Saturday, July 26, 2014

Groups of Note: Wavelength

I've shared posts from Wavelength before, but I haven't talked about who they are, how it got started, and what's really going on.

What it is

Wavelength is a combination of Internet forum software, file service, and chat room. It uses strong authentication. The admins supply secure file hosting using the latest encryption, and access to the site is only available via the Tor network for serious users. Casual users can browse it via any number of Tor gateways, like onion.to.

Many of you will be quick to dismiss Wavelength as the home of crackpots, loonies, and conspiracy theorists. And you'd be absolutely right. But what many people don't know is that Wavelength has a pretty good predictive success rate. Part of the reason for this is the deep anonymity the site works hard to provide. Real supers (hero and villain), government officials, private military contractors, and other people interested in the superhuman world have all been known to post there under assumed names. Many of the veteran posters are pretty well connected, and really do know their stuff.

How it got started

I don't know for sure, but I'm told that Wavelength actually started life in the packet radio network, which is a low-tech network maintained by hobbyists, like the BBS scene from the 1980's. At the time it was started, and even today, proponents of HAM radio were working to legitimize themselves as a system to benefit first responders - fire, emergency medical response, police, that sort of thing. Packet radio used the same sort of technology, but for data instead of voice, the way modern cell phones evolved to carry more than just telephone calls. Some of the radio operators who maintained these networks wanted to help with disaster relief and information sharing from super-battles. So they started the site which later became known as Wavelength.

Over time, Wavelength evolved into a general clearing house for information - and speculation - about superhumans in general. The site was moved onto the Internet and kept secure through volunteer efforts. I don't know if the original founders are still involved with it today, but the people I've talked to who do run things say they've been at this for the past 15 years.

The truth is out there?

Bullshit is the price you pay for accepting unvetted, anonymous information. The irony is that most of the real stuff that makes it onto Wavelength is only recognizable as such if you're already in the know. This makes it hard for the general public to find out what's really going on. Plus, nothing stops ignorant idiots from jumping on an otherwise-reputable thread and crapping out whatever conspiracy theory is in their head.

That said, this cuts both ways. Some people find the easiest way to leak sensitive information is to post it to Wavelength, knowing that it will be disregarded by 95% of the serious readers. If you're lucky, whoever is in charge of the information you leaked may not be part of the remaining 5% and won't notice. The Pentagon and the CIA both have small teams in charge of reading Wavelength full-time - think "Three Days of the Condor" - but not everyone can afford to be so vigilant.