In Case of Thuggery, Call Porcupine 411

As one of the behind the scenes people around here, you aren’t terribly likely to see me at an event such as Monday’s deplorable mass arrests of liberty activists and members of the press in Keene. Instead, I do things like upgrade the software that runs Free Keene, and participate in other things which make activists on the front lines more effective at getting their message out. One of these things in particular deserves some attention in the wake of what happened on Monday, and that’s Porcupine 411.

For those of you who somehow still haven’t heard of it, Porcupine 411 is an audio distribution network I’ve been running for New Hampshire liberty activists for about three years now. It’s simple in concept: When something is happening, you whip out your phone, dial 603-413-0411, and leave a voice message about whatever is going on. The system then distributes that message in audio form to over 200 liberty activists (and a few members of the traditional media) who have subscribed to receive the messages by e-mail and on their wireless phones.

Typically people might leave three or four messages in a week on more mundane matters like the location of ad-hoc revenue generation stations (also known as speed traps) along New Hampshire’s highways. But on Monday Porcupine 411 really showed its power when Free Keene’s Dale and Nick called in with their first reports of what was happening at the Keene District Court. These calls drew more people to the scene, at least one coming from as far away as Grafton, and helped keep people who couldn’t be there informed as events unfolded.

Since messages go out as soon as you hang up, people can learn about an event and respond very quickly, even to happenings across the state. All told, nearly 20 messages came in relating to Sam’s arrest and the arrests of everyone else. It would only be later before video and postings showed up at Free Keene and elsewhere on the Internet. Because of its speed and the ability to use it on the scene, Porcupine 411 often provides the first notice of events relevant to liberty lovers in New Hampshire, especially when they involve officious bureaucrats who want to run (or ruin) our lives.

It’s for those reasons that you should be using it. If you haven’t done so already, program the number (603-413-0411) into your phone, and subscribe to receive the messages at your e-mail, and on your phone if it’s capable of receiving them.

If you’re capable of doing so, you should also consider becoming a financial supporter. Porcupine 411 is run entirely on donations and the difference comes out of my pocket, which unfortunately isn’t nearly as deep as it once was, thanks to the economic downturn. At the moment only about 12% of the service’s expenses, which average $100 a month, are covered by recurring donations. For those of you who contribute or have contributed, thank you. If you have not, please consider making a one-time or a monthly recurring contribution to keeping this critical resource running.

In the meantime I will be here behind the scenes, doing everything I can to make sure that you on the front lines have the tools and support you need.

Now you can subscribe to Free Keene via email!

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9 Comments

  1. Please do send Porc411 a donation if at all possible. We cannot afford to lose this service.

  2. I'm kicking in $10 per month.

  3. I'm in for $10 per month πŸ™‚

    If you somehow start getting more than it costs, donate the extra to a cool liberty cause in NH. πŸ˜‰

  4. Thank you all for helping out!

    If I somehow start getting more than it costs, I can finally get back to work on its sister program, Porcupine 911, which has sort of been on the back burner for months. (It needs a lot more up-front work than Porcupine 411 did, and that takes time, and that means I have to divert energy from other things that make money.)

  5. Michael, mind shooting me a PM on the forums? I'm sure you can do this much, much cheaper than $100 a month.

  6. Why don't you PM him? His username is Error

  7. I didn't know his username. PM sent!

  8. I replied to your PM with some reasons why this really isn't doable for much, much cheaper than $100 a month, and I want to share some of them for the benefit of all.

    Porcupine 411 started its life back in 2006 running on my own personal computer. As long as the service was small and new, and my ISP was reliable, this was acceptable. After I moved to New Hampshire, I was stuck with a much less reliable ISP, and the service had become more "critical infrastructure" than "pet project." At that time in 2007 I moved it to a private server in a well known west coast data center and covered the costs myself.

    Over time I've moved the service twice to address call quality and reliability problems, and discovered that having a server in the northeast (where latency to New Hampshire is shortest, and therefore calls are much more reliable) is much more expensive than elsewhere in the country. I paid for it because I believe the service is critical enough that the expense is justified.

    The suggestion, as I understood it, was to use a third party service to handle the phone calls and email distribution. This is technically doable, but it brings up significant problems with reliability. If the third party service decides to kill it, for whatever reason, then it's gone forever. The risk of that is greatly reduced by having a private server in a data center. Though there is still some risk of, say, a government raid conducted under false pretenses or for political reasons, having the server set up this way means I can get the service back up and running within a few hours after a natural disaster or bad government raid.

    The other issue here is that using a third party service would make it difficult or impossible to expand the service with innovations such as the upcoming Porcupine 911. By having a private server, it's possible to develop and deploy custom applications, and nothing similar enough to Porcupine 911 exists as a third party service. It would also eliminate the possibility of developing future unimagined applications. Not to mention I wouldn't be able to get the really cool and memorable phone numbers.

    That said, every few months I make a point of going bargain hunting to try to get better prices on servers and rack space. (My last bargain hunt also resulted in Free Talk Live and Free Keene being moved to a much better server for about the same as Ian was paying before.) But right now the current arrangement is about the most cost-effective I can get while maintaining the goals of reliability and expandability.

  9. Excellent work, excellent decisions, excellent service. Porc411 is uber-important to activism – to my social life and personal security – here in NH. I'm sorry I can only donate as much as I am right now; eventually I'll create a new revenue stream for myself and raise my donation amount.

    Thank you for this service, Michael (and I look forward to a Porc911).

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