Things I’d have been reading if I’d been reading the right things lately

Tom Standage’s survey ‘Beyond the Bubble‘ from the Economist a couple of weeks ago. You could use these, beautifully written, periodic Economist surveys to plot a pretty accurate graph of sentiment in telecoms and the net business over the last decade. I’ve kept them all, over the years – covering telecoms, the net and ecommerce.

In the old days (that would be 95–99, I guess) I remember ordering boxes of reprints from The Economist and sending them out with brochures for my web design firm. “Look”, I’d say, “it’s all real, It says so right here in The Economist!” Frances Cairncross, the Economist’s original telecoms seer (and author of The Death of Distance, a book that looked like a pretty sober evaluation of the net’s promise when it was published but these days looks more like a brochure for Bubble Inc.), wrote the Economist’s reports on the sector in those days. She seems to have staged a tactical retreat to loftier matters of social and economic policy now, though. Very sensible.

The Guardian’s pull-out survey on housing regeneration, from 24 September (not apparently online, though – unless you know better). Can’t really think of a bigger social issue in this country right now – we’re going to need 5 Million new homes over the next couple of decades – but one that media and politicians relegate to a NIMBY ghetto somewhere behind asylum and gun crime. Only the post-war housing crunch presented a bigger opportunity to rethink urban policy and that crisis brought us a wholesale reengineering of mainstream housing in Britain (epic slum clearances, prefabs, sprawling council estates, misconceived high rises and – finally – the mass privatisation of public housing under Thatcher). Why aren’t we paying attention this time round, though?