In the months to come, there will be detailed inquiries written about Sandy and industry or social preparedness. But, at first glance, it looks like a lot of our essential (for Web 2.0 types and general populous) infrastructure held up pretty well.
From the Scene
Even as the waves tore up the US east coast and through towns and cities, much of the technology that the vast tech industry relies was working pretty well. While New York and surrounding states suffered from huge power outages, the resilience of the net and mobile networks (note, cell networks now seem to be failing in New York) seemed to shine through, providing people with essential information, contact with families and the odd moment of light relief.
For example, Amazon's AWS services showed a fine bill of health throughout the critical periods. And, while some sites like HuffPo and some Gawker Media properties fell over (due to flooding at Manhattan ISP Datagram), the site's content creators were able to provide workarounds and head to social networks to keep up a service.
For those hunkered down in the worst of it, as long as there was battery power, people seemed to be staying in touch, with Twitter (still) doing sterling service via the #sandy hashtag. And even if the Internet was out, most radio stations were repeating the messages coming out of social media. Especially in light of comments like this (from NBC4), "TV is no longer the way to get the message out... we use Twitter"
Weathering the Storm
Most news sites are a little slower to load than usual, as the amount of traffic built up in the hours after the storm made landfall, but the Internet seems to have handled the volume, despite the rerouting needed and load on surviving nodes as the power failures kicked in.
On screen, the power of modern smartphones came to the fore with user-created clips from the many scenes of crisis being shown in reasonable definition and clarity. YouTube is doing its bit, with a live Weather Channel feed of the storm.
Lessons to Learn
While this is a horrible disaster that will affect millions, and the storm rages on inland, people are dead and others are still in harm's way, there are some easy lessons to learn:
- Don't take your technology for granted is clearly one issue. People were complaining about not owning or having access to basic old-fashioned radio as their gadgets failed. A wind-up radio may be low-tech but it helps keep people in the loop.
- An easy takeaway for anyone wrapped up in a future crisis, create a twitter feed of only the essential, official contacts and information sources. That helps to clear the huge amounts of chat, politicking, speculation and spamming that still went on.
- Paywalls come down. If your site hides behind a paywall in a crisis, drop it quickly. As the NYT and WSJ did to help provide information (and get more views).
Doubtless, there will be many more lessons to learn over time, stories where tech helped people out of a jam will emerge and things might just be a bit less terrible next time.