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revolution round-up: week nine

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Dan Biddle Dan Biddle | 16:39 UK time, Monday, 14 September 2009

I should go away more often. The blog has been afire with comment and debate! Many thanks to everyone who has read and shared here.

Looking at the comments of the last week, it's clear that Chris Anderson's projections of the 'Free' world online aren't taken as granted by many.

In response to Chris Anderson's Free discussion and @TaiwanChallenges questions, @A_Person_Not_A_Bot offered a bevy of economic considerations and arguments, including a kick out at Moore's Law, proposals of a need for a holistic economic model, and - in wondering what people will pay for on the 'free medium' of the internet - suggested that 'It may be a good idea to interview some tech investors to get additional perspectives on what the market is prepared to pay for and how.'

Not something I'm currently aware we're looking at, but the suggestion has been passed on to the programme three team.

A_PERSON_NOT_A_BOT also offers
'WE NEED TO FIND WORKABLE INCENTIVE MODELS. That's corporate language for some form of payment --- in cash / in kind --- for online participation from us, the ordinary netizen.'

'Likewise, people write reviews on Amazon / eBay / YouTube for fun or they blog. Before we know it, there's a book deal in place or an opportunity to be a paid comments reviewer or community manager at Amazon / eBay / platform X. It's simply the nature of our species and our innate propensity to exchange and earn value from those exchanges.'

And only yesterday we received a tweet from @TimAnderson referring us to 'Amazon Vine' - which appears to be engaging its existing community of trusted reviewers on a more business-like level than before.

Visualising the web

In the last round-up I mentioned ideas for visualising the web, and how conversation on the blogs had led me to think of the web in terms of an anatomy, rather than a geography. A thought that @SheffTim expanded upon with a combination of the ideas - that of a coral reef, which 'dispenses with the need for a controlling 'mind''.

From which seeds and a BBC Science article on tracking extinction @TaiwanChallenges developed these ideas further as an ecology in which there are big species - big sites - whose collapse might cause disaster in that web ecology:
'Staying with our ecology analogy, I am going to compare those very few people who create most of the free content out there with bees. They do the work that everyone else depends on to make things happen. Bees are in the news because they seem to be dying out, and without them there will be no pollination of plants so no food for people and animals, and no more plants. This new application of PageRank presumably allows us to figure out which species would be impacted by the loss of the bees. Can the original PageRank tell us what would happen without a tiny minority of people producing the majority of content on the internet for free?'

And: 'I'm intrigued by A_PERSON_NOT_A_BOT's comments to the effect that eventually people are going to get tired of creating free content for the benefit of commercial organisations. Especially as they don't even have proper business plans. If normal economics do reassert themselves, then we're not only facing the loss of the key sites that hold the web together. We're facing the loss of the worker bees, the tiny minority that actually produces anything.'

From which arrived an even more scientific vision (analogue) of the web from A_PERSON_NOT_A_BOT (though still with a bee theme):
'It's my belief that what we need is to cross-pollinate our quantitative (aka mathematical) approaches with some holistic qualitative approaches which are in evidence in biochemistry, such as the way DNA or any organic mechanism works. We really will benefit from perceiving the Internet as an ecosystem rather than simply a series of hyperlinks, document files etc.
Web 1.0 can be analogized with the discovery of carbon in its graphite form --- simply sheets of documents.
Web 2.0 is the equivalent of carbon as the diamond --- there's more structure, clusters (aka social networks) are being formed.
However, what we really want to get to is carbon as it sits and interacts organically within.......DNA.

Though, they too, liked the notion of a bodily system rather than a geography: 'The body and the brain way of visualization would enable us to appreciate the interdependency and connectedness of each moving element.' And further developed the idea here.

An interesting web content visualiser was highlighted: with an example debategraph of the application re linked data.

@earthgecko considered the possibilities and usefulness of mapping the internet; however this mapping of the internet is an ongoing project with DIMES with whom we have met, but we are thinking about the web and mapping that ecology / anatomy which lies across the Net's structure.

Programme four - is the web rewiring us?

@A_PERSON_NOT_A_BOT highlighted a number of great links to content to consider. One of my favourites being this presentation by Dr Michael Wesch. It's long, but it's both interesting and entertaining (though please be warned it does contain some strong language when discussing YouTube comments):

Elsewhere she pointed to the Google 10 to the 100th which taps into that final moment of the video above, of an opportunity to share and experience others, known and unknown across the globe. And to make a difference beyond the 'cult of me'. (Interestingly the 10 to the 100th project has yet to reveal its winners - something to watch perhaps.)

Web addiction

As ever, one of the joys of Digital Revolution is the opportunity to put our ideas out to you and get them batted back with informed gusto; Aleks' mention of there being no evidence of web addiction in people being a classic case, as links to report after report of internet addiction clinics opening up across the globe were sited as indication of something worthy of at least recognition, if not belief.

Molly Milton, director of programme four, also believes there is a case to be made for the existence of online addiction. Presenter Aleks doesn't. Some of you do. It's this discussion at this stage of the process that makes this project so interesting and challenging for the programme makers. Yes-men or women need not apply :)

@SheffTim offered a comment regards online addiction, featuring a list of tell-tale signs you or a friend may 'have a problem': Take a look at the Associated Press addiction list here- how many do you put a tick by? I'm almost afraid to check for myself...!

@SheffTim also introduced a precognative item (in light of subsequent blog posts from Susan Greenfield and Nicholas Carr), siting, in relation to ADHD:

'Some psychologists argue that ADHD is not truly a diagnostic disorder but rather the brain's adaptation to its continual exposure to multiple bits of data delivered through today's fast-paced technology. They contend that ADHD is not an illness but simply the result of new wiring patterns.' Source: John Hund https://www.dispatch.co.za

Never dull, we were pointed towards a provocative think-piece article, which moves off from similar base as Wesch's lecture, but then takes... a line of thought less travelled:

'I suggest a different, even darker solution to Fermi's Paradox. Basically, I think the aliens don't blow themselves up; they just get addicted to computer games. They forget to send radio signals or colonize space because they're too busy with runaway consumerism and virtual-reality narcissism. They don't need Sentinels to enslave them in a Matrix; they do it to themselves, just as we are doing today.'

The web's effects on our brains

Baroness Susan Greenfield's speech from the Web at 20 event caused some consternation from the Digital Revolution community. Many questioned her ideas, but from the sparks of her statements came a wealth of ideas and suggestions regards the web's effects on humanity.

@Cyberissues pointed us to a study that offered pros for Facebook, but cons for Twitter. While Twitter's micro-updates are given phatic (if not emphatic) credibility by others - as pointed out by @JustinPickard - whose links also point to some interesting studies regards health and social networks (real and virtual).

@LeonCych suggested that the next steps in children's exposure to the web and technology will grow ever more virtual, guiding us towards an interesting blog on virtual technologies and education (and other fun). That inspired further examples of video games and virtual worlds as educational tools for participative and engaging learning in schools from @eyebeams, as well as a few examples of Twitter's useful application in teaching.

It was also pointed out by A_PERSON_NOT_A_BOT that in all of these assertions and discussions we lack the voice of the young people Baroness Greenfield and many more are concerned for. Other comments have raised the same. I had the pleasure of attending Tomorrow's Web a few weeks ago, where I interviewed (I say 'interviewed' - I'm no Paxman...) a group of highly web literate and active young people. I have video of their comments on Facebook, monetisation (several of these teenagers already ran internet start-ups!), privacy and more. I will endeavor to get this on the blog asap. AND try to find other avenues for the production to gain more input from younger people.

Suggestions for programme four (and beyond):

In response to Molly Milton's requests for help and ideas for programme four, @TaiwanChallenges kindly offered to facilitate connection between a Taiwanese school and a UK counterpart for the programme. While @EnglishFolkFan suggested we look to schools in the Isle of Man as a useful starting point for connected education.

A_PERSON_NOT_A_BOT suggests that we lack female representation in our lists of interviewees and contributers; she proffers that, among many, we should speak to Mark Zuckerberg's mother: 'In my view, Karen Zuckerberg is a key influence in the Facebook founder's thinking and why he created Facebook in the first place.'

While @earthgecko suggested Google's Marissa Mayer as a strong candidate for inclusion in the Digital Revolution production.

The Open Source documentary

There have been a few comments made regards the clarity of this project's aims, target audience etc.

@TaiwanChallenges asking: '...who your target audience is, and today SheffTim is asking what your thesis is. A little more clarity about what you want would be nice.'

 And we take this on board. The project's Multiplatform Producer, Dan Gluckman, offered a response to these questions and more; it's an evolving process serving to create an evolving documentary - hopefully it will yield more positives than negatives. Like A_PERSON_NOT_A_BOT says: 'Potentially, this documentary series can be..........PHENOMENAL in its socio-demographic inclusions and also, consequentially, affect the Web's development in positive dimensions.'

@earthgecko made some useful observations as to the Digital Revolution online documentary and the levels of participation by members of the Digital Revolution community. It has set us thinking. We'll get back to you on this. But as I said in response to why we don't have a button to upload a video to the site - the web is there to be utilised in any way you can. If you've got content to share, but we're not providing the tools on this blog, please use other platforms and let us know about it - link to it and we'll come to you. If it's appropriate and we can embed it here - we will.

Another question raised is: 'What is BBC policy about possibly assigning production credits in the 4-parters to the commentators and those who participate in the content mashups, which will form part of the project?' Hopefully Dan Gluckman's response that we're still working out the best ways of crediting ALL our contributors helps there.

For now, I can offer you the credit given above, and our considerable gratitude - of myself and the Digital Revolution team - for all your thought, inspiration and input into the project. Many thanks.


  • Comment number 1.

    @DAN BIDDLE --- Thanks for the excellent summation of quite a week! Funnily enough, I was engaging in "plaistikotosis" after midnight (I've decided to coin this as homage to our ping-pongs on "plasticity", by the way, ha ha) and contemplated very deeply as well as very specifically about how to increase inclusion from diverse demographic representatives.

    @BBCDigRev --- for British teen opinions on how the Web is changing their brains, the most sensible route is to send a shout to the ‘Newsbeat’ and ‘Bang Goes the Theory’ teams and get their young viewers involved:



    The Have Your Say-type facilities tend to attract comments from the 35+ age groups.


    Rapleaf’s downloadable July 2008 table provides a comprehensive breakdown of the age and gender compositions of key social networks, so we can gain an overview of older and teen, male and female participation online:

    * https://www.rapleaf.com/company_press_2008_07_29.html

    Unfortunately, the results for 2009 are not in an xls but they are available in pdf:

    [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]

    The team can download the results and generate some nice graphics (tables, pie charts, trend lines) with them.


    Other places to source teenage opinion would be:

    https://www.myyearbook.com/ (founded by Catherine and Dave Cook who were 15 and 16; 20 million registered users)

    https://www.kiwibox.com/ (recently signed content partnership agreements with YouTube and Universal Music, around since 1999 so they have years of insights on teen behavior online).

    https://www.weeworld.com/ (this will provide some perspective on how teens are affecting the Web economy in a virtual avatar world)

    o https://www.xconomy.com/boston/2009/05/14/no-recession-in-weeworld-teen-socializing-drives-growing-virtual-goods-revenues/

    https://www.stardoll.com/ (investors include Sequoia Capital which is one of the most highly regarded tech VCs; stardoll has 16+ million users and is targeted at 7-17 female audience)


    Previously, I also suggested https://www.cyworld.com/index.aspx for South Korea. There’s a US version so the BBCDigRev team can get a feel for how the Oriental version of a socnet compares with the Western versions.

    I would propose some Chinese sites too, but there’s a language consideration. They don’t have English-language versions and unless anyone on the BBCDigRev team can read+speak this, it would make navigating around on them and getting input something of a challenge.


    For US teens, Nielsen’s produced a report in June 2009 which dispels some of the popular myths (and misinformed adult concerns) about how they are behaving online:


    According to Nielsens, US teens on average spend about 11 hours online which compares with the 29 hours of adults. Their preferred medium is online video sites like YouTube and Hulu, but networking sites MySpace and Facebook.

    With online video sites they’ll typically spend 3 hours per month watching content. Their second most popular medium is the PC (including applications), with an average of 52 minutes per day. The Internet, with an average of 23 minutes per day, comes in third.


    There’s an Oct 2008 study from City University so the BBCDigRev team might consider contacting the authors for interviews:


    For the European Commission view on the economic impact of social networks for teens:

    • [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]


    As everyone can tell by now, any patronization of teens and their intelligence simply because they're playing computer games and surfing (and supposedly damaging their brains) is SERIOUSLY OBJECTIONABLE and it's not helpful to perpetrate those theories since UK educational policy is supposed to ENCOURAGE MORE YOUNGSTERS TO STUDY AND WORK IN ICT (Information and Communication Technology) and to prevent the country falling further down the global league tables in terms of technological aptitude and business competitiveness.

    So I for one am going to celebrate and champion teen brilliance:

    * https://www.facebook.com (founded by Mark Zuckerberg when he was 19).

    * https://https://www.wowmedia.eu/ (founded by Matt Lovett when he was 15; 400,000 users, received business award recently from UK Chancellor)



    * https://www.teensintech.com (founded by Daniel Brusilovsky when he was 15)

    * "FRED" on YouTube (Lucas Cruickshank who is making money from his YT appearances)


    * https://www.whateverlife.com/ (founded by Ashley Qualls when she was 15; within 2 years of set-up the site attracted 7 million individuals and 60 million page views a month)

    There are another 20 teen entrepreneurs to be found here in this Sept 2009 list:

    * https://www.stumbleupon.com/s/#1Jum1O/www.promotionalcodes.org.uk/6359/young-entrepreneurs-top-25-teenage-millionaires//topic:Ecommerce

    Now, seriously, to the adults who have a narrow-minded perspective on teenagers and their online contributions: "Wouldn't it be better to encourage teenagers to look towards their own age group tech role models instead of constantly producing neuroscience research which only serves to alienate teenagers and make them think, "The adults just don't "get" us, do they?"

  • Comment number 2.

    To increase the age demographic of participation, my suggestions were noted previously here (Comment 32 ---15 Sept 2009 @ 19.17):

    * https://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/digitalrevolution/2009/09/will-the-web-mean-the-end-of-t.shtml

    To encourage female contributions, I proposed these (Comment 16 --- 11 Sept 2009 @ 00.10; Comment 26 --- 13 September 2009 @ 21.38)

    * https://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/digitalrevolution/2009/09/aleks-krotoski-on-the-web-rewiring-us.shtml

    * https://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/digitalrevolution/2009/09/revolution-roundup-week-eight.shtml

    The founder of one of the UK's largest networks for women working in technology has already replied to my email (we've known each other for a few years), so she's going to notify other members about this BBCDigRev project via their newsletters and updates. Then, hopefully, this space will become more diverse and inclusive.

    Today, I'll contact two of Bebo's former VPs of Strategy to see whether they might want to share some insights on teenage engagement online.

    Also will touch base with the WOMAN responsible for London 2012's technology provision to see how they're using the Web to encourage teenage and multi-cultural involvement.

    Here's the thing: the Web is enabling people around the world in diverse communities to connect, communicate and collaborate. Ergo.............our documentary project and its participants also needs to be composed of and reflect that demographic.

  • Comment number 3.

    It's unclear how sensitive some people may be to examining issues on spiritual and sexual identity and their impact on online economics, such as: some of the Christian sites in the US, the "pink pound" question or dating sites oriented towards gays and lesbians.

    What this insight may show us is whether the Web is as unifying as imagined or whether the same stereotypes and prejudices exist. Also, are people more open about their spiritual and sexual orientations online because of the anonymity afforded them by avatars and pseudonyms?

    As I've noted often, it's important to gain a 360-2020 perspective. I myself am heterosexual and of no religious denomination. Nonetheless, in my view, the experiences and insights of those of a different spiritual and sexual orientation are as valid and worthwhile as every other human being's.

    I say this also because recently Alan Turing got a posthumous apology from the British government:

    * https://blogs.computerworld.com/14714/british_finally_apologize_to_alan_turing_pm_gordon_brown_says_sorry

    * https://www.number10.gov.uk/Page20571

    The original petition started by John Graham-Cumming and signed by over 30,000 people is here:

    * https://petitions.number10.gov.uk/turing/

    Talent is talent. It exists everywhere in our global village online.

  • Comment number 4.

    Thinking about the AHDH topic:

    I’d say that Internet ADD

    is different from true ADHD (ADD)

    I’d also judge that Internet ADD falls more into the category of addictive behaviour.

    To explore this line of thought further I think you’d need to contact some of those professionals working with ADHD in the UK. (e.g. see links below)

    Parents normally begin to suspect that their child is abnormally hyperactive when the child is at a young age, probably much younger than an age when they use the Internet regularly, if at all.

    Genetic and biological factors are thought to be the main causes of ADHD (aka ADD), though environmental factors (and even smoking in pregnancy) can also contribute.

    ADHD is also associated with increased rates of other psychiatric problems; most prominent in adolescence are depression; anxiety; oppositional behaviours, such as arguing, losing one's temper and being easily annoyed; and conduct disorders like vandalism and truancy.

    ADHD can appear in young children with absolutely no exposure to the Internet etc, so the rise in ADHD can’t be solely explained by being caused a neural rewiring due to new forms of digital technology etc

    Also: https://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Attention-deficit-hyperactivity-disorder/Pages/Symptoms.aspx




    Genes and ADD

    “The brain's adaptation to its continual exposure to multiple bits of data”, if indeed this occurs, may need its own term. I think there are dangers in both labelling this as ADHD and as the cause of ADHD.
    PS: The Wesch video was very good. He ended on an optimistic note, a generation saying: “I care, let’s do whatever it takes…”
    I argued in a previous post that there would always be the altruistic, that the Web wouldn’t shift towards a model where people only contributed for payment; Google’s 10 to the 100th project also operates on altruistic principles.
    Both of those give me heart that this will be the case.

    PPS: Arising from Wesch: One thing I find interesting about the Web (YouTube in particular) is how willing people are to use it to document their lives – and death.
    (From cancer in this case; stage 4 ovarian cancer is an advanced stage; this video post was her last log-in.)

  • Comment number 5.

    In reference to A_PERSON_NOT_A_BOT's comment that "WE NEED TO FIND WORKABLE INCENTIVE MODELS. That's corporate language for some form of payment --- in cash / in kind --- for online participation from us, the ordinary netizen."

    Did you see the Whuffie Bank that launched at Techcrunch50 today?

    It aims to create a standard currency for online participation. It seems pretty floored as a concept though. But it's certainly an interesting attempt.

    My summary of it is here: https://101culture.com/whuffie-bank-launches

  • Comment number 6.

    A question that your viewers may be interested in knowing the answer to: how do all these people who write code, blog, make video, etc., for free pay their rent and buy food?

    We can't ALL make money by providing services online and the average person is probably interested to know how the average wikipedia editor or joomla component writer finances their life. Can you find a few of these people and report back on their material circumstances?

    The best explanation I've heard so far is "you put this stuff on the internet and become a little bit famous, so then you get invited to speak at seminars and industry gatherings - for free, in exchange for exposure, and the exposure gets you opportunities to do more free stuff in return for more exposure until eventually a leprachaun gives you a bag of gold."

    Seriously, this whole idea of 'free' confuses a lot of people because it doesn't explain how anyone makes money from the internet. It's not real in the sense that people imagine when they think about meeting their material needs.

    It's related to the question of motivation, and why some people are resisting getting online. I can imagine my grandmother asking "what's the point?" and not being satisfied by all this academic talk about democracy, empowerment, creativity, etc. The internet is part of the real world, not a world unto itself, and examples of how it is relevant to people who are not online may be a good idea. I dunno, can we talk about last-minute supply chains, ATMs, traffic control, climate monitoring, or something?

  • Comment number 7.

    #6 “how the average wikipedia editor or joomla component writer finances their life.”

    I imagine an awful lot of Wikipedia editors are educators of one kind or another. Then there are a lot of people that are ‘expert’ in something unrelated to their day-job or are passionate about a hobby or pastime. Some may be retired or contribute as a way of filling in their time – and as a way of giving something back.
    Much of YouTube etc content is by teens (funded by parents, student loans and encouraged by schools).
    People that use Flickr have an interest in photography; some my hope to get noticed or sell a few images, but that’s not their main motivation for uploading.
    I imagine a few bloggers think they might make some money from Google’s adsense ads on their blog, but only a few might do so.

    But I am astonished at how much people are prepared to do for free (or very little), over long periods simply because they are passionate about something. e.g.

    Perhaps for many there’s a universal need to express themselves, to contribute or even just find a way of saying ‘I exist’. (In Maslow’s hierarchy falling under: love & belonging, esteem and self-actualisation.)

  • Comment number 8.

    @onlybenmason - curious idea that Whuffie bank. I think the observations on your blog around the issues it may face are near the mark. Still - @BBCDigRev has a whuffie rating of 121 which looks pretty weak next to iamdiddy. Still, good to have something to aim for...!

    @taiwanchallenges 'I can imagine my grandmother asking "what's the point?" and not being satisfied by all this academic talk about democracy, empowerment, creativity, etc. The internet is part of the real world, not a world unto itself, and examples of how it is relevant to people who are not online may be a good idea. I dunno, can we talk about last-minute supply chains, ATMs, traffic control, climate monitoring, or something?'

    A valid point. When discussing 'free' we should perhaps look for equivalency to alleviate the abstraction for non-net-users watching the series. I'll pass that on.

    @SheffTim - thanks for the info and links. Not sure how deeply into ADHD (or links to the web) programme four will actually go. I'll leave that to Molly to consider and discuss.

    @A_PERSON_NOT_A_BOT 'the Web is enabling people around the world in diverse communities to connect, communicate and collaborate. Ergo.............our documentary project and its participants also needs to be composed of and reflect that demographic. '

    Very true, and we'd love more points of view, more engagement from a diversity of sources. We hope that the debate here will interest as many people from as diverse a demographic as possible, and engage as many in comment and collaboration as possible - so if you know people who'd bring different insights and experiences of the web to the project, please do encourage them to join the fun.

  • Comment number 9.

    Incentive models...........Ah.......the ways we prospect for digital gold.........

    This is my experience of online incentives:

    * a dotcom where we charged corporate clients to access our database

    * working on strategy models (route to market, customer acquisition and business development) for a pan-European platform

    * assessing business plans of techco's seeking investment and then supporting them to implementation and revenues. I was co-responsible for the portfolio of 40+ TMT companies.

    * running a free information service which was not my primary role and not the source of my income

    * some platform testing, including Google's (I'm a designated trusted tester) for no pay

    * reading an inordinate number of reports about SEOs, PPC/PPA/PPM/PPwhatever (pay-per-click and all the other pay=pers)

    As a practitioner (n terms of being able to write the business plans, draft the revenue spreadsheets and code the applications), I can say that there is a HOLISTIC ECONOMIC MODEL and it's intrinsic in what I'm doing.

    The Whuffie Bank is unlikely to become market standard because the reputation quotient model already has a history (e.g. DIGG or any other bookmarking service) and there's a whole stack of controversy here about "back-scratching" and how top bloggers/bookmarkers online engage in collusive tactics to inflate their own reputation rankings. From what I've seen of the Whuffie reputation indicators, it's unlikely to become a trusted or credible source for reputation currency --- does everyone see where Perez Hilton is? To the global army of celebrity gossip acolytes he may be the King (read Queen) Bee. However, let's ask ourselves is his reputation currency higher than Tim Berners-Lee, Vint Cerf and Esther Dyson?

    Moreover, the Whuffie Bank operates as a non-profit entity. In the real world, the corporates are not going to sign a strategic alliance with this type of non-profit and adopt its incentive models. I think of management consultancy and banking analyst reports; the reputation of the author is paramount and the reason a report will be purchased and read. Are professionals likely to go to the Whuffie Bank and buy the Top 10's like iamdiddy's materials?


    The reality is that Google still leads the way with AdSense but whilst its pay+word auction model is useful for companies, the payment for individual bloggers doesn't yet work as the company hopes it will. To get an insight into some high-earning sites from 2006 (warning: close the silly advertising pop-ups) as well as detractors of AdSense:

    * https://www.johnchow.com/the-internets-biggest-google-whores/

    * https://webupon.com/marketing/google-adsense-and-the-lie-of-several-business-publishers-or-advertisers/

    It's pretty clear I don't buy-into Chris Anderson's models. Instead mechanisms to foster CORPORATE altruism with micro-payments for online contributors is what I'm interested in. Logistically, it will be a challenge but IT IS DO-ABLE because the technology exists (most people just haven't worked this out yet). Also, it shouldn't be a one off payment (like the Walker's "Design a Flavor" competition) but rather more periodic and consistent like per month or per quarter.

    Google 10 to 100th is a positive altruistic initiative that I'm definitely in favor of. I submitted some entries, including an application and service specifically to tackle the issue of climate change and convert consumer consciousness into responsible consumption action. It's now been a year and I'm still waiting like everyone else for them to announce the winners!


    During my Web journey I've been exposed to an inordinate amount of resources and personalities. I make no bones about being particular about people whose insights on the Web I respect (I listed some previously) and then..........the rest.

    Wensch is simply very astute, very humanistic and he approaches people's experiences with empathy, deftness, wit and panache.


    If I could have the conversation with TBL I'd suggest that we start over and make a key condition of being able to set up any https:// website, a percentage contribution of monthly online revenues to charitable causes. The percentage based on the number of registered users and the revenues model.

    I would also ask him to re-model elements of the Semantic Web stack because from what I've experienced of it so far, the incentives models SEOs are deploying to capitalize on these extra dimensions of searchability are still very much Web 1.0 and not in the interests of increasing online democracy, reducing spam, coalescing quality content or paying online contributors for their contributions and contextualizations.


    An American friend flagged me on some very recent developments in online advertising which coincides with my thinking on ACTUAL PAYMENT incentivization structures, not this fluffy "reputation currency". Plus there's Joseph Stiglitz's attempts to make real world economic indicators carry more qualitative elements and not simply the quantitative accounting ones.

    These are all moves in a good direction in the real world and the Web economy will need to keep apace, likewise.

    [Luckily, I'm already ahead of the curve about combining the quant with the qualitative in my model, :*)]

  • Comment number 10.

    Wrt most of the content on the Web being dominated by the few, I think about real-life meetings and social hierarchies in school.

    Yesterday I watched this podcast by Aleks Krotoski about Ada Lovelace Day:

    * https://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/blog/audio/2009/mar/10/tech-weekly-podcast-women-technology-api

    There was an anecdotal comment about why there seem to be fewer women in technology and that men are better at "p***ing their s***" (everyone should hear the podcast for themselves).

    This made me think back to school. When I was at college, I was elected Chair of the student forum. We used to have these big debates of the day and what I noticed as I scanned the floor was that the same students (girls) would always raise their hands to ask a question or express their view. The boys for some strange reason started to feel somewhat intimidated by these strong and vocal female voices.

    So I developed a new system. I got to know the names of more and more attendees. Then during Q+A's I'd watch for their eyes instead of their raised hands. If there was as much as a sign of interest in them to say something, I'd open up the opportunity for them to say their piece.

    Unfortunately, I can't look into the eyes of the lurkers. With this BBCDigRev project I can only help open up more channels to diverse perspectives.

  • Comment number 11.

    Out of interest I checked out Wesch on YouTube.
    If you have an hour to spare (yeah, I know...), this is also interesting - and fun. (Apologies if Person_Not_a_Bot also posted this earlier.)
    It has a short section of material also used in the previous video [above], but the rest is new.
    Nice end-credits of collaborators too.

    An Anthropological Introduction to YouTube

    If short of time Wesch's blog (and an outline of his presentation's structure) is here. Some good comments too.

    PS: What I like about ventures such as this (DigRev) is that it sets us off on our own journeys of discovery & exploration (and sharing) as well.

  • Comment number 12.

    APNAB, good comment about the domination by the few being similar to real life. After all, we don't have the phrase "silent majority' for nothing. And the idea of a small number of players dominating a market is as old as history. What was Rome, if not the one contender that acquired enough momentum to become a runaway success?

    Still, as you point out, in a real-life situation it's possible to interact in more subtle ways. Anyone lurking here and feeling a bit intimidated by the intensity of some of the posts can't exactly wiggle their eyebrows at Dan and hope to be invited to speak. Hmmm, is there a correlation between digital refuseniks attitudes to the net and their social styles? Or is there some other factor at play? We already talked about the anonymity being liberating, so maybe that's not the reason for non-participation. Can we find out more about the psychology of lurkers too? Do they really have nothing to contribute? Or do the normal dynamics of the web right now prevent us from hearing their insights?

    Prolific (western) posters often make the analogy that an online community is like a pub, as if the rules are the same. I disagree, and feel that it's in fact exclusive to define the environment in terms of one specific demographic like this. (I gave up boozing a few years ago, and my online socialising is now more attractive than being in a smoky room full of unruly males wittering on about football.)

  • Comment number 13.

    Also on the topic of 'dominance,' I woke up with another thought this morning related to APNAB's suggestion that we talk to VCs.

    First, VCs are as vulnerable to herd behaviour as anyone else. Remember the dot.com boom? It's hard to criticise Chris Anderson's economic theories and then go on to say that the people investing in those assumptions are the experts. Doubtless there are some very canny investors out there, but there are also an awful lot of people who know a lot less than they think/claim they do.

    As I mentioned a while back, many large net firms have a very blinkered approach. Building the DNS system so it only handled roman characters was a pretty fundamental mistake in the early days, and decades later corporations like google still haven't internalised the fact that people move to different countries. There are countless examples of internet ventures which assume that everyone in the world is the same and that the market for their services is therefore global.

    So that got me thinking more about "the investors in silicon valley" and I remembered another comment I saw somewhere about who they are. I've heard that the same few names keep cropping up again and again with regard to major companies and new trends. Persons A, B and C start a company. Then they get VC money from Company X. After the IPO person A goes back to Company X, which finances his new venture, and in the lobby he bumps into person B. B is looking for money for his new venture and is also a director of C's new company. etc.

    Apologies, but no time to look for links. The Apple/Google board member drama was a recent example.

    So in addition to the web being dominated by a small number of companies, the companies are dominated by a small number of people. all the same, I'm not a conspiracy theorist.

  • Comment number 14.

    Another thought on tech investing, user-generated content, the economy of the web, etc.

    In 1999 I dabbled with a site called https://h2g2.com founded by Douglas Adams and based on his HitchHikers Guide to the Galaxy series. It was touted as a guide to life, the universe, and everything and anyone could register and add articles on any topic. You couldn't edit other people's pages, but you could comment and various collaborative projects were launched.

    This was during the dot.com bubble and I remember a conversation online about how the site was financed. One of the company employees said something along the lines of "we don't need to make money, welcome to the world of internet start-ups!"

    Anyway, the company folded, and the site was taken over by the BBC. It's still there, but never became the central repository of all knowledge in the world as envisaged originally. That role was taken over by Wikipedia, which I believe started some years later.

    Is it worth having a frank discussion with the people responsible for h2g2 about why they failed to achieve the same momentum as Wikipedia? Focusing on success stories is all very well, but what can we learn from the also-rans?

    Additionally, h2g2 is British and our audience may be more interested in local stories than in what happens in California. Actually, I found the h2g2 site after hearing an interview online (BBC, I think, summer 1999) with Douglas Adams where he addressed the issue that people in the UK seemed to be turned off the web because they perceived it as too American - dominated by Americans, reflecting American values, etc. The web in 1999 was built by Americans for Americans and he felt that many Brits couldn't see anything there for them. His solution was for people to get online and create content that was relevant to them and I think this was the first time I heard anyone say explicitly that the internet was what you make it. I was dabbling with building my own webpages at the time (remember homestead.com?) but this was the first time I consciously became aware that I was not just a passive consumer.

    Now I'm thinking of our refuseniks again, and my grandmother asking what the point is. The point is whatever you want it to be, the net is just a tool to use.

    Would a good experiment to be finding a project that has meaning to some people who are not online, and showing them how to use the net to achieve something that's useful to them? Instead of teaching people to use the net, teach people to do something useful with the net being just a part of that process.

  • Comment number 15.

    People, values, consciousness, business models, rewards and reciprocity of respect these are what determine the success or otherwise of dotcoms, in my view.

    To-date economists and tech investors alike have only been able to design metrics for the business model elements (cost, income, accounting risk, profitability) so when they take a punt --- a quaint British term that makes me think of Oxbridge, boating, floating/sinking --- they do so with...........INSUFFICIENT INFORMATION.

    Unless the economists and tech investors experience the system in situ over insightful periods of time, i.e. they're in the banks actually designing risk management systems and implementing the strategies over complex business units or they are a user-member of the technology platform's community or they are immersed in that culture, then the economist and the tech investor are going to have blind spots aplenty.

    The simple fact is they're not going to understand the people, their values or their motivations within that particular system or platform at any granular level --- which then informs their Big Picture models. To begin with, the economist or tech investor have to be in possession of a certain amount of PEOPLE intelligence and not simply academic or technical intelligence (e.g., the ability to generate graphs and balance sheets or be code ninjas).

    Yesterday I received news that a flagship Semantic Web service is struggling. This company has received more than US$20 million. Two years on its member numbers are in "freefall" as an independent consultant wrote. I started advising the CEO over 18 months ago to respect users and their needs. The company didn't. They adopted a tunnel vision that centered on their business model and chasing click throughs from Google instead of one grounded in servicing their community and its values.

    The company just didn't seem to CARE enough about its users, so they didn't care back.

    Companies which are successful long-term do either exhibit forms of caring about their customers (e.g., Apple's designs which make OS-devices-applications appear seamless which saves our time) or they care about return to their shareholders (e.g., Microsoft). Few companies are able to care about and satisfy both sets of stakeholders equally because of market dictates.

    In a lot of models I've read about (everything from Adam Smith to David Ricardo to JM Keynes to JK Galbraith to Frederick Winslow Taylor to Maslow to Kotler et al) there is an absence of the concepts of CARE and CONSCIOUSNESS in a holistic manner. There's an awful lot of linear quantitative functional processes: f(production) = cost --- demand. There's a lot less accounting for QUALITATIVE aspects of the human condition, the importance of reciprocity of respect, and people's values and consciousness about the world and others around them.

    Consciousness as I defined previously: cognisance, coherence, communication, creativity, command/control, consideration, collaboration, culture wherein consideration means the contextualization of events and sensory intakes which elicits an empathetic exchange between us and an external object (this could be another person or an animal). It is the source of.....humanity, charity, altruism and love.

    SHEFFTIM commented about Wensch's optimistic closer, a generation saying: “I care, let’s do whatever it takes…”

    Sometimes, I become skeptical because unfortunately the theoreticians like Wensch can't code and write business plans to create these SYSTEMS THAT CARE online. The people who can code and write business plans are often focussed on chasing the US$ billion IPO. Other times, I become optimistic because someone's decided to try and do something altruistic (Google 10 to 100th, OLPC, some of the donation sites or climate change activism) to stimulate us into action for good causes.

    Apathy doesn't happen because people don't want to contribute. Apathy happens because they don't believe another person cares about them or their views and opinions.

    Something as simple as trying to open up the floor and remembering to say, "Thank you," makes a difference.

    Personally, I'd like to see us be in an era of not simply a Semantic Web but a CONSCIOUS WEB wherein the technical capabilities are harnessed by companies and netizens alike to solve common issues (economic equivalence, educational opportunity, climate change, etc.) and where the rewards and incentives models include those qualitative dimensions of people's perceptions, feelings and values on a par with the pure quant ones which are to do with functional accounting.

    It's not some form of Communist Utopia where everything online is "free" or some form of Capitalist or Darwinian Dystopia where the market decides the "survival of the fittest".

    It's an ecosystem in which there's holistic equivalence.

  • Comment number 16.

    Business rationale and social consciousness can be mutually inclusive, not exclusive. For example, Cadburys recently moved to source their cocoa on a Fairtrade basis:

    * https://www.fairtrade.org.uk/press_office/press_releases_and_statements/march_2009/cadbury_dairy_milk_commits_to_going_fairtrade.aspx

    Specialist advertisers like Saatchi & Saatchi S are advising the likes of Dell on green-packaging strategies:

    * https://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=45639016471

    Google, as I mentioned before, is becoming increasingly committed to a green future:

    * https://www.google.com/corporate/green/

    The impetus towards Cloud Computing by the likes of Google, IBM, HP, Apple etc. is also grounded in a desire to decrease energy consumption in running data servers in which the same customer's information is duplicated many times over. Companies are examining ways in which they can retain competitive advantage (historically, this has centered around who controls the customer base) by sharing the customer base where there's no direct competition.

    For example, Google and Nike don't compete in the same space. Is there a need for Nike to have a server running up electricity costs to house the same customer's information as Google already holds? If they share smartly will it save on server costs, enable them to service customers in a unified way and be green at the same time?

    Answer: YES.

    More and more leading techcos are becoming involved with the Green Grid to measure data center efficiencies:

    * https://www.thegreengrid.org/

    * https://arstechnica.com/business/news/2009/02/the-green-grid-offers-new-measures-of-datacenter-efficiency.ars

    It's noticeable how companies like Nokia are migrating from blue branding and websites to.......green:

    * https://conversations.nokia.com/2009/04/28/doing-something-different-with-our-eco-round-table/

  • Comment number 17.

    If looking for VCs, and also into successful mainstream Web economic models (or just generally interested) its worth looking out this book -
    The Stories of Facebook, Youtube and Myspace: The People, the Hype and the Deals Behind the Giants of Web 2.0 by Sarah Lacy. 2008.

    From memory of it there are a handful of VCs that have been the investors in many of the major US start-ups of the past decade (and are currently behind Twitter too).
    FB looks to be on course to move into profitability; I imagine YouTube and Twitter will follow.

    On a smaller scale I remember reading that the wholly free (and popular) dating site PlentyofFish is still managed from by the founder from his house, and he makes a good profit (million $ plus p.a.) soley from the advertising on it.
    Craigslist may be another example.

    DigRev is probably more focused on what happened in the past 20 yrs rather than on what 'might' happen in the next 20 yrs.

  • Comment number 18.

    Some very interesting ideas there from APNAB. My first reaction is that she's treating the economics of the internet as if they are different from the rest of the economy. ie it reads as if businesses have to do different things in this particular environment, adopt different values from the real world.

    But the internet is probably the most pure free-market around. If APNAB's assessment is correct (and I have no reason to doubt her) then does this mean that the values she's talking about should in fact be applied more to the wider economy? Is the story of tech investment and engagement something that traditional companies can learn from? Can the lessons learned be applied to the way that cars are sold, or the way that houses are built, or the way we deliver health care and school dinners?

    In short, is the internet changing the way we think about business and our economic -isms? Will the day come when capitalism and socialism cease to be considered systems and start to be seen as tools used within a new system of meeting our needs?

  • Comment number 19.

    I'm saying that real economy and Web economy alike need to expand the models to include the dimensions of consciousness and other qualitative elements which are not currently being factored in. As I noted, Joseph Stiglitz (2001 Nobel Economics) and some other leading economists are calling for the inclusion of happiness and well-being into real world economic models, specifically the calculation of GDP to start with.

    How do we measure happiness online? In fact, DO we measure happiness online?

    Are there companies out there counting all the :*) and LOL (laugh out loud) signs? Are there companies extrapolating that when we do +1 we're feeling good about encountering someone online who agrees with us and makes our opinion feel values, and by extension us happy?

    Answer: no, there aren't.

    So.........in both economies (real world and virtual space), the fundamental models of capitalism NEED to evolve --- particularly also in the light of the global financial crisis where not only the technological systems but the people predictions and policy management failed.

  • Comment number 20.

    Now, here's another GREAT development. Women everywhere should now fall in love with the most unlikely of champions.......the father of one of the original tech geeks himself.......BILL GATES.

    This story also resonates with me because I am Chinese and female and the book he's talking about is entitled, 'Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity Worldwide'. This borrows from an old Chinese proverb often cited by Mao about women holding up half of the sky.

    This is what Bill Gates Snr. wrote in his review:

"I think they also saw that when a man partners with a strong woman, everyone benefits. This is not to say that women can't do amazing things without a man - they do, everyday. Some of the most successful and inspiring women I know are not married or partnered. However, because of my own experience, what I find remarkable is that more men around the globe don't realize how much stronger they would be if partnered with a strong woman.

    Way too often and in too many corners of the globe, women are denied the opportunity to reach their full potential. It's wrong and it's backward, and of course, the irony is that by keeping women down, men lose out too.

    We're seeing remarkable evidence of what can happen when men and women partner together - our president and his wife Michelle being a wonderful example. My own son and his wife (both of whom I report to) are true partners in the work of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. My current wife Mimi Gardner Gates is my partner in all of the things that are important to me now.


The authors titled their book after an old Chinese proverb that says "Women hold up half the sky." It's time that people around the world recognize the full implication of that wise proverb and work together to ensure that women everywhere are able to rise to their fullest potential -- for themselves and so that we all can benefit from the contributions they will make to global society. Finally, and in that vein, to everyone around the world who has asked me what it takes to raise a successful son like Bill Gates, my first response is: Make sure he can learn from a strong woman."

    [Source: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/bill-gates-senior/huffpost-review-ihalf-the_b_286227.html%5D

  • Comment number 21.

    So we have a silver surfer (Bill Gates Snr.) sharing insights about the importance of acknowledging female contribution and learning from the wisdoms of other cultures (in this case Chinese), all directed at this generation.

    Now THAT's the true beauty and power of the WWW.

  • Comment number 22.

    As always, one's post would not be complete if it did not include a reference @A_PERSON_NOT_A_BOT. She is definitely ahead in the "if there was an award for participation category" :)

    I do not know where she finds the time :)

    "The impetus towards Cloud Computing by the likes of Google, IBM, HP, Apple etc. is also grounded in a desire to decrease energy consumption in running data servers in which the same customer's information is duplicated many times over...."

    Well I think that the cloud computing movement is more of a systematic change that has developed independently of business plans. Virtualised infrastructure was not driven by some altruristic business plan, it was driven solely be a need to increase efficiency of existing infrastructure and use "more" of it's capacity. It has really taken off becuase of massive increase in the about of information we need process and store and our need to scale rapidly in today's world in all sectors, business, science, government, etc.

    Virtualisation has been around for a while and clouds may seem like the silver bullet to the current TCO (total cost of ownership) within the current economic climate. However, them "seeming" to be more green and the flavour of the month is not looking at the whole picture.

    The cloud providers have hit the "prefect" business model because they are so sticky. VCs are seeing this and seeing a lovely "charge for everything you do every hour" model re-emerging in the clouds. Customers are charged per GB to store our ever increasing data, per byte to access it and per CPU hour to analyse and work with it.

    Not too mention the fact that currently there is no agnostic cloud, each is proprietary in it's own way, i.e = more stickiness. Although there are already in-roads into agnostic service layers between the customers and the clouds, RedHat's recent https://www.deltacould.org being an example.

    When there are clouds there is often thunder and lightining as well and they sometimes create great storms. Clouds will see bigger failures, that have more impact. That silver lining will grey and darken, it is only a matter of time until we start seeing the true cost of cloud computing in the mainstream.

    That is not to say they are not going to happen, just there is a lot of BS in the current marketing hype. There are a lot of complexities in cloud infrastructure that the marketing does not address.

    Their main drive is scale, speed of upgrade and deployment. Everything has a cost, there is no "free".

    Now that is covered off :)

    My main point I wished to raise. It may not be clear as we have not seen any of the footage yet, but it does seem that the following seem to be core to this project:

    1) It is all positive and rosy, depicting how much good the Internet does for people.
    2) Unless it is focused at the "me" or "us" and physcological adverse affects the Web has on us.

    I realise that this format is not going to change, but perhaps there should be some thought into where it is all going.

    I love the Internet, I fell in love with it's ecology when I started working with it in 1996 and since then I cannot count the amount of hours that this love affair has lasted. It has changed my life profoundly. However, I definitely see it as one of the greatest threats to our civilisation today. Not because it is going to rewire us badly, but because it can fail and no one seems to be comtemplating this.

    What if it all came crashing down tomorrow? How would we survive? Forget about your social networking and think about the provision of day to day social services and infrastructure.

    There are a number of severe impacts this technological experiment could have on us in the future and they could a have a lot more impact than climate change and in a much shorter time frame.

    I think that this series is lacking in this arena. However perhaps this is a topic for a different platform. I only hope that people start thinking about the very negative impacts that the Web (Internet) could have on our societies as a whole in the future, instead of us always being in the moment and trying to figure out the now.

    Not that I am a doom-mongerer and this is not a black swan. It is only a black swan if we ignore these possibilities. Therefore it is a black swan.

    I am sure I have said all this before :)

  • Comment number 23.

    Why does the form not save my formatting? Two spaces between periods...

    This is a test. Two spaces entered after the period.

    This is a test. One space entered after the period.

    This is a test. Three spaces entered after a period.

    All looks fine in the Preview, in fact it seems to automatically convert all the spaces 1, 2 and 3 to just 2 spaces after the period. Hence I shall have to post to discover if that changes. It will it always does and my punctuation and writing style looks flawed....

    Please feel free to delete this post, it is an experiment. Or let me know where I am going wrong :)

  • Comment number 24.

    A period? Oh my god! You're an American, complaining about BBC English. The horror!

    Seriously, I agree. Autoformatting, whether it's MS Word deciding I need to start a sentence with a capital letter (eg 'earthgecko said...') or website sign-ups needing US-style postcodes, drive me up the wall.

    More fuel for the 'are computers making us stupid/ all the same?' debate.

    Funny that this text box starts my post for me with a blank space. Holdover from the days when everyone started paragraphs with an indent? Not much use if nobody does that any more. I usually delete it, but will leave it in place to see if it actually appears.

    We're all subject to the whims of the people who create the systems we use. So much for promoting individuality.

  • Comment number 25.

    @TaiwanChallenges ... you assume too much, from too little ;)

    In the global village connected by accessible flights to anywhere, the blurring of nationalities and increased migration of people. Could it not be possible that I was solely influenced by it all.

    I am a citizen of Earth.

    Full stop.

  • Comment number 26.

    Well, I'm a netizen and a PERSON_NOT_A_BOT, ha ha.

    T-I-M-E………Luckily, I’m fairly synergized way so……….it takes a fraction of the time to do things. “Prodigious” is a word people have lobbed at me since childhood. Conscious is probably more appropriate (as per my model). Besides which, most of what’s written here are themes I’ve explored over many years and are also distillations of direct experience so I have a pre-existing repository (on computer and in brain) I can refer to and cut+paste+contextualize from. This frees up………TIME, a valuable commodity.

    The Web is facilitating and nurturing some of that knowhow accumulation. This is why it’s odd when others insist on an “It’s killing our brain cells!” position.

    Actually, it’s enabling us in a wisdomocracy. The insights from others are also helping to free up our T-I-M-E. Clearly, earthgecko knows more about data servers than we do and what he’s sharing is decades of distillation and experience from books as well as actual practice. So do we need to sit still in the Smithsonian / Bodleian and “slavishly hold the hands of the authors" (as Professor Greenfield suggests is what we do when reading books)? No, we can just read the book or content, online/offline and then we have a platform --- the Web --- which allows us to dissect it.

    Here’s the thing: if there was no Web, none of us here would ever have been in the same class in school or the same room --- partly because of geography, partly demographics, partly choice of subjects. However, precisely because the Web exists I (young, Chinese and female) can have:

    • SheffTim sanity-check me on “plasticity” (I'm a science graduate but still all prompting on ions is helpful)

    • Earthgecko sanity-check me on Cloud Computing

    • TaiwanChallenges sanity-check me on East-West cognitive differences

    • EnglishFolkFan sanity-check me on MBTI

    • BBCDigRev team sanity-check me on NOT POSTING PDFs which means those links are removed because others may not have Adobe Reader!!!

    From this, my brain develops in a POSITIVE not negative way. My natural curiosity and exuberance gets tempered and, reciprocally, I’m sparking and transmitting new materials to a more seasoned generation (and of a different demographic) to me. Materials like the Aladdin's cave of source links I've shared.

    This is a win-win.

    The functional method of learning may be changing, but what matters is that WE ARE LEARNING and it’s more targeted and 360-2020 because instead of one smart teacher we’re exposed to many smart teachers on the same topic.

    Ergo……….it’s unhelpful to be either extremes about the Web: “It’s the best thing since the Gutenberg press!” or “It’s the worst thing since Hitler and book burning!” Certainly the associative risks have to be calculated with more nuance and insight. That’s not easy to do because there are so many elements involved and each is constantly evolving and mutating.

    On the subject of Cloud Computing, its emergence is viewed differently depending on whether it’s being communicated by a systems architect, an Info Security specialist or a marketer.

    As I noted before, for me it’s not as new as some of the media buzz would have us believe. The core P2P technologies and infrastructure I’ve seen in action since about 1999, exactly as you contextualize about existing infrastructure and capacity (and as a side-add, the Moore’s Law theory about the nanofication of circuit boards resulting in a radioactive decay curve effect on cost). Ten years on, the Cloud is being repackaged with a shiny GREEN wrapper and marketed as a corporate statement about climate conscious policies.

    Yes, the Web is full of holes and limitations in its connecting links and nodes. Equally, many of the business theories springing up have flaws:

    • Anderson’s theory of “free”.

    • Peter Thiel’s on how Facebook shows Giraud’s mimetic desire in action.

    • Microsoft’s adoption of near monopoly which is being eroded by Linux and Open Source and forcing them to also migrate towards Open Social.

    • Murdoch’s and Variety's forthcoming digital walled gardens of charging for content but not incentivising participation.

    • A list as long as a strand of DNA and some may even cite the BBC’s model.

    Nonetheless the fact the Web can help us surface and share, such as earthgecko’s perspective as a Database professional vis-à-vis other commentators here, means that progressively we each get a bearing of where the other’s views are oriented from. This, potentially, can help us locate common ground and collaborative solutions.

    That’s the other thing about how it works in real world economies. Unfortunately, the functional and hierarchical systems mean that management may not be sharing insights effectively BETWEEN their technologists, their accounting, their support, their legal teams etc. This disintermediation and exclusion in the decision processes then causes frustrations, resentments and vicious cycles of “them against us”. People don’t feel valued.

    In the absence of FEELING and being valued, people simply function rather than contribute and fulfill.

    So they non-participate in a way that TAIWANCHALLENGES articulated before when we discussed who's building the Web, the motivations of those who contribute and how most of us in the real world work to pay the rent but the Web frees us up (Comments 18-20):


    !!!!!!!!!! NB !!!!!!!!!!

    @BBCDigRev --- there may be something amiss with the threading trackbacks here because TaiwanChallenge’s comments from Alex’s and Molly’s posts aren’t being captured in his overall BBC Blogs user profile summaries.

    !!!!!!!!!! NB !!!!!!!!!!

    Coincidentally, I happened upon an even sharper quote from Sebastian Faulks about the lessons learnt from the global financial crisis and the way we build systems in the real world:

    * https://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2009/sep/12/economic-crisis-keynes-peter-clarke

    “There are some very talented people who do specialised mathematical work; there are thousands of very hardworking and decent people who do averagely difficult work. And there are countless people of no discernible ability whatever who place colossal bets on the likely outcomes of work done by the first two groups.” --- Sebastian Faulks

    So our challenge is: "HOW can we involve more of the decent and no discernable ability people in any DEMOCRATIC, MERITOCRATIC and INCENTIVISED future design, building, policy and implementation of systems?"

    This is another question worth asking for the Web and real world economies.

    Mind you………news reaches us that Twitter is being valued by the VCs @ US$1 billion with its 20+ million registered (if not active and returning) users.



    NOTE TO SELF: STOP SPENDING TIME ON BBCDIGREV SPACE; sharing, caring and shaping! Code an application like Tweetdeck and connect to the streams of REVENUE --- not streams of consciousness (which is for lightweights anyway)!

    Just let BBCDigRev get on with making a docu-series celebrating the Web’s 20th without the contributions of teens, women, other cultures and silver surfers.

    Then watch it when it’s shown on terrestrial TV and write a letter of complaint to Have_Your_Say like this: “Wow, so the Web and the world has no character, no story arcs, no rainbows and no diversity? Oh well, I better switch off from the TV, the BBC and the Web then!”

    LOL and cheeky :*).

  • Comment number 27.

    @everyone --- for Program 3 are we comparing the Web economy with the real economy? If so, please watch the "Love of Money' series:

    * https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00mq36b/The_Love_of_Money_The_Bank_That_Bust_the_World/

    * https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00mv172

    * https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00mygjb

    Now here's a question: "In the real world economy, house asset values were driven lower and cheaper and this triggered the bust. In the Web economy, if the intellectual asset values (content) are driven lower and lower until they become free........will the Web likewise be at risk of bust?"

    In the second program, Alan Greenspan the former Chairman of the Federal Reserve noted that the perfect market does not exist and crisis will happen again: "It's human nature, unless somebody can find a way to change human nature, we will have more crises and none of them will look like this because no two crises have anything in common, except human nature."

    * https://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/8244600.stm

    So here's another question: "Can we change human nature as far as economics is concerned? If so, how? Towards more altruism? Towards more responsible consumption? What? If we can't change human nature anyway, why are government states constantly trying to change us? If human nature can't be changed anyway, why are some scientists worried about our brains and behavior being changed by the Internet?"

    See? This is a paradox and an incongruence of fundamental assumptions about human nature.

    How else is this 'Love of Money' series relevant? Well, they interview someone called MIKE OSINSKI, a software programmer who built systems for mortgage products, and different senior real world economists (Nouriel Roubini, Robert Reich a former advisor to Clinton and Mervyn King the Governor of the Bank of England) make the observation about how the Internet and globalization allowed risk from these toxic assets to spread:

    Here's an article written by Osinski in which he explains his technology work:

    * https://nymag.com/news/business/55687/

    This is an example of the Internet effects affecting real world economy.

  • Comment number 28.

    Have to love this from APNAB, which has set me off down the rabbit hole again:
    In the second program, Alan Greenspan the former Chairman of the Federal Reserve noted that the perfect market does not exist and crisis will happen again: "It's human nature, unless somebody can find a way to change human nature, we will have more crises and none of them will look like this because no two crises have anything in common, except human nature."

    So here's another question: "Can we change human nature as far as economics is concerned? If so, how? Towards more altruism? Towards more responsible consumption? What? If we can't change human nature anyway, why are government states constantly trying to change us? If human nature can't be changed anyway, why are some scientists worried about our brains and behavior being changed by the Internet?"

    Now here's a thought. "the perfect market does not exist," accepted, and I've also heard it said that a perfect market has special problems of its own. The market assumes that people make rational decisions based on knowledge, and a perfect market assumes perfect knowledge. But if we all have perfect knowledge about, say, the performance of a particular asset, then there is no point moving to buy/sell that asset because its price should already reflect its value. Everyone else has the same knowledge, so there is no room for skill, speculation. Most business relies on the existence of a knowledge-gap, which creates opportunities for someone to exploit the difference between what they know and what someone else knows. With perfect knowledge that gap goes away.

    The internet is often credited with closing the knowledge gap. I saw an example of a website which provided a real-time comparison between insurance policies, highlighting the inequalities, and resulting in a much more competitive situation. The customer benefited, the companies were forced to slash profit margins. A similar concept is p2p lending that tries to 'cut out the middle man, the banks' and connect lenders/depositors directly with borrowers. In theory this means that everyone gets a better interest-rate as they're not supporting an infrastructure of sales and admin people. (Nor are they following the usual rules applying to banks about deposit/lending ratios.)

    So is the internet closer to a perfect market? Or a tool towards achieving a more perfect market? It's certainly a brutal and relatively uregulated free market, and any information on the net is theoretically available to everyone.

    Except that not all data is made public. Your meta-data is market information that is only available to a privileged few. A flaw in the market?

    And, as Mr G points out, human nature is part of the equation too. People do not make rational decisions, and we're seeing that money alone is not the only factor people consider. Mr G's economics is the old economics of rational actors, inequalities of knowledge, and money as the only measure. In the world today we're questioning all these assumptions.

    The economy of the internet is one of more information (debatable), possibly too much information, and decision making based on different definitions of value. Do our new social metrics give us a new definition of 'rational' on which to base a more realistic science of economics?

    Can the internet be viewed as a social economy as well as a financial one? What else is traded apart from kudos, money, real goods, virtual goods. Can we measure and trade social capital?

    And is our decision-making machinery also being affected by the interaction? Apparently so, but is this for the worse or the better? It's known that people attach more importance/probability to events they can visualise. So all our risk assessment, ie decision-making, is flawed in that it is biased towards what we see rather than the less-sensational truths. Yuck and wow are more important than "actually the likelihood of X is very low compared to Y, which you're not excited about." Baroness G was right in that respect, although not very eloquent.

    The ability to sift through all the information provided by our new perfect market-place, and attach imortance to the right things, is fundamental to managing our new holistic economy. Can this be achieved by using google to find the information that confirms what we already know? Or do we need to take a more conscious control of how we interact with our new digital environment? Will the few corporations, the few individuals, in the driving seat allow us to do that? Or is the whole thing evolving into a tool for disinformation, something that widens the knowledge gap and makes our decision-making rational in the sense that it's predictable? Is this compatible with the social economics discussed or is it only about money?

    Is this new economy just the old one in disguise?

  • Comment number 29.

    Here's the opening paragraph of an economics paper I wrote, aged 20. My lecturer (ex-Cambridge) marked it a summa cum laude, 1st. Since the film 'Dorian Gray' was released on 09/09/09 this seems serendipitously appropriate:

    "Alfred Marshall's 'Principles of Economics' appeared in the same year, 1890, as Oscar Wilde's 'A Portrait of Dorian Gray'; Gray being a character well-rehearsed in the sources of gratification and pleasure. What Marshall calls "Consumers' Rent" is now equivalent to the excess price of advertising which a consumer pays for the surplus pleasure he obtains from a product, e.g. through knowing that it is of a superior or premium quality. In 1970, J.K. Galbraith said that advertising kept the atmosphere "suitably consumptive". C.W. Mills identified the manufacturers as being the "power elite" who ultimately decide what is to be produced, in what quantity, how and at what price........"

    Then my paper goes over some nice graphs, including Kaldor & Silverman's 'A Statistical Analysis of Advertising Expenditure and of the Revenue of the Press' (1948).

    So..........a century after Adam Smith the economics of advertising was introduced into the wealth of nations calculation. Now, 221 years after the publication of 'The Wealth of Nations' i(1776), MIT Press released 'Internet Economics' which had this blurb:

    "The Internet has rapidly become an important element of the economic system. The lack of accepted metrics for economic analysis of Internet transactions is therefore increasingly problematic. This book, one of the first to bring together research on Internet engineering and economics, attempts to establish such metrics.

    The chapters, which developed out of a 1995 workshop held at MIT, include architectural models and analyses of Internet usage, as well as alternative pricing policies. The book is organized into six sections: 1) Introduction to Internet Economics, 2) The Economics of the Internet, 3) Interconnection and Multicast Economics, 4) Usage Sensitive Pricing, 5) Internet Commerce, and 6) Internet Economics and Policy."

    It may surprise people but.........THERE IS LIMITED LITERATURE, written by trained economists --- rather than general social media commentators --- on the economic effects of the Web. I only happened upon this list 3 pages in on googling "internet economics". The first book to surface was the one from MIT Press published in 1997!!! Now, since Google indexes the most recent as well as the most popular this is something for the economists out there to think seriously about. 1997. We are almost in 2010.

    Thankfully, Oxford started an Internet Institute in 2001 and have M.Sc. Internet Economics course. This is their suggested reading list:

    * E. Brynjolfsson and B. Kahin (2000) Understanding the Digital Economy, MIT Press.

    * M. Cave and R. Mason (2001) The Economics and Regulation of the Internet, mimeo.

    * D. Chaffey (2001) E-business and e-commerce management: strategy, management and applications, Prentice Hall.

    * D. Chaffey (2002) Internet Marketing: Strategy, Implementation and Practice, Prentice Hall.

    * S-Y. Choi and A. Whinston (2000) The Internet Economy, SmartEcon.

    * R. Hall (2001) Digital Dealing, W.W. Norton.

    * A. W. Hanson (2000) Principles of Internet Marketing, South-Western College Pub.

    * K. Laudon and C. Traver (2003) E-Commerce: Business, Technology and Society, Addison-Wesley.

    * L. McKnight and J.Bailey (eds. 1998) Internet Economics, MIT Press.

    * P. Milgrom (2000) “An Economist's Vision of the B-to-B Marketplace." Perfect.Com White Paper.

    * C. Shapiro and H. R. Varian (1999) Information Rules: A Strategic Guide to the Network Economy, Harvard Business School Press.

    * N. Vulkan, (2003) The Economics of e-Commerce, University Presses of California, Columbia and Princeton.

    However, please notice that the most recently published book on the list was a full SIX years ago. We all know that the Web changes by the nanosecond.

  • Comment number 30.

    As I noted previously, I've been following the pronouncements by various economists and historians on the global economic crisis with great interest. Since I worked in the unit that was the brains and heart of a Tier 1 bank and I have a fair grasp of the market complexities, it staggers me when Smith versus Keynes gets bandied around in intellectual fisticuffs.

    "IT'S THE INTERNET, CYCLOPS!" I want to shout at the screen or the newspaper.

    As I've also proposed before, there is a SERIOUS NEED in real world economics to evolve Smith, Keynes et al for the Internet Era. Yes, that goes to the very basic assumptions about perfect information and rational human behavior. It will also have to factor in the various GATTs which determine developing economies issues and climate change agreements.

    Sure, to an extent, the Web is an information equilibrating tool. There's an increase in "day traders" so people with access to the Internet can speculate with their own money using tools like Google Finance or Bloomberg or some of the stock-charting services out there on the Web. Nonetheless, there is NO PERFECT INFORMATION since the more premium-end analysis or software to calculate global prices is behind paywalls so only those who can pay, can play.

    This then is also linked with Newscorp and others' proposals to charge for content as of 2010.

    There's also the advertising, marketing, PR, SEO premium to factor in.

    Yesterday I read on the 'FT' online that traders are now using Twitter as a virtual open outcry system:

    * https://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/ff39ba8a-a2ef-11de-ba74-00144feabdc0.html

    This is interesting because, of course, open outcry migrated to the electronic screen when the likes of the Bloomberg proprietary platform was launched in 1984 and subsequently went onto the Internet with subscription access. With its increasing popularity, as a real-time information source, Twitter's challenging (possibly eroding) that premium.

    Given that I studied economics as a discipline and have seen all types of assumptions and provisos on financial models, perhaps it becomes clearer why I don't buy-in to Anderson's "theory of free", especially with its inherent assumptions about Moore's Law. As I observed before:

    "The problem with Moore's law and most of the "fuzzy economics" bandied around by the likes of Anderson is that it takes no account whatsoever of the PREMIUMS (or as the Japanese would call "cost plus" approach) of most corporate strategies. Nor does Moore's law factor in GATT agreements, other international tariffs and, importantly, MARKETING+BRAND+PR investment costs which companies certainly put into their cost-income analysis.

    The transistor cost analysis in Moore's law is a pure production one. NO competent and intelligent corporate strategy person, economist or CFO would take it at face value and input it into their model(s) to argue that "free" (aka not charging for products+services) is the way forward because Moore's law is reducing costs.

    Instead, they would generate a cost curve to meet projected sales demand FACTORING IN ALL THE OTHER ASSOCIATED COSTS."

    There is obviously also NO PERFECT INFORMATION since there are also educational barriers to entry, as SheffTim has raised (eloquently). Jargon like advertising affects the haves-have nots. We can connect people to the Internet at an increasingly low-cost but if they don't have a certain level of literate and numerate education to begin with, it's not really a fair and perfect market,

    So the economic contribution of the Web of the last 20 years has been positive for some and also increased the gap between haves-have nots. However, I am optimistic that there are some in my generation and the next who will examine the old economic models (the ones which caused the global financial crisis) and imagine much better and more holistic ones.

    Particularly in light of what Google is trying to do in green economics, what Tim O'Reilly suggested and what Harvard Business MBAs signed up for:

    * https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=project+10+to+100&search_type=&aq=f

    * https://latimesblogs.latimes.com/technology/2008/10/tim-oreilly-get.html

    * https://www.thecrimson.com/article.aspx?ref=528381

    Importantly, the likes of the World Economic Forum need to encourage the DISCIPLINE of examining the Web's effect on economies and globalization.

  • Comment number 31.

    For all the programs it would be helpful if BBCDigRev team contacted senior lecturers at Oxford's Internet Institute:

    * https://www.oii.ox.ac.uk/

    and get their insights too.

  • Comment number 32.

    #29: economic effects of the Web.

    Searching Amazon produces:

    online economics
    2,800 results

    web 2 business = 230 results

    social media
    35,000 results

    online business startup
    20 results.


    Given how few economists foresaw the Credit Crunch etc, far less seem to be able to come up with workable solutions to manage today’s complex economies I’m not sure how much faith I’d have in any that attempted tackling the online economy.

  • Comment number 33.

    Well, wrt the global financial crisis, the people to ask are not only the academics or the Alan Greenspans. The people to ask are the CEOs, revenue generators and strategy consultants who actually made the decisions about which risk management models to go with and how GAAP and Basel II accord changes affected the accounting of risk. The in-house economists are not the ones with sign-off on policies and the external economists are observers rather than the people with the levers to affect revenues. That capability is with the Board of Directors and the designated revenue generators: the corporate financiers, the traders, the rainmakers of transaction activity.

    Anyway, today there's an item which says there are proposals to curb their pays and bonuses:

    * https://online.wsj.com/article/SB125324292666522101.html

    For me, this still doesn't introduce any thinking about both how the Web facilitated the global bust or how, moving forward, some of the information systems can be more integrated or the possibility of having a % contribution to charitable causes of every single transaction.

    Anyway, let's park that aside for a moment.

    Let's talk about CW Mills (Charles Wright Mills) whom I quoted in my economics paper, aged 20. It's pertinent now because of the social network phenomenon and yet.......no social media commentator I'm aware of has referenced him (they go on and on about Maslow, Moore and other M+Ms in a Mickey Mouse way of economic postulation), but aren't trained to go and examine the CW Mills, Webers, Ricardos or Schumpeters.

    Here's the low-down on CW Mills. The Sociological Imagination (1959) which as been cited as the second most important book describes a mindset for doing sociology that stresses being able to connect individual experiences and societal relationships. The three components that form the sociological imagination are:

    (1.) History: how a society came to be and how it is changing and how history is being made in it

    (2.) Biography: the nature of "human nature" in a society; what kind of people inhabit a particular society

    (3.) Social Structure: how the various institutional orders in a society operate, which ones are dominant, how are they held together, how they might be changing, etc.

    CW Mills argued that the Sociological Imagination gives the one possessing it the ability to look beyond their local environment and personality to wider social structures and a relationship between history, biography and social structure. The book should be read along with his 'The Power Elite' (1956):

    * https://legacy.lclark.edu/%7Egoldman/socimagination.html

    * https://www.thirdworldtraveler.com/Book_Excerpts/HigherCircles_PE.html


    Well, there's a lot of talk about how the Web has democratized us over the last 20 years. Yet the PRODUCTION DECISIONS remain in the hands of the "power elite".

    So here's the question: "Is there a methodology by which we can leverage social networks to redistribute the production decisions into the hands of the more whilst still enabling companies to have a competitive advantage (reduce costs, increase profitability, service their customer base and implement premiums --- advertising et al) and at the same time encourage them to contribute a % of revenues to charitable causes and pay for online contribution?"

  • Comment number 34.

    Oops, text got truncated: The Sociological Imagination (1959), which as been cited as the second most important C20th book for sociologists by the International Sociologists Assoc, describes a mindset for doing sociology that stresses being able to connect individual experiences and societal relationships.

    Relevance to the Semantic Web also?

    Well, we are constantly talking about how the Semantic Web stack https://mitworld.mit.edu/video/236%29 will increase contextualization.

    What does this mean for changing the Web economy? I referenced it before when everyone jumped on me about going down the rabbit hole over the SEMANTICS of the word "plasticity" versus "plasmacity".

    It matters because it's about LANGUAGE. Language governs our off-line social relationships and enables us to connect our individual experiences relative to our societal relationships as CW Mills frameworks.

    Moreover, on the social network model there is the economics of recommendations.

    Is a bigger picture forming yet?

  • Comment number 35.

    Re that question: "Is there a methodology by which we can leverage social networks to redistribute the production decisions into the hands of the more whilst still enabling companies to have a competitive advantage (reduce costs, increase profitability, service their customer base and implement premiums --- advertising et al) and at the same time encourage them to contribute a % of revenues to charitable causes and pay for online contribution?"

    The answer is: YES.

    It will become obvious when my app goes live. Then everyone will slap their heads like Homer Simpson and go, "Duh! Why did no one think of this in the last 20 years?!"

    Well, because I was either in school or busy climbing the corporate ladder and contextualizing what I was experiencing.

  • Comment number 36.

    About that Amazon list of 2,800 of "online economics" books my concern is that most are written by Mom+Pop site authors of the type, "How I made millions with Google Adsense!" or are books effectively promoting one particular online company.

    What we really need are books and analysis by the Internet economist equivalents of Paul Krugman, Joseph Stiglitz, Michael Pettis (an American economist now based in China whose insights I respect), Nouriel Roubini.

    For now, we will have to opt for the ones at the Oxford Internet Institute.

    * https://www.oii.ox.ac.uk/

    Martha Lane Fox --- her office says she's collaborating with the BBC's Head of Online, so presumably will be interviewed for this series? More young female representation, please. Thanks!

  • Comment number 37.

    I know this is a bit late, but why has nobody mentioned spam?

  • Comment number 38.

    Good point and maybe it's because we've been lucky.

    The opinions and links offered from everyone here is smart, helpful and relevant pointers about the docu-series rather than streams of adverts about medications to enhance XYZ, boiler room type scams (invest in obscure country's fund and earn 300% interest), "You have won the FAKE lottery!" or phishing spam of the type currently affecting some people's email accounts:

    * https://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/8291268.stm

    The worst case of spam I've had to deal with was removing 25,000+ spam emails from my inbox. When the hosting provider I was with offered the option of sending my domain names to search engines, I clicked on "Yes" --- little knowing that SEO (search engine optimization) spammers would harvest that information and flood my inboxes.

    Needless to say I changed my hosting provider. Now I only get one or two spams a day which is a lot more acceptable.

    Another example is the Bank of America constantly sending emails about how to secure my online bank account. Well................since I've never had a BoA account..............and since the phishing spammers couldn't spell properly and there were all sorts of grammatical errors in their email..........I worked out that it was a fake.

    Nonetheless, it is quite scary how closely the spammers can copy corporate logos, type faces, officious text etc. It is worrying to think that there are people online who would be more vulnerable, susceptible to and unwitting victims to these types of online scams.

    It just means that we need to do what Nicholas Carr, Maggie Jackson and Professor Greenfield want us to do: FOCUS & CONCENTRATE. Pay attention to the small details because typically that's where the spammers slip up --- either in their URL or spelling mistakes, forgetting to provide their incorporation details or not specifying their SEC-registered or FSA-registered status in the case of financial service products.

    Also, if the spam is from a known corporate brand like Nokia, as an email user I report the spam not only to the email provider (MSN, Yahoo!, Google, etc.) but also to the Legal or Communications team at the company like Nokia. Then the company can take legal action against the spammers who've misappropriated, counterfeited and misrepresented their brand logo in spam emails.


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