Techie’s Take on Snow

White grass?

White grass?

I don’t think there’s anyone out there who needs to be told that the UK ground to a halt today thanks to a freak downpour of snow. But I think some of the stuff that happened today was actually a great metaphor for the current status of technology in the UK as a predominant part of virtually everyone’s daily life, a phenomenon that I hope will flourish in the future.

Denial of Service

Slashdot and Lifehacker tend to inflict DoS attacks on websites and webapps whenever they feature them simply owing to the sheer traffic generated. This morning several sites began to have problems due to similar reasons: thousands of commuters simultaneously looked out of the window, smacked their heads and immediately tried to find a way to get to work … using TFL, subsequently causing the route planner to slow to a crawl for a few hours. The school intranet also managed to get DoS’ed from all the 900 Paulines attempting to discover whether the wonderful terrible rumours of school being snowed off were true. I suspect this reflects the current trend in general load balancing (including non-techie things: apparently electricity usage peaks just after some TV show ends in the UK owing to kettles being put on) and the clear necessity to move computing power to the so-called ‘cloud’ where it can take the strain of flash-flood traffic.

The Lifehacker Effect occurs when a site goes down owing to overload from traffic emanating from a Lifehacker post

'The Lifehacker Effect' occurs when a site goes down owing to overload from traffic emanating from a Lifehacker post

Social Websites

The majority of Paulines used Facebook as their primary source of information regarding the school snow-off. Sitting there watching my Facebook feed reload every few seconds, I couldn’t help but notice that virtually every wall post, status update and note seemed to be asking and/or confirming rumours about school being snowed off. Twitter was also buzzing with activity which concluded with a jubilant remark from @the_unnameable:

No school. Yipppppeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

Eventually intelligence was obtained from the few people who had managed to contact the apparently grumpy porters by phone (and of course sons of teachers) and information was seeded in the form of status updates on both Facebook and Twitter which spread virally and reached most people. Of course, this merely illustrates the increasing reliance on the web for up-to-date information and the power of viral marketing (well, spread of information). As a sidenote, David Smith, a teacher at the school with the foresight to see what is needed, has created a Twitter account for one-way updates from the school: @stpaulsboys.

And of course, since the school was closed for the sake of safety and preventing us from having to brave the weather, everyone was out and about, efficiently organising events through Facebook, Twitter and mobile phone.

Social Website Logos

Social Website Logos


Of course, every such event is a photo op. There was a point when digital cameras were associated exclusively with Japanese tourists, but today during a photography outing with George, virtually every person we saw who wasn’t building a snowman was pointing a camera at something (often with flash still turned on *sigh*). In the age of twitpic and flickr, digital cameras have become day-to-day objects embedded into just about everything which are used as a means to record moments of one’s day. If this had happened just a few years ago, I don’t think anything like the number of cameras I saw today would have hit the streets, as the idea of having to record every precious last moment of one’s life on an SD card hadn’t quite caught on.

// Flickr Photostream/a

My Flickr Photostream

Personally, I ended up with a pretty cool collection of photos (including some of Doc Mayfield & co. having fun), a new way of getting school updates (@stpaulsboys), the beginnings of a raging cold, a free Sodexho school lunch and confirmation that school is off tomorrow as well.

John Colet Statue looking rather cold

John Colet Statue looking rather cold


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