Powerless

I was all set to do some posting this weekend, and then on 12/31 my broadband provider had an outage that lasted pretty much all day. Then on 1/1 Pacific Gas and Electric had a power outage–and the power is still out, 24+ hours later. The interactive voice response system that PG&E has is really neat: it offers to give you a status report by phone, using either your phone number or your customer ID. Except neither of them gave me any info. They also offer to call you back on your phone automatically when they have updates. Except that the feature never called me. It’s like a really neat system framework with no actual data in it. Meh.

Anyway, I imagine the blogosphere will get along fine without me for a couple days. :) Time to scrounge about for books that I’ve wanted to catch up on by flashlight..

27 Responses to Powerless (Leave a comment)

  1. Matt

    In case you’re wondering, I have today off but stopped by work to post. :)

  2. What a trooper! Still posting after all of his power troubles. :)

    Seriously, I was there about 2 weeks ago. Toronto Hydro accidentally sliced into my power line. Fortunately, I have a cable modem so by tracerting my IP (when the modem kicked back in) I was able to tell when it was restored.

    Anyway, good luck on that.

  3. Harith

    Hi Matt

    “Time to scrounge about for books that I’ve wanted to catch up on by flashlight..”

    Are you gonna read books while Google displays the new 2006 serps and most of the DCs are boiling?

    Just wonder what are they cooking for us webmasters this time at the plex :-)

    Have a great day and a successful week.

  4. Steve

    Wow, your weekedn sounds a lot like the crazy of events of my last year. Luckily we haven’t had an all out outage lately, although I did get a $550 electric bill yesterday, so we could have an outage if the elec co won’t work with me! Here in TN we get a lot of brown outs and quick power surges, many of which have completely fried several computers… I’d had to repleace mainboards, battery backups and everything on several systems time and again over the past couple of years… I like the power company’s phone services they use, but also wonder how many people have phones that don;t require electricity to work these days.. What kind of books does a google elite read? The art of war for anti-spammers?

  5. Coming in to work on your day-off ;) Sure must be fun having your job Mr.Cutts! heh

  6. My power company (JCP&L/First Energy) has a similar system. You report your outage and they will give you a time that the power should be back.

    If you call for an update and the power is back, you automatically report a new problem, and they call you back. There is no way to just check the status.

    I was most impressed with Verizon (not wireless) when I cancelled my account. It was all automated, no talking to anyone and having them convince you of keeping the service. I guess most cancellations are from moving so they don’t have a chance of keeping the business anyway.

  7. Thu

    I lost power, too, in Southern California… 4 times, each lasting less than a minute each. During the outages, my laptop kept running but it’s not very useful without internet access. Seriously, my computers would be expensive paper weights without the internet. In college, they would be useful regardless. But outside school, there’s little use for my computers that does not require the internet.

  8. Matt Cutts
    you’ve become famous in our minds
    at http://www.skooldays.com we would love to interview you as a seo celebrity
    questions such as:
    Questions like:

    What were amongst your favorite memories of your Skooldays?

    Your favorite crush? Talk about some of your kid crushes.

    What was your favourite Toys as a child?

    Tell us about some of your favorite music when you were young.

    Did you ever play arcade games, what were your favourite?

    What’s your earliest TV memory and what were your favorite shows?

    What are some of the fashions, like winkle Pickers, for instance, that you remember from growing up?

    What was your favorite Book, Comic, Film as a child?

    you will find the areas such as http://www.skooldays.com/categories/toys/ are useful for answers

    are you up for an interview matt?

  9. You’re electric company tries to connect two systems – an outage management system or OMS with their customer system.

    It’s pretty simple to map your telephone number to an account number. Once they know your account number, they know your meter (AKA cash register). Well, that meter is connected to a secondary transformer which is connected to a branch, which comes off a circuit. That circuit comes from a substation. ALL this stuff is “mapped” out in an OMS, which usually has some GIS capabilities too. Good stuff, but here is what happens behind the scenes.

    When the lights go out, the first thing the electric company needs to know is how big the “area out” is. They do that with SCADA (system control, blah, blah…). OR they can guess based on where the calls are coming from. BIG HINT: If your lights go out, don’t depend on your neighbors to call in the outage. Electric companies map out the outage calls to their grid to determine (at first) how big the area out is…

    Based on this pattern of calls (and therefore how big the area out is) they can “guess” at a restoration time. Once a crew drives out to see what the real damage is, they are supposed to update the restoration time. Unfortunately, these workers are often more concerned with restoring power than updating their OMS (and therefore customers).

    The battle normally goes like this:

    Electric Guys: It’s our job to restore power…
    Customer Service Guys: It’s our job to keep customers informed…

    But the electric guys hold all the cards in this game. Customers don’t understand what is happening behind the scenes and figure the “big bad” power company doesn’t care or there is a shell of a system, with no real data behind it (half right).

    Now that Google’s got a stake in Broadband over Powerline or BPL, you should be keeping up on this stuff. In the future, each meter will be connected to their power company and have an IP address (BPL is one option, but I personally don’t like the technology). The power company will instantly know the extent of an outage before customers call in as these meters either disconnect physically from the grid or use their “last gasp” to call in their outage.

    That process will help them to dispatch the right crews and restore power faster. BUT, their restoration times will still be off if those crew members don’t relay the information back to their OMS. Now you’ve heard the rest of the story…

    Oh, yeah and when is my website going to get some traffic from Google?!?!

  10. Matt, Hope everything is restored now. Happy New Year to you and all the best for this coming year!!

    Blair

  11. “Welcome to our new phone information system!”
    “If you speak a language, press ONE”

    …TWO ,…THREE,…

    “For an update on your power press SEVEN”

    “You’ve pressed SEVEN, is that correct?”

    “If yes press 1, if NO, press SIX”

    “I’m sorry, there is no information for your area”
    .
    “To take a survey about our new phone information system, press the !@%&! key”

  12. Hey Billy… thanks for that info. Very interesting stuff. I’ve had to make it through a number of power outages here in San Francisco lately (though — knock on wood — none with the latest storms!), and it’s cool to know what was going behind the scenes with PG&E and outage reporting.

    On a related note, I have to say that my APS battery backup thingy was one of the best investments I made. It was something like $70 or so tacked on to a Dell.com order with my computer, and it’s worked like a champ: when all the lights around me have gone off, I’ve had at least 5 minutes to save whatever I was doing (blog posts, Excel charts for clients, whatever) and power down the system appropriately. Plus, it’s done a great job of protecting against brownouts and spikes and such (I can tell from checking the stats).

    Like a good general hard drive backup plan AND backup habits, I’ve grown to understand that a battery backup system is indispensible!

  13. Good luck Matt, I can sympathize with you since I live in Florida where hurricane Wilma recently came through… we had lost power for a week:(

  14. Harith

    Goodmorning All

    Matt is a shy person, and he wouldn’t tell us that he forgot to pay the bills :-)

    However, after spending the X-Mas with the in-laws in Omaha and enjoyed the good high energy food, Matt gained 2 Kg (4 lb) and got a a thin fatty layer. So I wouldn’t worry that he gonna feel the winter cold :-)

  15. Best I had was when reporting a dead telephone line, I managed to get through on a neighbours phone only to be told I need to report the problem from the telephone I am having problems with??? Yeah like that makes sense…

  16. Dear Matt,

    When my cat found out your blog was going to be offline, he immediately commited hari-kari with a can opener.

    Thanks.

  17. Kentucky Redneck

    Matt

    Are you using one of the new Google PC’s yet? Here is the article

    http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-predict1jan01,0,3503327.story

  18. I have to admit, power outages or forced time off line are like when I used to get grounded as a kid…. just knowing you cant get on only makes it worse too… here’s hoping your power is restored soon!

  19. Sophisticated interactive phone systems are great. All the bells and whistles make you feel like you are being informed when you have learned nothing.

  20. Harith

    Hi All

    Just because Matt is Powerless at present shouldn’t hold you back in posting comments. Time to spam Inigo’s blog :-)

    Honestly.. I miss Matt’s posts :(

  21. Voice technology is getting better and better. Eliminates the need for customer service agents and makes things much much better!

    Hey Matt – I got a face to face interview with Goog…can you give me some love there? :)

    Hopefully if the cards fall right I might even get to meet you before I go 6 Feet Under.

    JBoss

  22. Matt – here are a couple of book recommendations:
    The World is Flat by Friedman.
    Why People Believe Weird Things by Shermer
    The Google Story by Vise
    (I haven’t seen you mention it so I figure you didn’t read it yet?)

  23. Matt

    Jason, I don’t have any sway in that area, but I wish you good luck!

  24. Matt

    skooldays, I’m interviewed out for a while (got a couple folks waiting). So I’m gonna have to take a raincheck for now–sorry..

  25. Google $200 PC!
    Well it is official!!
    It is officially a rumour and google has NO plans of making a $200 PC.

  26. Matt,

    Is everything restored now? I noticed you may have had some connections problems during the WRM broadcast.

  27. I can’t believe everybody ran with this story. Google can not compete with microsoft on the operating system / PC level.

    Every Joe 6-pack who bought one at wallmart would take it right back as soon as it wouldn’t play his son’s counter-strike game.

    If Google is to beat M$ it will be because they move MS software to the web, and do it better.

    Firstly though, they should decide if they really want to be a portal or not. Right now they’re 1 company that has a ton of products. Whereas yahoo is 1 product that has a ton of features.

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