May 25, 2007
how many ferrero roche chocolates are served up each year by british ambassadors around the world?
fancy a man in uniform? how many eligible bachelors are there amongst the hampshire police force?
there’s a fuss, right now, about whether these questions are eligible for a proper response under the british freedom of information act. what is reasonable?
it seems to me that the only consideration should be whether the data can be reasonably acquired, rather than question the reason behind the request itself. so i wonder.
how would the foreign and commonwealth office gather such information. i guess every embassy has someone responsible for procurement. i guess there are occasions when the FCO HQ communicates to these people as a group. firstname.lastname@example.org or something. one junior official sends one email requesting response in 2 days. gets said responses back, taps numbers into spreadsheet. there are 200 countries. it’s not hard. the cost over the admin fee that must be paid on these requests is probably pretty small. and i bet there aren’t many.
the second example is one HR department. do they record the marital status of each officer? yes. how hard is that query? potential profit, even, for the fuzz.
over time the expectations of what information can be provided will rise, if only because technology is going to provide more and more data, and more and more ways to get at it. it’s all going open. openness should be the default. you should need a strong reason not to respond. these reasons nestle in the legislation - public safety, commercial confidentiality (over-used), data protection act (cripplingly over-used) etc. they are all testable in the courts.
not why, but why not?
May 13, 2005
As I posted a while ago, the BBC are planning to make their archive available on the net. Big Picture mentions a press conference, held yesterday, in which some details came out. All TV and radio broadcasts from the last 7 days will be available to stream, but only to the UK.
Ashley Highfield ( the Director of BBC New Media) told the conference that the P2P system, the 7 day DRM and method of limiting access to UK users had all worked well.
photo from flickr
March 18, 2005
The BBC is finally going to open its creative archive. This is great, and about time. I’ve blogged about this before.
Interesting also because already a bunch of people out there have started putting out BBC content on their own sites because of the lack of an alternative. Like this dramatisation of William Gibson’s Neuromancer.
The BBC are not going to use DRM but are seeking to restrict the archive to the UK only. I’ve no idea how. Presumably they have got to try given their contractual obligations to the writers and actors etc involved. My own meagre contract with the BBC (and yes I am looking forward to being able to get hold of my stuff) doesn’t, I believe, allow them to broadcast a show more than twice without paying me repeat fees. There is certainly no mention of allowing access on the net. Quite how this is going to pan out is anybodies guess. In any case they are wasting their time restricting the output to the UK. Anything that is any good is bound to end up mirrored elsewhere.
In further BBC developments: Dr. Who is back
tomorrow next week. We’re preparing to move the couch forward allowing rear access so that the kids can hide just like we did all those moons ago. With a script by Russell T Davies, and Christopher Ecclestone in the lead, it has all the credentials for a good show. Russell Davies let out recently that one element he planted to scare kids was killer wheelie-bins, something all kids would come across on Monday morning on their way to school. He said he hoped to scare the shit out of them. All power to him.
February 2, 2005
A friend emails:
I expressed some concern . . . about your - how can
I say this - preoccupation with suicide. Of course, I realised quickly
enough that you’d be killing others before you got on to yourself. So I’ll
keep an eye out for the signs. When I get time I will start one, yes; blogs
are the new media, people are now charging for advertising on their blogs.
And while this may only be those that are tech specialists and so on, the
trade magazine publishing sector is dying and dying. From there, I imagine,
it’s a matter of watching the tide rise and seeing which media boats
survive. Your the prescient one, tell me where it’s going to end up.
Of course he’s right about the suicide thing.
Another story today has Sri Lanka (7th highest suicide rate in the world - Lithuania is No. 1 if you’re curious) cutting up the brains of suicides in an attempt to identify genes that may be responsible.
But back to blogs, where does it all end up?
Well, we will all have one. All of us, each and every one. Not only will we have one, we’ll use it every day. We’ll use it to communicate with people we know, people we’d like to know, people we don’t even know exist. We’ll use it for work, for all of our work.
I was having a discussion a couple of days ago with a friend who’s doing some consulting for a v. large corporation in this area. Imagine BigCorp forcing employees to use an open workspace blog. People working on a project are constantly aware of what co-workers are doing. The project moves ahead faster because there is less duplication, problems become apparant more quickly, are solved more quickly. Managers are aware of progress, can help where needed, can get on with other things if not.
Customers of BigCorp get to keep an eye on how their piece of the action is progressing. In fact they are part of the process, picking out features of the project that they are concerned may not fit their needs, raising their fears, making suggestions. Casual observers also get to see what’s going on, may even become interested enough to become customers.
Of course everyone knows everyone else’s business. So what? Really. So what?
People have been taught for decades that a perfect market is the best way of distributing resources. One of the pre-requisites for a perfect market is perfect knowledge. So, along comes a technological way of approximating that.
We spend half our time worried about our privacy. Why?
Deep down we know that battle has pretty much been lost already. When I use the phone someone could be listening. When I use the net someone could be monitoring what I do. So what? It doesn’t matter IF I know who is monitoring, who is listening.
George Bush can watch me having a shower for all I care, as long as I’m aware of the fact and have the ability to do the same to him. (Not one of my fantasies, incidentally.)
If anyone can view data, everyone should be able to view it.
Someone can watch me walk down the street. London has more CCTV cameras than anyplace else. These are public places. Why can’t I watch too?
The battle ahead is not about privacy, it’s about openness. Blogs are a neat staging post.
January 26, 2005
Two things. First Anatomy for Beginners.
Last night I watched Gunther von Hagens cut open a guys chest, pull out his lungs, cut open his heart, all on TV. Having seen his plasticised exhibits in London, and missing out on his live dissection last year, it was great to find Channel 4 in the UK screening three dissections over consecutive days. This is what public broadcasting is about. The BBC should be embarrassed that it didn’t get there first.
Secondly, talking of the BBC, I’ve been watching a lecture given by Cory Doctorow (Boingboing, EFF) on copyright and DRM (digital rights management). It really is worth a watch for anyone who is remotely interested in IP issues, new media, or just life in the modern world, full stop. I say, talking of the BBC, because he mentions the vast archive of radio and television programmes that the BBC holds. This is a public broadcaster holding an archive of, already paid for by the public, material. We should be lobbying for its release to the web. The BBC site is one of the finest on the web, but has been under attack recently and expenditure on it is being scaled back. Apparently the Beeb are keen to release the archive but need external pressure and lobbying of the governors to see it through.