Archive for September, 2008


In a former life I worked in an organisation that was affiliated to the Civil Service.  I say ‘affiliated’ because it wasn’t strictly a major department: it was one of those bodies that is called a ‘semi-autonomous public body’.  It receives public money, but is relatively free to decide its own policies and so on.  That’s the theory anyway.  At this point, readers might assume the organisation was MI5, but it was actually one of what UK readers will know as a ‘Quango’.  This particular organisation was actually the world’s first Quango.

At the time I was there, public/civil service organisations were quite different from what they are now: For one thing, they still had some semblance of self-belief and were able to build systems because people knew it was the right thing to do.  I built a system which was still in use until relatively recently.  This was the tail end of an era before compulsory out-sourcing, endless reviews of ‘value-for-money’ (whatever that is), ‘efficiency’ (whatever that is), ‘effectiveness’ (whatever that is), and so on.

My first boss, a Margaret Rutherford look-alike in her late 50s complete with half-glasses and a wonderful, 1930s style telephone manner, came back from a meeting where – to cut a long story short – she had been asked to give involved in some new cutting edge policies for the organisation.  These included a new form of budgeting and also some other ‘cutting edge’ ideas – PRINCE for project management and so on.   Over time it emerged that various internal, departmental budgets were to set up, and various ‘centralised’ HQ functions would be reformed or abolished. 

Later, my boss launched into a tirade about some more of the things that would soon be happening. This included various ‘value for money’ exercises and other studies, shake-ups, reorganisations and so on, and many bizarre accounting practices.  As I recall, they introduced a procedure whereby if you went to reprographics to get a document photocopied (you pretty much had to go there – all the other photocopiers were crap) you had to had to hand over a charge-code.  However, you could go to the stationary store and they would happily give you the toner cartridge, or printer cartridges over the counter with no question.  These cost £40 a throw…

In later years, this organisation, like many other public bodies, the NHS, schools, you name it - have been engulfed in many such procedural, accounting and organisational nonsenses – mostly instigated by ‘Finance’ people – its almost impossible to know where to start. 

She later came out with a comment that has stayed with me ever since.  ‘Michael’ she said (she didn’t believe in shortening names), ‘The problem is that saving money is one of the most expensive things an organisation can do’.  She then started rambling about various things that I didn’t pay too much attention to at the time, but what she was saying in essence was that once all the procedures, controls, checks, monitoring and so on has been put in place, you actually eliminate any ‘saving’ you attempted to make in the first place.  I even heard of a case much later where a ‘savings’ exercise actually ended up costing the organisation more.

Let the Finance people think about that

I was recently asked to do a chillout compilation for a party I went to, and came up with this.  It seemed to go down pretty well. 

Four-Four-Four Fragile State
Rain Down Love Freemasons
Riders on the Storm/Pink Solidsm Yonderboi
Show You Something (Chris Coco Balearic Beats Mix) Afterlife
Bliss Defender
Like This (Doin’ It) [High Spies Remix] David Garcia/Joey Mazzola
Watersong Fous De La Mer
Italian Summer Niquid
Deeper – Into Places Afterlife
Ku Da Ta Pete Tong & Carl Cox
Cerulean Jon Hopkins
Life in the Sun Jol
Past Sub Sub
Figure of Eight Clayhill
Autumn Love Electra
Harakiri Martini Ugress
Voyageur Enigma
Lazy Moon Groove Armada
La Ritournelle Sebastien Tellier
Space Disco Only Child
The Secret Magic Garden The Essence
Land of the Hot Mornings Safariways
Private Road [Laughing Gear] Bent
Can’t Be Doing with Love Ben Onono/Cicada
J’ai Dormi Sous L’eau Air

As I mentioned perviously, I have recently moved to a new machine running Windows Vista. I have noticed a strange phenomenon, in that if I have one of my music packages – Steinberg Sequel – and Windows Media Player running simultaneously, the playback in Windows Media Player of MP3s is always slowed down. The same happens in iTunes and also I’ve noticed a similar thing in YouTube. 

If I close Sequel all is back to normal. If I launch it again, the phenomenon reoccurs. It makes no difference if I have a song loaded or not – just having the program open is sufficient. 

It doesn’t happen every day though… Occasionally all is fine (and I never had this on XP). 

The likely culprit is the sampling rate within the soundcard settings / ASIO driver – strange though.

http://forum.sequel-music.net/viewtopic.php?p=6825#6825

Before we start, I’ll warn you that this article is much longer than I’d planned it to be, but I think everything in it needs to be in it, so here we go.  Kick off your shoes and grab a coffee (or maybe the other way around – they are your feet after all!….)

I’ve worked in and come into contact with some companies that operate internal recharging models.  The idea is basically that you have internal ‘support’ departments that are constituted as trading units, and they carry out work for other parts of the organisation. This is done on a ‘pay for use’, ‘time and materials’ or some other kind of ‘rate card’ arrangement.  Money is transferred internally and each unit has its own Profit and Loss and so on.

I think (and I’m doing this from memory) when I was at university, it was explained that this type of thing was based on something called the ‘Boston Matrix’.  The idea was that you had a ‘business domain’ and a ‘technology domain’ and they would interact and charge each other for services.  I suspect that this would be at ‘the market rate’ (whatever that is).

Having set up your recharging model, the various business areas of the organisation are free to come forward with projects. These get prioritised, resourced and delivered based on (presumably) some set of meaningful criteria.

It all makes a kind of superficial sense.  But if one looks below the surface at what it leads to, all is not what it seems.  Some people have concerns about the whole idea.

When looking at the wisdom of recharging, there are two main issues involved, and two or three more worth considering afterwards:

1) Large projects need corporate/board approval and investment

For a large project (what that is up for grabs of course), the project is unlikely to be funded solely by a single department or even a combination of departments.  The board are going to have to get involved.  A department’s ‘discretionary spend’ isn’t going to be enough to fund it – though they might have been able to get something developed initially.  And that’s fine – the board are there to make such things happen. The project becomes a corporate investment, and almost certainly something that fits the corporate strategy.

Fine.

So the question then is:

‘Why are different departments charging each other for work that the organisation has – at a high level –  decided upon, and that we have collectively decided to do?’ 

If the departments involved in the project are not revenue generating (and I’ll return to ‘revenue generating’ in a moment), you then have two non-revenue generating departments charging each other for work that has to happen anyway.  I think the wisdom of this is questionable at least.

The argument that usually gets wheeled out at this point, is that if you don’t have internal recharging, you end up with anarchy: Nobody is able to set priorities, there are projects that never end, no control over costs and so on. The whole organisation collapses in on itself.  Well this is nonsense. Most of an organisation doesn’t operate on a recharging model – I’ve certainly never encountered one that does; nor does most of the business world, and it hasn’t collapsed. 

Also, since projects aren’t actually funded by a department on their own, doesn’t that rather undermine the paradigm of the ‘departments are free to come forward with a project’?  Anything significant will probably be a corporate decision – not a departmental decision – and we’re all in it together, I’m afraid.  We can’t get away from that.

2) Tactical and ‘Discretionary’ projects

That is not to say there isn’t a role for recharging.  In any organisation there is always a mix of projects going on.  Some strategic and some tactical, some will have come out of improvement initiatives, people’s appraisals, and so on.  It makes perfect sense for departments to have some budget to do these – and I don’t see the problem with the IT operation charging for it.  If I want the intranet pages for my team refreshed, and I’d like one of IT’s designers to do it, I’ve no problem in that going into the work queue as a piece of chargeable work.

If I come forward with a plan to re-engineer the global logistics system, that is another matter.

3) Not all departments come forward with a project

Not all departments will come forward with projects.  This is not always easy to prove, but you can get a feel for the parts of the organisation where there are clear needs.  If the work is mission critical but they are still running on Access databases and Excel sheets they’ve knocked up themselves – or perhaps paper-based systems, this is a concern.  So why aren’t they coming forward?  We need to understand what is behind this.

This might be down to nothing more than they don’t know who to talk to in the IT department, I suppose.  But I think there is more to it than that.  

Lets think again about what we said in points 1) and 2) above.  It starts to become clear.

I can only come forward with a project if I have funding available.  So the question is, who chooses which department has funding available and on what basis?  How do they decide how much?  If certain departments have no discretionary spend – or such a poor amount they can’t do anything, that again undermines the paradigm of the charging model:  Why have it at all if parts of your organisation can’t participate?  Again, the wisdom is questionable to put it mildly.

What this leads to is a situation where – assuming they have a clear business need – IT can lend pro-active expertise in putting the business case together for them.  We can help inform them of what’s going on in other departments, how they can collaborate, how they can improve what they do.

Oh, hold on a second.  We’re supposedly a ‘support’ area aren’t we?  And a chargable area?  They come to us.  Silly me.

Having addressed these main issues, there are also these…

4) Recharging implies optionality

Another aspect of charging – which often gets overlooked – is that a charging model implies ‘optionality’.  I can elect to not have the work done, right?  Otherwise it’s not in the spirit of charging, surely?

This can lead to some serious consequences, or at the very least, unexpected consequences, which we have to somehow address.

A colleague of mine recently mentioned that, whilst she isn’t against the idea of recharging in itself, the problem is that business areas and departments don’t recognise that systems and software has a lifespan.  You get to a point where it needs investment, replacement, upgrading.  The department who funded the thing to begin with isn’t likely to be very interested in this.  What do we do then?  For the IT department, it’s a difficult sales job isn’t it?  What happens if they say ‘no’?

Another example I’ve used many times is that of end-user training.  I worked for a company once where you couldn’t get data maintainer access to a system without first sitting an induction (training session conducted by a super-user of the system, lasting 2 or 3 hours – sometimes more), followed by you being given a disclaimer to sign, document explaining the escalation/reporting procedure for faults or problems and so on. Only then would you get given your login details.

The policy was ‘you don’t get access to the system without first attending the induction – no exceptions’.  This was strictly enforced from a high level.

Fine.  I’m a big advocate of this.

So what happens if you’re in an organisation – and there are many of them – that charge for internal training courses?  One could argue you can get away with this if it is for something like Word or Excel – to some extent you can pick it up yourself.  But think again about optionalityWhat happens if you are charging for the induction on a critical system, but the business area says ‘no – I don’t want to pay’?  Or perhaps a variation like ‘It’s ok – I won’t bother sending them on the induction, I’ll just teach them myself’, or, ‘it’s ok, they don’t need to go on the induction – they can just learn off other people’.

The balance of power has shifted.  We can hardly say ‘sorry – no induction, no login’ If we’re charging them can we? And even if we could, you have to ask ‘why bother’ if it’s mandatory anyway?

We’re on the back foot – on the defensive.  Why? 

This is a serious situation:  More serious than people perhaps realise:  It leads to bad practices, misuse of systems, misunderstanding of the terminology, data quality issues, helpdesk calls, inefficiencies.  And that’s just the beginning:  Over time these people become the ‘experts’ called upon to lend knowledge and expertise.   A terrible cocktail.

5) Collaboration is virtually impossible 

It is almost impossible to get departments working together to jointly fund something.  When you think about it, Why should they?  The natural tendency is to wait for some else to fund it and then piggy-back off of that. You can’t get any ‘corporate’ initiative off the ground – even if it patently obviously benefits the whole organisation.

Footnote:  Pocket money and profits

I recently recounted to someone an analogy I’ve used many times before: This is that the situation where you have one non-revenue generating area charging another non-revenue generating area for work that you have to do anyway, is a bit like giving your child pocket money, and then charging them for meals and the use of their bedroom.  You then pat yourself on the back that your household finances are in much better shape and you have somehow gained something through the whole process.

The child, like most business areas, only has the money they have been given. How much they get, who decides it, and what they spend it on (and more importantly, how IT can influence it) is, my friends, the question. 

So where does that leave the ‘revenue generating areas’ we said we would return to earlier?  Well, the answer is that the organisation as a whole is the revenue generating area.  We are all in this together:  for better or worse, for richer and (in my case), poorer.  We all have a part to play if we’re allowed to.  It’s that simple.

The subject of estimating certainly provokes passionate reactions among people.  I remember at a previous company we were having a few quiet and well-mannered drinks after work, and once someone raised the question of estimating, the whole affair turned into a hard-drinking drama – something out of a western.  At one point a fairly senior manager stormed out…  Only to return a few minutes later with ‘and another thing about estimating…’ – and ended up staying the whole evening.

It was 6:45PM.

So it’s one of those subjects where there are strong views.  It’s also an area where there isn’t a single solution – or even a single definition of the problem.  It also leads you into some quite revealing insights into the workings of your own organisation.  There certainly more facets to cover in later posts.

“Estmates are estimates – they are not quotes.  A quote is something you get on your car insurance”.  It was the mid 90s when I first said this to someone.     It’s interesting also, that over the years, you tend to get embroiled in similar debates are different companies.

When approaching estimating, there are it seems to me, two basic approaches you can take. There is also a third line of enquiry which leads you into questioning what the estimate represents, where it goes, and what people eventually do with it.  This third area is, in some senses, more interesting – but we’ll come back to that.  Lets start with the two basic approaches:

Approach 1) - ’Get better at it’ 

I once had a manager who said ‘we need to get better at estimating – we just aren’t very good’.  Come to think of it, I have had few managers who haven’t said that.  In most organisations the ‘getting better at it’ follows projects that have gone wrong for some reason and are accompanied by much soul searching, brain storming, workshops, training etc. etc. 

‘Getting better at it’ is part of the human condition:  We want to improve the things we do, and just as you aspire to be a better tennis player, or a better cook, we can get better at estimating, right?  Well… perhaps. 

When someone says ‘we need to get better at estimating’ what they really mean is: ‘Can I have an estimate that is so good it will cover all the things than can possibly happen on the project, irrespective of their cause, so there is never a cost overrun’.

To use our tennis and cooking examples, that is like expecting to become so good that you get to Roger Federer’s level, or that of Gary Rhodes.  Is this possible?  No…    but the notion that it might be possible to get this good,  is a problem.  That is not to say you can’t improve – clearly you can, but that isn’t really the point.  You’re never going to become good enough. There is also the problem that you run the risk of humanising the estimates. ‘Oh – this project will be fine because so-and-so is doing the estimates, and hes good at doing estimates’.  This might be down to greater experience – clearly a good thing – but the personal and emotional involvement in estimating, rather like using ‘gut feel’ can be a problem if it goes wrong.  On the other hand, it might be better next time.  All this perpetuates the delusion that the perfect ‘quote’ is achievable – it just needs you to work at it a bit more.

So ‘Getting better at it’ can be a problem. It sets aspirations on you and expectations from the customer that are impossible to live up to. It also assumes that the present is always in some way wiser, and better informed than the past.  This is debatable.

Approach 2) – Mechanistic or Formulatic approaches

This covers alot of topics – which I won’t go into here – but basically the notion is that there is some form of ‘system’ or mechanism one goes through to arrive at the estimates. It removes the human/personal/emotional involvement in favour of a party line, a consensus.  On an agile project you might estimates stories by the usual ‘T-shirt sizes’ – small, medium, large etc.  Or you might have something more complex.  What matters here is that you have something provable and demonstrable that your estimate is based on.  ‘We have our system – the cleaner could use it and end up with pretty much the same result if they followed it’ was the view of an ex-boss of mine.

Why is this important?  It’s important because by removing the human involvement you are recognising and accepting up front that an estimate isn’t ever going to be perfect. You aren’t going to be the Roger Federer of estimating, and think otherwise you are deluding yourself and setting the customer expectations that will be impssible to deliver.  It’s fine to not be perfect:  The interesting question is, why are we being forced into a situation we know is wrong? The orgnisation isn’t out to deliberately sabotage itself, so why are we being asked to produce ‘perfect’ estimates when everyone knows we can’t?  Who is forcing us into this? Why? 

Where does it all go?

What happens to your estimate once you’ve produced it is one of the mysteries that it is not always possible to crack.  Usually you find that any caveats, rationale, footnotes and explation gets forgotten once the finance people get at it.  If your estimate is going outside to a customer, it might well be you have the ability to insert a clause along the lines of ‘this work is conducted on a best endeavours basis’, but come to think of it, all work is generally conducted along these lines.  Why is our estimate translated into carved into stone number?  I have often referred to this as the ‘Purchase Order Culture’:  People funding their IT projects as if they are buying paper clips and desks. A terrible simplification.

But that is another article…

Conclusions

I think the main issue about estimating is simply that people expect far to much of it.  This is driven by the fact that far from being more flexible and adaptable to change, organisations seem to be getting more rigid and beauracratic – at least when finances are concerned.  This leads to an expectation that everything can be predicted in advance, and we know that this simply isn’t possible. If a project goes slightly awry and new requirements or better ways of doing things are uncovered during the project why cant we adapt and get funding for it?   Why are we continually painting ourselves into a corner?  More importantly, why does the IT profession have to carry the can for such nonsenses when it all goes wrong?

There is no doubt that buying a new computer is one of the most stressful technology purchases you can make.  Perhaps with the exception of SCART-lead hell (I have 5 devices chained together, and I really need to re-connect them a better way - so spare a thought).

Recently, after the obligatory 6 months dithering about getting a Mac, I wen’t for a Dell like everyone else.  All is reasonably OK so far.  I had to do a factory restore after day 5 when the keyboard driver went berzerk but so far not bad.   In the build I asked for a sound card.  I have reasonably demanding requirements – I have several music software/synth packages and I thought the soundcard would have to be a better bet than the on-board sound.  On the old XP machine, though,  I had on board sound and everything was always fine. 

On the new Vista Box, I notice that you don’t get any ‘Stereo Mix’ or ‘What u Hear’ recording options. If you don’t have these – or just have them but take it for granted - it gives you the ability to record any sound that happens to be playing on your PC. I have this option on the old machine and I rather naively assumed you always get this with a sound card.  It’s for recording, right?

Well this is where you need to invoke research skills of Poirot, Holmes and perhaps the diplomatic skills of Henry Kissinger.    On Vista, the facilities you used to enjoy, even back in the days of Windows 95, May nor may not, be available.  And this is where your skills come in.

The lack of the facility might be down to any of these:

  • Windows Vista doesn’t support it
  • The OEM build of Windows Vista for Dell computers doesn’t support it (but perhaps the retail version does)
  • The soundcard hardware doesn’t support it
  • The soundcard hardware is actually a slightly different version produced specifically for Dell (i.e. an OEM version) and that doesn’t support it, but the retail version might do
  • The soundcard does support it, but the driver supplied for Dell doesn’t, but there are shady postings on various forums that you might be able to get it working with an alternative driver.
  • There are other soundcards that do support it
  • There are other soundcards that do support it but only with the right driver (perhaps an earlier version), therefore implying it isn’t anything to do with Vista itself.

There are many postings and many opinions around that state that Windows Vista doesn’t allow ‘Stereo Mix’ or ‘What u Hear’ because it has been deliberately removed. Alternatively, Vista is locked down in such a way that you can’t actually write a driver to enable it, and this in turn is because Microsoft have been pressurised by Copyright enforcment agencies around the world to prevent recording technologies being implemented.

I think this might be conspiracy theory, frankly, but i’ll reserve judgement.

I’ve logged a call with Dell who got back to me to say that ‘What u Hear’ or ‘Stereo Mix’ are not supported by this card.  This is contradicted by other articles and posts I have seen, including by an article I saw on the Creative site.   Dell did start their response with ‘Dear Mr Brown..’ though, so I think one has to view their statements with some degree of caution.

So this is the evidence:

Exhibit A) – Creative Knowledge Base Article 1774.  Indicates that the ‘What u Hear’ facility used to be available but was removed in a later version of the drivers.  Note that article relates to AUDIGY card though, not Extreme Music (but they say they just used this card for illustration):

http://support.creative.com/kb/ShowArticle.aspx?url=http://203.211.142.198:80/srvs/cgi-bin/webcgi.exe/,/%3fst=106,e=0000000000200112862,k=9725,sxi=8,case=obj(1774),kb=ww_english_add,varset=ws:http://uk.europe.creative.com

Exhibit B) – Posting on the Direct to Dell Community Blog.  Indicates that it is possible to re-instate it:

http://direct2dell.com/one2one/archive/2008/08/15/stereo-mix-record-functionality-and-dell.aspx#comments

Only applies to laptops unfortunately.  I’ve asked the author of the article to clarify the position with desktops

 Exhibit C) –  Posting on Dell Community forum to say that a user had installed an earlier version of the drivers and managed to re-instate the what u hear functionality

http://www.dellcommunity.com/supportforums/board/message?board.id=dim_audio&thread.id=80101&view=by_date_ascending&page=2 

 Exhibit D) – The reponse I got from Dell Support:

I would like to inform you that these options will not be available as this sound card doesn?t support these options to be available on the system.
This is not an issue with Vista or sound drivers this sound card doesn?t support the same.
Please check the link below where you can find some information on the same:
http://www.singsnap.com/snap/forum/topic/ae1ec69
Also if you wish you can contact Creative Support for the same and confirm with them if there is anything that can be done make these options available.
 The singsnap article is just a repost of Exhibit A). 

 I can’t log a call with Creative because (quite rightly) they say that I bought the card from Dell and they are responsible for the support.

Latest Developments:

  • I’ve actually tried a different sound card:  Creative Audigy SE with the previous version of the drivers, as indicated in Exhibit A).  This works!!!!! Yipeee….  So it isn’t down to Vista after all.  It’s simply down to the drivers by the look of it. 
  • Unfortunately Audigy SE doesn’t support ASIO which I need for my music software.  It’s back to the original sound card….  ASIO is more critical to me.

For some bizarre reason I seem to get accosted by various people (some of them friends, some of them not) about my views on On-demand media/TV services. On demand isn’t new of course – for those with a sense of history, it is actually a 70s idea, re-heated as a result of (in theory) the technology infrastructure being available which it wasn’t then.   Things got closer nigh-on 20 years ago with the launch of cable: We were promised a brave new world, where you could have telephone services, TV, on demand TV, and applications such a home shopping and more piped into your home via one piece of wire.  It’s important to remember that this was the pre-internet era: but nonetheless I was really excited by it – it was clearly the way forward and would change the world.

The problem is no-one else seemed enthusiastic and it didn’t.  Cable was, and, and is, sadly, just not firing people up for some reason. Even I have never been able to bring myself to subscribe to it. I wouldn’t say it’s dead in the water as some commentators have suggested, but with 1m cable subscribers (compared to 9m or so for Sky) its interesting to try to work out why it has been a turn-off. Is it the whole idea, or is there something else behind it – perhaps the lousy reputation for reliability and customer service.

Any hoo. My views on on-demand are much the same as they have always been:  It will appeal to some people and not others and as such it doesn’t represent a ‘revolution’ – just a different option available to people that they can go with or not as they see fit. It’s complementary – thats all.  In my view this idea actually applies to most technology, especially in entertainment and the media.  It makes perfect sense, but often seems at odds with the so-called ‘experts’, ‘futurists’, and people with the ‘vision’. These people tend to talk about ‘revolutions’, and by this they usually mean ‘the wholesale replacement of any alternative ways of doing something’. This enevitably drifts dangerously into a fantasy world: technology rarely brings about this kind of dramatic change. The world isn’t a series of replacements – tried buying a stereo system with no cassette deck?  It’s actually more difficult than you think.

So where does this leave television?  On demand is undoubtedly with us – the BBCs iPlayer has set the benchmark, and there are many other on-demand services either via the web, your broadband provider, or alternatives such as Homechoice.  I was told recently by someone that ‘the iPlayer is the new television’.  Well, whatever. If that’s what you want to believe then fine, but many people – probably the silent majority would disagree.  I think Television is the new Television, and far from being dead and buried it’s still pretty strong with probably a bigger future ahead than many people think.  But that doesn’t mean it won’t need to change.   For one thing, there is probably a need for fewer channels.  There is little point in having hundreds of channels on your Sky line-up that mostly show repeats.  These channels should be replaced with on-demand services:  If you want to watch ‘Last of the summer wine’ (heaven forbid) it makes perfect sense to have it available on demand rather than on a channel.   The channels should be reserved for the newer material, live events, and so on.  (In fact, a return to the situation we used to have…. And isn’t the ‘on demand’ stuff just repeats?  that we’re supposed to be against anyway..?).

Traditionally, there are always two ways of consuming entertainment: You either go out and buy it which gives you the ability to watch or listen when you want, or you entrust yourself to some kind of playlist or schedule. The playlist or schedule works on the assumption that those putting it together have some kind of vague notion about what you might want to watch or listen to. When you do, you get a mix of things you know and things you don’t, and by serendipity discover something you actually like but never knew about. This is of course the basis of radio, and it’s worth pointing out that despite LastFM, iTunes, Limewire and all the other ways of getting hold of music, radio is as strong as it’s ever been.  TV is in a slightly different position, but not a massively different one – it’s also based on a playlist of sorts:  And this is actually quite a good thing – unless you just want to watch what you know or have watched before.

So back to TV..  Well the days of shows getting 25 million viewers in the UK are over, but – as I had to remind someone recently – those days were over long before the internet.  The so called ‘visionaries’ will (if you let them) latch on to audience figures and try to convince you we are living in some kind of Arthur C Clarke style revolution.  Well this is nonsense:  The big events – the Olympics, A decent Wimbledon final, England games (when they feel like playing) all get perfectly reasonable viewing figures. Trinny and Suzzannah didn’t.  Go figure.

It’s the content – stupid….

And that is where it begins and ends, frankly.  And rightly so.  It’s worth reminding ourselves that whatever technology we engaged with, we don’t let it drive or overshadow the creativity.  YouTube has been a phenomenon – certainly a profitable one – but we have to remind ourselves that they aren’t creating or funding any new content. Once could argue their position is not necessarily a good thing – especially when they are diverting revenue from companies that do.  (On the other hand, you could equally argue that they are helping people discover (or rediscover) programmes they later buy, and this free advertising is actually good for the industry and resulting in revenue to go back into content).  Well perhaps.  Perhaps this is much  like the way the internet has actually resulted in a growth of book sales, and not caused a terminal decline, as the so-called experts predicted. 

Someone once said to me something along the lines of ‘beware people who say they have a vision – it usually means they are abusing something’….