Wanted: Internet Meteorology

Supposedly, this is the Internet Age. As near as I can tell, this means that a lot of people are spending an increasing fraction of their lives online, reliant on Teh Intarwebz for their virtual existence.

Today’s big thought: If people are living their lives online, the ‘conditions’ of their local part of ‘online’ (as well as the parts they’re travelling to) might be of interest. Things like:

  • How high is the general tide of traffic at the moment?
  • How much of it is encrypted?
  • What sort of breakdown of types of stuff is out there today?
  • Is it spamming today?
  • What are today’s virus warnings?
  • What ‘roads’ are closed, or expected to close, today?

You get the idea.

I’d pay handsomely for a service like this, if it were sufficiently widespread, independent and authoritative. I’m sure I’m not alone in this, especially since I so very little on the internet that’s actually sensitive to things like lag or selective shaping. I know people are interested because I see so much of this kind of stuff cropping up in the popular internet press, in a delayed, ad-hoc, patchy sort of way. What I don’t see is anyone making a serious widespread effort to synthesize it.

How would you do it? Methinks your hypothetical service would need a few bits and pieces:

  1. Deals with the relevant agencies. There are already virus-monitoring and spam-analysis groups out there making a stab at this. Their input would be vital, at least to start with.
  2. Lots of probes. Take a carefully built fast packet-sniffer/counter (careful not to breach privacy!) with open, publicly reviewed specifications. Make thousands of them, and pay every backbone operator on the planet to whack one on their main feed. These are your weather stations.
  3. Analysts, both salaried ‘editors’ and freelance ‘reporters’. The black-hat (and grey-hat) community will always know their bit of ‘net better than anyone else. Sure, you can’t use their data, or acknowledge their methods, but their tips and insights are worth money. So long as you can reliably protect their anonymity, you can be certain that those insights are for sale.
  4. Anchors and Producers. The Cory Doctorows of this world seem to have the knack of writing copy that people want to read. Google, for example, seem to have the knack of getting data to the people who want it, the way they want it. If you want your internet weather report to be read/seen/heard, you will need these things.

As usual, I hereby disavow all rights to this idea. If you want it, I will happily support your claim to have thought of it first. 🙂

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