Monday, May 18, 2009

Fail Whale at 36,000 Feet (or: Oh No, Not Again)

It's not often that life imitates Rod Serling and Douglas Adams simultaneously.

I'm currently 36,000 feet over Colorado, flying on the new Virgin America route between Boston and Los Angeles. Ever since America West's acquisition of US Airways, coast-to-coast travel has not been one of my favorite activities. When Sir Richard Branson entered the United States' ailing commercial airlines market, there was a glimmer of hope that something new might be on the horizon.

Today's flight offers coast-to-coast Wi-Fi service. How cool is that?

Now I find myself ever closer to working "anytime, anywhere" as I can spend the majority of a 6-hour flight connected to the virtual world. I can keep up on my e-mail. I can hold web-conferences with clients and pass critical issues to home office as they happen.

I can update my blog. I can tweet. Wait, I just saw something. Did I just see in my window what I thought I saw?

I need to summon the stewardess, err, flight attendant (he gets paid less). Come quickly, it's out on the wing!

It's gone. But I know I saw something. Maybe I'm just tired. I should get back to updating my tweets. Here's a neat article on Wolfram Alpha that I saw, let me post the link. I just sent the tweet..wait..nothing's my window is going blank..wait..there it is again! Now I can't do anything...tell the captain - the creature's tampering with the knowledge engine!

Twitter's "fail whale" is a familiar but random creature that up until this morning, I only saw on land. Now it's a recurring nightmare above 20,000 feet, and yet, it seems to be missing something, like a bowl of petunias. I know I've seen these two together somewhere before. Maybe it's an iPhone app.

I've spent most of my career keeping up with and driving technical innovations. Once in a while, however, the benefits we gain come with extremely ironic coincidences. I'll research ways of coping. Maybe Google or Facebook has something. Nope. Let's check the Twitterverse again. Wait a minute...there it is again!!

Flight Attendant: "Can I help you, sir?"

Yes...a glass of water.

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