclark

    Half of the *downstream traffic* — not half of the *time*; I’m surprised that a vet like you wouldn’t catch that. In time spent as a function of bandwidth consumed, the Ruby tutorial : an HD Youtube :: electric motorcycle : MAZ-5309

    • JackJack Post author

      It was a quick and flip generalization.

      Consider, if you will, that much of the *other* bandwidth isn’t consumed by humans. Every piece of online backup software, every GitHub sync, everything that every computer at every business location does unattended, every update of every piece of software from Amazon Cloud Player to Debian apt-get dist-upgrade — that’s all part of the other 48 percent. Which makes the Netflix thing even scarier, doesn’t it?

  2. Avatarjz78817

    I can’t find the image, but I saw a pic of an exchange which went something like this:

    Q: If someone came forward in time from the 1950s, what do you think they would find the most amazing?

    A: I possess- in my pocket- a device which can access nearly the entirety of human knowledge from anywhere I might happen to be. I use it to look at pictures of cats and argue with strangers.

  3. Avatarskitter

    “Even with the sacred printing press, we got erotic novels 150 years before we got scientific journals.” – Clay Shirky

    Also, it’s not like there aren’t things on Netflix that will change the way I see things, or maybe even improve the way I treat other people. There’s always the Pareto principle and Sturgeon’s revelation to contend with, but Netflix hasn’t corrupted anything noble. That’s always been on the fringes. Usually when we lament the passing of an ideal, it really means that it never existed in the first place. All that’s lost is hope, but that sounds too bleak. It’s not lost, gone in an absolute sense. We’re lost, and we have to find our way back.


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