Going Offline

Our 60+ portfolio companies have meetups among themselves more 50x a year. These meetings are part of something we call the USV Network. They also have peer mentoring services and a large number of vibrant slack channels. The idea is to get them sharing information with each other in a networked model versus relying on the USV team to provide the information flow. We still do that, of course, but its not the primary way that information flows around our portfolio. We believe in the power of networks and we try to use them in our business as much as as we can.

Last week in one of the meetups, the subject of international expansion and the lack of reliable (and expensive) mobile data in certain regions came up. A number of our portfolio companies have found that providing offline functionality in their mobile app improves app usage and adoption in parts of the world where mobile data is less reliable and more expensive.

This makes total sense but it was not obvious to many of our portfolio companies and it was not obvious to me either. Which is why I am passing this tip onto all of you. If you have a mobile app Β that is doing well in the more developed regions of the world but is struggling in the less developed regions, think about going offline. That might help.


Comments (Archived):

  1. Rohan

    I heard Facebook’s international product team slowed down the internet connection for their entire team down to what you’d expect in lesser developed companies one day a week so their product teams could empathize with their users’ actual page load times.I thought that was genius.

    1. JimHirshfield

      By “genius” you mean “obvious”, no doubt πŸ˜‰

      1. Rohan

        Doing obvious stuff consistently = genius! πŸ™‚

        1. JimHirshfield


          1. Tereza

            You guys are genius! Wait…

          2. Rohan


      2. LE

        Reminds me of a comment or blog post by some “master of the universe” working at a startup who was very impressed by the janitor who put extra bags at the bottom of the trash can when he emptied it.

        1. JimHirshfield

          I *refuse* to believe that *trashy* story.

          1. Michael Elling

            That’s garbage.

          2. JimHirshfield

            Let’s dump this topic, please.

      3. scottythebody

        Hahaha! Indeed. People have been doing that for 20+ years where I’ve lived πŸ˜‰

    2. Jess Bachman

      I hear they also sporadically violate their teams privacy through unseen feature and TOS changes, in order to build empathy with their users. I hear it’s had no effect.

      1. Michael Elling

        They need a visit from Charlton Heston reenacting his Soylent Green classic: https://www.youtube.com/wat

        1. Jess Bachman

          “Our users… they… they… are actual .. people. They.. are people! OUR USERS… ARE PEOPLE!””Someone get this guy outta here, he’s lost his mind”

      2. scottythebody

        brilliant comment @Jess Bachman. Also, normal, conscientious people making applications that run over the web have been using “network condition simulators” for decades. It’s called “testing”. But when Facebook does it, it’s genius?

        1. Jess Bachman

          Normal, conscientious people, need a better PR department then.

    3. jason wright

      what’s the definition of “developed” here?

      1. Michael Elling

        Many rural areas in the US.

        1. James Ferguson @kWIQly

          Some city areas are showing signs of “developed” too ! πŸ˜‰

        2. pointsnfigures

          No doubt. There are a lot of places I have been that have no cell service. Even in places you’d expect. Driving from Chicago to Kansas City, MO. we had no cell service for hours. (I use ATT).

          1. Matt Zagaja

            Once got lost in Vermont looking for a classmate’s farm. No cell service and the roads had changed from the map on the GPS. Ended up finally getting workable directions from a general store. Navigating rural America requires a different skill set.

          2. Michael Elling

            Two anachronisms! Where are the gloves?

          3. Jess Bachman

            I used to drive cross country using paper maps. It was a combination of skill and paying attention. I’m really disappointed in myself for being a slave to GPS these days.I suspect thet next Bond villian will hijack a GPS satellite and just direct everyone to drive off the nearest cliff. Millions dead.

          4. pointsnfigures

            My stock BMW GPS sucks, big time sucks. We use our phones. But, absent cell service maps are better.

          5. Michael Elling

            Try to get any person below the age of 20 to travel without map-apps. It is both scary and laughable and tragic. In the future there will be analog map-reading courses taught somewhere. Reminds me of the F-Troop episode where Captain Parmenter had to get a map folding instruction guide for his map.

          6. pointsnfigures

            At the US Naval Academy, they are starting to teach cadets how to navigate the seas by sextant again.

          7. Tereza

            F TROOP!!!!!

          8. Michael Elling

            I tell policy folks that urban/suburban transients through and to rural markets more than double indigenous demand. And that’s the solution to universal service. (The same holds for centrally procured broadband video VPNs). They can’t think outside their fixed vs mobile business model silos to fully understand. But what can we expect from folks who call “core” video service providers like Netflix, and commerce players like Amazon, “edge” players.

          9. Donna Brewington White

            ATT. Even in Schoenberg low hanging clouds cut off my GPS connection and I was just looking for the mall.

      2. Rohan

        Not sure. I think the target countries whose speeds they adopted as part of “2G Tuesday” were India, Thailand and Latin America

        1. jason wright

          i’m confused. “companies” or ‘countries’?

    4. Michael Elling

      The old story about the long-lived and well-liked king who would cloak himself and go amongst his subjects….

      1. Rohan

        True story. :)At 1B daily uniques, safe to say they are well liked.

        1. Jess Bachman

          Well used. Comcast has millions of paying customers, but ‘ well liked’ they are not.

          1. LE

            It’s an addiction. The only way to get rid of an addiction (so they say) is to replace it with another addiction. So that is exactly how secure facebooks position (with their current product) is in the world.

          2. LE

            Sorry my comment “addiction” relates to Facebook, not Comcast.

          3. Rohan

            I know it is kind of cool to diss Facebook in the comments here.But, I think there is a massive difference between millions of users and a billion. You don’t get to that sort of scale without being well liked.And, that’s especially the case when you consider Facebook the company – with Whatsapp and Instagram

          4. Jess Bachman

            I disagree. You know who else has over a billion users? Hepatitis.

          5. ShanaC

            I thave o say. The other hated one, time warner, I had a great experience with as a customer and miss them

        2. LE

          If you strap a big enough engine onto something it can plow through anything.

    5. LE

      Sorry Rohan, genius? Hot button issue for me.Actually it’s kind of business common sense. Similar in a way to companies using secret shoppers (in the bricks and mortar world) to see in detail what their customers experience. Or maybe, gasp, the actual executives themselves trying to be a customer of their own company. I wonder if Brian Roberts of Comcast controls his TV with the remote they give their customers? I am thinking that he doesn’t. Or if any executive has ever heard “on hold” music that is either loud, annoying or both (and has experienced wait times). While there are always business reasons why execs decide to overlook things (cost etc.) there are for sure thousands of times when it’s simply because the organization is to lame to even know what is going on. Because all they are doing is focusing (to the point of a post the other day) on the numbers. As long as the numbers are good, head is clearly in the sand.

      1. Tereza

        I sense a killer VR application here: to virtually, and richly, immerse senior Cable and Cellular executives in a variety of sh*tty customer experiences, from across this great land.

        1. Adam Sher

          The show Undercover Boss hits on this point. The financial numbers tell the story that concludes with you getting a bonus (or fired) but not necessary the story about how your customers or employees interact with the product.

        2. scottythebody

          Hahahaha! YOu’re on fire πŸ™‚

      2. Adam Sher

        Brian Roberts spoke at my wife’s firm (she’s an attorney in Philly) for some event. His proselytized about his company’s products, which was humorously and maddeningly at odds with the experiences of the audience. It was exactly as you said, his experience with Comcast products, must be hugely different, and superior, to ours.

        1. LE

          (Roberts was in my class at Wharton (didn’t know him)). I think he proves the point that you have to have a certain lack of empathy in at some cases to grow a business to a large size as they did. It’s almost as if they don’t have a conscience.Funny story (I’ve told this before at AVC) several years ago my internet went out around either New Years or Christmas. Comcast told me to pound sand. It’s a holiday nobody to fix it.So I told the person on the phone that I graduated with Roberts and that I was going to call his secretary because I was upset. I said wasn’t going to bother Brian (figured that made it more believable). Next thing maybe 20 to 40 minutes later I get a call from the area supervisor from his home (all of this is iirc don’t want to pull a Carson here) that they will be sending out a crew to fix the problem. They dispatched a multi man crew and dug holes and laid a new cable and got it fixed. On a holiday no less! I have pictures somewhere of the crew. The fact that I pulled that off made me happier than the Internet that ended up working.Edit: To be clear the crew was out on either Christmas day or New Years day I just don’t remember which holiday.

          1. Adam Sher

            Customer win. Thanks for sharing.

      3. Rohan

        I think most of basic business sense is definitely common sense (customer comes first, etc.)But, if executed regularly, it becomes genius.

  2. Anne Libby

    Hah, when I saw the title and your opening sentence, I thought that your post would be about learning through Real Life gatherings

    1. jason wright

      i thought he was announcing his retirement

      1. Tereza

        so did i

      2. Donna Brewington White

        Well it definitely got an immediate click from me. But I just thought “off the grid.” Even that idea was a bit disheartening.

        1. jason wright

          i nearly fell off my chair.

    2. kenberger

      I totally expected a vacation / OOO announcement, going by just the title.

    3. Donna Brewington White

      Your brain works fast. The first paragraph for me was just a walk in the woods asking “Where’re we going?” with no idea where. (Although I am fascinated by the USV network concept.)It’s two posts in one.

  3. Chimpwithcans

    Facebook lite and Binu are examples of apps trying to bridge this data price gap

  4. William Mougayar

    Is this easier to do on Android or iOS?

    1. Tereza

      i think iOS is easier (may be wrong) but Android will matter a lot more in the markets you’re talking about — i’d bet my money on going straight to Android.

      1. William Mougayar

        Good point re: where Android is more prominent. Hi Tereza πŸ˜‰

        1. Tereza

          Yo YO William! I’ve missed you so. πŸ™‚

    2. RichardF

      It’s pretty straightforward in Cordova to do both

    3. SubstrateUndertow

      Is it possible that the best set of OS-level offline-hooks for synchronizing internet-of-things will be a differentiator here ???More internet-of-things in developed countries may offset the Android advantage here ???

  5. Ben Kinnard

    Offline is good for people in developed countries as well. I get pretty bad data reception on my daily commute so use pocket a lot more than I would usually thanks to its offline capabilities

  6. Tereza

    I heard it helps in Northern Westchester, too.

    1. fredwilson

      A less developed region!!!

      1. Tereza

        There’s a massive stretch from Pound Ridge to Mt. Kisco that’s Dead City on T-Mobile. Send me your apps, I can let you know in 5 minutes if you’ve got a product issue. I charge $250 per test, no biggie. πŸ˜‰

      2. rimalovski

        As are the New York City subways and New Jersey Transit train lines! Thanks for bringing this to more developer’s attention. The NY Times app figured this out a long time ago and hope others do too…

        1. Tereza

          I probably spend more time on that app than any other, for this reason. I’d venture to guess i have a crappy to nonexistent signal 50% of my day.

        2. Lawrence Brass

          This totally breaks pedestrian navigation apps in NYC, as we recently find out testing our apps. Preloading the maps did not solve the problem. Inside the tunnels, no signal also implies no location fix from a cell tower, base or repatear, and obviously gps is not an option.

    2. ShanaC

      And downtown nyc. Damn those buildings for bouncing radio waves in funny ways

  7. Joe Lazarus

    I suspect offline options help with engagement even in developed countries. I use my phone an hour every day on the subway, for example.

  8. James Ferguson @kWIQly

    A really useful tip for mobile – @fredwilson:disqusAs a corollary even in the B2B non-mobile market – we found that demo’ing offline is a whole lot less hassle if you eliminate worry about connectivity at conferences / sales visits etc and instead just dial up some cached results

  9. Michael Elling

    The lack of thinking outside of silos and off-nets (not just off-line) is the biggest issue for growth at present. It’s the underlying current in most discussions on this thread and elsewhere these days. When I look at what the technology can afford us today, I would say the US is far from developed. 4K VoD everywhere, inexpensively? un-check. 2-way HD video collaboration the same? un-check. Mobile first where my screen (and apps) can be proxied to any other screen? un-check. IoT that scales millions of apps across millions of sensors? un-check.

    1. SubstrateUndertow

      thinking outside the silomodernized “thinking outside the box”A universal theme of complex living/adaptive-systems is distributively autonomous local processing with heavily filtered/purposed, just in time, just as needed, external neural-net-like synchronizations. Its nature’s way of applying the KISS principle in a fractal manner at every successive layer of emerging complexity.We will need to abide that universal organizing dynamic otherwise the internet-of-things will over power any magnitude of available bandwidth not to mention the problem of over extended dependency entanglements.

      1. Michael Elling

        Agreed. And it’s done through simple economics; aka market-priced inter-network settlements reflecting marginal cost and which provide price signals and (dis)incentives to clear supply and demand forces ex ante. (At the same time we need govt mandated and observed interconnections out to the edge; like Part 15/wifi or Cartphone).The virtual you (of which there might be many) will be following you around depending on location and context. Only this way can the network(s) adapt to all the conflicting demands on QoS, security, latency, bandwidth/speed (particularly upstream), storage, processing, etc… brought about by the above 4 communication megatrends at every layer and across every boundary (WAN/MAN/LAN/PAN).Call it centralized hierarchical networks (CHNs). Networks are like living organisms. At times radiating out to the edge, and other times collapsing to the core. There are no signals (like the nervous) system today in the IP Stack to scale this process and make it efficient.

  10. Pranay Srinivasan

    Facebook runs simulations for its team in Palo Alto called 2G Tuesdays to show them what net speeds in India are like for FB App users.I guess the tech to “sniff out” available networks smartly will be part of every app that needs to send and receive real time information. Or it needs to be super light weight.

    1. scottythebody

      usually that’s going to be further down the stack in the OS. but it’s a good tactic

  11. pointsnfigures

    Instagram does this well. All the photos get saved for later. When you are online, you can upload them all. BTW, if you want to hurt my wallet today, click the link and have at ithttp://pointsandfigures.com…

  12. Jim Haughwout

    I did this for years with medical apps. The save all data locally (SQLite) then stream updates behind the scenes to the cloud as connectivity allows. Was useful circumstances where WiFi was blocker (e.g., operating theater) or not available (Doctors Without Borders in a clinic in remote locations)While not all people fall into this use case the save-local-then-stream-behind-the-scenes allows high performance and reliability in poor coverage areas.

  13. Matt A. Myers

    Isn’t your #1 leading metric speed? This ties completely into speed..

  14. kenberger

    I know that this is an important mobile design concept, regardless of where you deploy.1. Facebook dev has a big initiative they are now pushing where they drive their mobile devs to use their devices under very slow speeds. The pain drives them to design for low or no connectivity.2. I just attended Web Summit in Dublin. They had a mobile app that was excellent, showing the schedules and session locations at a glance. Trouble is, every time you started the app, it would make a server call before showing anything– DEAD in the WATER, and a really poor decision, given that wifi and sim cards hardly worked under the intense overpopulation loads from the surge of 40k+ attendees.

    1. Richard

      Ken, have any feel for the capacity of state of the art convention center type wifi ?

      1. kenberger

        I’ve been to a ton of fancy tech confs this year, mostly in europe. I’ve seen a few do a great job under attendance of up to a few thousand.10s of thousands, however, converging on a space not usually used to such a population surge, always seems to see the system fall on its face. Still true of wifi after all these years, proving the predictions from 2001 correct.

        1. Michael Elling

          The best model for CC’s, stadiums, campuses, malls, dense urban/community zones and transport terminals is combined Wifi and carrier-neutral DAS. The law of wireless gravity holds a wireless bit will seek out fiber as quickly and inexpensively as possible. There is no spectrum shortage, just institutional obstacles.

        2. scottythebody

          Agreed. Never been to a conference where the wifi didn’t fall over at least once. Last year I even attended a security conference where the security people decided to run 802.1x authentication over the wifi, but they self-signed the certificate, which made it so none of the security people would join the wifi because they are too paranoid to ever accept a self-signed certificate. In my case, my phone is configured by our security to never accept self-signed certificates due to the incredible risk it proposes to mobile devices. That got changed in a hurry.

          1. kenberger

            another small annoyance with conference wifi (cc @samedaydr:disqus): often times, it messes with your phone’s location sensors, due to the wifi vendor’s system settings.EG: the whole time at Web Summit in Dublin, Foursquare (Swarm) and GMaps believed I was in Flushing Meadows in Queens, NYC. So it was tough to check in correctly in Dublin, and to get quick directions from the conf to local restaurants.

        3. Richard

          Interesting. What about carrier networks?

          1. kenberger

            Very similar story, albeit for different technical reasons than with WiFi.If a location isn’t used to always having a lot of people, the nearby cell towers can get easily overwhelmed. Densely populated city centers, and Las Vegas casinos, tend to get set up with plenty of infrastructure to support population and usage density. Not so much for areas with temporary surges.Carriers do have some ability to roll out temporary towers, access points, and “backhaul” to temporary big event sites, and sometimes do.

    2. scottythebody

      Grrrrrrr! This drives me crazy. What’s even better is when you’re traveling, didn’t fork out for “data roaming” and the wireless is asking you to accept some bullshit terms and conditions before you can gain access to the network and pull up the room that meeting was in that you’re 5 minutes late for.

  15. falicon

    I would argue that *most* apps should be designed with ‘offline’ as the primary mode…all online stuff should be batched and/or queued for when connection is available…gives you the best potential to delight users imho….

    1. Michael Elling

      How about off-line AND cross network/screen. Very few mobile apps use the desktop or TV well, if at all. Many things can be done better and easier on those screens. For instance, what if an app could be customized via a proxy on my desktop. I can move, choose and label things so much faster with a mouse and keyboard. Also, keeping the customer engaged across all 3 screens can offer new monetization opportunities. And it’s not just apps, but the device manufacturers and carriers as a way to get around the OS hegemond. One of the best features of the app ecosystem is that I can install an app directly from the desktop.

      1. Tereza


  16. Kirsten Lambertsen

    Not to be a buzz kill, but I thought this was a pretty established tenet of mobile development — make sure your app does something (store data) even when there’s no connectivity. Are you talking beyond that concept?

    1. Girish Mehta

      Google launched Offline for YouTube on mobile just under a year back in India and select southeast Asian countries (but not in Singapore and Malaysia for instance).http://techcrunch.com/2014/

      1. Kirsten Lambertsen

        So maybe what we’re talking about here is an offline-first design, vs fallback-in-case-of-offline design, approach.

        1. Tereza

          Yes and a heavy offline app will of course take a lot of space on your phone. For low-cost phones, there are limits to this. Hence the access/performance/storage tradeoffs.

          1. Kirsten Lambertsen

            Such important points. I think it’s easy to just develop for the latest iPhone and not think about anything else. Maybe early on that’s ok. But not if it doesn’t match your actual target user.

        2. Tereza

          Because we’re not talking people with $600 iphones. This segment is $40-$100 smartphones with features commensurate with that, including less storage. A large app needs some serious “must have” utility to make it onto home screen real estate.

  17. Ana Milicevic

    It’s an interesting design paradigm to assume that certain things (like connectivity or battery life) are always available and abundant. I still remember the conversation when I was starting my first company and explaining to one of our investors and early clients that we’ll need to buy UPS units because the electricity is often unstable, cuts out, and could damage our hardware; explaining a shoddy utilities infrastructure to someone who had never experienced unreliable electricity directly was interesting to say the least.That, and when you’re going to new terrain like international expansion, localization, etc. you’d best find a skilled sherpa to guide your way.

    1. Michael Elling

      The day the top (app) layer realized the bottom (transport/access) layer was sort of important.

  18. Chris Phenner

    From AVC’s pages to God’s ears; below is Techmeme’s top story.

  19. SubstrateUndertow

    What are this theme’s implications for the emerging Internet-of-Things ???Security – Filtering – Pre-processing – Synchronizing ???

    1. Michael Elling

      Storage, upstream capacity. latency, QoS, prioritization, managing state/sessions across networks (especially when video and images are involved, which few are really thinking about today, cause we don’t live in a 2-way video world. jus sayin). None of this is happening with today’s siloed model.

  20. BillMcNeely

    Going offline works in the US as well. Here at PICKUP we find folks in our demographic (30-50 women) are not comfortable with downloading apps or even going to a web site. About 30% of our business is handled through the phone. We link our Grasshopper number to Zendesk in order to manage responses.

  21. John Revay

    This just In…seems a little on point w/ today’s topicGoogle Maps adds offline turn-by-turn directions, searchhttp://www.pcworld.com/arti…

    1. Michael Elling

      But you still won’t know where you are on that map without the GPS. People today are visual, not literal. And also it’s not just the macro-cellular network. They need wifi too to improve on triangulation. Just try turning your wifi off and use maps (especially in an urban zone).

  22. Sebastian Wain

    As someone who lives in Buenos Aires, Argentina I am always surprised that applications assume constant Internet access. Google Docs is one of the smart applications that converted to the “offline side of the force”. LinkedIn is one of the worst. It acts like a browser embedded in a mobile application. Slack? it notifies me of a new message but if the Internet connection is interrupted before I read it the channel doesn’t show it. Trello? I can’t check boxes without a network connection. And we have Google Maps that is impractical for a long road with intermittent connections… until today.Also annoying is the constant need for synchronization of data in apps. For example, if we are working on a laptop and have a tablet and a cell phone with the same Skype account running, there is a delay until the tablet and phone mark the notification as seen.

    1. Kirsten Lambertsen

      Thanks for sharing this. The details are really good to know!

  23. scottythebody

    Also consider borders and data roaming — even in the highly developed markets. I live in a small country with excellent data plans. However, those plans do not extend to any of the neighboring countries. If I drive 60 miles to the capital of the neighboring country for a day trip, and do not wish to purchase a monthly 60 EUR “roaming plan”, then I’m SOL as far as data goes until that evening.

  24. Brent Brookler

    Totally agree and we have made this core from day one of FlowVella (formerly Flowboard). Interestingly, this was ‘pushed’ on us by Rick Steves, the travel writer/tv/radio host. We built an audio app for him years ago and he insisted that it be offline – download and play – because of the huge cost of roaming data in Europe.

  25. ShanaC

    Why is this not the assumed paradigm?

  26. jorge

    We’re (Bridgefy) actually coming out with an SDK in a couple of months that will enable practically any existing app to also offer their services without Internet or SMS. The point is to strengthen the relationship between developers and users by removing third parties such as Internet/phone services providers. Also, increased usage through all of those people who don’t have access to Internet but do own a smartphone.

  27. alg0rhythm

    Not to mention data still costs a lot of people. I guess the primary reason for not having offline functions is local data storage?? I always get annoyed with web connected only apps… subways, travel, and high data usage, and that’s here in Machine city. Seems like the old server/ dumb terminal battle that seems to rehash every couple of technology cycles.

    1. $4447877

      I do as well for those applications that require connectivity but could function without it.

  28. Uneven Sidewalks

    Having the offline function is super important for me when I’ve been traveling in other countries for a few years. Even if the country has good internet, I don’t always have a local cell phone chip or have the time to find an internet cafe for wifi to download the information I have stored “in the cloud.” It has influenced my decision to use specific apps (like offline maps) and less popular apps (simplenote vs. evernote for example) since they offer the offline data function.

  29. Jake Baker

    Compliments are sometimes cheap, but I’m very impressed by the culture and approach you have built in sharing insights like this. Resonates on many levels – thank you.

  30. creative group

    When it is obvious that the goals cannot be reached, don’t adjust the goals, adjust the action steps.Confucius

  31. baba12

    A couple of observations to make:-1. Around the communications between the various portfolio companies while great and smooth and at times USV may a role in massaging that flow, I would think that as it pertains to a networked model with every portfolio company being a node including USV being a node, I would think that the reception of any information flowing out of the USV node has probably higher priority and weight(gravitas) attached than any other information flows happening between the other nodes.2. If companies that have or are building products/services with a international focus then they would be better served to have a mantra of doing more with less as the fundamental basis of how they go about iterating. It isn’t just mobile networks are less reliable or more expensive but most people can’t afford to upgrading hardware (more memory,more processing power, more power consumption) all of which adds to more costs for the consumers in large parts of the non caucasian worlds.It is very easy to innovate and more bells/whistles etc to every update of software which chews up more of those limited resources leaving people with bad user experiences unless the upgrade their systems. From a economic standpoint it benefits the sellers and thats what they market, but from an environmental standpoint or from the consumer standpoint it isn’t a good value proposition. The sooner companies realize that and or operate from the get go with the mantra”more with less” they would be truly great companies.Wonder if Mr.Wilson and USV espouse such ideas and thoughts when they are interacting with their portfolio companies even though it maybe be detrimental to the “bottom line”.

  32. TedHoward

    This post left me speechless in a very bad way.Step #1 in due diligence for a mobile app is Airplane Mode. If you fail #1 you don’t get to #2. Full stop.There are scenarios, such as Uber, which require a connection. Other than those few, if you have a mobile app that relies on a connection to the internet then you simply don’t grok mobile and you have failed. Have you never been on an airplane?! In a tunnel? Near a hill? Anywhere outside of a city?

  33. Tereza

    Privileged, yes. Functional, no. This would require a solution where people cross lines to agree…and alas, that is not happening.

  34. LE

    I suspect that perhaps part of the problem is a NIMBY issue. [1]Cell towers are unsightly [2][1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wi…[2] Btw, ever see the ones that try to look like trees?

  35. Tereza

    My personal daisy chain: wifi calling at home, which is quite good. our town tower finally went up, which is T-Mobile. So in our little town, good. But the terrain is rocky, pop density low, and massive case of NIMBY w people protecting their “viewsheds”. (I’ll note when the TMO tower went up after 10 years of arguing about killing the viewshed, immediately no one cared and immediately adapted to having and using the signal). There is an intersection between progress and nature, and old generation and new — plus this terrain/pop density — that leaves us frozen in time. But, pretty amazing given it’s a very large swath of territory very close to NYC. We put the FUN in dysfunction!

  36. Tereza

    btw @ccrystle:disqus congrats on your recent (and ongoing) awesomeness.

  37. LE

    Pretty funny exactly what I said above.

  38. jason wright

    ironic. T-Mobile is (or was) a Deutsche Telekom business. In Germany the government insisted that villages and the periphery received high speed mobile connection before urban centres. i know the US is a lot bigger, but i sense that Westchester County is not too far from NYC, and yet could be on the Mars.

  39. Tereza

    We have ones that look like baby bottle brushes. Or sequoias.Apparently this one on the Hutch shocked a European tourist sufficiently as to post it on Pinterest. Huzzah!https://www.pinterest.com/p

  40. LE

    Hah. Here are some more of the same:http://twistedsifter.com/20…I’ve always thought that part of the reason for doing this had to do with birds or some other environmental issue. Not able to find anything about that though.

  41. Tereza

    Yes that’s correct. Former copper wire Ma Bell, and its inheritants, the RBOCs, have had a fiduciary responsibility to fully serve the entire “last mile” of the U.S., including remote areas. They charged high rates to subsidize all, but it happened. Cellular in the US has no such fiduciary requirement, and further, with a fast-eroding business the RBOCs (e.g. Verizon) are trying to back out of that requirement because they claim they cannot afford it. Unfortunately, you don’t have to go far at all in the US to find geo’s where “free competition” does NOT ensure people get service (even if they are fully willing to pay). Their competition is not focused on fighting to cover uncovered areas — they are fighting for market share in the highly covered areas — so disconnected people stay disconnected. This extends even to your landline. To wit, in our house we literally have a copper wire we’ve clung to but Verizon won’t repair when needed. They are forcing a switch to FiOS but that goes down when the power goes out and the power goes out here with some frequency. (Thanks to overhead wires, which also no longer exist in Germany.) Oh and BTW my daisy-chain wifi calling goes out, too. So a blip in electric and I’m in the Stone Ages.I could pay mucho $$$$ for a backup generator. But — having grown up here, we were always content with relying on a copper wire briefly for backup when electricity went out. You’re covered in emergency and the outages never lasted too long. Why should I be forced to invest in a generator just to ensure basic landline and cell phone service? It’s really backwards.In this case, make no mistake: we are a 3rd world country too.

  42. Anne Libby

    I worry about this with older family members in another state. They’re healthy and mobile for now. They sometimes have no phone service, period. No phone, no 911.

  43. PhilipSugar

    FiOS battery lasts eight hours. For backup generator there are two options mucho $$$$ and total convenience or you get a manual switch $300 put the important things on that, run a wire to outside when power goes out flip the switch, roll out a propane generator ($700 at Costco). Perfect?? Nope, but $1k.

  44. Tereza

    Exactly. That we now have to pay large amounts privately (for a generator), to assure the most basic level of human safety (which we did not previously have to pay) — a single 911 phone call — is not progress. Hurricane Sandy was an eye opener.

  45. Tereza

    Yeah we’re pretty much gearing towards that (both versions of cheap). Bought the cheap generator but it’s sat in the garage for 2 years awaiting install πŸ™‚ As for FiOS — we will have no choice as our copper is barely serviceable. it’s one of those very very rare cases where I cling to old technology — as it provided a feature that was meaningful to us.We have literally been ruminating on this for years. Your connectivity to the outside world is a primal thing.

  46. LE

    Back in the 90’s when I first had servers I used a normal triplite power inverter, a triplite line conditioner (to clean the power) and an array of big ass heavy industrial batteries that I bought from Interstate Battery (at dealer pricing). The batteries were about 150 lbs each (maybe 3 times the size of car batteries) and I had 6 of them. Interstate delivers them. Was enough to easily run several power hogging servers and other equipment for at least 24 hours or longer. This lasted for roughly 10 years of power outages and up until I put the equipment into colocation and no longer needed it. I ran wires through the building from where I located the batteries to all of the relevant equipment. I had another battery that I ran to the front of the building where the demarc and the fiber optic equipment was (which Verizon owned). I also had an APC hot swap switch if I needed to service anything or pull a battery. I “engineered” all of this myself, using battery connectors from Pep Boys. It worked. Saved a ton of money vs. using some solution from APC to do the same thing. I think the entire rig was less than $1500. (Would be more today because battery prices have gone up..)

  47. PhilipSugar

    Yup. If it is your livelihood you have to pay the money once you are successful.What amazes me is how often the power goes off in high end suburbs. My Dad has underground wiring on the Main Line and it goes out for days at a time.Knock on wood rural places like me seem to be better. If mine was going out once a month, I’d have a Generac, but once every three years for four hours? My solution works great. The propane is the key as you don’t have gasoline

  48. LE

    “High end suburbs” = “less density”. Less density means less people restored per electric worker. Or less people to lose power with a problem (lack of preventive maintenance). My theory.I looked into getting a generator iirc generac wasn’t the brand to get. I think I got a quote for between 10k and 15k. I was close to pulling the trigger but like you it doesn’t go out that much. Plus I am only 4 minutes from the office so unless the power is out there as well I can always hang out there (which I do anyway). The office is on a medical grid or something so as long as I call when it’s out it tends to be fixed quicker than other places.Power is less reliable it seems now because they don’t do as much preventive tree cutting and maintenance as a result of deregulation. My theory. Back in the day the Asplund crews would be through my old neighborhood on a regular basis doing all sorts of trimming. People were getting them to cut down all of their trees at no cost (which really bothered me since I like trees).

  49. PhilipSugar

    I never seriously looked into it. But I was off by a factor of two or three.The population density where I live is nil, compared to anywhere we are talking about.The solution I have works great. It means you have heat propane (not heat pump), hot water, refrigeration, lights, cell phone, and modem. No A/C is about it.My 13 year old can do it in two minutes. Wait ten minutes (see if it comes back on). Wheel the generator outside, attach to propane feed, turn quarter turn valve, push the button to start or pull cord, plug in. Throw this one switch from city power, through neutral, into generator, flip on each breaker one at a time.When you see the neighbors come back on reverse the process. I have on a laminated card on the generator.Best part of the whole thing?? No worries when the power goes out (which it hasn’t in three years for one hour, since a giant ice storm knock on wood). If it goes for more than twelve hours fill the bathtubs. Turn off hot water heater. No showers.Best part? No stress. Is it like nothing ever happened?? No, but are you worried about frozen pipes, freezing, no food etc? Nope. Fret about downtime, no.People always tell me I want five nine’s. Ok what is that worth??? Here is the price. 5 minutes…..that is tough. One hour??? Much easier. The other big thing is this. All of that manual intervention? You don’t get failover, failure. That is actually the most common thing we see when you try and automagically fail over instead of having a person look at what is going on for complicated things. That costs a ton of money and monitoring. It keeps getting better, but I would tell you that every hard failover we have is doubled by the number of soft failovers we have and our uptime is awesome.