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
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
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
©1997, Rob Frankel