Power Outages, Rabbit Holes and the Importance of Redundancy

We spend a lot of time thinking about new technologies here at Nextgov -- mainly about how developments could affect government operations. It can sometimes be hard to keep the big picture in mind: What does a particular technology really mean for taxpayers? For the employees who must buy it and use it? For the people who are supposed to benefit? How reliable is it? Having just endured the Power Outage from Hell here in the Washington area, this last question is top of mind for some of us. When you cover everything from drones to data centers and the institutional implications of major computing shifts, it’s important to avoid going too far down the rabbit hole of a specific technology because there will always be another tunnel that needs exploration.

I was reminded of the importance of such discipline in a conversation with my brother David over the July 4th holiday. David is a composer, blogger and founder of the Irritable Hedgehog recording label (yes, he got the talent in the family). He’s also a technologist in the electronic music realm. Here’s what he tells his students:

  1. Expect to be thrown in front of unfamiliar applications and gear. Learn to figure them out fast. The rest of your life will be an ongoing tutorial.
  2. Don't fall in love with any one application or piece of hardware. It will cease to exist or function when you need it most. Or your new operating system won't support it.
  3. Learn basic underlying principles that are common to all applications/gear, not the minutia of any particular one.
  4. Back up everything. Redundantly.

Words to live by.