When slogans are not enough

I was 18 years old in 1979; people of a certain age will remember that year as being the start of the ‘Thatcher Years’ – the start of 11 years of Tory Government that was characterised by radical right wing policies, many originating from the Chicago School of Monetarism, jingoistic manipulation of the electorate in a popular war (The Falklands).  The economic policies ensured a destruction of large swathes of British manufacturing industry, steel and coal, and it might be argued that it was a ‘mild’ form (relatively speaking) of the shock and awe school of political change that alumni of the Chicago School had already inflicted on Chile and other countries in the 1970s.

I entered the workforce in the middle of all this, working in Education for 18 months or so before becoming self-employed in IT, and witnessed the destruction of the communities in which I’d grown up and the politicisation and vilification in the media of family and friends in the  mining villages and towns of Derbyshire, Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire.  I witnessed troops used as policemen and experienced roadblocks that prevented free travel within the UK.  It’s safe to say that those years coloured the political views of a whole generation – and still do today.

Which is why I could initially understand the surge of groups on Facebook and other online communities with names like ‘National Don’t Vote Tory Day’.

And after a while I began to think that this is rather a dumb and negative way to decide who to vote for.  To start with, it’s 13 years since a Tory Government – twenty years since Thatcher lost power when the great and the good of the Tory establishment decided that she was a liability and threw her out in a coup.  You need to be at least 31 years old to have actually been an adult under a Tory government, but it seems to be within the under 30 age group that this sort of group is popular.

As will be known to anyone who reads this blog or follows my tweets, I have little time for New Labour.  I have little time for the Tories or the Liberal Democrats either.  Which, I appreciate, means I have some serious thinking to do before the General Election.  I believe in small Government, subsidiarity and local, sustainable communities.  I believe in freedom of speech and expression, reduction in the intrusive powers of the state and controlled and managed immigration to the UK based on a points system for economic migrants and proof of oppression in the last country they were in for political asylum seekers. I believe in strong defence, continued possession of a tactical nuclear weapons capability, healthcare free at point of delivery, and a benefits system as a last ditch support for folks who genuinely need it.  I’m interested in seeing whether a flat rate of taxation would work, along with reduced red-tape for business, closer scrutiny of banking institutions, no further formal integration with Europe, repeal of the majority of Human Rights legislation and replacement with a written constitution.  And on a more personal basis, reform of copyright, patent and libel legislation to take on board the fact that the world’s changed.

In other words, a rag-bag, hodge-podge of policies which no party will offer.  But at least I’ve thought about what I believe in, and can make most of it join up.  Which is where the ‘Don’t vote Tory’ sloganising is ridiculously naive.  Wheeling out any party as a bogey man – especially one out of power for 15 years – is daft.  I demonise New Labour when, in my eyes and against the principles and policies I personally believe in, they deserve it – I’d like to feel that folks who’re signing up to the ‘Don’t Vote Tory’ sites have at least thought through their own political views and aren’t just signing up to the latest ‘slogan of the month’ based on what happened before many of them were actually old enough to directly experience it.

Slogans aren’t enough; I’d say one thing – if you disagree with a party’s politics, know WHY you disagree with them.  Think about it.  If you don’t like any of them, vote for the one that you disagree with least.  There’s an assumption of trust and competence here, which I’m not sure we can give or expect from any of the major parties this time around. 

I’m still to make my mind up.  I have significant issues with New Labour and the Tories; I was sort of leaning towards Liberal Democrat until I looked at their policies on Europe and Immigration policy, and I’m not convinced that their finances add up.  And I’m still not capable of trusting them on civil liberties and issues of Government intrusion in to the lives of citizens. 

But for crying out loud – please, please, think about it.

Mrs Duffy, the PM, and what politicians REALLY think of the voter…

For a senior politician to be filmed ‘meeting the people’ is a feat of great courage that is fraught on all sides with danger.  The voter may hate your guts, may egg you, may tell you things you don’t want to hear.  And you know what?  If you’re a smart politician you smile, listen, say your platitudes, maybe even argue in a civilised and sensible, statesmanlike manner.

You then walk away, talk to someone else, smile alot and maybe kiss a baby.

A piece of free advice for all politicians in the UK….what you don’t do is, whilst still on a live mike, call the person who you were filmed being nice to a bigot.  Especially if the person concerned is a female old age pensioner who’s only saying what lots of folks in the UK may feel.

So…here’s where ‘Wee Gordon’ embarasses himself in front of the whole TV watching population of the UK.

I genuinely feel sorry for Gordon Brown on a personal level – I hate to see anyone drop themselves in the shit.  He’s not the guy for this sort of ‘one on one’ interview with the voter, particularly when it’s not at all certain what the voter concerned is going to say.  But on a political level – come on, people, this is Political Campaigning 101.  Whatever you may think in private, you don’t say it in public.

I’m gobsmacked at some of the nonsense and bollocks I’ve heard uttered by people from the Labour Party today – apparently Mrs Duffy is a plant, the whole thing’s a Murdoch Media setup, it’s a conspiracy to embarrass the PM, it was Nick Clegg’s fault, etc.  The facts are quite simple:

  • Mrs Duffy made some comments about immigration to the UK that didn’t fit the NuLab policy sheet.
  • Mr Brown debated the point slightly, and walked away in a dignified manner.  All good, clean, politics.
  • Mr Brown neglects to take the mike from Sky News off.
  • He then shows clear annoyance at whoever it was in his entourage who set up the conversation.
  • And finally calls Mrs Duffy a bigot.
  • And realising what he’s done apologises profusely to Mrs Duffy and the Labour Party.

Now…to all the NuLab people I know who I’ve annoyed this evening – and who probably aren’t reading this anyway… 🙂 – Mrs Duffy’s comments seemed totally fair, Brown’s ‘on camera’ reaction reasoned and sensible, his off camera reaction totally out of order and poorly judged, reinforcing the numerous stories we keep hearing about the Prime Minister’s intolerance.

It was his press officer’s job to keep an eye on the mike and media presence.  It was Brown’s job to keep his mouth shut until he knew he was ‘off air’.  Unless the press officer was working for Murdoch, the Tories or the Lib Dems, and the Prime Minister was brainwashed to open mouth before engaging brain, the only people here to blame are the Press Officer and the PM.  The reporter was doing his job.  Sky was doing it’s job – they played hardball and took advantage of the situation to get a ‘scoop’, but that’s what the media does.  the media are no-one’s friends but their own.

Labour were made to look hypocritical incompetents – get used to it, folks, and stop whining like spoilt children.

So, in the broader picture, what does this debacle tell us about Labour and their leadership?

  1. They don’t like hearing what the voters say when the voter doesn’t toe the party line.  Sounds familiar?  It should do.  Those of us who’ve been in debates with New Labour over recent years have come to know that NuLab is tolerant whilst you toe the line.  There is a strong hint of dishonesty and hypocrisy here.
  2. The Prime Minister really misjudged the situation here– there was a camera crew around when the comment was made, let alone a live lapel mike.  The PM made an error, but this is not a politician on his first election; this is an experienced political leader who wishes to be Prime Minister of the UK.  He also exhibited petulance and bad temper – and not for the first time.  I would expect better judgement from Mr Brown and also greater competence from those around him.
  3. There was clear contempt for the voter concerned – and by extension all of us.  This current election is by no means an open and shut ‘shoe-in’ for any party.  It’s there to be lost by the parties, and in the last week the leaders of all three major parties have worked hard to put their foot in it in one way or another.  But this must be the biggest cock up yet. 

The media is very much the fourth major party in the 2010 general election; it’s loyalties are split across the parties, as they always are, but this time around everything that happens gets Tweeted and blogged as quickly as it happens.  Our political leaders seem to be having difficulties dealing with this – and the winner will be the one who screws up least.

When can we have adults running the UK please?

Well, it looks like the Foreign Office have managed to confirm what I’ve felt about the majority of Civil Servants for some time.  That is, they need to grow up, realise that they’re on a pretty cushy number in ‘public service’ and deliver the work that we pay them for.

Just take a look at this news story: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/faith/article7107656.ece  Doesn’t matter that it was Pope who was the butt of this pathetic attempt at ‘humour’.  What matters is that a visiting head of state was held up to ridicule in a briefing document that was distributed throughout the apparatus of Government.

The first paragraph of the news story tells us more than we need to know:

“Advisers to the Pope are starting to regret that he accepted an invitation to visit Britain this September after official papers emerged that suggested he should be asked to open an abortion clinic, bless a gay marriage and launch a Benedict-branded condom range.

The document also suggested that the National Anthem be changed, from God Save the Queen to God Save the World.”

Now, to be honest, this is ludicrous; it sounds like the antics of a 15 year old editor of a school magazine who’s still under the impression that this sort of juvenile stuff is the height of sophisticated humour.  According to the powers that b, this was a ‘brainstorming document’ that shouldn’t have been released, and that individual concerned has been transferred to other duties.

In other words, he or she still has a job in the Foreign Office.  However you look at this, it’s truly pathetic.  Let’s see – there are three options:

Personal stupidity and cock up – the document was written for private consumption but some how managed to get typed up, circulated and out on a distribution list for briefing papers.  As private humour it might have been fine as an email around friends, but to get get out in to the ‘official’ world required stupidity and / or poor process.

Poor judgement and cock up– someone may well actually believe this document, and intended it to be a genuine suggestion for their superiors.  Again, how it escaped in to the real world is a mystery that again requires phenomenally poor judgement, stupidity or process failure.

Conspiracy– the document was deliberately designed to be offensive, then deliberately leaked on to the distribution list, with the intention of annoying the Vatican so much that the Pope cancelled his visit later in the year.

Whichever option, the whole busienss makes the UK look either foolish, incompetent or both.  If it is a conspiracy, then it makes us look incompetent and cowardly. 

For God’s sake, civil servants and government, get a grip, grow up and start running this country properly.  YOU chose to become a civil servant; I don’t remember pointing a gun at you.  YOU chose to become a member of this Government.  Both civil servants and Government ministers feel that they can run this country better than the rest of us – so bloody well prove it.

Normal Service will hopefully be resumed…soon!

Regular readers will have noticed that the last few weeks on Joe’s Jottings have been a bit patchy in terms of the frequency of posts.  It’s been a perfect example of ‘life happening when you’re making other plans’ and I hope soon to be getting back to the ‘one post a day’ regime that I aim for on this site.

The reason?  I’m afraid that Mammon has had influence on me – basically a great deal of work to be done (which is good in the current economic conditions) as well as other commitments.  As  a trustee / committee member on a couple of charities, and Treasurer on one, this time of year is always a bit busy with year-ends, AGMs, etc. And then there’s the real world activities as well!!

I’ve actually missed blogging – it’s pretty easy to slip the habit of doing a daily blog post and I’m pretty sure that I’ll have my work cut out for a few days next week when I think I’ll be able to get back in to having enough time available to do the regular post each day, but it’s been a useful reminder to me that blogging isn’t part of my job, it’s a hobby, and therefore should occupy that part of my life also occupied by watching ‘Fringe’ on TV, playing amateur radio and avoiding gardening.

Some months ago I commented that I’d managed to build up a little stockpile of articles for use when the pressure was on – unfortunately I worked through those and now need to build that pile up again as well, so it looks like I’ll be having a busy blogging Bank Holiday at the end of April.

So, there you have it.  Normal service WILL be resumed…soon….ish….

Tethering a Blackberry to a PC

This is one of those ‘good to try, might be useful’ sort of things that I’ve been intending to try for some time.  First of all, a couple of caveats – some service providers don’t like you doing this, and almost all of them charge you extra for the privilege.  So, regard this as an emergency measure for use when all other connection methods aren’t available.

Or, like me, you decided to do it because ‘it might one day be useful’!

So, what’s tethering? It’s the ability to use the modem facility that the phone uses to communicate with the Internet to allow the computer to connect to the Internet via the phone.  In this post I’ll go through the steps I went through to connect my Vista laptop to the Internet via my Blackberry, using BT’s network.  As always – it worked for me, but don’t blame me if it all goes horribly wrong – proceed at your own risk!  You will need:

  • A Blackberry with up to date software.
  • A laptop running up to date Blackberry Desktop software. 
  • A PC to Blackberry USB cable.

First of all, disconnect whatever network connection you currently have running on your PC.  This is most easily done by disconnecting teh network cable or turning off (or disconnecting) your WiFi connection.

Now, connect your Blackberry to the PC using the USB cable.  On your PC, run the ‘Blackberry Desktop’ program.  This bit is essential, and you can’t make use of the Blackberry’s modem unless the Desktop Manager program is running.

On the computer, open up Control Panel->Phone & Modem Options.  On the Modem tab you should see a new ‘Standard Modem’ added – on my PC it was listed as attaching to COM6, although COM11 is occasionally to be found.  Now go to Properties->Diagnostics->Query Modem and press the Query button – you should see a list of responses from the Blackberry.  The contents are not too important – the most important thing here is that you get something and it doesn’t pop up with ‘No Response’ or just leave a blank dialogue.

Now click Properties->Advanced and enter the following in to the initialisation command box:


The Blackberry Modem is now configured.  The next stage is to set up a Connection to the Internet.

Create a new Internet connection by Start->Connect To->Show all connections->Create a new connection.  Select ‘Connect to the Internet’ and then the ‘Set up my connection manually’ option, then next.  Then, select ‘Connect using a dial-up modem’ and Next, then give the connection a name such as “Blackberry Modem”, then Next.  Now, enter the following:

  • Number :  *99#
  • User name : bt
  • Password : bt

And that’s that!  Save the connection and to test it just connect to the Internet using your newly created connection.  There are two things to note – in most circumstances it won’t be as fast as your normal WiFi / Broadband connection, and you almost certainly be charged by the volume of data that you transfer.  For example, BT’s rates are here.

If you want to try this on another network, this page may be useful.

Crystal Reports…where did you go wrong?

Many moons ago, when you could write useful software on a computer with less processing power than my last cellphone, there was a reporting tool called Crystal Reports that was incredibly useful for those of us who spent our working lives using tools such as Visual BASIC 3 to write windows applications.  It had a few gremlins, but they tended to be the sort of thing that you wrote in your notebook and turned to when you deployed an application that used CR…sort of:

“All report files verified against database…check.  All report files in distribtion package….check.  All CR runtimes in distribution package….check. ”

And that was it – the whole thing fitted on a couple of floppy discs (remember those?  If not, the contents of 400 of them will fit on a CDROM) and after I got my checklist sorted I was good to go and was happy to use Crystal Reports whenever I needed a quick and straightforward reporting solution.

The years passed and I found myself working on various projects which either used different reporting technologies or that didn’t involve me with reporting systems, and I gradually lost track of Crystal Reports until a couple of years ago when I found myself having to use the package again.  And most of the time it’s fine – but when used with Visual Studio to develop and deploy Internet Web sites and applications….oh dear.

As always you tend to blame yourself for being stupid with these sorts of things.  You are, after all, dealing with a couple of packages that could easily have knocked you back over £600 if you buy the full packages.  So, you kind of think that by following the instructions, you’ll get a working system without any real problems.  And, if it all goes pear-shaped, you assume that somewhere along the way you’ve dropped a clanger, so you repeat stuff, reinstall stuff, restart machines, uninstall stuff, sacrifice chickens…the usual persistent efforts to solve problems adopted by software developers.

Of course, we’re now aided by Google (how did we manage to resolve these issues before the Web?  I really can’t remember, but software seemed to go wrong less frequently back in the early 1990s) and so I did a quick Google of:

  1. Why Crystal Reports viewers failed to run properly when added to a web page, even if you used the exact code on Microsoft’s and Business Objects’s web sites?  Which led to….
  2. Why a particular folder called aspnet_client wasn’t being created when I created a new website.  Which led to….
  3. Why, when I manually added the folder (again, as per the instructions) , things still failed. 

6 hours of my life disappeared down the maw of this problem – 6 hours that I could happily have spent doing other things.  Eventually, rather than spend my life going round and round in ever decreasing circles (or re-installing EVERYTHING – not something I wanted to do on someone else’s server) I came up with what I ended up describing on Twitter as a ‘wanky bodge’ to work around the problem. 

What was incredibly scary was the number of times the issue turned up on Google with the comments ‘Don’t know how to fix, it sorted itself out after re-installing, Couldn’t fix it and so didn’t use Crystal Reports’.  It’s not just me – looks like the combination of Crystal Reports XI and some instances of Visual Studio (but not all) and some Web sites on the same server (but not all) can give rise to the situation where it’s impossible to view a report without bodging things. 

Guys…it shouldn’t be  like this.  There’s an old joke that says that if we built bridges the way we built  software we’d never dare to drive across them.  I think that there’s a little too much truth in that joke.

The obligatory General Election Post

Some years ago, a joke did the rounds about the first Albanian astronaut.  The main thing you need to know is that at the time the joke was told Albania was a head-bangingly totalitarian Marxist state with total media control.    Anyway….

Albania manages to launch an astronaut in to orbit, and Radio Tirana announces the fact with great pomp and circumstance.   The country goes wild, and there is much celebration.  Which goes on for days.  Anyway, after a few days Nico turns up at the office looking a bit of a mess, and his boss hauls him in for a telling off, particularly about his wrinkled shirt and tie.

“It’s not my fault, boss, i’s the fault of that damn astronaut…”

“How come,” says his boss.

” Well, the only thing on the radio for the last few weeks has been about the astronaut, so I turned on the TV. There was nothing on there except for stories about the astronaut and his family.  So I went to buy a newspaper – again, full of stuff about this guy.  Same with magazines and books – nothing but stuff about this guy.  I bought some records and tapes – all full of songs about the bloody astronaut…all the muzak in the market from the loudspeakers, even the hold signal on the telephone…all this bugger!”

“OK, but how does this explain your shirt and tie?”

“Well, I didn’t dare turn the iron on to iron anything because I was scared that news of the astronaut might come out of it….”

And that’s sort of how I’m starting to feel only a little over a week in to the campaign.  The news media are doing their best to make the event in to a super-duper, highly exciting news event, but it’s hard going.  And I think there are a few reasons for this. 

We’ve lost faith in politicians and the political process.  They’ve proved themselves singularly unfit to govern in the last year or so through their attitude towards expenses and the like, and it increasingly appears that politicians of all parties the world over have been unable to manage national economies when confronted by global interests such as the banks.

There is a higher level of distrust of politicians than at any time in my memory.  The current government claimed they wouldn’t increase income tax in the Parliament – they lied.  They lied about the circumstances around the invasion of Iraq. They’ve introduces law after law that erodes our basic civil liberties.  From the opposition parties we have heard very few loud protesting voices.  The Liberal Democrats are so keen to achieve some element of power that they won’t even give a straight answer as to how they would determine which party to support in the event of a hung Parliament.  I’d like to think that this is because they’ll play each vote on it’s merits, but given the fact that it was Liberal Democrat peers who tightened up the Digital Economy Bill, I don’t particularly trust them either.  And the Tories – those of us with long memories know that the Tories were just as bad liars when they were in power.

I have no idea how I’m voting yet.  The best I’ve got so far is a few precepts, in order of application:

  • I will vote for whichever party will not introduce more laws that stifle our civil liberties – even better the party that will revoke some of the more outrageous laws bought in over the last 13 years.
  • I will vote for whichever party undertakes to keep the hand of State out of my day to day life – i.e. that will impose a smaller Government on me and that at least does something to decrease the red tape I encounter trying to run a business.
  • I will vote for whichever party promises to give me an effective and streamlined public sector and health service – not the bloated monstrosity we seem to have today.

All bets are off for me; I won’t be voting for a minority party – it will be either one of the ‘Big Three’ in England or a spoilt ballot paper.  I’m old enough to remember the impact of the unions under Callaghan in the late 1970s, and the economic devastation wreaked on the economy by Thatcher in the early 1980s.  Oddly enough, on a personal basis I’ve always been better off under the Tories and suffered under Labour, but would never consider voting Tory because it went agaisnt my attitudes about society.  How ironic that NuLab, therefore, have introduced policies that attack our liberties in ways that the Tories would never have dared.

I have no idea how I’ll be voting.  Watch this space and if I work out what I’m doing I’ll tell you.

Seafood Pornography

There’s a superb episode of The Simpsons where various discussions of actor ‘Troy McClure are taking place:

Louie: Hey, I thought you said Troy McClure was dead.
Tony: No, what I said was: “He sleeps with the fishes”. You see…

Homer: You know, his bizarre personal life. Those weird things they say he does down at the aquarium. Why I heard…
Marge: Oh, Homer, that’s just an urban legend. People don’t do that type of thing with fish!

Now, before we go any further, I definitely have to point out that should you be a fish fetishist like Troy McClure then you won’t find anything of interest in this piece. But what I do want to talk about is late night TV, on a satellite channel, oh yes…

Rick Stein!

I’m not a great fan of cookery programmes – I cook a lot but don’t usually get much out of watching other folks cooking (except for the superb and much missed Keith Floyd) – but I can watch Rick Stein for hours.  I love seafood – which helps enormously – and I love the combination of heartiness and simplicity that many of his recipes have.  And he’s a great people person – watching him work with the local chefs in whichever part of the country (or world) he and his team end up in is always a great pleasure.

Stein scores for me in a very big way – I actually want to eat the stuff he produces.  The other evening he cooked eels, and whilst normally I’d probably draw the line at eating them, I quite fancied trying one out.  Then there was a (non-seafood) French hotpot dish that involved a side of belly pork, sausage and vegetables.  Oh my….just the sort of stuff I love to eat.

It’s a great irony in my life that whilst I love seafood and the sea I live in Sheffield – a rather land-locked place which has the Irish Sea and the North Sea as the closest bodies of salt-water to get to.   There is a good local fishmonger down in Hillsborough – Mann’s – and we’ve also got a couple of Sushi and Noodle bars in Sheffield City Centre which are pretty reasonable.  But I would love to be able to go and eat in a dedicated sea-food restaurant, on the sea-front, somewhere.  The only time I’ve actually achieved this was back in 1993 in Vancouver – and it was fantastic.

Back to Rick Stein – a second strong point for me is the love and passion he has for his craft and calling – and it comes out in what he does and his narration of the programmes.  I like listening to people who are genuinely passionate about what they do – it comes out in every word they say, and in their body language.  Floyd was the same – it’s something fantastic to see. 

But having said all that, it was still a brave man who first ate an Oyster, and that’s one thing I’ll definitely not be eating!

Politically Correctly Dead

This story is desperately, tragically sad on a number of levels, and also makes me pretty angry.  Read the story – unless you’ve had a very sheltered life (oh, working in the public sector or the hallowed halls of academe or parts of the media)  then it’s almost certain that you’ll have come across  similar situations over the years.  A couple of friends – one white and one from another ethnic background – engage in banter in which each takes the mickey out of the other’s background or ethnicity.  I’ve certainly been there – I’ve had my religion described as a ‘lifestyle choice, not a real religion’ and been described as a ‘white bastard’ and in turn have suggested that we don’t upset one of my friends as he had a rucksack and wasn’t afraid to use it (immediately after the 7/7 bombings here in the UK).

Now, before anyone reading takes instant exception, I should point out that these comments were made in groups of people who love and respect each other, and who’ll almost certainly stay friends until the day they die.  It’s called bantering, having a joke, whatever you want to name it.  It’s happening between individuals who’ve known each other for years, who know exactly what the other people think of them and who also know that when the chips are down, they can call on these friends to help out.

And the bottom line is, that if it’s OK between these folks who’re directly concerned, and they’re not being a deliberate nuisance to anyone else, then it’s no other bugger’s business what X calls Y.  Especially when X and Y are laughing about it and each is giving as good as they get.  It’s called friendship.

It’s tragic that Mr Amor made a joke to his friend, who is black, and who took the joke in good heart, only to be reported by a work colleague.  And then Mr Amor shot himself.  No man should die because he told a politically incorrect joke.  And to be honest, no one should be grassing people up for making a humorous comment about the situation they were in, that the people immediately involved both found amusing.

No sensible person would suggest that jokes at other people’s expense are ever amusing; jokes about race, sexuality or religion told with the deliberate intention of hurting or offending should be dealt with appropriately.  Banter and chit chat between people who’re actually taking the jokes made about them in a good natured way, because they know the people telling them have good hearts, are not the thing, in any sensible world, that should be reported as an offence.

I don’t use the phrase Political Correctness very often on this blog – it’s an over-worked phrase, but today I needed to use it.  Just be careful out there, folks, there are likely to be sneaks listening in to make sure that the banter you and your workmates share together, and that offends no one, is ‘OK’.

It’s not new, of course.  Some years ago in one European country every workplace and block of flats had someone whose job it was to report on whether people they overheard were ‘toeing the party line’ when chatting.  It was East Germany, and the people concerned were agents of the Stasi – the secret police.  And prior to that were the hated ‘Blockleiters’ of Nazi Germany.

Totalitarianism starts small, with small minded people who hate the idea that someone, somewhere, might be having fun.  We need to start telling these people to keep their noses out of our business.

Arrogance 2.0

Maybe I’m just old, or maybe I just don’t get some aspects of modern business – or are some people online purporting to be business experts just arrogant and opinionated folks with insufficient experience and a habit of stating the bleedin’ obvious as if they’d just discovered a Unified Field Theory?

And what triggered this off?  As frequently happens these days, I came across something on Twitter that just bugged the Hell out of me.  And it was the following:

“Book publishers. Stop talking about cannibalisation. Create and invest in businesses and services which destroy today’s model.”

I guess the reason why this statement annoyed me is that I’ve had books and magazine articles published, starting in the early 1980s, and I suppose I have an emotional attachment to the whole paper based ‘traditional’ publishing business.  One of the aspects of that business I like even now is that there was an element of quality control involved that the current ‘anything goes’ online world lacks.  Those nasty gatekeepers called ‘editors’ used to brass all of us off, but they at least ensured that what was published fitted the style of the magazine, was reasonably well written and was believed to be good enough for other people to spend money on.

Because the traditional publishing business did something that most modern online publishing isn’t managing to do – make money based on quality, focused product.  Why buy content when the Internet is full of it?  Getting people to buy text content is increasingly difficult and I’ve seen more than one magazine that I used to buy regularly go to the wall because of the free availability of published material on the Internet.  So what’s the problem?  The problem is that whilst there might be items of high standard on the Net (I hope I produce a few myself) what is lacking is the focus and selection that went in to a magazine – in one pace you had a series of relevant articles, of high quality.  Over the years we’ve kept getting the promise of ‘The Daily You’ online – a one stop web site which you will be able to configure in such a way as to get material that interests you.  That promise has never delivered.  Whilst there are a number of issues that I have with the concept in general (not going to go in to them here – that’s for another day) the basic problem is that whatever ways have been used to try and put something together that gives us relevant and quality content, like RSS feeds, it’s never quite worked.

To be told by someone ‘go and destroy today’s models’ sounds like iconoclasm of the worst sort.  Destruction of what doesn’t work is one thing;  destruction of a market place and set of products that does work is quite sad, especially when the new products and services coming to replace what is going has elements of ‘The Emporers New Clothes’ about them.  And a lot of ‘new media’ stuff does start with cannibalisation – when you aren’t paying for content, you start by linking to it, re-hashing it, etc.  Whilst there are markets for new, paid for content on the Internet it’s frequently poorly paid and provides little stimulus for authors to spend time in developing engaging content when they’re going to see very little recompense for it.

The freetard mentality is again coming through with so many of these Business 2.0 zealots – I have news for you.  Free doesn’t survive hard times.  It’s not enough to say ‘the content is out there, just find it’.  People like to pay for organised and focused material because it saves them time.  Destroying today’s models before there is anything to replace them is simply the business plan of the would-be market dictator – those who would come to lead a mediocre market with mediocre products because the good stuff has already gone to the wall.