Sunday, March 05, 2006

Unexpected Benefits of the Internet

Posted by Picasa Way back when in the late 90's and early 2000's there was a lot of talk about how the Internet would change the world and upend or destroy business models. New companies emerged selling pet food and groceries online, raised enormous amounts of capital, and foundered. Some business models did evaporate, such as the travel agency business.

Many other benefits came from the Internet that weren't anticipated, however. Recently I upgraded our phone system and answering machine and gave away our (perfectly good) old model that we have had for 10 years or so. Rather than just give away the answering machine by itself, I spent a couple minutes online, found a PDF of the manual, and included the manual with the machine. I figured whomever used it next would appreciate having a manual rather than setting it up by trial and error.

I use online manuals and schematics all the time. Rather than holding on to manuals for hardware, software, telephones, and of course the home appliances like stoves and refrigerators, I just look this information up online, instead. It is far more effective to find the information as you need it rather than to keep a thousand paper manuals cluttering up your house. Who would have thought that this would be a big benefit of the Internet?

A much more important use of the Internet is found here. After "Megan's Law" was passed to track sexual predators, local governments started to keep this data. It is cumbersome and impratical for the average person to obtain this information, however, necessitating a trip to the local government policies and an idea of how to work the organization.

This site links together the "Google Maps" technology with databases maintained by the police to much more effectively track these human vermin. You can even set it up so that you receive an email alert when one of them moves into your neighborhood. I think the fact that you can click and bring up a photo of the person (and even share it with your children) is also very useful, so that you can keep an eye out for the person.

This is the type of data that has always been available, but not available in a useful or actionable format for the average citizen. Thanks to companies like Google, who make this software, as well, this important data is now readily available.

One more thing - since I live in the city and there are SRO (single room occupancy) hotels nearby, of course a horde of these people live nearby. I am sure that the liberals who rant and rave about the rights of others but live in posh suburbs far away would fight tooth and nail to keep these types of dwellings out of their town because ensuring that there is no low cost housing around de-facto ensures that you won't have (as many) of these people in your midst. Grist for another post, I'd say.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Carl- when you find the manuals the problem is how to save the copy off the net onto your computer. I use pdf factory pro software (, you print to the pdf factory pro "printer" and it creates a pdf file you can save with all formatting, pictures,etc. It costs $50-$100 but I use it everyday. A free alternative that does not show a preview of the pdf to be created (yet otherwise works well) can be obtained at
With pdf factory pro you can sequentially print diffferent sources and it combines them into one pdf file!