Close Cover Before Striking

Public handwashing. Not handwringing.

So there’s this interesting new bar and restaurant design. It’s not about tap placement. Well, not  in a traditional view of bar taps, that is.

It’s not about the relative space of standing room to table. It’s not about the frenzy to biergarten-esque shared space. It’s not about $15 craft cocktails with artisanal bitters and homemade tonic. It’s not even about beers that taste like the ripe sweat wrung out of a summer half-marathon runner’s shorts.

Nope. It’s about the john.

In paean to efficiency, privacy and the quagmire of single-sex bathrooms, new joints are opening up with a cluster of individual water closets with toilets and, frequently, baby changing tables, to serve the tail end of customer needs. There are a series of doors, could be two, could be eight, that open into a lobby of sinks, all to better wash one’s hands after doing one’s business.

Gone are the days when The Big Guy and Baby Bear would lament the lack of personal hygiene of their bathroom cohorts. “Doc, the guy DIDN’T WASH HIS HANDS!” (Frankly, I was always pleased to hear this. It made me believe that they were washing theirs.)

Gone because, now, everyone can see the water and soap action of anyone leaving the toilet. I especially like seeing the signs above the sink exhorting employees to do the right thing. Now, we all know. Anyone can see. Hand washing has become more public.

The data was there; three in five folks have observed others not washing their hands after peeing or pooping. And one in four people don’t use soap. Eww.

So now, given the public commons for handwashing, there’s a new way to publicly shame people. Guys, women are watching. Women, we all know. Watch your fellow patrons leave the water closet and see if you can make them wash their hands with your disapproving eyes.

Frankly, you should have been doing this all along. Just wash your hands!

Mozil-low’s Hierarchy of Needs

Huge sign on the side of the building from mozilla ranking Food Water Shelter The Internet

What should people have? Like all people, just because we are people?

The nice people at Mozilla–the open internet organization that spun off of internet OG Netscape and built Firefox for your browsing pleasure–defines a hierarchy of needs to include food, water, shelter and “the Internet.” Now, one could definitely take this list to task. Like how about access to vaccines and health care? Access to clean air? Access to safety?

I wouldn’t disagree with that criticism, but I saw this huge blue sign hanging off the side of a building and started to unpack this Internet thing. What does it mean? What does it mean to have access to the Internet?

Mozilla says

We believe the Internet is at its best as a global public resource, open and accessible to all.

The tag line says to “keep the internet fair and open.” But this begs what it means to be accessible. Is simply being there enough?  Because in order to actually access the internet–if access means to use versus being passively available–there are a bunch of other things you need.

  1. Like electricity, or some way to generate, transfer and store energy to use to power #2
  2.  A device–a computer or cell phone or other type of tool–that can receive and transmit to #3
  3. You need access to the grid. Even if you can make your own electricity, you need some way to jump on the grid–like wire or satellite or a cellular phone tower–so you can get to that fair and open field.

What happens when you arrive at that fair and open space? Well, literacy is pretty important since much of what’s available has to be read. Even non-text information almost always requires text input to connect to it–either typing in a URL or using a search engine or following a link.

Unpacking the ability to read I get to the ability to see–or hear in some cases. (And if you can’t hear, you damn well better be able to read.)

So, maybe Mozilla is really advocating for universal education, improved infrastructure and accessibility to the devices and the ability to get value out of the devices for everyone.

That’s pretty radical. Because ensuring that the internet is fair and open only to people who have access to the tools of access is neither open nor fair.

Next up, let’s take a closer look at that list of basic needs.

Hierarchy of Needs

Here’s one for the kooks. As a point of reference, Government Computer News is some geek vanity press weekly that preys on the ga-zillions of dollars that the feds spend on technology. That’s where this came from.

Now here’s the rub. There is this Emergency Interoperability Consortium, that likes to use the acronym EIC. This meaningless acronym primarily signifies a relationship with the government, which–of course–pees all over itself in acronyms. But I digress.

Anyway, this Emergency Interoperability Consortium has this incredibly brilliant idea that what we really need during a catastrophic emergency of biblical proportions is a new flavor of XML, a Common Alerting Protocol. This is key because at a time of extreme emergencies, we expect people in governments that are not functioning because they HAVE NO ELECTRICITY, and, yes, their offices (including computers) were swamped and there’s no place to sit, to somehow enter information into a database so that we can magically get fire-trucks, bomb-sniffing dogs, and helicopters to where they need to be. Shoot, if it were that easy, why didn’t FEMA use XML to set up disaster recovery centers in Pass Christian, Miss.?

WHAT ARE THEY THINKING? I love geeks, but are some still unclear that people don’t have water six weeks after the hurricane? There was one voice of sanity in the article. Charles Werner, fire chief in Charlottesville, Va., and a geek himself, thought that it might be better to invest in practical first level stuff. Like investing in the primary systems of communications first. If we know Level 1 doesn’t work, couldn’t we just work on that?

What is better, being able to radio to someone what you need? Or how about a big complex system dependent upon electricity, internet access, trained staff that are missing or evacuated, and sensitive computer equipment?

To hell with meeting basic, physiological needs. The latter is a technology project, so let’s fund it.