Gongol.com Archives: June 2011
Brian Gongol

June 18, 2011

Computers and the Internet United Airlines grounded by huge computer glitch
Apparently, it affected virtually every flight across the country on the airline last night. That highlights a number of issues: First, they clearly need to find a more robust system. Second, it illustrates how vulnerable many of our complex systems are to catastrophic failure. This event may or may not have had anything to do with people hacking in from the outside, but United surely isn't the only computer-dependent company in the world that isn't prepared for a crash. Third, the event sounds like it could be used as a case study in exactly what not to do when communicating with customers. One report early on suggested that the United website was pointing people to the company's Twitter account for all updates. That's a colossal mistake: The company website should always be destination #1 for updated information. Secondary sources like Twitter or Facebook should always come in as backups to the main source of information -- like translations from English into Spanish -- but should never be relied upon to provide a primary channel of information.

Science and Technology Fascinating view of a nearby galaxy with a black hole in the middle
According to images taken by the Hubble Space Telescope, the black hole is firing out jets of gas while it draws in the stuff nearby

News The Guardian aims to become 80% digital in three to five years
Newspapers are facing a huge uphill battle to stay alive as institutions as advertising markets like job listings evaporate

The American Way The trouble with capitalism
(MP3 file) BBC journalist Peter Day talks with Gary Hamel about the state of capitalism today. It's really quite a good conversation. Hamel argues that there's a lot of need for more long-term thinking and a lot of need for over-ambitious politicians to back off.

News Um...sorry...those aren't your ribbons

Health Do yourself a favor: Take two minutes for a self-exam today
Take a minute or two and conduct some basic self-screenings for cancer. Early detection saves lives. There's lots of misinformation about cancer that finds its way around the Internet, largely because we've been trained to wait expectantly for some sort of magic-bullet solution to cancer. But cancer risks can be significantly reduced through a balanced diet, exercise, and early detection and treatment. Meanwhile, science is making great progress towards improving genetic detection, which holds great promise for some types of cancer. Instead of forwarding hoax-ridden e-mails about "cancer cures" and false threats, people should instead remind their friends and family to assess their health once a month.

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