Posted by: The Amoeba | March 3, 2009

It Can’t Happen To Us

For at least the last year or so, if I’ve wished to get from somewhere to somewhere else here on O‘ahu, I’ve pointed my browser at Google’s transit service. Type in a “to” and “from” address, hit “return”, and presto, an itinerary appeared, complete with bus schedules and transfers and a map of the journey. It even presented me with driving and, if I were crazy enough, walking directions. It must have been a pretty good system, because the Honolulu bus system website took away most of its own online travel advice section and pointed its riders to Google.

Did you pick up on the past tense? “Appeared”, “presented”, “must have been” …

Because it’s gone now.

Oh, you can still type in the URL and the transit website appears. You still can type in your addresses and hit “return”, and presto …

Nothing.

No, sorry, not nothing. “We have no bus schedule information for these addresses on the date you specified”. Oh, c’mon! I’ve been using these same addresses for the last six months! Hell, the browser even types them in for me. Whaddaya mean you “have no information”? Did somebody forget to pay a bill? Is theBus going broke?

Or, is Google?

In case you missed it, Google has invested heavily in online data management services. Calendars. Document storage and retrieval systems. Secure (they claim) corporate communications networks. During 2008, it seemed that the Googlers were coming up with a new wrinkle every week. And users flocked to their systems.

If the plug were pulled tomorrow …

Yes, you may call me Eeyore. Even Chicken Little. As loudly and as often as you like. But before you start tuning up, let me ask you. How many times in the latter half of 2008 did you hear politicians and economists of all persuasions (at least, those persuasions who had access to the mass media) pooh-pooh worries that We might descend into a repeat of the Great Depression? “We know too much”, they said. “We know how to handle this. It can’t happen to us.”

As of today (3 March 2009), the Dow Jones Industrial Average has dipped below 7000. Both the current unemployment rate in the United States and its rate of increase almost exactly parallel the numbers observed in 1930. President Yeswecan sees no end in sight. Even Toyota is begging for handouts. And the Dust Bowl looms in California.

What can’t happen to us?

Just remember, when the blogosphere goes dark because all the service providers have gone the way of General Motors, you read about it here.

If you can spare a thought for such things while you’re waiting in the bread line.

See you there.

UPDATE 3 Mar 09: Back in January, the same thing happened to Google Transit in Providence, RI. In that case, Google had “lapsed” data from Providence; a few days later, the link was restored. With luck, the same thing will happen here.

  – O Ceallaigh
Copyright © 2009 Felloffatruck Publications. All wrongs deplored.
All opinions are mine as a private citizen.

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Responses

  1. Being careful what I ask for and all that… Google could do with a little downsizing. They recently locked me out of my own site. Now, they don’t own the domain name, they don’t host the site, and they don’t store any of the files. Such a thing shouldn’t be possible, and yet… And that’s only one of the many concerns I have about that company.

    Sure the blogosphere can go dark, and in ways people never thought was possible. Me- I’m on VoIP and get 97% of my entertainment via (legally) downloaded shows. When my ISP decides that I am too much of a drain on the system, they will shut off my service (as many places have done already). The only question is whether my multiple blog hosts or ISP will shut down first.

    That being said, I believe the Pres. is getting some info about the economy we aren’t, and that it’s good news. I won’t go into my whole theory here, but the short version is that he’s going to come out looking awfully good if he can downplay expectations and have it repaired well before people thought it would happen. You don’t get credit for fixing something too late or even on time, and he’s got another term to be thinking about.

  2. The Google AdSense people are just a leetle bit high-strung, eh? Perhaps we can get Diesel to do something about that. Not.

    Google is just one of many digital Pied Pipers out there, though. Isn’t that so, Bill? Steve?

    So you’re telling us that, on top of all the other things on his conscience, Pres Yeswecan is a Trekkie? Making full use of the Scotty factor?

  3. Yep. There’s any number of companies that will be cutting back. If online calendars aren’t profitable, they aren’t worth wasting time on the programming. The problem with blogs is magnified because they are much more complicated, used more often, and hosting costs a lot more. When it breaks, it’s not worth fixing.

    I think any intelligent politician is. That’s why “Mission Accomplished” was so cringe-worthy. And he has been called the “geek-in-chief”.

  4. Funny you mention that. On all our buses now there is a service announcement that says if you want to plan your travel plans visit google.com/transit. Yeah they can handle it all right. Give all those exe’s huge bonuses, their own planes … and I’ll always remember I read it here first.

  5. Geek-in-chief, IG? I thought Al Gore didn’t run …?!?

    Thom, Google wrote me to say they’ve received updated scheds from theBus, so transit should be back up “in the next few days”. Making it sound like theBus is the heavy here. Of course, Google would do that …


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