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We had been driving again dwelling from our impromptu shock household trip in Tennessee, winding our means via the Appalachian Mountains, after I identified an extended, steep ramp to nowhere branching off the facet of the freeway.  “What do you suppose it’s for?” I requested the children.


They made some guesses, some fairly intelligent, however none right.  So I informed them about runaway truck ramps and the way they work.  I believe they had been vaguely for just a few seconds; I received a well-isn’t-that-interesting grunt, which I’ll take as a win.  We swept on previous, the children went again to no matter they had been doing earlier than I’d interrupted them, and I saved my eyes on the street.

However I used to be nonetheless serious about the runaway truck ramp, and the way it’s an ideal bodily instance of designing for disaster.

I additionally questioned concerning the historical past of runaway ramps — after they had been first carried out, and what number of runaway automobiles crashed earlier than the necessity was acknowledged and an answer discovered.  After I received dwelling, I appeared it up and found that ramps didn’t actually exist till the Nineteen Seventies or so.  Even when we assume that no automobiles misplaced management within the U.S. till the Eisenhower Interstate System was established within the Nineteen Fifties (simply go along with it), that’s nonetheless 20 years of what had been in all probability some fairly horrible crashes, earlier than an answer was carried out.

This isn’t to say that the ramps are an ideal answer.  A runaway automobile can actually crash earlier than reaching the following ramp, and utilizing a ramp is probably going to break the automobile even beneath the very best of circumstances.  A badly-designed ramp might be virtually as harmful as no ramp in any respect.  Nonetheless, an answer exists.

I really feel like internet design is on the pre-ramp section.  We’ve created an enormous, sprawling system that amplifies commerce and communication, however we haven’t but discovered methods to construct in some worst-case-scenario options that don’t intrude with the primary functioning of the system.  We’ve laid down the paths and made a few of them look fairly and even breathtaking, however we’re nonetheless not coping with the crashes that occur when an edge case comes onto our stretch of the street.

I’m making an attempt actually onerous to keep away from “data superhighway” clichés right here, by the best way.

I’ve been pondering whether or not to include this specific instance into my 2015 speak, “Designing for Disaster” — a lot will rely on how the speak stands after I am going again via it another time to tighten it up, and begin rehearsing once more.  If there’s room and an excellent hook, I’ll add it in as a short illustration.  If not, that’s okay too.  It’s nonetheless given me one other means to have a look at designing for disaster, and the way that subject suits into the broader theme that the Fb imbroglio dropped at mild.

I’m nonetheless making an attempt to get an excellent deal with on what the broader theme is, precisely.  “Designing for Disaster” is part of it, however only a half.  A number of folks have informed me I ought to flip that speak right into a guide, but it surely by no means fairly felt like a guide.  Positive, I might have stretched it to fill a guide, however one thing was lacking, and I knew it.  I assumed there was a gap in the concept that I wanted to establish and fill; as an alternative, the thought was filling a gap in a context I hadn’t seen.

Now I’ve.  It should take a while to see all of it, and even simply extra of it, however at the least now I do know it’s there and ready to be explored and shared.