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Communications Software The Internet

"Series of Tubes" Metaphor Implemented 266

meisteg writes to tell us about Tubes: a beta application that uses a tube metaphor to enable users to share files over the Internet. The Windows-only app is free and the company hopes to make money on an enhanced version targeted at businesses. See this video for some details of how Tubes works. From the article: "[Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens] endured ridicule last year for his assertion that the Internet is 'a series of tubes.' But one Web startup hopes to bring that metaphor to life with a new service that makes it easy for people to share videos, songs, pictures and other big files."
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"Series of Tubes" Metaphor Implemented

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  • by Skreems ( 598317 ) on Monday January 15, 2007 @10:17PM (#17623040) Homepage
    This could actually be useful... it's sort of combining BitTorrent and RSS. You subscribe to a content channel, and as people with publishing permissions add content, it updates on your local system. Also tracks changes to existing documents, so it could be good for collaboration, although any serious use would likely want a version control system that supports conflict merges. For the average non-techie, though, this could be pretty handy.

    It's a shame they're aiming for such a tech-illiterate user base, though... their site doesn't seem to mention whether they do BitTorrent-style bandwidth sharing to distribute content.
  • Re:well-Planespeak. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dangitman ( 862676 ) on Monday January 15, 2007 @10:30PM (#17623196)

    After trying to explain how it was different than her Dell laptop, I finally sent her a picture off google images of a big server rack and she finally got it.

    But what did she "get" by looking at the picture? Did she actually understand the server conceptually? Or did it further add to mystery, just with an added mental picture of racks of intimidating equipment?

    After all, her Dell laptop could easily perform as a server. And a rack-mount machine can easily function as a workstation. The type of enclosure does not determine the function.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 15, 2007 @10:41PM (#17623338)
    I am the marketer at TubesNow.com and my name is Steve. And no, we didn't name it Tubes because of the Senator from Alaska although we do get a chuckle out of it here in Boston. We named it Tubes because of the metaphor we borrowed: the pneumatic tube used at many bank drive ins to transfer documents & cash. You know that cool thing at the bank the teller uses to send you money with a whoosh? Tubes is the digital version of that - letting you share with many people at once. Just like that bank tube, Tubes is secure, bi-directional, personal (you see and wave at the teller behind glass while she counts out your money), private, nearly instantaneous and fun. I remember getting lollipops in the tube when my Dad would drive to the bank (way before ATMs) and I practically begged him to use the bank tube because I was trying to figure out how it worked. We could have called it Star Trek (but we didn't, that would really be bad marketing) since some people think of it as part Replicator and part Transporter. We think it is cool and I hope you try it. It is beta software and we're hoping the slashdot crowd helps us make it better.

    And to the other person worried about getting his computer filled with stuff that other people send you, be aware that we implemented a feature called "On Demand" that lets you see what people are sending you before you accept. Or you can accept it all, delete your local copy, and request a local copy any time you want, on any computer.

    Hope that helps. If you have any other questions, feel free to post them on our forum!
  • by maxume ( 22995 ) on Monday January 15, 2007 @10:46PM (#17623386)
    So is it a computing fruit or something like that? I can't believe you are actually being smug about vocabulary. Macs look just like PCs, act just like PCs, and dancing out on a limb here, I believe that they are in fact personal computers. That they are now Wintel compatible makes the argument even more miserable for you.
  • by midnightJackal ( 680627 ) on Monday January 15, 2007 @11:52PM (#17624008)
    I went to the Miraikan in Tokyo this summer, and one of the coolest nerd things that they had was a physical model of the internet. My geek guy and I passed schmoopy "heart" messages back and forth across a series of connected conveyor belts using black and white colored balls, symbolizing 0s and 1s. The setup had an information display that, as far as my bad Japanese could read, said it was a graduate student project from a nearby University. It was incredibly cool. From the English part of their website we have the folowing:

    A Hands-On Model of the Internet Balls roll, and the workings of the Internet are revealed. Data coming and going over the Internet, whether text or images, is represented by a series of 0s and 1s. The series is divided into small chunks called "packets." An array of 0s and 1s called an "IP address," which represents the destination of the data is included in the header of each packet. The Internet exchanges data by delivering these packets from network to network. We have provided white and black balls to represent the 0s and 1s in the packets. In the exhibit, you can create your own packet of white and black balls and release your packet onto the Internet.

    You can get to it by clicking on the Exhibit 3 part of the 3rd floor on their flash-y map. [jst.go.jp]

    We, of course, made plenty of "tubes" jokes, but the funniest had to be when one of the balls accidentally popped off the conveyor belt, and the message was dropped as it entered the receiving terminal as being badly formed. Great, because their model showed what happens when you literally drop a packet. *grin*
  • Re:well-Planespeak. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Michael Woodhams ( 112247 ) on Tuesday January 16, 2007 @12:07AM (#17624132) Journal
    Having (for the first time) just read the "series of tubes" quote on Wikipedia, it doesn't seem so bad to me. The only glaring error is having been "sent an internet" (rather than e-mail) but this could just be a slip of the tongue - I take it this was off-the-cuff, not a scripted speach.

    "Pipes" would have been a better word than "tubes" (stuff flows along pipes, but not necessarily along tubes) and I feel roads would be a better metaphor, but "tubes" isn't a bad one.

    I confess I don't understand what incorrect interpretation of the internet he was trying to dispell with "not a big truck". That stuff arrives a bit at a time, rather than in one indivisible lump?

    Perhaps there is other evidence beyond this showing that the senator is technologically clueless?
  • by MoxFulder ( 159829 ) on Tuesday January 16, 2007 @12:33AM (#17624356) Homepage
    The internet is a lot like an information superhighway...

    No, the Internet is NOT like a superhighway :-) From Usenet, 1994-ish:

            "Think of the Internet as a highway."

            There it is again. Some clueless fool talking about the "Information Superhighway." They don't know didley about the net. It's nothing like a superhighway. That's a rotten metaphor.

            Suppose the metaphor ran in the other direction. Suppose the highways were like the net. . .

            A highway hundreds of lanes wide. Most with pitfalls for potholes. Privately operated bridges and overpasses. No highway patrol. A couple of rent-a-cops on bicycles with broken whistles. 500 member vigilante posses with nuclear weapons. A minimum of 237 on ramps at every intersection. No signs. Wanna get to Ensenada? Holler out the window at a passing truck to ask directions. Ad hoc traffic laws. Some lanes would vote to make use by a single-occupant-vehicle a capital offense on Monday through Friday between 7:00 and 9:00. Other lanes would just shoot you without a trial for talking on a car phone.

            AOL would be a giant diesel-smoking bus with hundreds of ebola victims on board throwing dead wombats and rotten cabbage at the other cars, most of which have been assembled at home from kits. Some are built around 2.5 horsepower lawnmower engines with a top speed of nine miles an hour. Others burn nitrogylcerin and idle at 120.

            No license plates. World War II bomber nose art instead. Terrifying paintings of huge teeth or vampire eagles. Bumper mounted machine guns. Flip somebody the finger on this highway and get a white phosphorus grenade up your tailpipe. Flatbed trucks cruise around with anti-aircraft missile batteries to shoot down the traffic helicopter. Little kids on tricycles with squirtguns filled with hydrochloric acid switch lanes without warning.

            NO OFFRAMPS. None.
            Now that's the way to run an Interstate Highway system.
            (author unknown)
  • by Eskarel ( 565631 ) on Tuesday January 16, 2007 @12:52AM (#17624526)
    As far as it goes, and under very specific provisions, the tubes abstraction is not actually all that bad. Nor is the highway one, or any other abstraction.

    The problem is that while an abstraction can be a great way to explain a technical concept to someone non-technical, it isn't a complete understanding of the concept, and when non-technical people try to make decisions based on that metaphor they are often wrong.

    The internet is, in some ways, like, a series of tubes, but it is not actually a series of tubes, and when you make decisions about the internet as if it were a series of tubes instead of what it actually is, most of the time you'll get it wrong. Most of our elected officials don't have a technical background so we have a bunch of people trying to make decisions based, at best, on abstractions, or on the advice of experts(who are usually bought and paid for by someone).

    Probably the best solution to all of this is to start funding independent pools of experts on technical and scientific fields and then taking their advice, but those sorts of people don't tend to tell the politicians what they're being paid to want to hear, so that'll never happen.

  • What's New ? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by shashark ( 836922 ) on Tuesday January 16, 2007 @02:18AM (#17625166)
    Remind me what's new here - We've been seeing this in Grouper (http://www.grouper.com), iMeem (http://www.imeem.com) and Krawler (http://www.krawlerx.com - shameless plug, it uses RSS and bit-torrent for file transfers as well). Same old Media sharing. Same old Social Networking. Same old File Transfer.

    Two things -
    (1) That p2p Networks are fringe activities, and 99% of the web users will use youtube.com to share videos is a fact these p2p networks have to realise.
    (2) There can not be a viable business model for p2p based file-sharing networks which doesn't rely on some sort of Adware or (minor) spyware. Since the volumes can never justify the ad-spend by advertisers, the advertisers will increasingly push for personal information of the users - which, considering the technologies involved, is not very hard to get from the back door.

    I salute the PR team of this company on having managed to get their crap of a product on slashdot.
  • Re:well-Planespeak. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by rolandog ( 834340 ) <rolandog@gmail.com> on Tuesday January 16, 2007 @02:20AM (#17625186) Journal
    This was actually recreated in a Daily Show episode by Jon Stewart and John Hodgman [youtube.com].
  • Re:well-Poolspeak. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Garridan ( 597129 ) on Tuesday January 16, 2007 @02:42AM (#17625328)
    P2P: trade / craft shows. Individuals from all around the world flood an area to swap goods. They bring goods, and share with others. The person running the show doesn't need to own anything themselves -- they rely on the users to bring the content.

    VOIP: Couriers in faster (non-truck) vehicles can transport small payloads with relative ease.

    This is fun! What's next?

How many NASA managers does it take to screw in a lightbulb? "That's a known problem... don't worry about it."