In the 1940s, Thomas J. Watson predicted that the world needed no more than five computers. In 1969, there were over 69,000 mainframe computers in the US. In Germany, there were over 8,000 in 1971. Over forty years ago, personal computers replaced the green host screens. Nowadays applications run in the cloud. We assume that the network runs stable and that all applications are accessible at all times. On October 4th 2021, 9 am PDT, Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp went down for six hours. After hours, the world learned that a wrong configuration was the reason for the outage.
No doubt it was a matter of some wrong settings. However, we learn nothing about the reasons behind. The decisive factor is assuming the responsibility. However, there is always room for interpretation – if not for conspiracy theories. Wrong settings have many possible causes.
- Operating errors
There are no man-made things that are error-free. It may be due to the program code or the settings of a server or the adjustments for the Internet. It is often not the original error that appears, but only effects that have to be traced back. Meanwhile, the impacts spread. This results in many failures in a short period of time, which have to be rolled back eventually. In any case, it were wrong settings.
An operating error happens without intention. When someone deliberately causes a breakdown, the malfunction feels initially like an operating error. However, the bad intentions lead to the fact that the saboteurs prepare their acts well in advance and obfuscate them accordingly. It can take some time until the actors are debunked. To what extent the real reasons will ever become known is an open question. In any case, it were wrong settings.
Failures quickly lead to hazardous incidents, which cause outage, which cause interruptions, and so on. Since errors spread at the speed of light, not only does the original defect need to be fixed, but so do all subsequent ones. Once the servers are no longer recognized, it takes hours to restore the original conditions. In any case, it were wrong settings.
- Failed integration
When complex IT systems converge, unforeseen difficulties quickly arise. In order to get rid of them, parameters are readjusted. This can then lead to aftereffects that build up. When systems fail, it takes time to modify the settings and restart the systems. In any case, it were wrong settings.
- Security leaks
Incorrect settings lead to open entry points that are used by hackers. It does not matter whether they pursue private, commercial or political intentions. Every program has a security hole that can be exploited with the right code. The fact that the backdoors are open is only detected by the operators after an incident occurred. However, it is important for us users to know if our data is safe. In any case, it were wrong settings.
Bottom line: Facebook has reacted professionally by taking responsibility. Yet, it remains open what is behind the incorrect configuration. You have to live with simple operating errors, because they are human – even after good training reduces the number. Saboteurs are already hard to find – despite the many log files. Malfunctions are fate, as they result from the complex interaction of IT systems and modules and no one can foresee them. When systems are upgraded to a new version or get harmonized, unpredictable errors occur. Security weaknesses are particularly unpleasant when personal data is stored. The actual reasons are only understood by experts and they remain in the dark to conceal the own weaknesses. The quick announcement that it was a wrong configuration of the provider is the only way to react responsibly – even if we don’t really know, what it was.
All presenters have the same hurdle to overcome. The first eight seconds are the key to further attention. At the very least, the audience remembers primarily the messages that are accommodated in this period. Therefore politicians strive to make effective public appearances during election times. These publicity events serve to convince uncertain and undecided voters that they are right. A clumsy impression costs votes. For this purpose, they formulate their content in a way that creates the desired effect.
It’s easy to observe tactics on TV shows.
- Personal speech tempo
In addition to posture, facial expressions, and gestures, speech expression conveys the speaker’s traits. Dynamic volume, pitch, and emphasis indicate the idea of the candidates. A rapid pace of speech, lack of interruption, and shortness of breath suggest uncertainty and unreliability. Speaking slowly with appropriate pauses conveys composure, confidence, and strong leadership. Since public speaking time is limited, gentle responses prevent especially the number of messages to be delivered and thus the risk of saying something clumsy.
- No closed answers
To make clever use of speaking time, interviewers like to have simple yes or no answers, but this would mean that candidates would have to be unequivocal about something – which goes against the opportunistic reasons of wanting to get elected. Instead of a clear answer, the speaking time is filled with standard phrases: e.g., Our voters wish, in all regions of our country, that we the party, the parliamentarians, the members in the states and constituencies to fulfill the expectations, what they elected us for.
- Shamelessly demanding what they had not been done until now
As long as an election extends what has been done before, those up for re-election can defer any unfinished tasks to the following term. Where it gets complicated is when significant changes are pending. Competitors denounce lack of results and grievances. In this case, it is a good idea to sing from the same song-sheet: e.g. There must finally be an end to this inactivity. We do not need even more regulations. We need to finally implement something.
- Reflect allegations
Some accusations regarding the failures of the past years are easy to prove. Explanations would seem like excuses. For this reason, an attack is the best defense. Especially when the new regulations disadvantage one’s clientele. The political opponent is simply indignantly accused of what one has practiced over the years: e.g., We must prevent the political opponent from curtailing the freedom of the voters with new laws and regulations.
- Will alone does not bring change
The issues that particularly interest voters only become apparent in the final stages of the election campaign. The publication of one’s election program should therefore take place as late as possible. That way, voters‘ reactions to competing election programs can be used to adapt one’s own. The whole thing is then packaged in statements with We want. The listeners overhear the de facto inactivity based on the declared will: e.g., We are committed to thinking about how best to narrow down the problem in the next few days, and then discuss with everyone how we could find and finance a solution.
- Assert as if
As an alternative to the will, you can build the needed keywords into one’s speech. At the same time, they postpone implementation to the day the cows come home: e.g., Climate change is an essential issue for the world. We will set the course so that we are climate-neutral in 25 years.
- Just keep talking
Moderators make every effort to avoid the overlong, meaningless answers by repeating the question and, if necessary, interrupting the responders when they lapse into these long monologues. The experienced politicians are no longer put off by this. They include a lengthening phrase and simply continue to reel off their prepared messages: e.g., Let me say this because it is crucial to me. …
Bottom line: If the eight seconds of attention are filled skillfully, listeners remember the prepared statements. By speaking slowly, the small number of words can be better memorized. At the same time, less gets conveyed. If the candidates avoid simple yes-no answers and instead deliver „decisive“ phrases, no one notices that they have not answered at all. Demanding something that could have been done so far shows a lack of respect for the voters who are being fooled in this way. When we listen carefully, we notice the opportunistic, momentary buzzwords. However, unwanted intentions are increasingly packaged with We want – how serious this keeps them is in the listener’s ear. If voters expect specific results, they will be promised – for decades after the next legislative session. The election campaign is a heyday for consultants. Especially coaches teach candidates body language, facial expressions, gestures, and intonation. For us voters, it is essential to keep our attention beyond the eight seconds. This is the only way we recognize the candidates.