Category Archives: The Future

Government asks for 2Mbps, Virgin offers 200Mbps

First, let’s forget those who don’t want broadband for a second and consider only those who have and use broadband services.

I’ll keep this short. How can the UK Government possibly think that asking for 2Mbps in it’s preliminary Digital Britain report is anywhere near acceptable?

Virgin, theoretically, can achieve 200Mbps with their fibre (aka FTTC) network. Though the actual speed is unlikely to be that high in reality, they do quote a minimum of 100Mbps downstream.

They’re still likely to end up beating BT to it in any case, completing their rollout by 2012.

It makes the Government look like a bunch of uneducated fools touting 2Mbps as the speed to have whereas thousands (if not millions) of homes already have twice that and will potentially, in the next 3 years have one hundred times that speed at their fingertips.

The Government is so far behind the curve it’s infuriating. How can we, as a country, possibly be innovative enough to compete on the world stage with that kind of attitude from Government.

So here’s my request to the folks in Whitehall: Stop spending money on a report that is about two years out of date before actually being fully produced and instead spend it incentivising companies like BT and Virgin to speed up their rollout.

I’m moving to San Francisco if you don’t.

Citizen journalism: Friend or foe to traditional media?

Recently I’ve become involved in a relative new project, The Lichfield Blog. As you may gather from the name it’s a blog, about Lichfield.

I’m really proud to be part of something that has such a switched on and engaged little team behind it.

It was especially gratifying to watch as the story of a fire in one of Lichfield’s pubs quickly made it onto the blog just 3 hours after the initial call to the emergency services. Obviously we were lucky to have one of our team walk past at the right moment with a camera phone – a photo quickly made it’s way on to Twitter and a few tweets later the post was up.

The blog’s creator, Ross, made a call to the fire service about the incident and learned that no-one else had picked up on the story yet. It seemed we had beaten the local media. Having seen other, more high-profile, stories break on Twitter that doesn’t surprise me but it did make me think about all this “newspapers are dead” talk.

The blog has a few hundred visitors now, which is great, but it’s never going to kill the newspapers in Lichfield. I wouldn’t want it to either – there are plenty of people throughout the world, not just in Lichfield, who like to read a paper.

So the question isn’t, “are newspapers going to die?”, but rather “how can newspapers use citizen journalism?”

A good example is the Pancake Race in Lichfield. Nick Brickett has been providing photography for The Lichfield Blog, his first assignment being the traditional Shrove Tuesday Pancake Race. His photos of the event made their way onto the Express & Star web site (ironically, as I write this, said web site is down!)

This could be the way journalism is going. Another great example is Channel 4 News (who my Twitter followers will know full well I admire).

Their coverage of the Schiphol plane crash was very much driven by Twitter. I sat in front of Tweetdeck and watched it all unfold in front of my eyes, from them picking up the story, contacting an eye witness to putting a Twit on the lunch time news. It was a first for them and possibly for journalism in the UK.

Krishnan Guru-Murphy of Channel 4 News says that Twitter is “just another way of finding people and talking“.

I suspect some journalists will treat services like Twitter and citizen journalism in general as a threat rather than an asset. I’ve heard of publications shutting down because they just can’t sustain themselves for much longer (obviously the ‘crunch’ doesn’t help) but instead of shutting down, I believe they should adapt and grow with the times.

And let’s face it, it’s cheaper to do it online!

Do you think the internet is a threat to traditional media, or should traditional media adapt and embrace services like Twitter as sources for news?

I don’t want broadband, leave me alone!

There is a lot of buzz at the moment about broadband in Britain, mainly thanks to the Digital Britain report. I’m a firm believer in technology as a driver of innovation, entrepreneurship and job creation so I definitely see that as a good thing.

That said, I have a feeling it might be mis-directed. See, there’s this whole 2Mb broadband for every home thing being bounded around but as Ed Richards, head of Ofcom, said this week, not everyone actually wants broadband.

So why give it to them?

Instead of focusing resources on getting people who don’t want it to have broadband, why not spend that effort on enabling the innovative products and services that will make them want it?

Remember the early days of broadband? The days when local groups sprung up to come together to persuade BT to give them broadband? If people want broadband, they will demand it. Perhaps the Government should instead concentrate on making sure the infrastructure is there when they do.

Do you think Government could be focusing their efforts in a better direction? Do you believe they’re even doing enough?

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The tablet that knows you’ve swallowed it

Photo credit: kjarrett

Photo credit: kjarrett

When my Dad – a sufferer of Pick’s Disease – was still living at home, there was always concern about whether he was remembering to take the many tablets he was prescribed.

There were many times where he’d be trying to figure out which day it was and therefore which partition he should open on his very handy seven-day pill dispenser.

Now, though, forgetting to take pills might not be a problem any longer, thanks to advancements in technology.

GigaOm has gone through a bunch of biotech offerings, including an edible microchip that sends a signal to a sensor placed on the skin to indicate that it is being digested.

I bet Jonah wouldn’t mind one of those microchips!

The actual implementation of such technology probably has a lot of factors to consider but it could be hugely useful to Dementia sufferers like my Dad.

Imagine, by mid-morning, having a text message saying “Looks like your Dad forgot his Aricept today. Better check that out.”

Ten minutes later, the pill is being swallowed and doing it’s job.

Brilliant.

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IE8: Saviour of the Semantic Web, or Usability Nightmare?

I’ve been pushing web standards for years, so the news that Microsoft‘s Internet Explorer 8 will support W3C guidelines by default is very welcome from where I’m sitting.

There is one problem, though. They’ve announced that sites including CNN, Facebook and MySpace won’t work correctly. Users of the browser will have to choose to view these sites in “Compatibility View”. That sounds painful. It smacks of the “cancel or allow” ‘safety‘ feature in Vista.

It’s great that Microsoft are finally supporting standards. It’s long overdue and it should give the many standards ignorant web developers in the world a good kick up the arse.

Can you hear the “but” coming?

BUT… what are users going to do when, after upgrading to IE8, their favourite sites stop working? Some won’t even know there are alternative browsers and will think it’s a problem with their PC. Cue lots of restarts, calls to broadband providers and flicking through the Yellow Pages.

Though admirable, could Microsoft’s harsh line just frustrate IE users and web developers? Could this move fuel more browser-switching?

Web Startups are Threatening the Future of the ‘Net

I ignore a lot of the news I come across on a daily basis. One recent example is the lay-offs at web companies. It’s just all a bit too depressing, really.

So why am I blogging about it?

Well, I’ve related it to a bug-bear of mine today. The lack of sensible business planning in internet start-ups.

It’s caught my attention today ’cause I’ve just read Alex Iskold’s post at ReadWriteWeb about Platforms. Alex highlights the examples of Facebook and Google’s OpenSocial as platforms that have risen with great fanfare, only to fall by the wayside. The reason: no business plan.

These platforms were developed without a clear view to monetisation. It makes me cringe every time I hear of a web company being injected with VC funds. I’m scared it’ll be another funky web start-up with a cool free app that makes no money whatsoever.

I’m concerned because the effect could be a bad image for web businesses. While some of us are trying to encourage companies to spend money on the ‘net (for good reason, may I add) all around us companies are laying off staff or closing altogether because they haven’t made enough money. Companies that had no clear road map for success. Surely that’s just bad business decision making?

Let’s take Twitter as an example. I love Twitter. I think it’s a great service now that my initial skepticism has long since passed. It has no business model, though. Instead they “really want to focus right now on just building the infrastructure“. So where’s the return on that $15.1 million in VC funding?

If I were one of Twitter’s 17 staff members, I’d be pretty scared at the moment.

Let me tell you a secret: Last year I left a company I co-founded in part because money was being splashed out on projects that had no hint of a business plan. Now I’m scared that the industry is doing exactly the same thing.

Am I being too cautious and are these companies simply taking a calculated risk? Or is it time to step out of the box for a bit and re-evaluate?

How SEO will eventually die off

I really enjoyed reading Ian Lurie’s take on the death of SEO. He gives us a few ideas as to how SEO will finally meet it’s demise. (Note I’m not questioning whether SEO will die or not!)

I’m going to give you my own take on each of the three theories;

The Slow Meltdown

While it is true that many companies are taking SEO in-house, most SMBs just don’t have the resources to do the same. SEO is a very labour-intensive excercise and smaller enterprises will have to get outside help.

Additionally, even though many larger organisations are moving to in-house SEOs, more and more full service marketing agencies are including SEO in their service offering. Larger businesses are taking advantage of this and are likely to continue doing so for a while yet.

The Sudden Extinction

Ian makes the good point that plenty of industries have survived economic downturn, so why not SEO? In fact, my view is that SEO (or rather, on line marketing) could well be the marketing method of choice in a depression thanks to the ease of measuring performance against other forms of marketing. Not to mention the much better returns that can be gained from the internet.

A Tough Adolescence

I have to agree with Ian on this one, I think he’s got it pretty spot on. On line marketing in general is still very young. SEO is just a small part of that and will eventually be sidelined in favour of a more rounded approach to internet marketing. Businesses are getting wiser to the cowboys and marketing consultants are beginning to embrace and understand the power of the internet.

I believe only the best SEO consultants will remain in a few years, and even they will have to smarten up their approach a little. They’ll become one part of the on line marketing machine, instead of being at the forefront of an entire sub-industry.

The Future

I’m excited. I’ve seen the industry evolve so much over the last few years and it’s only going to get better. My vision of the ethical web is coming closer.