Shannon did something that was almost without precedence: She read the Tutorial that came with the display software from front-to-back.
Then Shannon followed the step-by-step lessons with the small dataset that was included for demonstration purposes.
She learned why some of the dots had different shapes. The names she had submitted (called “seeds” in the program) were square while the names generated by the computer algorithm were round.
She learned how to click on a dot to “interrogate” it.
She learned that the first components that were listed were most likely to be related to finding jobs, self-promotion, education/training opportunities, career-coaching and other functions that were core functions of the PluggedIn platform.
She learned how she could display four animations at the same time. She learned that she could assign a dot...actually the person represented by a dot...a specific color and that color would carry through on the other simulations until she changed it.
Then she thoroughly read the Frequently Asked Questions. Finally, she skimmed back through the Tutorial and some of the information that was totally baffling to her the first time through made sense.
Heller chafed the entire two evenings it took her to do this. He wanted to DO SOMETHING! He had dropped $600 on the analysis and he wanted to see results.
Closing her laptop, Shannon sighed. Anita was showing vampire-like tendencies. Shannon needed the Anita account if she was going to see commonalities or if she wanted to get more information about some of the computer-generated names on the down-low.
“Why the ‘heavy-sigh’?” Heller asked.
“I need to go back to the library” Shannon said and then she explained how she needed to be able to pull information on the people in the data animations. Otherwise, she would never be able to figure out the commonalities. She also shared that she was getting to much attention now that she was a regular. The Librarian had addressed her as “Stephanie” and Shannon, lost in concentration failed to respond.
Heller’s advice was down-to-earth. “Go into any fast-food restaurant and buy an iced-tea. Then ask for the WIFI password. If you wanna, you can sit in your car as long as you park in the right spot.”
Shannon tried that the next day. The signal was weak and the line was slow but it was workable for what she was doing.
But it got her to thinking. There might come a time when she needed a blisteringly fast link...one that could keep up with her 90 words-per-minute without glitching. It wasn’t that the raw speed wasn’t there. The problem was that the line served multiple users and there were dead-times sprinkled in with the service.
That generated a phone-call to Garth who asked “Are you willing to drive to Lansing?” He suspected that she wouldn’t be asking if she didn’t want to keep a low profile. Garth was very curious about Heller and Shannon’s project but he figured he would be clued in when they wanted to share.
“Yes, I am willing to drive to Lansing to tap a very fast, very solid line” Shannon assured him.
Garth promised to get back to her when he had something.
Garth was a “gamer”. Gaming is a community sport and is very data intensive. Perhaps it is not a surprise, but many people in IT are “into” gaming and they found ways to do it at work when they are trapped into doing repetitive, tedious, s-l-o-w jobs. That often involved creating IDs with high-level privileges.
Logging on with the high-privilege ID didn’t make the hardware run any faster but it made everybody wait for gaps in your “pull” on the system.
He just had to find a fellow gamer who was willing to share one of those high-privilege IDs...or would create one as a favor.
The third night, Shannon was ready to show Heller where she was. She slaved the 58” TV to her laptop to serve as a monitor for ease of viewing.
Then she dazzled Heller.
“This one” Shannon said as she brought up the first animation “shows head-hunters trolling users looking for people to place.” Oddly enough, it had a resemblance to fishermen casting nets to catch baitfish.
“This one” Shannon said “is continuing education….”
Shannon got to the fifth one and said “This one has me stumped but I saw comments in some of the main-player’s posts and they had pictures posted.”
“What did the pictures look like?” Heller wanted to know. “Can you describe them?”
“I can do better than that” Shannon said. ‘I took screen grabs.”
Shannon posted several of the images that she couldn’t make heads-or-tails out of.
“Brackets!” Heller crowed. “They are gambling.”
Where there is gambling, there is money and somebody is keeping book and skimming.
"Follow the money" is never bad advice when searching for targets.