Admit it. The Internet sucks. It is a big, steaming pile of poo.
It isn’t cool to say the Internet sucks. People will call you a Luddite. If the Internet worked, they wouldn’t do that, because they’d be able to look on Wikipedia and learn that Luddites were 19th century textile artisans who didn’t like modern machinery. You know, like Imogene and Willie. I wear selvedge. I’m supposed to say the Internet is great. I was having lunch with a friend the other day and we were saying that very thing. We made lofty pronouncements about how we’re living in the largest paradigm shift since the industrial revolution. We used the word “paradigm” and kept on talking like nothing had just happened.
But the fact is, we’re living with technology that doesn’t work very well. If your plumbing worked like the Internet, you’d have toilets backing up all the time. Going to the bathroom would be a real crapshoot, not a virtual one. If your car stopped working as often as the Internet, or was as non-intuitive and complicated, you’d walk to work. Let me elaborate. I can come up with some examples without really even trying.
Yesterday, Facebook did not work for a while. You know what it said? “Oops, something went wrong.” That’s it. My car says “Fuel low,” and “Change oil.” On the Internet, it’s “Something went wrong.” Did Zuck forget to flush? Is it my Macbook, screwing up because it’s trying to back up on Time Machine, which may or not be working on my wireless network, which may be congested by a 12 year-old wireless telephone handset at my neighbor’s house across the street? Think of that. My computer, phone, and TV may not work because Linda is on a telephone or using her microwave. That’s like my washing machine not working because she’s ironing a blouse.
Maybe the “oopsie” was Comcast. Comcast is great for mysterious slowdowns and outages. No one likes them. I was in a consultation the other day with a client, and we were trying to explain to them they weren’t very transparent. You know what word we used? “Comcast.” They understood immediately. I’d call Comcast about my oopsie here, but I can’t find my iPhone, and I was supposed to turn on Find My iPhone. Who knew you have to turn on Find Your iPhone? They don’t want me to find it? What would I use to find it, anyway? My dryer?
You know that rat’s nest of wires and dust bunnies behind your television that you can make neither head nor tail of? The Internet is really just a big version of that. Go outside and look up at the utility poles in the neighborhood. You ever really look up there? It’s the exact same thing as behind your Christmas tree, just with different connectors. Some real-estate investors will build a 300-unit apartment complex up the street, and Comcast or AT&T will send a guy who barely made it out of high school with a truck and a ladder. He climbs up the pole, splices another wire on there and runs it over like a really big extension cord. They drill a hole into the basement and put 300 splitters on it.
I am supposed to be watching TV on the internet. It says so on every tech blog, the ones I used to read on Google Reader, which stopped working. That made me have to switch to a thing called Feedly, which is sometimes overloaded and can’t serve the news. I could watch the news on YouTube on Apple TV or Chromecast, if I could figure out the YouTube UX, which was engineered by engineers. I didn’t need the Chromecast anyway, but it was only $35 on Amazon, which also runs the servers for a zillion other websites, like this blog on WordPress, which is slower than death, even though Amazon server “instances” are supposed to be, well, you know, instant.
Where was I? Oh. Watching TV. I can’t stand the thought of not being digitally hip, which is the equivalent of not knowing what “farm to fork” means. I cut the cable, which is not really cutting the cable, because the TV cable IS the internet cable, the one out there, connected to a connector on my townhouse that’s connected to a connector on a pole that sometimes gets wet and acts up or that squirrels chew on. The net effect is that Netflix freezes just as Kevin Spacey is about to bang Kate Mara on House of Cards. Buffering hits just as he starts to take nudie pics of her with his iPhone. Apparently they were still on iOS6, or he’d have lost valuable screen time looking for the buttons and squinting at text.
Imagine aircraft being dependent on the Internet. “Ladies and gentlemen, this is the Captain. I’m going to ask you to return to your seats. I have an ooops light. We had communication with a control tower over Peoria, but iOS7 keeps crashing every time I try and check the weather. I’ll try and keep the crashes limited to my phone. That’s a pilot joke; laugh. Welcome to Southwest. Meanwhile, those of you on the left side of the plane look out and you’ll see an actual cloud. I’m navigating from that, because Apple maps is buggy and I can’t remember my login for Google Apps to use theirs. Am I boring you? Oh, and I’ll have to cut GoGo Inflight. I hope that Powerpoint you’ve been trying to download for the last hour has finished. Ta ta.”
The Internet was not invented for this. Originally, it was a bunch of scientists sending math and text and stuff to each other at 2:00 in the morning. I bet it worked fine, then. If they’d envisioned Snapchat teen porn and the “internet of things,” I’m sure they’d have put some better planning into it. Google has giant server farms that look beautiful in pictures, but in the end, they’re all connected to this just before the Internet gets to you:
Coffee shops. Ever wonder about coffee shops? They’re more proof the Internet is big poo. How can you have a room full of people drinking highly caffeinated and heavily sugared Venti beverages, all looking so glazed over? You guessed it. They’re waiting for shit to download or to connect to a free wifi network. Every coffee shop in America has one that’s slower than your aunt in Kroger. They all have cryptic passwords for no apparent reason. Don’t ask the guy behind the counter, he’s making an ethically sourced Himalayan. Then there are airports. Airports are one place where wifi and the Internet working should be a priority, since the only purpose of an airport is to have a place to wait out of the weather. Because the Internet sucks, we have people waiting for connectivity while they’re waiting for the plane lost near Peoria, when they’re not waiting for a power outlet, so they can wait to download a spreadsheet. Let’s go get some coffee.
Then there’s Apple and the Internet, who are kind of like Microsoft and the Internet, only sexier and more expensive. You know what Apple is? A girl you met years ago and married because she was hot, fit, smart, and great in bed. Who knew she would become an alcoholic after her dad died, and you’d both become co-dependent? Owning Apple shit is like having a crazy, hot, middle-aged wife who keeps going in for cosmetic surgery, but has unpredictable mood swings. Since iOS7, an iPhone is like a European car on Molly. It looks colorful and happy and is next to useless. (Stick around, I’ll mix some more metaphors in a minute. I’m on a roll.) The buttons are gone, replaced by text so thin that if you are not 100% stationary, you’ll never see it. You have to swipe and fondle the screen to discover hidden menus and buttons, like a puzzle. iOS7 is middle aged sex with a crazy person.
Apple has iCloud, too, which is their brand name for the Internet. I am supposed to be able to access my music anywhere, on any device, as long as it’s Apple’s, I pay a fee, and it’s not “grayed out” and mysteriously inaccessible. Apple is worse than your ex about admitting fault. If you go next door and borrow your neighbor’s landline to call Applecare, they’ll tell you they don’t know anything about an outage, even while their support discussions are full of people saying shit ain’t right. They even have a webpage with status lights which stay green all the time. This is to make you think it’s all your fault somehow, and maybe you should schedule an appointment with a Genius at the Apple Store, a store so modern that they don’t have checkouts, just people wandering around ignoring you and looking dreamy and happy because their internet connections work.
One more. Tech conferences. The irony of ironies is that every single tech conference has bad Internet. It doesn’t matter if it’s in a hotel or some fancy meeting space, or who has been hired to bring in “the pipe.” A partner at my company is in Silicon Valley at a conference being held by Google as I write this. Yesterday, on my Facebook wall, he posted, “Kidd Redd, the Internet sucks here, too!” This is the center of technological innovation for the entire planet, yet just like at a local Starbucks, people are having a hard time checking their email.
See? This is like shooting fish in a barrel. I have been saying for years that we’re living in the bad old days of the Internet. You can probably come up with 10 things where the Internet has fucked with you by lunch today, whether you’re Mac or PC, AT&T or Verizon, Comcast or Charter, iPhone or Android. Soon, they’re going to have what’s called Beacon, which will supposedly be able to help me find the raisins in Whole Foods, provided everything works. Think of that. And I used Fandango the other day to breeze right into a movie. It was great: the ticket taker used her iPhone to scan the code on my iPhone and I went into a movie about satellites breaking up in space and the shrapnel trying to kill Sandra Bullock. All I could think of was the poor people below on Earth, furiously trying to get their Instagrams to post, fidgeting, and wondering if they should call tech support.