Every week, Ken Whittaker, Director of Engineering, and Neal Cook, Director of Support at Front Rush, review recent tech news, offering analysis and banter about changes in tech.
Ken: Hey Neal! Another week, another piping hot, fresh blog post to write. How have you been?
Neal: Hey Ken! It was my birthday week so it was extra spectacular. Hope your week was just as groovy!
Ken: Well Happy Birthday to you! As we know, the biggest story of the week has been surrounding Hurricane Harvey which affected Texas and Louisiana early in the week. If you’ve seen any of the images coming out of there, it’s truly a devastating scene. Watching the constructed effort by first responders to rescue affected people and pets has been remarkable. However, another fascinating thing to see was the power of social media during this natural disaster.
Neal: Thanks for the birthday love!
What happened in Texas and Louisiana is gut-wrenching. Looking at the pictures of the men and women crying, outside of their demolished homes, was a tough thing to do. Major love and respect to those brave individuals and rescuers who did their part to save those who may have died. The power of social media may have very well saved the lives of 18 people and one cat after Tim and Kim McIntosh tweeted a photo of the nursing home that their mother runs in Dickinson, which is close to Houston. The now viral image showed residents of the nursing home in waist deep water. After the tweet went viral, the National Guard and the Galveston City emergency crew were able to rescue all of the residents and someone’s cat.
Ken: Remarkable. The power and instantaneous nature of social media is hard to match. While many times it gets a bad reputation for the way some people use it to criticize others, we can’t forget the profound effect it has on society. Within seconds, this photo was made visible to millions of people. There’s no fault of having a phone hotline to report incidents, however, as the family stated – they were unable to get through to have this situation addressed. Social media gave them the power to get their message heard.
In a time where people get their news on their phones more than they read it in a paper, it’s important to understand how powerful social media is. It’s no wonder why so many athletes, celebrities, and political figures take to social media to deliver powerful news – rather than having traditional press conferences. The old saying, “a picture is worth a thousand words” is also important here. When looking at the photo of the nursing home, there was no mistaking how bad the situation was or who was affected. Someone with access to the correct resources was able to see it and take action.
Neal: You are spot on. Social media, and Twitter specifically, has always taken heat for promoting ‘fake news’ or for allowing users to disrespect and troll one another. It’s a refreshing change of scenery to see it be used to save the lives of others. Not surprisingly, USA TODAY reported that there are some who questioned the authenticity of the photo, showing us what we already know: Some people do not have social media etiquette.
The Verge wrote an interesting article about the flight controllers at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, which is outside of Houston. The flight controllers here actually control all of the movements of the International Space Station (it was surprising for me to hear this – I thought it would be the astronauts themselves). A lot of the work the controllers do can be done remotely, like our team at Front Rush, But the #1 important task of the flight controllers (sending commands to the orbiting lab) has to be done on site at this space center. The leadership at NASA had to consider evacuating the station and moving to a backup space station (which was also in Texas and most likely going to be hit as well), or, would they ride out the storm and bunker down in the station? NASA also made sure to reach out to the astronauts families who are in the Houston area to make sure they were OK. Another example of humans doing what humans were made to do: love and look out for one another.
Ken: I was surprised too – but after reading the article, now I understand that the International Space Station has a heavy ground operation that is closely monitored by a whole team of people. Ironically, they are all working “remotely” if you think about it, but semantics aside, this article was still interesting. While everyone in harm’s way should heed the warning of officials to evacuate, this was a unique situation where it was actually more beneficial for the operators to shelter in place. Who would have thought a hurricane near the Gulf of Mexico could have such a profound impact on the research done in outer space? In any case, I’m glad to hear that the situation in the area is improving and now the focus can be shifted to recovering and rebuilding.
Neal: Mother Nature can pack a punch, that’s for sure. Let’s hope that the recovery is quicker than anticipated. I read up a little bit more on the International Space Station and it actually orbits low enough in space that you can see it with the naked eye! That’s freaking awesome! You can put your location in on this site and it will tell you approximately what time the station will pass over you if you want to take a peek.
Ken: Haha, cool! I’ll have to check that out. That’s all we’ve got for this week. I look forward to catching up with you next week!
Neal: If you want to have a space station viewing party, I’m in!
Have a great extended weekend, see ya next week!