Friday, January 23, 2009


A number of things have crossed my desk in the last few days about the inauguration of President Obama. I thought I'd post a few observations on how this Web 2.0 world made it possible to view the events and be a little part of history.

Part of this was fueled by my daughter's last minute decision to travel to Washington with a group from her college to be a part of this historic day. From her first message wondering if this was "crazy" to make such a quick trip (I told her I wanted to go with), to the time she returned home, there was a lot of texting going on back and forth. (She left Chicago at 6 pm Monday, arrived in DC and was on the Mall the next morning by 10am, left DC about 7 that night, and returned to Chicago the next morning, just in time for breakfast and her first class.) There were a number of reports about a possible overload of the cell system in DC, but I didn't experience any problems with text messages or phone calls (I talked to her while she was warming up in the Museum of Natural History, before the parade began). This was the second such experience with my daughter; the first was on election night, when she was in Grant Park, text and pictures flying back and forth between Chicago and Minnesota, as I watched on TV and she in person.

Another interesting experience was related to trying to watch the festivities from my computer at work. I figured that there would be a lot of traffic on the web that day, and I wasn't disappointed. I logged in first to MSNBC and watched for a while (trying to get a little work done at the same time), but the stream was bumpy and constantly rebuffering, so I looked for another option. I figured there wouldn't be as much traffic on the PBS site, so went there, loaded up their stream, and was able to watch the proceedings without a lot of bumps and rebuffering. It was a pleasant experience. (This makes me wonder, not being a really technical person, how traffic flow on the 'net works. I'm assuming that there were tons of folks looking for streaming coverage of events, so the total traffic had to be high. But I'm wondering why the PBS site was a lot smoother than NBC. Less traffic to their site and therefore fewer chances of things clogging up?) While watching, I was keeping my daughter informed as to the schedule of events, so she could know what to watch for next. For example, when President Bush departed on his helicopter from the Capitol I sent a quick text telling her to keep a lookout for the helicopter as it flew down the Mall. Later, during the parade, she was on Constitution near the beginning of the route and I let her know when the new President's limo was heading out. (I have to admit that this gave me a little bit of a chilly feeling, thinking that anyone with evil intent could communicate in the same way.) In any event, I could keep my daughter informed of what was happening next and what to look for (from my vantage point of the TV coverage).

Somewhere along the way one of my sons texted me as well, so for part of the time we had three members of the family communicating about what we were seeing and experiencing. (The same thing happened on election night; it was a fun way to share the event from different parts of the country.)

Finally, sometime between the inauguration and the parade, I visited the White House web site and was pretty amazed at how quickly the transformation had taken place and how much information was already available on the new administration. I took advantage of my visit and clicked through a number of the links, set up an RSS feed to the White House blog, and sent a congratulatory message through the Office of Public Liaison link from the blog. I had a fair sense of how the Obama campaign had used the Internet and was very impressed with my first visit to the new White House site.

So that's a few snippets from my inaugural day experience. When my daughter returned to Chicago she sent me a text message wondering where she could get a DVD of the inauguration. I did some quick checking and found that NBC was ready to take an order. Pretty amazing!

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