When did we all adopt the Daily Mail-ism ‘fraudster’ and abandon the perfectly serviceable noun ‘fraud’? I can find ‘fraudster’ in none of my dictionaries – even those supposed to contain ‘new words’ – so its origins are obscure. Google, inevitably, reports 14,900 instances, so it can’t be brand new.

Intensely New York

I have no idea whose link I followed to find Hugh MacLeod’s but I think these cartoons drawn on the backs of business cards are just about the most New York things I’ve ever seen.

Knocking Docherty

I think Danny’s wrong to knock David Docherty’s ‘Cookie Monster‘ analogy. David may have been on a hiding to nothing from the beginning at Telewest, but the nub of truth in his frustration is that the conduct of Internet users is important (how could it be otherwise?). As actors in the networked economy we have obligations and our good faith will be critical to the success or otherwise of digital music, film, whatever. If a whole generation of users really has decided that it’ll never pay for music again (which is arguable), then music will inevitably be driven off the net.

As usual, I’m mister middle-of-the-road. Where David and the suits see a field of high concept ‘broadband content’ and Danny and the geeks see an untenanted void waiting for settlers to fill it – I see a bit of both. In fact, I think it’s economic lunacy to suggest that either could be sufficient unto itself. No one but no one will bring dark fibre to my curb without some value added ‘content’ to subsidise the utterly commodified pipe and users will never accept the media owners’ vision of content-driven broadband heaven unless it looks a lot like the net. As usual, the outcome is more likely to be a messy ecology than a nice, clean monoculture.

BBC Online under the microscope

A long overdue enquiry into the BBC’s investment online should be a good thing for all parties but it must strike a delicate balance. If it turns into a mugging for the corporation orchestrated by its competitors it will not serve the interests of industry or citizens. Likewise, a whitewash that leaves the BBC’s hugely out-of-proportion investment unexamined will not answer vital questions about the proper role of a public service broadcaster in the networked era. If this enquiry is real, it presents an unlikely-to-be-repeated opportunity to straighten out the regulatory and funding context for BBC Online and to set some goals:

  • Hub for a new online content industry. The BBC’s massive investment in online content and infrastructure should stimulate a new downstream ecology of content and application creators – an online ‘indie’ sector like the one brought into being by Channel 4 in the 80s would be a good thing.
  • An engine for participation. BBC Online should invest in a new generation of content and applications that promote participation, connection and creativity amongst wired citizens – not just programme support material and one-way content.
  • Public service online. If BBC Online is to assume a statutory public service obligation (as it should), then the burden should be shared by other online businesses – and until the funding climate for private sector net businesses recovers, Government money may have to be made available to support them.

BBC Online should not fear the inquisition. It’s likely to be critical and may close off some of the department’s activities but the current uncertainty is more damaging. Lambert’s report on News 24 is hardly flattering but, by taking the project seriously, it has secured the channel’s future nonetheless. A close examination of BBC Online should have the same effect.

What were you doing in 1964?

Classic Cask – 35 year-old blended Scotch Whisky
Rachel Frank runs an online wine store called Arthur’s Bar. It’s a good site – excellent customer service, next day delivery, single bottles (most sites require you to buy a case or more) and they have lots of specially-sourced wines you won’t find elsewhere but there’s one product that really stands out. Rachel’s father, David Hallgarten, is a whisky blender and he bottles the only 35 year old blended Scotch whisky in the world. This stuff is gorgeous and very unusual. Most top whiskies are single malts. This is a blend – but to my taste it’s as good as any single malt I’ve tasted. The current batch was distilled in 1964, which is the year after I was born. You can’t buy it anywhere else and you’ll need to remortgage your house to buy a bottle (or move to a caravan and buy two) but if you’re trying to think what to buy me for Xmas, you can stop thinking now.

You read it here first…

After four years on the rollercoaster running – and nearly ten years in the industry – I’m a free agent again. If you know me, you already knew this, but here’s the press release (or download a PDF) that will go out on Monday 9th. is now making a profit so I’m off to look for new projects and challenges. I’ll remain a director of the business and I’ll certainly still help out from time to time. Stuart Tily, the firm’s CTO since the beginning, is now running the firm from an office in Brighton.