Monday, August 27, 2007

Actually, the experience of working without Internet this morning — it came back some time while I was at lunch — was sort of interesting. When the server is inaccessible but not my own computer, it's a pretty minor problem. When my own computer is down, or when the power is out, it's a big problem, but in a boring way. If it happens close to deadline then laptops get pooled and rationed out to the writers who really need them, but other than that, there's just very nearly nothing that can be done.

But when the Internet is down, it seems I can work, but I have to do it differently. I think my job becomes a lot like it would have been 20 years ago or so. There are a few differences of course. I would have been on a typewriter or maybe a really primitive computer back then, and an archive search would work by physically going through a filing cabinet instead of using the "search" window on this Mac. But still — typing, archive searches and calling people on the phone.

The difference I noticed this morning when I talked to someone was in information gathering. I'll often ask people if there is anyone else I should talk to about whatever the subject is, but it's often not worth the trouble to ask for contact information. If I ask some elected official or volunteer at home how to reach a consultant, for example, they'd rely on the phone book just like me. If I can't find them because they aren't in the phone book then the elected official sitting at home probably couldn't either, and if I Google the consultant, not only will I find their number but I'll probably find a fair amount more about them too. (Where is he located? Is he well-known or obscure? Straightforward or cutting-edge or a crank?)

But that doesn't work so well when Google is unavailable and I find myself reduced to the Stone Age practice of asking questions about stuff and knowing things on my own beforehand. Damn. (Yes, I'm kidding.) Well, my current system works fine most of the time, I just have to remember to ask for more details when the Internet is down...

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