I’ve had an odd feeling that semaphore still had something to tell us. You know, before there were telegraph lines, and a coup was underway in the capital city and this bit of menacing news needed to be sent to good people in the provinces in a hurry. No problem, just use some version or another of semaphore. Lights flashing from hilltop to hilltop will do the trick nicely. If the code has been prepared. If the hilltop stations have been created in advance of the emergency. If the stations were staffed by loyalists with good technical training. If the people in the provinces were prepared to understand the importance of the message. If they saw ways to respond. And so forth.
Here is the post-Berners-Lee, post-Snowden takeaway:
Messages are easy, easier than ever, but they go nowhere, they are useless, if the network has not been prepared.
That network is a piece of open technology tuned to worthwhile purposes and a web of people already aligned with each other and inside each person the knowledge, attitude, and skills needed to pitch in. That’s the message I’m getting from semaphore today.
At their best, semaphore and cairn share a spirit that operates at different speeds and distances, but human all the same.