Tag Archives: Stephen Fry

Bristol bids to host Wikimania 2013

Bristol is bidding to bring the international Wikimania conference to the city in 2013. Wikimania is an annual event attended by influential speakers, writers and users of wiki projects such as Wikipedia. Run by the Wikimedia Foundation, if Bristol wins the bid to host the the week-long event, it could welcome the likes of Stephen Fry, Cory Doctorow, Jimmy Wales, Clay Shirky, and Tim Berners-Lee.

Bristol’s bid was submitted on Friday and now there is an online campaign growing to gather support. The city is up against competition across the world, including Hong Kong and Surakarta. Rival bids closer to home are London and Naples, Italy. Bristol recently welcomed Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, and also hosts the annual Festival of Ideas which attracts known writers and thinkers. Bristol’s bid promises that if successful, it will:

* Create a wide, generous and secure platform for the active involvement of community groups

* Build a bridge to the non-Wiki community (the Wikiless), inspire a new generation of volunteers

* Create a place and space where working relationships can strive, thrive and develop

* Spread the Wikipedia editing ‘privilege’ to involve more cultures, more women, more wisdom

* Enhance public understanding of shared, free and open source knowledge

* Celebrate and promote successful partnerships and Wiki achievements

This year’s Wikimania will take place in July in Washington DC.

To find out more visit the Bristol bid wiki.




The big bang visualisation of the top 140 Twitter influencers – influencer network analysis in action!

The Information Architects team have come up with a way of looking at Twitter that echoes maps of how the universe began

Back at the dawn of microblogging time, when Twitter had only just started, there were only three users who mattered: Biz Stone, Evan Williams and Jack Dorsey – the three key people behind the service. Now there are more than a hundred million users – but the key influencers in this huge network can be quite easily identified.

Now the team at Information Architects have decided to come up with a neat Twitter visualisation akin to The Independent’s classic 1992 “How the universe began” graphic, of the top 140 Twitter influencers, “sorted by #name #handle #category #influence #activity” and by when they joined the service (which determines how close to the centre they are).

The size of the blob indicates how many followers; “influence” is measured by… actually, they don’t explain, though possibly it’s using something like the Twiinfluence algorithm.

Interesting to see who’s in there: Stone and Williams, of course, but also latecomer Marissa Mayer (VP of search product and user experience at Google), who only joined in July 2009, and Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google (December 2009) – and of course there’s always Bill Gates, who didn’t get on board until January 2010. And of course Stephen Fry and indeed Jonathan Ross.

You can get the PDF (1.1MB) or buy it from them for $99 because, as they remark, “we’re convinced that our print is way superior to what you can do with your plotter”. And you will need a plotter – the graphic is 84cm by 119cm.


‘The new iPad is like an iPhone on steroids’

Contrary to reports, Apple’s new tablet is not capable of turning water into wine. But as a piece of consumer-friendly hardware, it is pretty revolutionary. Part of that, most of that, is down to the price but we will come back to that later.

During Steve Jobs’s presentation at the Yerba Buena Center, I was feeling slightly underwhelmed. As he went through its capabilities, I was thinking: so this is just another slice of computing loveliness from Apple but I don’t really think I want to buy one. Then, I went to have a play in the hands-on area and now I may have changed my mind.

My first impression is an obvious one – although Apple won’t like the description, the new iPad is like an iPhone on steroids. It will be familiar to anyone who has an iPhone or an iPod Touch – the touchscreen interface is pixel perfect and the larger screen allows video and games to breathe and become much more immersive. It is slim and elegant to hold, and although it has some weight in the hands – it is after all made of metal and glass – it is feels a lot lighter than any laptop.

I played with one for only a few minutes, taking my turn among the hundreds of ravenous media. There is only one button on the whole machine – the home button at the bottom of the device – everything else is handled through touch. The adapted iPhone operating system was as intuitive and pleasing as on the iPhone and the colour screen brought the applications to sparkling life.

In particular the gaming community should be rubbing their hands in glee at the prospect of this new platform. Apple said it would provide a “goldrush” for developers and I am inclined to agree. There are already 140,000 apps in Apple App Store and many more specifically designed for the tablet are doubtless on their way.

The biggest announcement within the launch was Apple’s new iBooks application and its online iBookstore. Apple now has three market-leading online stores for music, software applications and digital books – a pretty powerful combination. More than 125 million people have one-touch purchase already with Apple and even if a fraction of these use the bookstore, the other e-reader companies such as Amazon had better look out.

So will I buy one? I have a smartphone and a powerful portable laptop. I don’t really need another portable device. I love my media, like movies and TV, on my laptop. But I might just buy an iPad because Steve Jobs has priced them so aggressively. In the US the basic model, with constant 3G connectivity, will be $629 ($499 without the 3G). Apple has cut a deal with AT&T to provide an unlimited data plan for just $29.99 a month. That is pretty good. I am tempted. We will see if such deals will be available in the UK.

Here’s what Stephen Fry, actor and gadget fan extraordinaire, who I spoke to as he left the hands-on area, said: “It is transformative device. You only really get it when you get your hands on it.”


Silent majority risk worse customer service as companies monitor Twitter, Facebook

Consumers who complain by letter or phone risk getting worse service as companies protect their image by concentrating on higher-profile online gripes, a watchdog warns.

Consumer Focus said a silent majority of ordinary customers who complaint by letter or by phone might be left behind as firms switch to monitoring internet postings to protect their corporate image. Recent research by information management firm Convergys found that a negative review or comment by a frustrated customer on the Twitter, Facebook or YouTube web sites can lose companies as many as 30 other customers.

Comments by popular bloggers or Twitterers such as Stephen Fry, who has more than one million followers, can have an even more damaging effect. In 2007, furious Patrick Askins became so angry with BT that he posted a YouTube video about his experiences that was viewed thousands of times, shaming the company into a response.

BT now has its own Twitter feed where it contacts users who ‘Tweet’ negative comments about its products and services, but other companies have been warned not to neglect “ordinary customers” who still have to raise complaints in person or through call centres. Christopher Rawlings, head of strategy at Consumer Focus, said greater use of social media to solve problems was to be welcomed but warned firms not to neglect consumers who “cannot access, or are simply not interested in using, the likes of Twitter or Facebook”.

He said: “There is a risk that too much attention is paid to customers those who have online influence and it is important that the traditional ways of getting problems resolved remain open. “We are conducting researching into ways consumers can benefit from social media. Equally, we recognise that there are those who do not have online access or do not want to share their personal information over the internet.”

The Convergys research, published last month, found one in three of those affected by bad customer service share their problems on the internet. It also found that each post on a social media site reaches, on average, 45 users and over 62 per cent of those who took part in the research said they would stop doing business with companies they had heard bad things about.

Among those who have taken the online route is musician Dave Carroll, whose song about how United Airlines broke his guitar notched up almost four million hits. The Consumer Focus warning came as a retail consultant predicted shoppers would be less tolerant of poor service this Christmas.

Derek Bishop, managing director of Abeo Consulting, said: “Customers simply don’t have the time, money or inclination to deal with poor levels of service this year. “It has been a difficult few months for many and the last thing they will want to deal with at Christmas is unnecessary stress on the High Street.”

He said firms that have “a good reputation and word of mouth advocacy from customers, particularly during the pre-Christmas rush” would be the most successful.


Internet giants unite to fight copyright clause in Digital Economy Bill

Google, Facebook, Yahoo! and eBay have sent a joint open letter to Lord Mandelson urging him to reconsider plans to give the business secretary power to make new legislation regarding copyright laws.

The internet giants are objecting to a clause in the Digital Economy Bill, which had its second reading in parliament yesterday. The clause would allow the secretary of state for business to introduce new laws regarding copyright.  The government has said the purpose of giving such powers to the business secretary was to help copyright legislation keep up with changing technologies, but the move has sparked fears that it will hand over unprecedented levels of power to one individual. In the letter, the companies say that while they support the principle of protecting copyright owners, it says that clause 17 “opens the way for arbitrary measures. This power could be used, for example, to introduce additional technical measures or increase monitoring of user data even where no illegal practice has taken place”.

The companies say that they fear such a move could discourage innovation and impose unnecessary costs on industry. Broadband providers have already outlined their objections to another section of the Digital Economy Bill, which will mean that people who repeatedly download copyrighted materials without paying for them are cut off from broadband internet access. Members of the public are being urged by high profile Twitterers, including Stephen Fry and sitcom writer Graham Linehan, to sign a petition objecting to the law.


Protests grow over ‘ill thought out’ and ‘poorly worded’ UK Digital Economy bill

The Digital Economy bill has sparked a wave of protest among consumers and rights groups.

Soon after the bill began its journey through Parliament on 19 November, many expressed worries about parts of it. The bill suggests the use of technical measures to tackle illegal file-sharing that could involve suspending the accounts of persistent pirates. Critics fear this and other powers the bill reserves could damage the UK’s growing digital economy. The Digital Economy Bill is the end result of the consultation and research that went into the creation of the Digital Britain report that was published in June 2009.

As well as trying to tackle illegal file-sharing, the wide-ranging legislation also proposes a shake-up of the radio spectrum and a classification system for video games. Left out is the proposal for a broadband tax to fund next-generation broadband that will be handled in the Finance Bill due in early 2010. The proposals on file-sharing have garnered most criticism.

One of the first responses was the creation of a petition on the Number10.gov.uk website. Set up by Andrew Heaney, TalkTalk’s head of strategy and development, it calls for the abolition of the proposal to disconnect illegal filesharers. By 24 November, the petition had gathered more than 16,000 signatures.

The number of signatures got a boost from Stephen Fry who used micro-blogging site Twitter to direct people to it. Wrote Mr Fry: “Dear Mandy, splendid fellow in many ways, but he is SO WRONG about copyright. Please sign and RT {retweet]”. Jim Killock, executive director of the Open Rights Group, which campaigns on digital issues, said: “It’s quite a shocking bill. We’re extremely worried about it.” Mr Killock said Section 17 of the Bill was worrying because it gave the Secretary of State “reserve powers” to draft fresh laws to tackle net-based copyright infringement without needing parliamentary approval.

“It could destabilise business and destabilise innovation,” said Mr Killock. “It means entirely trusting to bureaucrats and politicians to get it right.” Mr Killock said membership of the Open Rights Group had jumped by 20% in the run-up to the publication of the Bill. He said protests were being co-ordinated in many places such as Facebook and other social media sites.

He predicted that the protests would soon lead to some form of civil unrest, be that lobbying, a protest march or public meetings. US digital rights group The Electronic Frontier Foundation declared that giving the Secretary of State such powers amounted to the creation of a “pirate finder general” that could enact “draconian” copyright enforcement controls.

The Bill envisages that any proposed change to copyright law should be opened up to public comment before it is made. In a bid to defuse some of the criticisms, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills created a webpage entitled: “Filesharing: some accusations and some answers”. It pointed out that some of the criticisms levelled at the Bill were unfounded. It said it had not been drafted at the behest of the music industries. It added that “technical measures” to slow down or suspend net connections would not be imposed without those accused going through a tribunal system that assesses their case.

The Internet Service Providers Association (ISPA) also issued a statement saying that it “strongly opposes” the measures introduced to tackle file-sharing. Said ISPA: “Rather than focusing blindly on enforcement, the government should be asking rights holders to reform the licensing framework so that legal content can be distributed online to consumers in a way that they are clearly demanding.” Law firm Eversheds said the copyright plans seem “hurriedly put together and not clearly thought-through” and warned that they could have “unforeseen effects.” It added: “Critics… may have taken some comfort from the fact that the proposals have yet to wend their way through an already congested legislative timetable before the next election, meaning it is questionable whether they will ever become law.”


Twitter puts the boot into Carter Ruck – three cheers for social media

Until last night I had never felt the need to think about Carter Ruck. Now I can see I should have done and it is about to enter the Twitter lexicon (perhaps?) as an example of new modern day use of Cockney Rhyming slang. Or at least that is what the head of Chambers probably said when he learnt about the massed ranks of angry Twitterers pouring bile, scorn, derision and anger all over their pathetic injunction (on behalf of wide boy oil traders Trafigura) against The Guardian and one other paper. 

Last night’s injunction served on the Guardian and at least one other national newspaper was meant to stop the papers reporting that the MP Paul Farrelly had tabled a Parliamentary question about the oil traders Trafigura and its solicitors Carter-Ruck. And it succeeded – up to a point. In a front-page story, the Guardian said it was prevented from identifying the MP who had asked the question, what the question was, which minister might answer it, or where the question was to be found.

In a twist the paper described as “Kafka-esque”, it was also banned from telling its readers why it had been banned from doing so. In one sense, the injunction was effective. In most of the mainstream media this morning, you would have found no mention of who or what was involved.

Red rag

No injunction was served on the BBC, but ever since the Spycatcher case in the 1980s news organisations which knowingly breach an injunction served on others are in contempt of court, so the corporation too felt bound by the Guardian injunction. But the lawyers in this case clearly reckoned without the “blogosphere”. In the anarchic, anything-goes world of the internet, where free speech is a frequently-heard rallying cry, injunctions banning publication of anything are unpopular. This one seems to have acted like a red rag to a bull.

The social networking site Twitter was soon awash with posts deploring a threat to media freedom and the reporting of Parliament. Stephen Fry, celebrity tweeter, called it “this barbaric assault on free speech”, and the very information Trafigura and its lawyers were anxious to keep secret was being freely bandied about.

Guido Fawkes’s political blog and the website of at least one mainstream publication, The Spectator, apparently chose to ignore the injunction entirely. A Google search for Trafigura in mid-morning threw up a dozen online articles on the subject.

Favoured few

The digital marketing company Econsultancy – on its own website – observed all the activity on Twitter, saying: “This tidal wave of tweets makes for particularly bad PR, given the banning order against the newspaper. “It’s a bit like an artist achieving a Radio 1 ban, which can result in chart success. What you seek to suppress only generates further interest.”

Imposing injunctions on news organisations has never been a foolproof way of stopping information from leaking out. But in the old days, when the principal means of transmission was word of mouth, only a favoured few ever got to hear of it. The digital revolution has changed all that. Anyone with a PC or a laptop or an iPhone or a Blackberry, or any other digitally-enabled device, can now discover what all the fuss is about. On this occasion the injunction seems to have been utterly counterproductive. The Guardian obtained a High Court hearing to challenge the injunction this afternoon. But at lunchtime Carter-Ruck bowed to the inevitable, and the Guardian’s website was soon running full details.

The first news, of course, came from the Guardian’s editor, Alan Rusbridger, via Twitter. “Thanks to Twitter/all tweeters for fantastic support over past 16 hours!” he wrote. And the Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg tweeted: “Really pleased Guardian ban has been lifted. This is a victory for freedom of speech and online activism”. And Stephen Fry’s reaction? “Can it be true? Carter-Ruck caves in! Hurrah! Trafigura will deny it had anything to do with Twitter, but we know don’t we? We know! Yay!!!”