Hub Stations form the physical network of the Hub.
Andy was excited. And he was looking for Alice.
He didn’t get excited easily. He was more of a quiet guy, focused on his work. He was also the head of Programming. But that didn’t excite him. He knew he could do it. He wanted to do it. So he did it. It was as simple as that.
But now there was the Hub. And as the head of Programming, he was technically the boss of the Hub Team too. And not just technically, he reminded himself while scanning the entrance hall for Alice. He was the boss of the Hub. Period. At least until they had figured out how the Hub would be run and by whom.
The thing was that the Hub was a whole new level. And that still unsettled him a bit. There was a big difference between building a simulation for a single town, and building a platform which would be the sum of all possible social media platforms, and which might have an impact far beyond a single town. In fact, a global impact. Also, while Daria was a good friend, despite being a lot younger and far too clever for her age, she had brought some hackers on board for the Hub who made even him take off his cap. The imaginary cap.
Just then, Andy saw Leo, leaving Tom’s study. ‘Hi, Leo. Do you know where Alice is?’
‘She has a meeting with you at two,’ Leo replied and hurried away.
Surprise. He knew about that meeting. They wanted to discuss the launch of a first Hub version during the conference in New York. But he wanted to talk to Alice before that meeting. It wasn’t necessary. He simply wanted to be the one to tell her. Maybe he even wanted to impress her a little.
He knew Alice disliked people who wanted to impress her. She told a group of newcomers last week: ‘Don’t ever try to suck up to me. You won’t like my response.’
But he didn’t want to suck up to her. Just—
Andy sighed, and thought for a moment.
She wasn’t with the Health & Care Team. She already had had lunch. She wasn’t in the entrance hall—
He was being ridiculous, wasn’t he? A bit like being back at school and running all the way to his granny’s flat, just to tell her about something that happened at school.
What did it matter who told Alice?
Maybe he should get some fresh air. It wasn’t that long to the meeting anyway.
Andy got a bottle of water from the bar and crossed the entrance hall.
The new idea came up this morning, in a meeting with Daria, Devery and Javiera. The short version was this: They didn’t want the Hub to become another tech giant which infiltrates the world like a virus. On the other hand, the whole point of a social media platform was to connect the world and become just another global infiltrator.
That was a problem. One they wanted to solve.
And then they realised that they could de-giant the Hub with a simple trick.
Some Hub tasks needed to remain centralised like development and data protection. But other tasks could be handed to local operators like the maintenance of the network, customer services and even parts of security.
Security would, in fact, be higher if different methods were employed in different parts of the system. There could even be competitions to see which team came up with the latest laser shield to blast away attackers.
Anyway, that was the first part of the idea. To clarify: the Hub would be developed by the Easy Town Foundation, and it would be one major social media platform, if not an internet within the internet. That was the digital side of the Hub.
On the physical side of the Hub, a stable global network was needed. And several Hub hardware units, or Hub Stations, would have to be set up around the world. These hardware units could be maintained by local teams.
And then the intriguing part of the idea came up.
Since there would be Hub Stations, physical buildings with servers for the Hub, why not use these properties to support the local community? Why not turn a Hub Station into a physical Hub for local businesses, education, arts or medical services?
And this could be financed by some of the income the Hub generated.
It was a strange moment when the idea materialised before their eyes: physical Hub Stations where people could come together and set up businesses and services that were needed in that region. This way the Hub would be a platform that gave back to the community and didn’t just suck it dry.
They all fell silent and looked at each other. And that was when Andy got up too hastily, declaring too excitedly that he had to find Alice.
Andy left the main building and strolled towards the footpath which led to the guest houses. It took him a moment to realise that one of the two people on the beach was Alice. She was slipping into her shoes, and next to her Jack Harris was tying his shoes.
Andy rolled his eyes.
What was he even doing on this project? Did he hope to clean up his reputation by pretending to do something useful? And why couldn’t he leave Alice alone? Wasn’t there a rumour that River had a crush on him and Polly and about ninety percent of all female team members and some male team members too?
But not Alice. She never made a fuss about him.
Andy hesitated, slowing down.
But then Jack straightened, said something to Alice and left in the direction of the guest houses.
Andy took a breath and walked a little faster.
A bit of excitement trickled back in, and a bit more when Alice spotted him.
‘Hi, Andy,’ she called.
‘Hiya, Alice. Do you have a minute?’
‘Sure. Don’t we have a meeting soon?’ she asked when she reached him.
‘We do. But there’s something I wanted your opinion on.’
And then he told her about the Hub Stations while they walked back to the main house.
He was rewarded with a beaming Alice. ‘That’s a brilliant idea. And we should talk about the size of the Hub Stations.’
‘What do you have in mind?’
‘The Hub Stations offer an incredible opportunity to support local communities, and they add a new angle to the whole social media idea. To make it work, we need to distribute the Hub Stations in a way that makes sense. If a Hub Station is too small, the profit for the region will be insignificant. If a Hub Station is too big, one station will get all the fun.’
Andy smiled. That’s what he liked about Alice: she always added to the picture.
book 1, beginning, week 2
‘Usually a Hub Station will serve between five to ten million users. And it will provide backup as well as fallbacks for up to three other stations. Within a country, we start with a single station. If a country gets more than ten million users, then the country qualifies for a second station. If there are close to twenty million users, then the country could qualify for four stations with about five million users per station and so on. But a country could also decide to have just one station in which case twenty million subscribers would be the maximum. While we will provide the initial staff if necessary, we will train locals so that a Hub Station can be run locally, eventually.’
book 1, beginning, week 7
book 2/1, travelling, Buenos Aires
‘What about the other stations?’ the intellectual asked.
‘Ahm, the Hub Team seem to find people who side with them.’
‘Nonsense. You only have to offer the right sum.’
‘Ahm, no, Sir. It does work in some places, but there are always some who say they like the Hub. Ahm, you see, some argue that they too prefer using the internet without anyone collecting data about them.’
‘NO, I DON’T SEE!’ the prominent grey thundered, banging his hand on the table.
The secretary guy winced, but he continued nonetheless: ‘Ahm, in fact, we’ve spent considerable sums on bribes. And with all due respect, it doesn’t seem—’
‘What about governments?’ the intellectual cut in, drumming his skeletal fingers on the table. ‘They are always easy to bribe.’
‘Ahm, well, yes, but, ahm,’ the secretary guy stammered. ‘Ahm, they argue, Sir, that, ahm—’
‘GET TO THE POINT, will you!’ the prominent grey shouted.
‘They say if they don’t accept a Hub Station, then their neighbouring country will. And that means their neighbour will get all the incoming money. Ahm, they also ask whether we really want to pay them fifty-seven point six million a year per refused station. In which case they might be open to negotiations.’
‘Fifty-seven point six million?’ the fat man asked.
‘A year?’ the priest breathed.
‘Per station?’ the diplomat muttered.
‘Ahm, that’s the average amount of money that will be invested in a single Hub Station’s region, assuming ten million subscribers are served by that station. The investment aims at financial independence, meaning the initial investment will create a ripple effect. And the income of a single Hub Station will be used for an ever growing area. Also, once a Hub Station is debt-free, it keeps eighty-one point six million a year, and it invests that money locally. And if a country qualifies for more than one Hub Station this effect is multiplied, with ripples overlapping. A country like China could qualify for about a hundred and forty Hub Stations which would add up to—’
‘ENOUGH!’ the prominent grey shouted.
book 2/1, travelling, Buenos Aires