Pandemics for fun & profit

Note: Originally posted on Wed, 13 May 2009.

A few weeks ago the internet was waking up to the news that there was a possible pandemic sweeping the world. Twitter was abuzz with people going a bit loony about what was then known as Swine Flu. In a rather uncharacteristic fit of ambition I whipped up a quick site to take the piss out of the doom and gloom sayers. Thus doihavepigflu.com was born. The site took me 10 minutes to make and a $15.95 domain registration fee investment. I thought I’d try to make the registration fee back by linking to my Amazon associate account. What happened next was just pure awesomesauce. I posted the link on Twitter to my approx. 1100 followers and that was the extent of my self-promotion. You can see the traffic history from the graph below.

pandemics_dashboard

So after the first day I checked my Amazon account and I made $25. Jackpot! I was up $10 so as far as I was concerned the site was a total success. But that was just the beginning… As the hysteria grew about the swine flu so did my traffic. On April 30th the site peaked with 163,471 unique visitors. The drop off after that was pretty dramatic as people moved onto the next big thing. But the net result of this little 10 minute project was stunning even to me. You can see the final result below.

amazoncom-associates-central-earnings-report

The site is dead now and someone bought the domain after I let it drop but I’m still learning my lessons from the experience. I have these little ideas all the time but almost never act on them. It always seems that it’s not worth the time or effort but this has opened my eyes. Act on everything. You never know which ones will work but the ones that never get made are guaranteed to fail.

Introduction to Urban Survival Caching

Life in the city is a daily exercise in chaos theory. With so many people and so many variables anything can happen and quite often does. Most of the time the results are minor inconveniences that don’t lead to catastrophic consequences but as more people move into cities and the infrastructure and resources stretch to their limit anything is possible. Good urban survival skills require balancing the urge to prepare, healthy doses of imagination & paranoia with serious attention to situational awareness. Classical survival caches are stored in the deep woods surrounded by miles of wilderness where the likelihood of anyone but a stray deer finding it are fairly unlikely. Urban caching provides a unique set of challenges that while daunting are not impossible.

Imagine a worst case scenario where there is an unexpected major disaster and you’re in an urban area like Chicago, London or Toronto. The power is out and the roads are clogged with traffic, emergency services are overwhelmed and public transportation has been halted. Unless you’re hunkered down in a safe place and you can tough it out, your commute just became impossible by regular means. You have to think on your feet to get safely home, to your hotel or embassy. Jason Bourne had the good fortune of having several passports, a firearm and oodles of cash in a safe deposit box but the rest of us have to make due with our wits and ingenuity. And what if the power was out and he couldn’t get to his cache? He’d have never gotten the ride he needed and the movie wouldn’t have been nearly as much fun.

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