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June 17, 2009 / Mike Su

Quarantine 2.0

Back in my day, we used Yahoo for search, there was no Googles!

Back in my day, we used Yahoo for search, there was no Googles!


As I sit here, in my last 9 hours of quarantine, it’s got me thinking a lot about how different things would be had I been quarantined five years ago instead of today. Keep in mind, five years is not a very long time. It’s the time it takes an overachiever to finish undergrad and tack on a master’s degree, or an underachiever to finish undergrad as a super-senior. Five years ago was 2004. But in what the crazies call “Internet time”, that is an entire generation. Seriously, think about it. Prior to 2004, these did not exist (apologies in advance to Andrew Lih – Wikipedia is the beginning *and* end of my research for these – I’d make a horrible journalist):
Why wont you follow me back? Twitter snob!

Why won't you follow me back? Twitter snob!

  • YouTube
  • Twitter
  • Digg (founded in December ’04)
  • Yelp (founded Oct ’04)

And these things happend in 2004:

  • Google went public
  • Facebook was founded
  • WordPress turned 1 years old
  • LinkedIn has been launched for 1 year
  • MySpace turned 1
  • Skype was four months old

Think about that for a minute. All of that has happend in the past five years. Back in the day, it took five years to get from New York to LA!

Flash forward to 2009, and it really is hard to imagine how boring quarantine would be without social media. Not that social media replaces or reduces the need for human interaction, but when you’re forced into a situation that specifically prevents human interaction, social media becomes your best alternative.

You should follow me on twitter! Im @havent_smiled_in_years!

You should follow me on twitter! I'm @havent_smiled_in_years!


So how have things been different? Well, for starters, I skipped the Tokyo leg of the Geeks on a Plane trip. Yet I was able to keep up via twitter. Not just because I’d followed some of the other people, but because they setup a Twitter Group that basically re-tweets if anyone tweets with a certain hashtag or keyword (sorry Mom, didn’t mean to speak in geek there, but this post is kind of a geeky post to start with anyway). So I started seeing updates about the activities in Japan from people I didn’t even know who started participating in the #goap conversation. Five years ago, I would not have gotten any of that.

Jump to me in Beijing, and you quickly notice when you get a bunch of geeks on a bus with wifi, everyone is constantly snapping pictures, following each other on twitter and sharing the crap out of everything that’s going on.

Jump to me being in quarantine now, and I still get to stay up to speed on the action. They’re live streaming all the talks, tweeting all the action, twitpic-ing any funny shots. I think someone noted between the twitter group and all the re-tweeting amongst each other it turned into a giant echo chamber, but for someone stuck in quarantine with all the time in the world, you don’t mind so much.

During the TEDxShanghai event, Andrew Lih video conferenced me via Skype, and walked me around the room to socialize with people. While I was watching the livestream on Tudou.com of the event, I was struck by Kris Krug’s talk on being open. The specific line that struck me (and apparently everyone else cause it got retweeted like crazy) was, “If you don’t stick it on the Internet, it didn’t happen”. And it couldn’t have been more appropriate because I had been thinking of blogging for forever, but knew it was a major time commitment. Well, two days before the TEDxShanghai event, I suddenly found myself with nothing but time, and a lot to say. And so it was, I had been furiously blogging my quarantine experiences to make sure it definitely did happen (the most consistent comment I get from friends and family after reading the blog posts is, “wow, you must really have a lot of free time”).

The blog has done a number of things for me. First of all, each of those posts, believe it or not, takes several hours. I scour the internet for funny pictures and write and re-write captions (I have a new found appreciation for our editorial staff back at Break). So it serves as a great time killer. I’ve also gotten several emails from people who either: (a) are traveling to China soon, and are grateful for some information on what to expect, and (b) are actually quarantined as well or have family members that are quarantined.

Blog traffic

Hey Dave McClure - look at my blog traffic chart! Wanna fund me?

Hopefully the blog also sheds some light and demystifies the ominous prospect of “being held in quarantine by a communist government”. Of course the blog post was just as possible five years ago as well. But five years ago, I would have been writing, and maybe my wife and two other random people would have read it. But with twitter, and all my fellow geeks re-tweeting my articles, the posts have gone out much further than they ever would have five years ago. As a result, I did an interview with the LA Times about being quarantined. James Fallows writes a short blurb in his blog for The Atlantic. Adam Minter, a writer who has also written for The Atlantic, WSJ and other major publications, also gave a nod. Finally, my boy Larry Chiang re-posted my article in his BusinessWeek blog. And of course there’s something strangely gratifying about blogging about your mundane life to 1000 of your closest strangers.
It *is* a small world afterall!

It *is* a small world afterall!


Also, by tweeting about it, other people on twitter have found me and we’ve formed a mini-quarantine support group. Some are right here in the same building, some are in Shanghai or Macau. I’ve never met @froren, but apparently he’s one floor up from me, and I’ve been able to tell him how to order pizza and score beer.

So as I think back on these past five days, though utterly boring, they were made far more tolerable because of the age we live in (versus the previous age, you know, five years ago). People often poo poo on the notion of twitter, and how retarded 140 characters about “What are you doing?” can be. But I think the power of social media, and twitter specifically, is evidenced in its role in everything happening in Iran, and to a much more trivial extent my past week. Life in quarantine is a little richer and more enjoyable than it would have been five short years ago.

As the saying goes, “When life gives you lemons…you blog and tweet about it.”

**Update** been thinking about all this more throughout the day. It’s hard to imagine five years from now that we’ll look back at this and think how primitive it was and how much things have changed. But in the meantime, how cool is it to live in a time with so much change, and so many things left yet to be discovered? I’m leaving this quarantine more excited than ever that I get to work in web technology, and to think, no matter how mundane something such as “What are you doing?”, or a video of this kid starting a dance party is, we are changing the way we live our lives, and that’s pretty cool.

Want to stay up to date? Add this blog to your iGoogle homepage:
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Catching up? Here are the first few posts:
Welcome to The Hotel Quarantine
Life in the Big House
7 People You’ll Meet in Hotel Quarantine
3 down, 2 to go in Quarantine!

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20 Comments

Leave a Comment
  1. joyce kim / Jun 17 2009 5:42 am

    Mike – your blogging during the Geeks on a Quarantined Trip was insightful and hilarious all at the same time. Wish that we were still in China so we could all greet you when you get out and take you for some drinks!

    And quarantined or not – keep blogging!

  2. fred wilson / Jun 17 2009 10:18 am

    i\’m not sure i could handle quarantine but certainly social media would make it a lot easier.

    i\’m blown away that it takes you 90 mins to write a blog post. that\’s a huge committment.

    i try to keep my blogging to 30 mins or less per day

    • aproductguy / Jun 17 2009 4:50 pm

      well, when you’re in quarantine, time is definitely something you have in abundance! i expect my posts will get lighter on the pictures and captions, and fewer words now that I’m out of the big house. thanks for stopping by fred!

  3. Clifton / Jun 17 2009 9:04 pm

    I’ll be in Beijing next week and I’ve got a rock pick for you. If that doesn’t work then I’ll get myself thrown in and spring you out Prison Break style!

    After reading your blog I’ve rebooked myself into business class, put a reservation in at the Westin, and ordered an official H1N1 mask. Thanks for all the greate advise. Stay thirsty my friend! (XX commercial if you haven’t seen them yet in China.)

  4. holycow / Jun 18 2009 2:32 am

    Dude, you forgot the most import website that did not exist 5 yrs. ago, BREAK.COM!

  5. dave mcclure / Jun 18 2009 9:15 am

    wow, mike… again, this is just awesome stuff. hope you’re out of the Big House by now, but regardless as joyce says your blog posts have been funny, insightful, and actually groundbreaking in a geeky sort of way.

    i’m also happy the whole #GoaP group tweeted & shared the hell out of the trip, as it helped at least little old quarantined you feel like you were still connected to us on the outside.

    anyway, take care & take solace in the knowledge that most of your fellow GeeksOnaPlane are now all suffering from a case of stomach virus / diarrhea the past 2-3 days. we share your pain ๐Ÿ™‚

    peace out,

  6. George / Jun 18 2009 10:54 am

    Welcome back to the real world, Mike! Let me know should you be in Shanghai & I’ll create your own small GOAP Shanghai leg for you ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. Jason Yeh / Jun 18 2009 12:19 pm

    Sorry that a volcano has gotten in between you and LA. Like i said in my post, way to demonstrate a great sense of perspective and humor throughout this ordeal. Everyone i have shared your blog with has echoed my sentiments and all love your hilarious writing style.

    @dave, is stomach virus what everyone has? I have been coughing up a lung here in nyc, but i suspect it is just the damage from breathing in the filthy shanghai air for 3+ days. Hope everyone on #goap is feeling better and let me know when youre gonna be in NYC or LA!

  8. william bao bean / Jun 18 2009 5:22 pm

    Have some family friends with two young kids that were coming into beijing a couple days after you got quarantined and your insights gave them peace of mind that if they got ‘caught’ by the bunny suited trolls they wouldnt be shipped off to the nether regions

    Good to chat with you on skype via @fuzheado’s skype during tedxshanghai.

    Come back to China soon – see what you missed this time

    Cheers
    @williambaobean

  9. Emmett / Jan 3 2010 10:10 am

    Hello, this is my first time i visit here. I found so numerous interesting in your article mainly on this topic. Keep up the great work.

  10. Fawn / Jul 20 2013 9:15 pm

    In modern times, videoke sessions became a staple entertainment for many occasions.
    With the Job Search app, you can begin that search anywhere.
    So, to anybody else out there, contemplating if it is still worth visiting our mid-Atlantic paradise – of course it really is,
    the area is as beautiful as always and welcomes you effortlessly it’s heart.

Trackbacks

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