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The Guy Who Pushes Back.

One of my favorite things to do in the morning is to tear out of the house, hop on my bike and crank out a few miles before breakfast. Not so much because I'm a fitness freak, but more because at the end of my ride is a local coffee house where I almost always run into someone I know. This morning, I ran into the King of the Intranet. He's a long time buddy of mine named Joe, a techno-strategic consultant on whom you can click any time you feel like getting your ear bent about anything from intranet to ISDN to almost anything into which you can hard wire your PC.

Joe is actually Joe Helfer, one of the few people I know who stays busy working out solutions to problems that people won't even know they'll have for at least another five years. He's been a technical adjunct to Frankel & Anderson for the past year or so. Joe's main loves are coffee, smoking his pipe, solving system wide communication issues and his family, although not necessarily in that order. Today, his brow was furrowed to an unusual depth.

Stirring the Whole Milk into my tall black Grande, I asked Joe what was on his mind. "It's this push technology. It's going to kill us if somebody doesn't do something quick." Then he regaled about all kinds of push technology and PointCast and Marimba and other pushy-technologies with equally sophomoric names.

So far, it wasn't anything to get too depressed about. I mean, what's the big deal? Some companies develop a broadcast technology that pushes content directly at your PC so that you don't have to go out looking for it. Isn't that convenient?

"That's my point," Joe moaned. "PC's are only the beginning. The thing is anything that can be hard wired can have a IP address. And anything with an IP address can be accessed. Which means you can open your refrigerator one day, only to have it scream at you that it's been months since you had the fan assembly cleaned. Your toaster will yell at you, your car will complain its tires are low -- I'm telling you, someone's got to get a handle on the massive data inflow, or we're all going to get blown out from information overload -- and that doesn't even take into account the bandwidth issues."

I was beginning to see the problem. Imagine logging on to your ISP, only to be jammed with so much data that your bandwidth actually petrified. And we're not talking about spam here -- what if this was only information that you could really use? There's no way that anyone could wade through all that digital dung by themselves. And that's what had Joe worried. Hell, it had me worried. If there's no control of the data flooding into your system, what chance would marketers and advertisers have of ever getting to you, assuming you ever got out?

Of course, it only took a few minutes before Joe had devised a solution to the problem. It required his configuring proxy servers and intelligent filtering systems and all kinds of weird techno-flak, the gist of which seemed to be the development of a pre-emptive filtering system that would whack out anything not specifically desired by a recipient. And we're weren't talking about those low-level NetNanny jobs, either. We were talking about big guns. Nuclear strength toys for adults that every one of us -- that's right, Pablo, you'll need one, too -- will employ to fling right back in the faces of the broadcasters once they discover us. Or at least some sort of gatekeeper that allows only those selected few digital guests you've specifically invited in.

Of course, if you're just a typical Net Nut, you'll get hit by the tidal wave -- but not nearly as hard as professional information managers and researchers. Guys who make their living by seeking, distilling and analyzing information. Left unprotected, those guys will be digital toast.

The question, of course, is how soon the consuming public is going to wake up to the upcoming onslaught. How long until you wake up one morning and starting having meaningful dialogues with your alarm clock? It's an intriguing scenario that potentially could lock out the internet from its commercial viability, and if you're planning on doing business here, that should concern you plenty.

On the other hand, this could be a swell career move for my consultant buddy Joe.


©1997, Rob Frankel

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