Normal service will be resumed…

The general weirdness and flakiness of Blogger lately (look at my lovely links!) has pushed me over the edge. I’m going to import the whole lot to Movable Type later today. Using the special temporary blogger template the MT people provide for this purpose I don’t even need to set up an RSS feed (thanks to Robin for the research). I don’t want to speak too soon but this could easily be my last day as a user.

The film industry is the least of our problems

I watched an interesting feature about the flakey British film industry tonight on BBC 4. As you’d expect, it was mostly whinging and hand-wringing from all sources ? hyper-interventionist culture-boosters and laissez-faire populists alike. The giant lacuna was the glaringly obvious fact that the British film industry is hopelessly held back by an economy about a sixth of the size of the mother of all markets – the USA. Outside the scope of the programme was the equally obvious conclusion that we desperately need to boost the overall size of our economy (both here in the UK and in the wider EU). Governments of all complexions have been trying this without success for decades, naturally, so this represents a great opportunity for a Government ready to try something new. Macro and micro tweaking are not working. For a hundred years, the economies of the West have grown at roughly the rate of inflation – essentially zero growth.

The American example shows us that what we need is a really serious boost to the population itself – more bums on seats, more contributors to the media economy, more warm bodies creating value. Look at Japan: twice the population on about 50% more land. A simple calculation suggests that Britain could easily handle about 100M people. Not enough to challenge the US directly but enough to lift us out of the third division and, possibly, to give us access to the kind of doubling effects that drive the US economy. Remember, recession or not, the US economy is just getting bigger and bigger and this is in large part because the inward movement of people keeps the economy growing ahead of its structural rate. Large economies grow faster than small ones and, the faster they grow, the faster they grow – if you see what I mean. All of this seems academic right now but the evidence is mounting that US population growth is accelerating while the European population is going into reverse (while already vast Asian economies mature and compete better). Old economies – like ours – will shrink faster and faster. Irrelevance beckons.

So how do you grow the population of a small country whose birth rate is already behind the replacement rate? You encourage immigration. Britain happens to be the focus of interest for migrants from a large swathe of Eastern, Central and Southern Europe. Who knows how long this popularity will last? Precedent suggests that it won’t be for long. Only fools would refuse these eager migrants entry. Only lunatics would actually deport them.

and another thing…

What’s happened to all my links? All my lovely links over there on the right have stopped working (likewise the stylesheet for that bit of the page?). Blogger seems to have thrown away every single URL from my laboriously-entered anchor tags. I think this is the last straw. Movable Type here I come. It can’t be an OSX.2 thing can it? Or a Mozilla 1.0 thing (I just switched over from Explorer. Everybody going on about tabbed browsing was driving me mad)?

What’s wrong with being an elite?

A lot of the debate about the Best British Blog comp seems to centre on this word ‘elite’. Maybe I should have said ‘vanguard’ or ‘enlightened’ or ‘pioneers’ or something. Whatever, something unites the first wave of webloggers and it’s probably their general sort of twitchiness and irony and unease about being tagged ‘elite’. This I can understand. It can make you itch, being pointed at, and vanguard-status brings with it obligations.

The way I see it, elites of this sort are useful, important, probably essential. I reckon TBL is a good role model here. He invented the damn thing after all but his chief function now is as conscience or super-ego or ‘dad’. His moral ‘ownership’ of the web keeps those of us who grub around making a living from it humble. There will be someone like this for weblogs. Maybe it will be Tom Coates.

A too-careful commentary

The soon-to-be-abolished ITC’s contribution to the imminent Commons debate on the Communications Bill is a book of essays by The Great and The Good (G&G henceforth) from the media and public life called Television and Beyond: The Next Ten Years.

I’ve scoured this book for something new, something in the least bit radical, some fuel for the coming debate. There’s a lot of talk about balance, about measured intervention, many bland words about ‘quality’. Very boring. In fact, I think the bill itself might be more radical than this careful commentary, which seems backwards to me. The best I can find is a spirited appeal for ITV to return to its regional roots from Jude Kelly. She argues that ITV should decentralise and drive a fierce renewal of regional media. Since one of the explicit provisions of the bill permits the final consolidation of the ITV network, the words ‘fat chance’ come to mind.

At the launch party last week I button-holed the assembled G&G trying to find out why the net is entirely excluded from the bill (and from OFCOM’s scope). No one quite knew but, more to the point, no one seemed too worried. Most interesting on this topic was Carolyn Morrison, a senior civil servant at the DCMS (she’s an expert on International Broadcasting). She says that, although the legislation is intended to regulate the whole media and telecoms landscape, the bill effectively only seeks to legislate for ‘licensed’ media so I shouldn’t be surprised to see no references to ‘unlicensed’ media like the net. She also says that the net is elaborately legislated for in various EU Directives. For the net, it looks like the action is all in Brussels.

(Contributors to the book are: David Aaronovitch, Peter Bazalgette, Tony Benn, Chris Cramer, Luis Enriquez, Tim Ewington, Robin Foster, Alex Graham, Janice Hughes, Reed Hundt, Jude Kelly, Nick Lovegrove, Charlie Marshall, Mark Oliver, Michael Palin, Chris Smith and Mark Thompson).

On being a parent is one of the many treasures unfairly knocked around by the ‘great crash’. Running a content web site these days must be a thankless task but the tigerchild people somehow keep delivering a useful and entertaining twist on being and becoming a parent. Anyway, is now officially ‘brilliant’ ? according to the Sunday Times. Juliet, who is my wife, writes a no-holds-barred column for the site based on her experience bringing up our two kids. For parents it offers a mix of solidarity, reassurance and entertainment and for wannabe parents I reckon it might be a pretty potent kind of aversion therapy! Anyway, Juliet shares in tigerchild’s glowing write-up in yesterday’s Sunday Times. Even I get a mention!

A ragged-trousered elite

When a figure of authority (this is me, but not really me because in this I’m just standing in for The Guardian) reaches out to offer ‘validation’ to an emerging, potentially-disruptive new thing (weblogs), he should not be surprised when the pioneers of that new thing tell him to shove it. Having said that, the reason I offered – by proxy – the mainstream’s validation for blogging was precisely because I’m not a figure of authority. I’m actually a blogger – my connection to the mainstream media is the fact that The Guardian invited me to rate some weblogs.

Speaking as a blogger, I don’t think we need validation from the newspapers or the TV but I think it would be a good thing. So I’m getting stick from all sorts of people (even one person on a train) for grandly extending the hand of ‘validation’ to the grimy bloggers toiling beneath me. And having said all that, this defensive – not to say twitchy – reaction to the Guardian comp from the blogging hardcore really is exactly what happens when anything new is threatened by mass adoption and you guys really are behaving exactly like an elite, albeit a ragged one…

Obscure? Irrelevant? Moi?

It’s always difficult to persuade an elite that the great unwashed might have something useful to contribute. Looks like bloggers are no different. How many weblogs are there in the UK? 100,000? 200,000? While adoption hovers at less than 1% of the online audience, the promise of the form cannot be realised, even if the other 29,800,000 are all reading them. Weblogging (like the web itself, only more so) is important – it empowers people, makes voices heard, creates dialogue, produces new ideas. It should be popular. Lots of articulate people from the blogging community argue that it’s already important (see comments to posts below) and that ‘going mainstream’ will be harmful. Elites always say this. They are almost always wrong. Weblogging is a social and creative laboratory of extraordinary power and scope. It would be a dreadful pity if it remained the hermetic domain of its founders and innovators. It’s time to let go.

Sleepless in the blogosphere

Thanks to The Guardian for two consecutive sleepless nights scoring dozens of Great British Weblogs. I’m in awe. Not a turkey among them. I’ve over-dosed on clever, useful, ironic, sometimes geeky and very often inspirational writing, lots of big-hearted link sharing (natch) and some fascinating new thinking on the web, user interfaces and computers. I was worried, to begin with, that the anti-competition might siphon off all the cool entries but there was no danger of that. I think the competition will prove to be a real validation for the new form and, I hope, a springboard for the weblog’s leap into the mainstream. Now, to bed…

Brother, sister, mother and father

A Mother’s Love, The Meters
All Your Sisters, Mazzy Star
Big Bayou, The Flying Burrito Brothers
Broken Little Sister, Death In Vegas
Brother Can You Spare A Dime, George Michael
Brother John, Cannonball Adderley
Christine’s Tune, The Flying Burrito Brothers
Come To Daddy, Mummy Mix, Aphex Twin
Divine Mother, Jah Wobble
Endless Grey Ribbon, The Corn Sisters
Every Day Is Christmas, The Webb Brothers
Gonna Die With My Hammer In My Hand, Williamson Brothers and Curry
Good Mornin’, Brother, Gershwin
Graveside Song, Stevens Sisters
Happy Together – Fillmore East, June 1971, Frank Zappa and The Mothers
He Ain’t Heavy… He’s My Brother, Keith Barrow
He Meets His Mother, Richard Robbins
He’s The Greatest Dancer, Sister Sledge
I Believe In Father Christmas, Six By Seven
I Need Someone, Wallace Brothers
Jackie Brown Soundtrack, Brothers Johnson
Jungle Brothers – Because I Got It Like That (Ultimate Mix), Jungle Brothers
Just a Little Talk With Jesus, Statler Brothers
King Of The Road, Statler Brothers
Lacassine Special, Balfa Brothers
Last Song for Mother, Nanci Griffith
Legacy (Show Me Love) (Mash Up Matt Mix), Space Brothers
Little Sister/Get Back, Elvis Presley
Little Sister/Get Back (Jul, Elvis Presley
Look At That Old Grizzly Bear, Mark Mothersbaugh
Make It Easy On Yourself, Scott Walker and The Walker Brothers
Mother (very rare), Blind Melon
Mother And Child Reunion, Paul Simon
Mother Nature’s Son, The Beatles
My Baby’s Gone, Wallace Brothers
My Dad’s Gone Crazy, Eminem
My Sister, Tindersticks
Nebraska, The Cash Brothers
New Genious (Brother), Gorillaz
Oh Lori, Alessi brothers
Oh, Sister, Bob Dylan
One For Daddy-O, Cannonball Adderley
One Too Many Mornings, Chemical Brothers
Our Mother The Mountain, Townes Van Zandt
Piece of my Heart, Big Brother and the Holding Company
Ras Dub, Sister Carol
Sal Got A Meatskin, Carlisle Brothers
Sister Ray, Joy Division
Sisters & Brothers, The Fire This Time
Slapshot, Brothers In Raw
Star Catching Girl [Soulside Mix], Brother Brown Feat. Frank’ee
Sting & The Chieftains / Sisters of Mercy, Leonard Cohen
Transition Theme For Minor Blues (Or Little Malcolm Loves His Dad), Sonny Rollins
Tunji’s Song – Tunji Oyelana, Brotherhood of Breath
Voice Of The Father, Gene
Will the Circle Be Unbroken, The Neville Brothers
Will The Circle Be Unbroken, Statler Brothers
Will the Circle be Unbroken, Mother Maybelle Carter
Will the Circle be Unbroken (live), The Allman Brothers Band
You Can’t Hold On To A Love That’s Gone, The Holmes Brothers
Your Heart And Mine – Nicholas Brothers
Your Winter, Sister Hazel