Since April 21, I have not been able to view or extract any data from the USGS Seamless site, ostensibly the central distribution center for the US National Map. The site has been changing rapidly from day to day ever since and it seems that changes are underway so at least we know someone is working on it.. or hacking it to pieces. The last day or two they appear to have given up and are just redirecting people to gisdata.usgs.gov which, of course, has no mention of the outage on the home page.
When I develop an internet application, even if it's only used by a few people, I usually seperate the development version from the stable, live version to minimize any downtime. And if you absolutely can't keep the app running, at least put a big banner on the page indicating that the system is down so people (like me) don't waste half an hour trying to figure out what they're doing wrong. Is this too much to ask of the USGS? They are supposed to be the official portal for accessing our nation's spatial data, right? And we're not talking about a small server hiccup here, it has been down since at least April 21st with no public indication that problems are occuring on the site.
I just recieved an email this morning from the USGS web mapping admin. The emphasis is mine:
We apologize for any issues you may have experienced lately. The Seamless server, and all related map services will be unavailable for at least the next few days. During this time, the sites may still appear to be functioning. Some may ask for a password, and others may not show up at all. Normally our status messages are posted at http://seamless.usgs.gov. However, since this server has been affected by this outage, users are being re-directed to http://gisdata.usgs.net. We are in the process of posting a message here as well, which you will be able to monitor for any updates. We are estimating that the site will be available again by Monday May 1st 2006. Our team is working diligently to have this service available as soon as possible. We appreciate you patience during this time.
I really shouldn't be surprised that a government agency botched it so badly; that seems to be the norm here in the US. But I've really come to rely on the seamless site for alot of data and it seems that 10 days of downtime for the sole distributor of our seamless national spatial data archive is a bit... amateur.