Archive for April, 2009

Alex told me about this entertaining talk he went to in central London.  He had one Hell of a time with the trains (he couldn’t get a mortgage for his peak hour Anytime Return to Euston), got lost on the Northern Line and was held up in traffic outside Morrisons in Bredbury before – stood behind El Tel Turkey Toreador’s 4×4 near the Travellers’ Call!

Apart from that he had a great time (once he found the venue).  He also stumbled upon this handout from the conference.  It was a nostalgia trip into the merger mania before and after the bubble.  The author of this article has agreed to let me publish it on my blog, so long as he is identified as the author of the piece.  Without further ado, here it is. How the cottage industry came of age: Stuart Vallantine, 06 April 2009

Sometime in 1997, the World Wide Web was still to make an impact in most people’s homes throughout the UK. We were excited at the prospect of 56k baud modems speeding up our web browsing, and online shopping seemed to be some sort of novelty. Back then, the dot-com companies of the day were small scale, at least till the big boys started sniffing around.

Among the first to do so was Microsoft. Competing with Netscape to deliver a new web browser, they also saw the need to add a free webmail service to the mix. In December 1997, they purchase Hotmail, for $400,000,000. The timing was right, as a year later Microsoft launched Windows ’98, which was bundled with Internet Explorer. This resulted in Netscape losing browser market share, and Netscape Communications being sold to AOL.

The Dot-com Boom also saw a myriad other acquisitions. For example, GeoCities, a free web space provider, was bought by Yahoo! in January 1999. With stock market prices at a high, it seemed to be the best time to form new dot-com businesses and abandon outdated business practices. By 2000, the dot-com boom turned to bust.

For some, it could have been a reality check, or rather the fact that the old ways of doing business were still pertinent. In the throes of the Dot-com bust, the bubble’s last hurrah was the merger with Time Warner and AOL. Formerly known as America Online (and Quantum Computer Services before then), the company was merged with an old media player, later dropping the AOL name from AOL Time Warner in 2003. Since then, its customer base has fallen to just 10.1 million, with its UK arm sold to the Carphone Warehouse in October 2006.

Starting to make its presence known around 2001 – 2002 was an up and coming search engine from Stanford. As an antithesis to the cluttered interfaces of search engines at the time, and the patchy nature of search engine results, was a breath of fresh air. It gained popularity among its users due to its simple interface – a blessing given that around 2001 – 2002, most personal internet access came from dial-up connections.

Buoyed by the success of its users, Google added other features from blogging to video sharing space, secondary to the searching experience. Its first main acquisition was Pyra Labs in 2003, which led to Google taking over Blogger. 2006 saw SketchUp and Writely bought by Google, in a bid to develop online software applications, without the need for a license key or telephone registration.

Later that same year came Google’s acquisition of YouTube, a popular video sharing site. For $1,650,000,000, it cemented Google’s position as a major provider of search services and as a leading player in the phenomenon which we know as Web 2.0.

In the last 15 years, the internet has become part of everyday life for most people. Shopping online no longer seems a novelty, more a normality, so much so it has impacted on traditional ‘bricks and mortar’ retailers. The last 5 years however have seen old media non-dot-com type businesses muscle in. For example, CBS now owns and CNET Networks. Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation owns MySpace and (the latter through its British Sky Broadcasting subsidiary).

In the next five years, we could see the boundaries between the old media companies and dot-com companies blurring. The switching off of analogue terrestrial signals could increase media convergence between TV and the internet, possible with developments in HDTV. Who knows if the spare analogue signal capacity could be given over to high speed broadband services?


That fellow sure talks a lot of sense.  Thank you very much for the article, Alex, it is well appreciated.

T.U., 06 April 2009.


April 6, 2009 at 2:03 pm 1 comment

“This time, the star of the show, could be you…”

The rise of User Generated Content

Till recently, I didn’t know what User Generated Content was, despite using it for some time. I realised that my blog and numerous social networking sites were among some examples. My granddaughter Ellie’s favourite game, ‘Little Big Planet’ is another example.

I realised just how broad user generated content has become. You could say that the first examples of user generated content were ‘The Golden Shot’ and ‘You’ve Been Framed’. With the former, its contestants directed the gun over the telephone, and millions of viewers were entertained by its callers, at the mercy of Bob Monkhouse, Charlie Williams, and a hostess who couldn’t add up properly. The latter was a precursor to YouTube though Google’s video sharing service does not pay you £200 for the best clip.

Fast forward to 2005, I started seeing news programmes doing user generated content. I thought at first it was a lazy way to fill airtime, but in recent years I started sending my photos to Northwest Tonight. Gordon Burns and Co has yet to return the favour, but it’s on their website.

Following a conversation at The Nursery I had with Alex yesterday, I asked him for further advice on user generated content. Unsurprisingly, he went around the houses but told me everything I needed to know. He told me that such works would be previously unpublished, akin to sending a poem to a writers’ group magazine, or my recent rantings on Twitter. He also said that a degree of creativity, outside of professional routines and practices were instrumental to its success.

Just as I found a suitable time to go for a Bruce and get the next round in, he ‘blinded me with science’ with another term: ‘crowdsourcing’. With this term, other users can add to existing content in respond to existing images and data. At that point, he told me about a fellow colleague’s Google Map on pubs in Heaton Moor.

Sat a few yards away from me in the lounge was a balding male, in his early 60s, who overheard our conversation. He thought it was killing serious journalism, press photography and local news. Though I did not say this (to avoid eventual confrontation), I thought it was a worthy adjunct to the Stockport Express, Manchester Evening News and BBC’s Northwest Tonight. It added to the mix and strengthened the reader’s bond with the journal or television channel.

I found that he was of the old school of media professionals, when he told me about his time at the North Cheshire Herald. Moments later, he said he had a Facebook account, played World of Warcraft, submitted his funnies to YouTube, uploaded his photos to Flickr, and managed a weblog. His favoured subject area for his blog was Stockport County.

I would say he had a point on the effects user generated content had on journalism. He also told me of the loss of intellectual property if the site closes down, plus the fact it had a negative impact on skilled journalists. He’s in the National Union of Journalists, and as a consequence referred me to another article on user generated content.

I have found user generated content part of my life more than ever, and had it not been for Alex, I would have had no idea how. Without realising it, I didn’t think that my ‘Mini Marple’ level on ‘Little Big Planet’, co-created by myself and granddaughter Ellie was one example. I thought it was only a custom level, akin to the days of Loderunner’s level editor on the ZX Spectrum.

Thanks to her, Ellie’s school friends are having great fun jumping on platforms circling The Navigation Inn whilst trying to avoid passing the 383/384 circular buses (OK, I lied about that bit – unless someone develops a plug-in featuring Stagecoach’s Enviro 400 double deckers).


T.U., 03 April 2009

April 3, 2009 at 2:33 pm Leave a comment

April 2009
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