Found while searching my Gmail archive for a long lost chart…

…I’d forgotten I wrote this. It was done for a booklet given to all senior managers attending a BBC Leadership conference at a posh Salford hotel in Feb 2007.

Learning to Stop
Tom Loosemore
Project Director BBC2.0

We should have closed most of the websites on bbc.co.uk long ago. I believe the reasons behind our failure to do so are institutionally lethal.

Granted, we’ve built a handful of spectacularly successful, much-loved websites, of which we should be rightly proud. But our busy webservers also play host to thousands of smaller sites, most of which actively damage the BBC brand. A third of our websites score so poorly in terms of quality that a commercial business with similarly poor perception would go bust within a year. Yet we leave them up.

This failure comes with hidden costs, over and above the money we spend on these sites. Firstly, they damage our reputation for quality. Secondly, they confuse our users – we have six climate change websites. Finally, the resources they suck up restrict our freedom to exploit better opportunities.

And the more I’ve tried to understand how we let bbc.co.uk get so bloated, the more I catch whiffs of what I fear is an institutional malaise. We don’t stop doing anything unless confronted by hard, external constraints – the scarcity of spectrum as represented by a schedule, or a Foreign Office demanding Arabic TV but refusing to pay for it.

We could get away with this attitude with RPI +1.5%. That left enough slack to keep doing everything we’d always done, and also develop the new services our audiences were demanding. That luxury has gone.

Unless we learn to stop we will under-invest in future services – our best hope of staying universally relevant amid the most profound revolution in media consumption since Marconi, if not Gutenberg.

It is hard to stop doing things. It’s hard to deal with the fallout – from staff, unions, irate opinion formers, a frothy press and audiences angry at having their service closed.

But it’ll be harder still to explain to our grandchildren why we failed one of the few civilising institutions Britain has left.

Let’s be brave enough to stop.

What a sanctimonious, pompous prig. I’d forgotten how angry I was with the BBC by the time I left.

The conference was most memorable for late night whisky with Tony Ageh & Will Lewis. IIRC Tony insisted to the then Editor of the Telegraph that it was the latter’s public duty to become BBC Director General. Funny. The rest of the shindig was usual bollocks.

Back to the powerpoint.

Elegant imbalance, courtesy of Lord Carter

Early most mornings you’ll find me hunched over a copy of The Times, enjoying the friendly atmosphere in Hornsey’s renowned Green Hill Cafe. The regulars call me ‘The Cyclist’. This pleases me enormously.

This morning, midway through his paper, said cyclist soured the atmosphere with an involuntary outburst. The cause? A comment piece on p50 by Baron Carter of Barnes, former boss of ad agency J Walter Thomson, cable company NTL & communications regulator Ofcom. He was also – briefly – a Minister in the previous Government, hence his enoblement.

The Times granted Lord Carter about 600 words in which he explained, in soothing faux-expert terms, why the market for access to Internet in the UK was ‘unbalanced’, with its underlying economics ‘under stress’, and about to suffer a ‘Big Squeeze’ with ‘rising demand for content… colliding with reducing economic returns’.

Here are the key passages:

Communications companies occupy a market where a growing proportion of their traffic is intemet-based, while most of the revenue is still derived from voice telephony. That imbalance could worsen with the combination of unlimited usage plans, the accelerating transition from all things physical to all things digital, and the imbalances on the content revenue and transport and distribution costs associated with internet usage.

The coalition Government has an opportunity to create a policy framework for the next-generation digital marketplace. Areas requiring attention include market definitions, pricing mechanisms and the unnecessarily sensitive topic of net neutrality to balance legitimate access to an open online environment, with the need for service providers to differentiate between quality and of [sic] service, the investment returns available in this market, the conditions for consolidation and the issues of rights and rights management.

Read between the lines. Note the semantics; the elegant spin. There’s an ‘imbalance‘, which could ‘worsen‘. The topic of net neutrality is ‘unnecessarily sensitive‘ and needs to be ‘balanced‘ by the ‘needs‘ of ISPs. Throughout the piece, he talks of ‘superfast broadband’, not ‘superfast Internet’.

In translation: “Now, now, Minister. Don’t listen to that geeky Sir Tim Berners-Lee chap. If you want superfast broadband, you’ll have to let telcos ditch net neutrality.”

This is dangerous tripe. The Internet trumps other closed models of networks because its do-your-best-to-treat-all-packets-equally model acts as a critical catalyst for innovation, and comprehensively outcompetes closed, more managed networks – despite the latter offering a better theoretical ‘quality of service’.

UK consumers, citizens and companies will not get the full benefit of superfast broadband access unless it *is* superfast Internet access. Other countries’ Governments know this.

Yes, next generation Internet access will cost money; it will require investment. Lots. But the answer is crystal clear: charge end users for the amount of Internet bandwidth they actually use. If they use lots, at high speeds, charge them more.

Ditch the delusional, marketing-led, cul-de-sac of ‘unlimited’ Internet access. Just imagine electricity and gas companies offering ‘unlimited’ deals, and then ponder why telcos are facing a ‘Biq Squeeze’.

But this doesn’t explain why Lord Carter delivered his mandarin-friendly missive in today’s Times. What has he got to gain? The clue comes at the end of the piece:

Stephen A. Carter, CBE, is chief strategy and marketing officer for Alcatel Lucent.

I suspect Alcatel-Lucent thinks it will make more money selling expensive traffic-shaping, walled-garden ‘quality of service’ kit to telcos than it will if they were stick to offering clean, pure, superfast Internet access.

Stephen Carter is a very smart man. I just wish he was on the side of the Internet.

“It is not yet known whether Loosemore will stay at Channel 4.”

Chart Illustrating Stranding of the Dulcibella

To answer the above: No, I won’t. I left Channel 4 last Friday.

I’ve been off work for a fair while, suffering from the seemingly interminable after-effects of treatment by reckless manipulation at the hands of an over-enthusiastic chiropractor. Thankfully, I’m very much on the mend now.

4iP was an experience.

The upsides? A truly, truly, fantastic team. The excitement of doing risky new stuff. And the joy of working with so many wonderful small companies. Thank you all.

The downsides? Pretty much as Dan Heaf described, I’m afraid. No-one could ever agree what 4iP was for, a failure for which I must take some responsibility.

But hey, 4iP’s time came and went. There’s still lots of great stuff on the go at C4. For example, check out Alice Taylor & Dr Jo Twist‘s awesome teens slate. And keep an eye out for some nice surprises as the remaining 4iP funded products emerge…

Bold and innovative public institutions are rare, precious & important creatures. They matter.

I wish Channel 4 Television Corporation well.

Next!

Killing Zombies: How to *really* delete yourself from Facebook

I decided to delete my Facebook account a couple of days ago. I found I was hardly using it – certainly not enough to justify upsetting friends who assumed otherwise and were thus unwittingly ignored.

It’s somewhat harder than it should be to *permanently* delete all your data from Facebook. By default Facebook encourage you to ‘deactivate’ your account, which leaves all your data in their systems, albeit hidden from other users. Should you ever log in to Facebook again, even via a Facebook Connect login to a 3rd party site like Digg, then your whole Facebook account will spring back into life whether you want it to or not. Deactivating your Facebook profile turns your profile into a Zombie. You’re forever at risk of triggering it to wake from the dead and take a bite out of you.

Here are 7 steps to *really* delete your data from Facebook:

    Step 1: Login to Facebook.com
    Step 2: Click on the ‘Account’ link in the top right of the page
    Step 3: A menu will pop down. Select ‘Account Settings’
    Step 4: Change your Facebook password (click on the ‘change’ link to the right of the word Password)
    Step 5: Go to this page and click ‘Submit’
    Step 6: Click on the ‘Log Out’ button.
    Step 7: After 2 weeks, your data should be deleted from Facebook.

Make sure you don’t log-in to Facebook at all during the 2 week period – be that via Facebook Connect, the Facebook iPhone app, embedded ‘Like this’ buttons on other websites. etc. Changing your password reduces the risk of doing this by mistake.

Sailing to the upper limit of the River Crouch

Just about to send this dinghy cruise report off to the Wanderer Dinghy Association for their newsletter, but I might as well use it to see if my blog is still alive.

Wanderer Dinghy Cruise Report
Date: 22nd September 2010
Helm: Tom Loosemore Crew: Kass Schmitt
Route: Creeksea to Battlesbridge and return. Total distance sailed: 20Nm

Creeksea to Battlesbridge GPS track log

We meet just in time to catch the 0740 to Burnham-on-Crouch, conversation difficult after racing across London on our bicycles. Was such an early train really essential? my crew Kass gently enquires, as we glide through the capital’s urban sprawl. Tide and time wait for no man, I patronise smugly. Kass has forgotten more about sailing than I’ll ever know, but manages a smile. We have to make it to Battlesbridge well before the 1320 high tide, as there’s only water for an hour or so either side of high water, and even then it’s but a few feet.

We launch W917 from a dew-strewn Creeksea SC at 0930. Creeksea is my kind of sailing club. An all-tide slipway a mile upstream from Burnham-on-Crouch, it has no clubhouse and zero pretensions. Tucked behind a wooded headland, it might as well be a million miles upstream from Burnham’s regal posturing.

The wind fills in as if to order, blowing away the last vestiges of morning mist. It’s a warm F2 from the south, and we enjoy a fine sunny reach upstream. Helped along by the flooding tide, we zip past North Fambridge (great pub with self-catering) and the delightful Brandy Hole Yacht Station (friendly folk, good food) averaging a very respectable 5 knots. We’re well ahead of schedule, but fall becalmed in the lee of a hillside copse near The Anchor (looks posh) at Hullbridge. The plastic paddle was deployed to avoid bumping into moored yachts, albeit for only a few minutes.

The final two miles are a delightful challenge. The river narrows, shallows and wiggles all over the shop. Trees, electricity pylons and the odd caravan park cause the breeze to turn fickle and frisky. Some quickfire short tacking is in order, our half-raised centreboard doubling as a sounding pole – on hitting bottom, we crash tack. As a tactic, it works well in the muddy upper reaches of an East coast river. Please don’t try it in Cornwall. We nearly make it to Battlesbridge, eventually stymied by encroaching reeds and shallows a couple of hundred metres below the low iron girder Bailey bridge marking the limit of the navigable Crouch. We row the last stretch, past an 80 foot barge preparing to leave on the tide (how they turned round I’ll never know) before mooring up alongside the visitors’ landing stage.

Wanderer W917 moored up at Battlesbridge visitors landing stage, near high tide

Truth be told, we are early. It’s only just midday, and there is barely enough water. The real reason I’d wanted to leave London so early was to make sure we’d have time in hand to enjoy the fine view from the café in the top floor of the Old Granary. Now an antiques market, this five-storey structure dominates Battlesbridge, a black, wooden testament to the days when the river was the region’s main trade route to London and beyond. The proprietors and clientele of the café are a sitcom waiting to be written, and provide copious entertainment as we munch our baked potatoes.

The sail back to Creeksea is a joy. The sun is at our backs, the wind abeam and we’re sailing together well. Past Brandy Hole the river opens out into marshland and the wind steadies and freshens to a F4. The odd gust sees W917 lifting her skirt onto the plane. We leave leaden yachts chuntering in our wake, grinning with joy as we munch Kass’ homemade treacle flapjack. All is good with the world.

We take a detour into lonely saltings to explore Bridgemarsh marina, a lovely sleepy backwater of a marina. Rejoining the Crouch proper, the final mile to Creeksea is a properly bumpy wind-against-tide close-hauled thrash. Kass fulfils the crew’s key function of keeping the helm dry. She doesn’t seem to mind a jot. We haul W917 out just after 1500, and pedal off into Burnham for a riverside drink or two before catching the 1709 back to mad, bad London life.

Thank you Kass. Thank you W917 – you may not have a name, but you’re so much more than a number.

New blog, new rules

I’m blogging again.

Or at least, I’m motivated enough to mothball the 8 year-old spammed-to-death carcrash of a Movable Type install on my server and shift to a hosted WordPress blog mapped onto blog.tomski.com I’ll leave all the old MT posts as they are on www.tomski.com. Tying to import the posts is not worth the inevitable pain.

Pleasingly, the  DNS CNAME domain mapping malarkey required to get blog.tomski.com pointed to my wordpress blog was a doddle – all sorted via simple web interfaces.  I even changed the domain registrar for tomski.com without having to leave my browser to do battle in unixland. Amateurs can now fiddle with the Internet via the Web. Excellent.