CAMBRIDGE, Mass. Lloyd Thompson is high in the air on a flight between Chicago and Atlanta, but he’s being monitored on supercomputers located in a low-rise building just off Kendall Square, a neighborhood close to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology campus.
“Did you read my rant about the woman sitting next to me? You didn’t?”
“Hey Lake Superior Airlines,” Thompson taps on his phone, “when are we gonna get our complimentary bags of peanuts on this flight?” He then hits “Enter” and sends his message to the internet, where it pops up on Twitter, Facebook and a blog he maintains to chronicle the indignities he suffers on a daily basis as a manufacturer’s representative for Chlor-Sheen, a maker of urinals.
The words have no sooner hit a giant monitor in front of Kaitlyn Vacaro, a programmer for Baird/Barenek, then they are whisked away to a prototype of a computer network that will go live this month to reduce the volume of whining that is currently posted to the internet. Dubbed the “Kvetchernet,” the multi-nation project is designed to free up bandwidth that is currently consumed by people waiting in line, adolescents at family social events, and drivers who are cut off by cars bearing bumper stickers they don’t like.
“I’ve got a woman in Newton Highlands complaining about a $5 co-pay at her chiropodist’s office.”
“The internet was designed for really important stuff, but current infrastructure is overburdened by people complaining about their noisy neighbors,” says Lt. Col. Martin Aschramm (ret.), a senior military intelligence officer who participated in the development of the Arpanet, the internet’s predecessor. “We need to unclog the coaxial cables and fiber optics and make room for more cat videos.”
‘Ook at the cute kitty!
The computer network’s name is derived from “kvetch,” an English word of Yiddish origin meaning to complain habitually. The Kvetchernet will siphon bile and umbrage from internet “social media” sites in the same manner that storm drains remove precipitation runoff from streets to underground tunnels in which albino frogs and alligators breed, according to reliable sources on the internet.
Lurking in a sewer near you!
The work is tedious, and the programmers at Baird/Barenek take frequent breaks to refuel on Ramen noodles and coffee before returning to their cubicles. Kaitlyn Vacaro checks her phone as she sits in the employee lounge and, after scrolling through several emails that include one from her boyfriend canceling a date tomorrow night to take advantage of free tickets to a football game, decides to share her feelings. “Men are so STUPID!” she writes on Twitter, then pauses to compose the rest of her 140-character “tweet,” when an exclamation of “Oh my gosh!” is heard from across the room.
“What is it?” Vacaro calls out to her co-worked Brenda Merchiak.
“You just popped up on Kvetchernet!”