How do you get people to care about infrastructure resiliency/scale/access?


#1

All, I’ve been thinking about this since, well, I started goTenna nearly 5 years ago following Hurricane Sandy, but it feels like it’s a less-niche topic these weeks what with Harvey and Irma… and, hey, the Equifax hack.

I know I’m not alone on Mesh Community in caring and thinking about our society’s fundamental systems’ (ie. communications, energy, finance, transit, food, education. etc.) growing inability to ensure scale, resiliency, and access for the 21st-century unless radically reworked.

Everyone here knows what a mesh network is — which is rad! — but an interest in or an awareness of bottom-up solutions and ideas (like mesh networks) is still too niche given how fundamentally important it should be for everyone.

I’m wondering how we drive mainstream and, critically, sustained mainstream interest in questioning, investigating, and working on these problems. We want more people seriously involved with the “work,” of course, but all efforts will be bolstered by widespread awareness of these issues and questions.

How do we make this more than passing conversations tied to it-bleeds-it-sells news coverage about extraordinary (i.e. not everyday) events? These questions or ideas shouldn’t only come to the forefront for most people during massive disasters or personal first-hand emergencies. Physical and digital infrastructure is crumbling and/or caging us, in visible and invisible ways, and we need to be talking about it on blue-sky days.

I have a background in community organizing so I’m one of those knowledge = power people, so I have plans to hire someone to create a digital magazine (with real journalism: job spec here!), accessible to both expert and lay readers, around what you might call the political economy of bottom-up, people-powered, decentralized ideas, movements, and technology.

So in the broader context — and in the narrower context of this future magazine — how do we get people to understand and care about infrastructure writ-large? I have some ideas (some of which you can read in the linked-above job spec), but to be honest, I’m tired of them and want to hear yours. :slight_smile:


#2

I have many ideas related to emergency response, and the healthcare field, as those are two areas where I have worked, and am therefore most familiar.

I will pass along an idea I was exposed to recently, and had intuitively known, but never heard in such clear wording. The idea is that disasters (personal included) are often a combination of lack of planning, lack of information, and lack of socio-economic parity. Ultimately, all these things are linked in a web, building upon and interacting with each other, often in negative ways.

The person I was discussing this with called it a slow motion disaster. You can see the problems coming in advance, yet sometimes the momentum is too overwhelming, especially for outside influences, to change the course. This is where grassroots efforts can make a large difference, allowing communities (however defined) buy in of their own preparations, responses, and rebuilding. By taking ownership, they become invested, and therefore more engaged.

As example, I was recently reading about a group, following the recent disasters, working with victims of spousal abuse. In particular, they were working to make sure that (mostly) women who had been effected by the disaster were able to maintain their independence while rebuilding their lives. Here were people already rebuilding lives, who now need additional help physically rebuilding. They cited studies which showed how the abused will frequently go back to their abuser following a disaster for the (temporary) economic, and emotional support provided. Something is better than nothing, in essence.

This is a very niche situation, but one which is being responded to by a group seeing the need. This is a niche community of people who would normally fall through the cracks due to their niche status. I guarantee FEMA does not (and frankly, cannot) have this level of specialization in their plans.

I know my above comments are not, “tech,” related, and may be off topic, but it is definitely a perspective which is worth sharing, and considering.

I am excited for this thread!


#3

No, no this is the point! First of all, technology literally just means knowledge applied for a practical purpose. Second of all, I’m interested in human-centered approaches to traditionally top-down systems, so I am definitely looking for ideas and conversation unrelated to what we usually think of as technology. :wink:

Me too, thanks for kicking it off! The example you just shared sounds like an incredible story/question to amplify in this magazine once it’s off the ground! I am certain FEMA has never been asked, “What is your psychotherapeutic approach to disaster relief for victims of domestic abuse?” We should ask them!


#4

One final input before bed…I carry a copy of this with me everywhere I go:

“To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to know that even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.”
— Ralph Waldo Emerson

I find it a great inspiration, and pick me up on rough days. Seems worthy of sharing here.


#5

To be brutally honest, many people aren’t going to go for it if it only does text messaging to people within a 10-20 mile radius max. So, for quite a while yet, the focus would need to stay on folks with a similar mindset of this community until it can cover some serious distance. Get the devices out to people that get the whole concept, let us work together to shake out the bugs and optimize the system before getting everyday folks involved and potentially putting a bad taste in their mouth.

However, a very big selling point to GoTenna (and mesh networks in general) is that there is little/no ongoing cost. Folks simply buy a piece of hardware and have access to the network. That’s big, especially for someone like me that’s looking to move beyond the PSTN and cellular networks and eliminate one of my bills.

Basically, you need to offer functionality useful for everyday life that’s affordable and reliable (which, on paper, GoTenna is one of the closest mesh nets that I’ve come across to these three characteristics). A parallel network that can replace the current one should be the goal. If people can save money with little or no change in their day-to-day, they’ll more than likely go for it. This can be seen with solar power adoption. As the price-of-entry becomes smaller (cost of the system), more and more people are jumping in.

I’ve been part of conversations about the electrical grid and renewable energy and how to revolutionize it to do the same thing as you’re trying to do with communications. I’ve always approached the concept as designing a system that can run a building totally on its own (solar + batteries). Then, you do that across multiple buildings and use the grid to simply connect the buildings together and allow p2p power sharing between them. Then you toss in some large-scale renewable energy and batteries to bolster the grid scattered throughout. Before you know it, you have a functioning grid that can work as one piece or as a thousand pieces and nobody gets left in the dark. How that translates to comms is that each person carrying a GT mesh is similar to a building. When people start connecting to other people, the mesh begins forming. As local and regional meshes take shape, the large scale systems , which are the MOANs, span the gaps and connect the meshes together. But, unlike the current structure of the internet, you use the same technology at all levels so that if any part goes missing, the other levels can span the gap and comms stay up. The large-scale stuff is simply a more powerful version of the small-scale equipment (same radio, bigger/better antenna).

Using the 900 MHz band should serve well for scaling. I’ve been testing on and off with some 900 MHz Ubiquiti Networks equipment and using their link calculator. This band is capable of covering some really good distances within the EIRP limitations and with the right antennas (the units I tested with were rated for up to 18-mile links). Plus, with a lot of consumer RC products moving to higher frequencies, this band should be pretty open compared to 10 years ago.

I’d say you guys are on the right track from what I’ve seen. As long as personal-scale and area-scale equipment all talk the same language, you’ll have a system that will work. The software driving it just needs time and effort to continue evolving, and as that happens and more capabilities are gained, word of mouth will sell the product. Of course, as I say all this, I’ve yet to use the GoTenna hardware.


#6

And, to always learn new things! Just read this, and learned a lesson about holding on to long standing beliefs…

In short the Ralph Waldo Emerson quote I quoted is wrong. For years it has been mis-attributed and misquoted. I was first told about it by a boss I had in the mid 90’s

Here is the original:

He achieved success who has lived well, laughed often, and loved much;
Who has enjoyed the trust of pure women, the respect of intelligent men and the love of little children;
Who has filled his niche and accomplished his task;
Who has never lacked appreciation of Earth’s beauty or failed to express it;
Who has left the world better than he found it,
Whether an improved poppy, a perfect poem, or a rescued soul;
Who has always looked for the best in others and given them the best he had;
Whose life was an inspiration;
Whose memory a benediction.

-Bessie Anderson Stanley

Now, to bed! I could go down internet rabbit holes for hours, but it will make the alarm that much more unwelcome in the morning.


#7

We have a failing power grid in this country. Billions upon billions can be spent on rebuilding it piece by piece, OR we can allow people to small scale build up their own power generation capabilities, mesh them together, and potentially scrap the old system altogether. As you stated, economic incentives are starting to hit a point where more and more people are adopting renewables, and I think people’s increasing desire to go, “off the grid,” is also a driving factor. This new push of personal energy independence may come just in time to let the old system gracefully fade away.


#8

An interesting read…

It doesn’t have to be a terrorist attack. Most of the worst blackouts have come from something as simple as tree branches not being properly trimmed, and the resulting cascading failure.


#9

Short take- you can’t make people care. Look how much money is spent on elections and how many people don’t vote! To be sure that is partly a societal problem, and varies by country- marketing plans in Japan vs the US will differ in approach because of how much individuals in general care about the society as a whole. (This topic is fascinating and yay for sociologists!)

The incentives in voting however are not obvious because “future policy” isn’t a direct cost to people until down the road no matter how much you try and convince them with charts and graphs and calculations. Hand out cash at the polling booth and you’ll double turnout- direct incentives (ok bribes) work! But that’s another thread…

What you can do is use the 10-20-60-10 rule. (I may get this wrong but it’s how I remember it).
10% are leaders/early adopters (hi guys!)
20% will follow the first 10.
60% might eventually get on board (late adoption curve) once the first 30 are.
10% can’t find their feet with a flashlight.

Now, break it down. Who is the first 10? CERT teams, REI shoppers, tech enthusiasts, S&R, etc etc. We get it, we’re onboard, lower barriers to entry and get the word out. Who is the next 20? People they know. Police/Fire, Gov agencies (Offices of emergency management). Aid organizations. Etc. They don’t need much convincing once they see it being used by the first 10% and use scenarios. Who is in the largest 60 group- start to identify sub groups. Anyone that travels and doesn’t want to pay roaming/service. Anyone in a city where some large nodes are setup that don’t want to give their kids a cell phone data plan to be exposed to the entire internet but want to stay in touch and track them without a monthly bill. Identify each group and reach them where they are.

To be honest all these groups including late adoption curve folks should be identified in your marketing plans … right? Hire someone that sees it that way. Divide and conquer. Opening this community up to help you is a HUGE first step! We’ll get the word out to our friends in the first 10 and help with the next 20. Onward!


#10

Exactly! My example from above with the domestic abuse disaster response group was a long-winded attempt to demonstrate this exact point. There are things each individual will care about, and relating to their particular pursuit will not only engage them, but keep them engaged. There is a reason emotional marketing tactics work far better than facts and figures. The next 20% you mentioned will be the people who can be convinced with facts and figures, but the vast 60% need a more personalized appeal, which they can connect to their lives. The final 10 percent…well…I wish I could say you are exaggerating that number…


#11

@MrTSolar @dbfish thanks for your thoughts – just wanted to quickly state that my questions here not really about how to market goTenna Mesh or make things specific to goTenna interesting interesting to people. I really am asking more broadly about the larger conversation about what you might call the political economy of decentralization and/or people-centered approaches to key systems. That can be related to energy, transit, food, politics, art…


#12

Decentralized art? Is there centralized art? Not being an art person, I am legitimately asking.

EDIT: Thinking some more, I guess an example would be large record or film production companies vs. smaller, or localized efforts.

I just had this vision in my head of a guy going off to the painting factory every morning, expected to churn out twenty water lily paintings by days end, and them being loaded into trucks and shipped around the country. It was amusing, and somewhat sad.


#13

Read this article this morning, and thought about this thread.

My grandparents lived in a rural area which was electrified, and later connected to phone service through government programs which supported the build-out of infrastructure to areas which were not seen as profitable. My parents retired back to the same area, and live on the family farm of nearly two full centuries.

The town nearest them (about 5 miles) has reasonable cell service, and up until about a mile from their home, you can at least place calls, and send text messages, though data drops to almost nil.

They have no high-speed internet. They do have ISDN but they are lucky to get 128 Kbps on a good day, and generally are falling more into the range of 96 Kbps, or 64 Kbps. I think they are guaranteed 64 Kbps in their contract.

Satellite internet is an option, but is prohibitively expensive, and given their usage, not warranted.

Power grids which connected even the most remote of people. Telephone lines which served non-profitable customers. An Interstate system which crisscrossed the nation. Our country used to build and maintain infrastructure, often at great expense, as part of the greater good. Communication, power, and mobility were all seen as integral to helping the country grow, stay economically strong, and be prepared for external and internal threats, be it war, or natural disaster.

Unfortunately, the collective will to build great things, and provide for the common good, seems to have fallen out of fashion amongst those in power. Too often now, elected officials can’t see beyond their own goals, and outside their own voting district. Many corporations no longer consider a lesser profit margin as acceptable to provide the greatest benefit to the largest number of people. In instances where a lesser profit margin is accepted, it is often only temporary, and as a means to drive competition out of business.

The people? I still think a large majority of people still do want to help their neighbor.

These are the time when collective, ground-up initiatives can grab hold, and do those things which we used to hold out as goals a nation could strive towards. I think, collectively, the spirit for greatness still resides in America, but it has been lulled. Unfortunately it only seems to awaken again in times of national distress.


#14

Let me add something. There are examples of corporations and government doing good. I feel the examples are fewer and farther between. Unfortunately, for-profit corporations, BY DEFINITION, are for-profit, and are beholden to their stockholders. Non-profits need to generate revenue, or they will fail, and no longer be able to provide their services. Government does not need to run at a profit, and does have a pretty compelling way to finance itself through the pay taxes or go to jail model, but even governments need to be fiscally responsible, and frequently do the financial equivalent of a tightrope act.

A group like The Cajun Navy shows how people can come together and create a rapid and effective response without the need of government, but I fear as they become more successful, they may lose some of their nimbleness. They could very well become an overly complex non-profit.

Coast Guard response shows what government can do when it doesn’t hold itself to rigid structure and bureaucracy. Read about their response after Katrina, especially. Being a branch of military, their people could have faced court martial for acting without orders, but they took a, “better to ask forgiveness than permission,” approach to make sure lives were saved. Many corporations do step up to the plate during disasters, but partially to help, and partially to profit. The problem is, government and corporations will go back to their normal operating state’s after the immediate disaster passes, often leaving communities tasked with their own recovery and often within nothing more than the aid of a lot of good will and works from donations and through volunteer efforts. Yes, there is insurance, and Federal aid, and some low interest loan options, but these are often too little to make a large difference.


#15

And this email from my Dad this morning, showing how finicky the rural telecommunications infrastructure can be…

“Fascinating photos that came from Cassini. Amazing that something so complex could work so well for so many years. Especially when our telephone has been out since Thursday afternoon and (insert regional telco) says they can’t fix it until Wednesday.”

Note: they are not in an area affected by any form of disaster. This is just a twice, or thrice a year random outage event for them. The telco has a monopoly in the area, and as I noted in a previous comment, cell service is non-existent at their home, and internet is too slow for VoIP.


#16

I share you’re frustration and realize what secure personal mesh networks can offer to humanity. I believe people do care. Everybody hates cell phone bills, politicians, and taxes, that’s universal. Make a mesh network as seamless as possible, and just as secure!

When the cellphones/ipods connect to mesh networks as easily as cellphones can hop from tower to tower or wifi devices autojoin networks without any apps running in the background, the general public will use it.

John McAfee’s D-Central was to be a private network where neighborhoods could create their own private encrypted networks independent of the public internet. No ISP’s collecting data, etc…

I do things by the book and have nothing to hide, but who is watching without my best interests at heart? Who wouldn’t jump at the chance to own a piece of tech that would allow individuals to participate in reading the online encyclopedia of the digital world without being harvested, then data mined, for profit at every click?!!

Define the standard and release it for everyone to use. We need a universal standard for surfing and a standard for what we think of as traditional voice and written communication. Make existing networks operated like mesh networks. :persevere: People need the ability to opt out of communicating on billboards.

Become the watchdog agency for mesh networks with encryption standards! The other area would be a sterile read only environment that is safe to surf.

From a device standpoint, could you imagine if there was a WIFI like mesh like device that routed your encrypted messages like iMessage or facetime is supposed to work, without an app that had to run? What about an encrypted retail web interface that runs like a container, direct access to the vendor, and can be closed/deleted/trashed when the transaction is complete?

So at this point all we need a secure OS on every platform and doesn’t relay screenshots and key logs to only god knows… There is a lot of work to do, and it will be done by someone, it all starts with standards and specifications.

Who knows, there may be a tech jump that renders software obsolete. Kind of like the IBM Selectric typewriters in the show Fringe? :rofl:

Justin


#17

An interesting TED Talk discussing communication in disaster relief, and in general. Information is quickly becoming the currency of the world, and the ability to access information is so important to society as a whole. Having the infrastructure to access and disseminate open and easily accessible should be a key goal, allowing for a level playing field.

Paul Conneally: How mobile phones power disaster relief


#18

It does really feel like Mother Earth is angry at us these days, doesn’t it? What with — in the last few weeks alone — Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Maria… and two terrible earthquakes in Mexico in addition. And you know, a couple egomaniacs in D.C. and Pyongyang threatening Twitter/nuclear war.

I am too. :slight_smile:

Agreed, I really gotta say I am in this for real. There are few products I’m willing to really “work” for in the sense of promoting to friends, investing time with an SDK (I’m tinkering with the new Mesh SDK, nothing solid yet, but stay tuned!), and certainly spending time on yet another message board, but I think goTenna has something good here. I don’t know if it’s because I discovered it at DEFCON so it already had a seal of approval in my community, or if it’s just that I’ve always wanted a true mobile meshnet to exist, or what… but I believe in what we’re all collectively doing here (and the fact that the goTenna team is not made up of a-holes helps!).

+1 on this as well. I do think people care and if this digital magazine and community-building effort (imeshyou.com/this message board) helps tell unconventional (and easy to understand) stories that bring more of what even the later-stage adopters already know (i.e. my ISP/carrier sucks; my bank is immoral; insurance is a racket; student loans are insane in a country of plenty; solar > coal, etc.) then you’ll be doing what I think you want to do. :slight_smile:


#19

In 1985, the Mexico City earthquake killed thousands of people.
LAFD created a program in response to witnessing the untrained community helping out their neighbors and getting killed because they themselves were not safe. This program was grabbed by FEMA and became the Community Emergency Response Team program that we know today. It trains us how to safely help our neighbors out and more importantly how not to bring a victim to an incident.
Yesterday, on the anniversary of the Mexico City quake, hundreds of have been reported killed by the earthquake.
If that coincidence isn’t a wake up call, nothing will be.


#20

CERT is such an amazing idea. I wish the US would become a little more like Japan in how the public prepares for, and respond to disasters. They don’t just pay preparedness lip service. They live it out. If we had a similar mindset, CERT classes would have a waiting list, or instead, be taught in schools, religious organizations, and local businesses.