Web Reading

Last night, I lost a couple of hours I could have spent doing more productive things by reading every single page of Hank Mishkoff‘s site. It’s an exhaustive, personal account of his legal battle with the developers of a shopping mall in his neighborhood.

While I’m familiar and regularly read up on the issues involved — domain name disputes, trademark litigation, cybersquatting legislation — it was interesting to watch one real-world case evolve from the very beginning. There are certainly more prominent cases (like the widely covered WalMartSucks.com dispute), but this one gave the perspective of a regular guy who liked to make websites who ended up having to learn the law and legal process by the seat of his pants. Anyone, say, someone like me, could easily end up in the same position, so I found it very illuminating and educational.

Something else I’ve been reading here and there online has haunted me more, though, and that’s the internal NASA e-mail messages that were recently released, documenting internal debate about the risks the Space Shuttle Columbia faced during re-entry. The message from mechanical engineer Kevin McCluney is especially disturbing… as it anticipates in one scenario something very much like what actually happened: watching temperature readings rise and data streams stop from the wheel well area.

He even specifically suggests what might be done given such readings: a bail out. While it might not have been feasible in the Columbia’s situation — because of altitude, speed, or other factors — it makes one wonder why an urgent discussion wasn’t triggered by temperature readings and data loss that fateful morning.

Seeing something so significant in the context of a seemingly everyday e-mail exchange somehow makes the tragedy seem so much more personal and real. How many more e-mail messages relating major disasters and events — like panicked notes sent by ill-fated workers in the World Trade Center before its collapse — will become part of history in the Information Age?

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