Despite all her rage, she is still just a rat in a cage:
The shonky structure of London’s tube WiFi is actually a perfect mirror for a famous Psychology experiment: the Skinner Box (or Operant Conditioning Chamber if you’re feeling fancy). The experiment involved putting a rat in a box with a lever. If the lever dispensed a food pellet every time it was pressed, the rats would press it often … obviously. If it stopped dispensing food, they’d stop pressing it pretty quickly (rats are clever).
BUT, if the lever only dispensed food sometimes, and in a completely random pattern, the rats would basically go on pressing it forever, even when it had stopped giving out treats. They’d wear their paws down to nubbins pressing that hopeless, disconnected lever because the next press could be the lucky one, right guys? Right?!
Tube WiFi is exactly like this. Sometimes you can get connected as soon as you pull into the station, see something good on Twitter, click through, it loads and you get to read it. And sometimes you’re still trying to get a connection as the train sails back into the darkness, Twitter stubbornly refusing to update, and your phone tantalisingly telling you there are “open networks available.” Hrngh. It’s an internet Skinner Box, and I can’t stop pressing the lever.
So what’s the problem? The signal reaches the stations perfectly well, but doesn’t make it into the tunnels. (“There isn’t a whole lot of space inside the tunnels for repeater units,” she says.) If you’re expecting a long ride underneath London, you probably shouldn’t count on getting any work done.
And I do like that word “shonky,” apparently a Briticism that to me is somewhat more pejorative-sounding than merely “unreliable” or “untrustworthy.”