Raise Your Hand If Youre Clueless

Clueless is a word thrown around the industry a lot these days, and it's been applied to us for our March 26 cover story, "Internet Armageddon".

Clueless is a word thrown around the industry a lot these days, and its been applied to us for our March 26 cover story, "Internet Armageddon".

"Spare us from such clueless writers," wrote one reader in response to the story.

This piece on the vulnerabilities of the Internets infrastructure struck some readers as fear-mongering, and because the Net has survived so far, thats legitimate feedback. But clueless depends on your point of view. In moments of frustration, Ive applied the term to the entire high-tech industry. In seven years of covering this industry, I have not met a lot of people who thought beyond the bits and bytes or how they personally could make money. PacketDesign CEO Judy Estrin and PAIX president Paul Vixie, quoted in the story, were striking because in my experience, theyre unusual. As reader Duke Walls wrote, theres a "serious disconnect."

Call me clueless, but I doubt that the wisdom of the "bona-fide eldergeeks" or the persistence of the "net-junkies" in "picking up the pieces and carrying on" are sufficient to carry us through the Internets current troubles.

California carries a lot of Internet traffic. As I write this column, there are about 100 bills in the California legislature asking for exemptions from the rolling blackouts that are inevitable this summer, thanks to clueless California politicians. Startups are developing new ways to generate power, but they do not alter the fact that strong winds in Southern California this month plunged the entire state into a Stage 2 power alert, making the infrastructure of the Internet a little shakier.

No doubt our readers are tired. Like Robert Miller, who wrote that the story was equivalent to telling him "theres a hole in the ozone layer," they are up to their elbows in technology that is constantly changing. They dont have time to read articles that they regard as uninformative or sensational. They do their best to provide solutions for customers who can be demanding and unreasonable, and they work hard.

When I first heard that Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard had been charged by the Federal Trade Commission with publishing misleading advertisements for their PocketPC, I thought, "Clueless." Dont people realize that connecting this device to the Internet requires a modem or wireless capability? Dont people check products before buying them?

No, they do not. The majority of high-tech customers are clueless. And that makes them potential victims of every unscrupulous solutions provider, vendor or reporter pushing technology that they dont need or information that misleads.

If we all work together, we all can become less clueless. As daunting as that prospect may sound, it beats pointing fingers, and we undoubtedly will end up making the Internet a better place for everybody.