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Trillions: Thriving in the Emerging Information Ecology by Mickey McManus, Joe Ballay, Peter Lucas

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CHAPTER 3

The Tyranny of the Orthodoxy

At any given moment there is an orthodoxy, a body of ideas which it is assumed that all right-thinking people will accept without question. It is not exactly forbidden to say this, that or the other, but it is “not done” to say it. . . . Anyone who challenges the prevailing orthodoxy finds himself silenced with surprising effectiveness. A genuinely unfashionable opinion is almost never given a fair hearing, either in the popular press or in the highbrow periodicals.

—GEORGE ORWELL

INFORMATION INTERRUPTUS

On November 6, 2008, an AOL staffer named Kelly posted a message on the America Online (AOL) customer-relations blog called “People Connection.”

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AOL Hometown was an online tool that let AOL members build and maintain their own web sites hosted on AOL’s system. Many of AOL’s customers had embraced Hometown as a repository for priceless personal information. The service was once wildly popular. As early as 2001, it is reported to have hosted more than 11 million web pages.

The first official notice of the impending demise of the service appears to have been posted on September 30, 2008, along with a procedure for retrieving user data (during the 30-day period before the plug was pulled). This procedure involved the use of a low-level file transfer protocol called “FTP,” which a typical AOL Hometown user had probably never heard of.1 In any ...

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