Sunday, December 28, 2008

Now We Are Talking

Following the kerfuffle over Telstra's exclusion from the NBN I made a couple of desoltury posts on Telstra's horrible interactive site called "Now We Are Talking".

My first post* was in response to one of the many on the site that accuses the Government of underhanded behaviour in selling Telstra shares at "inflated prices".

The preson I criticised replied that if choise meant buy or not buy then we didn't need competition in telecommunications.

I have posted a subsequent reply but it is distressing how little people seem to get the whole idea of competition policy, and the basis on which Telstra was sold.

Meanwhile my post on their news item about the exclusion from the NBN received no other comments.

NWAT as a communication tool ultimately is failing just as much as the DBCDE single attempt at blogging.

* It is a feature of the NWAT "Permanent Link" field that you just get the part of a page of posts rather than just the individual post. This can be frustrating because on my link to Hibble in the post linked here there are two comments by him, you need to find the one I was actually commenting on.

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Filter/Clean feed

Interesting that the SMH plastered a story about the web filter plans across the front page of the print edition but buried it on their website.

The story is a first order beat up because it doesn't address the filter pilot as proposed, but talks a lot about a range of issues that are not being considered. The most significant of these is the idea that this is some kind of dynamic filter - which it is not.

In fact "filter" is the wrong term. It is better called a "clean feed" as all it is designed to do is block access to specific web-sites.

People in the know actually tell me that the conclusion of the report leaked to the SMH is that a filter that just attempts to block access to a blacklist is entirely achievable, while relatively easy to circumvent.

Digital Economy News

The Department blog got around to a post on the Internet filter. One really does despair about people who engage in "black is white" conversations. I have made a contribution that hasn't got through moderation yet to demonstrate my case.

Meanwhile the fact that our Minister is engaging in DE consultation has made it to an online source called TelecomPaper but I can't tell you what it said because I subscription is required.

Meanwhile, our partners in the "coalition of the willing" are now both making news about the DE. This is all a bit fun because when the PM announced that he was habving a department for DE some suggested it was a bit passe because the DE was here now.

British PM Gordon Brown in his final press conference of the year announced the Government would be bringing forward fresh measures in the new year for "smart investment" in "green" jobs, the digital economy, and the transport infrastructure.

Meanwhile in the US there is continuing coverage of the Obama plans. Under the heading Obama Looks to Give Digital Economy Shot in the Arm PC World reports that Obama has promised to renew the US information superhighway. They report that

Broadband expansion is likely to be a priority for Obama's administration. Although the U.S. currently has about 75 million broadband users, the [OECD] ranks it only 15th out of 30 industrialized countries on broadband adoption. In his speech, Obama called the level of access in the U.S. "unacceptable."

Sounds like he wants to build his versio of the NBN. So much for those in Australia who keep trying to use the US as an example of how to do the Internet.

So it must feel great to be Rudd and Conroy and be so far in front of the pack.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Little more action

I've found another blog commenting on the DE blog - this time it is a blog devoted to Government use of Web 2.0. The post has mostly negative things to say about the blog.

Here's a few I want to add.

1. No one seems to be sure how the whole HTML part is working. Certainly easy things like breaks and italics can be done, but not all hyperlinks are rendering properly. And whoever is doing the moderating doesn't know what they are up to, because clear HTML errors (like the unfinished italics I put on a post) aren't being corrected and hence can screw up the site.

2. It is impossible to follow anything. With something generating as many comments registering commentators like they do on nowwearetalking might have been good. Also if you really want to get the blogsphere going you need the opportunity to be linked to your blog through your name - pretty standard in comments fields in standard blog tools.

3. There has been a fair bit of commentary about the whole "single voice" thing and whether the Government could let "individuals" speak. As I said elsewhere they do speak in person - I can say "At a meeting Thelma Tissue said blah, blah, blah" - why nt a blog? But failing that they could have created a umber of pseudo personalities whose job it was to present different views such as;
The DE sceptic - whose job it was to represent that the whole idea of a digital economy was a nonsense
the optimist - the DE will change the world but we don't need to do anything
the visionary - the person who has ever more grandiose deas of what the DE will deliver
the practical one - the person who says that its all very good but that these things take time
Those personna's could have engaged with the few respondants who've been on topic to try to progress a discussion - as it is we aren't achieving much.

Finally two of my three contributions to the last post whave so far been published, here and here. Note how I learnt between the two about line breaks, but (at least when I linked to it) screwed up the closing of the italics?

More on Telstra

With things being so slow on the DE front I commented twice on Telstra's nowwearetalking "thinggy" yesterday, here and here.

Both were on the theme that this wasn't a Government action, but a Telstra action and that shareholders should start examining the decisions of the Board. My observation is that there has been a decided shift on the site - the punters are starting to think the proble might be management not Government.

That leads me to the speculation doing the rounds that the Telstra management and Board carefully planned all this. That they wanted to be seen to be helping but intentionally failed to fulfill the mandatory requirements so they could go Government bashing.

Sounds like a great theory and fits our Machiavellia view of Telstra. But it doesn't fit the facts, including that Telstra did submit the SME plan on 4 December (no need to do that if you want to be excluded), and the tunderous response from Trujillo is more reminicent of a spoiled child than simply an affronted exec.

This perhaps gives the lie to the widely held beief that Telstra are great strategists. They aren't really. As a General you don't need to be a great strategist if you outnumber the enemy 100 to 1. What you need is good tactical discipline that the forces deploy as directed. Finally Telstra might be meeting a force that matches them.

Finally, I wonder how come no one has wondered that it is ONLY Telstra that has a cash flow to fund this investment. In the economics trade they call that a monopoly rent.

Monday, December 15, 2008

More commentary

The former politician who really got the art of blogging (and now I think professional blogger) Andrew Bartlett has offered a short comment on the DE blog. His short summary - there ios not too much two-way conversation happening so far.

He also identified a contribution by Jacques Chester at Club Troppo. His summary is that "single official blogs" might not be the best approach.

He also identified the comment by Robert Merkel at Larvatus Prodeo. He poses the comment that "it’s hard to reconcile such an open process with the traditional way lobby groups get to influence policy - off-the-record conversations with ministerial staff." erhaps, of course, that's just the point. To break the hold that business has over the policy process. Anyone interested in this should read Robert Reich's book Supercapitalism for a view of how competition (primarily driven by communication and information technology) has made us value things more as consumers and investors than as citizes and how this has distrorted the democratic process.

It is a pity to note that these three latest comments have been more about the blogging than about the digital economy. This poses the question "Is there any body out there?"

Really slow action today

Nothing seems to be happening in DE blog land. Posts slowing to a trickle.

I was thrilled to see this post from Laurel Papworth on the site though.

As always she takes the discussion to a completely higher level, of how much the changed economic relationships embeded in in social networks can impact economic structures. Fundamentally she identifies the extent that "disintermediation" (as we used to call it) as has bee applied to media can be applied to shopping, banking etc.

When you think about it the complete opposite of the financial structures we've come to think of as "the sub-prime crisis" can be removed if individuals seek their house funding directly from "the net" and individual depositors can subscribe for specific amounts. It is not particularly fanciful.

What the media says

Wow. The media is even getting the story wrong!

The sub editor at The Herald-Sun gor the story about the blog so wrong he headed it Government launches blog asking for feedback on plans for web filter. It is extraordinary that paragraphs like;
Anti-censorship advocates are also concerned that a secret "blacklist" of websites to be blocked could be expanded in the future to include political material.
can make it into mainstream media. What part of the blacklist is controlled by an independent regulator applying the standards of the Film and Literature classification scheme don't these journalists get? Do they understand that they couldn't print any of the material being filtered in any state in Australia?

Under the heading Tell Conroy exactly what you think
the SMH has also joined the fray mostly running the comments about filtering and including a link to a filtering protest.

Seems like no one wants to seriously try online consultation, nor worry about the digital economy. A great pity.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Oh Dear

There is something else severly wrong with the DE blog. Seems that there is lots of confusion about the way links need to be embedded. Take this post as an example - virtually the whole messagehas been turned into a hyperlink when it looks like the submitter had typed in a URL.

That really needs fixing.

Thanks Anonymous

An anonymous comment to an earlier post suggested I "keep an eye" on David Bath. I've done more than that I've added him to the Blogroll (Balneus).

He started a post with this memorable comment;
So many bleeping idiots! The government was putting a toe in the water of improved electronic consultation, and so many people bit the toe off (rather than wait a bit for at least an entire leg to become available).

I thought it was a great summary. The continued swarming of that blog with off-topic comments will be used by many in Government to oppose any more experiments like this. You can almost hear the conservatives now "give women the vote...sorry ... I mean encourage feedback, and see what happens".

Unfortunately the DE blog hasn't got better.

Kohler has it half right

Alan Kohler has speculated on the Telstra NBN bid. Under his thesis the fact that McGauchie did all the spruiking of the bid for the NBN reflected a division between the Board and the CEO. Under this theory Sol didn't want to bid for the NBN, the Board did so the Board prepared the proposal.

This "Board preparation" piece is then used as the explanation of why the Small business plan was left out.

I suspect Kohler is half right. There is no doubt Telstra prepared a complete bid, they have so frequently told everyone what it would take, and why they are the only ones who can do it. The supposed reason for not bidding was the failure to get certainty out of the Government on the separation question. The practical reality of concern was that the Telstra bid would have provided a perfect blueprint for conducting the separation.

Clearly there was disagreement because it was left to such a late part in the process. My sense is that Trujillo wanted to bid but the Board didn't ... I could be wrong. I would be surprised if it were the other way round that Trujillo wouldn't have walked. Also the rejection of the "proposal" has brought Trujillo out in his most thunderous.

Either way I keep wondering when the institutions are going to tap Telstra's Board and say we've had enough of the Chair and CEO.

And more

Writing in Crikey Business Spectator's Tony Boyd said

Trujillo's final dramatic quote to the analysts was "Nothing Stops Telstra".

But so far, it has to be said, that whenever Telstra has taken on the government it has lost.M

Once again I ask when will the Telstra shareholders start to notice. It is not as if the much vaunted "transformation" has delivered anything either.

Telstra and the NBN

Wow! Telstra has bee excluded from the NBN tender for the relatively trivial matter of not including an SME plan. Though as I said on nowwearetalking it really is Telstra who've excluded themselves.

Everyone involved in Commercial tendering knows the importance of complying with the mandatory components of a response. Telstra aren't exactly novices.

As Conroy has said in his media release Telstra's Board will have to explain to its shareholders why it has decided to sideline itself from a process that will shape the Australian communications sector for the next decade.

How long have Sol and Donald got?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Getting in the first kick

I'm sure the topic on the DBCDE DE blog tomorrow will be something about the Online Communications Council document Framework for the collaborative development and use of broadband in Australia.

The OCC announced;

We, the members of the Online and Communications Council, express our commitment to this Framework as a basis to work together to enhance the development and effective use of broadband in Australia.

We agree that promoting the development and effective use of broadband will enhance Australia’s economic performance and environmental and social wellbeing.

Australia should aspire to become one of the world’s leading digital economies. We intend to work together to facilitate this outcome.

We share a vision of a cohesive national approach to stimulate and strengthen economic, environmental and social outcomes, through the development and effective use of broadband, for all Australians.

So I thought I'd get in first (and not just the point that when the Minister sent out his media releae the online version of the document required a password). The document breaks the matter into three priority areas of availability, take-up and usage. It is extremely hard to differentiate these from the strategies about getting greater use of the digital economy, which is one reading of the DE agenda.

The really fascinating part is that the "strategies" identified in the second two priority areas are framed as We agree to work towards:, which is probably the weakest phrase that has ever been drafted to introduce strategies. No commitment to do anything at all about the sub targets, no description of what the items might be.

For a document that took about a year to generate, the content seems a bit light on. At least there are no commitments (like building the NBN) to comeback and haunt anyone.

An NBN for the USA?

Just as everyone in Australia has got to the point of thinking the Digital Economy is passe (don't know how to put an acute on that e), and that the US competitive market is a poster child for the roll out of broadband and Obama goes and steals Kevin's policies.

As one commentator says Obama's plan will represent the first major stimulus effort since the creation of a "digital economy".

Obama has announced plans for his stimulus package to include building more high speed internet conections in under-served areas.

What will be next - a digital economy blog?

The Blogroll

I've added a blogroll to this site. The items listed have been chosen for simple reasons.

The Bartlett blog was chosen to show what a political blog looks like. This was started back when he was a Senator. The Gans blog has been included to show what an economics news commentary blog can look like, especially someone with an interest in communications policy. The Quiggin blog is included as both an economist and someone who is trying to occpy the websphere, it is very interactve with other blogs.

Finally I include the queen, Laurel Papworth. This is not only a great blog with all sorts of bells and whistles - it is a great source on all aspects of social networking.

These would be a good resource for all these DBCDE people who are the "DE blog team".

Creative Commons

One of the funnir things about the DE blog has been the people posting (like this) about the use of Creative Commons licencing for the PSI.

There are two interesting parts to this. The first is that the Assistant Secretary in the Department with responsibility for the Digital Economy was the General Counsel for Creative Commons - so I guess they know. The second is that the recently complted report by Terry Cutler on innivation was criticised for being copyright to Cutler, whereas Cutler's defence was he wanted it published using a Creative Commons licence but no one knew how to do it.

The DE Blog in blogs

I've tried to see if the DE blog has been picked up in many places, has it made an impact. Beyond The Fringe made a comment but mostly wanted to talk filtering.

Australian Women Online picked up the media release as a news story, but it has made no impact on their "Tech Chat". There is a fascinating discussion there about filtering though, and the experience of the moderator in coming out in support of the filtering plan. It is fascinating how the technorati really are exhibitting swarm behaviour on this topic. One sometimes wonders if they have evolved beyond bees.

The repot in The Australian IT blogs seems to have scored no comments at all. The article has a degree of cynicism about whether the comments to the blog will have any impact on a paper due to be delivered early next year.

That cynicism is shared by Samuel Douglas who writes, I’m deeply cynical/realistic, so I will put my money on most suggestions being ignored.

Interestingly doing a search found me a hit for Laurel Papworth which was interesting but not actually a comment on the DBCDE blog. But Laurel doesn't have anything to say about the DBCDE attempt at blogging yet. Interestingly I know that Laurel was recommended to the Department for the keynote at the DE forum, but the DE people hadn't heard of her - they went with David Kirk instead.

A comment to this post raises the point that there has been no response so far from DBCDE to anything posted. The blog isn't being used as a way to interact. Before people leap in and defend the public servants here and flag the idea that they aren't meant to have opinions, it is perfectly possible to have a face to face discussion with them. It should be possible to discuss on line. It will be interesting to see if they get to the point of replying to all the filtering posts.

I've also discovered this fragment. I have no idea what twitter is but the point made here is that the feedback form approach is a very limitting way of conducting this discussion.

Finally the official Google blog picked it up. The post was by Carolyn Dalton who has also contributed to the DE blog herself.

Overall it is not a great deal of coverage yet.

Second DE post

My second DE post to be published has made it to the DBCDE DE blog.

It was actually my third post. The second was to the second topic. It seems to have failed the moderation process. Oh well - whatever....

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Post One

For the record here is my first post on the new DBCDE blog.

I thought I should post the permanent link because you can't find comments for love or money on it.

As I threatened I have posted on each of the following two topics but haven't seen them appear.

Welcome DBCDE

The blogsphere is an interesting beast, much misunderstood and widely abused. The best of blogging is not just one crazed individual sitting in a corner recording their daily doings and sharing them with the world. The best of blogging picks up on the single most magical element of the web - the hyperlink - and creates a link to multiple sources of content. The very best bloggers are regular cross-commentators.

Blogging has been wrapped up into the generic Web 2.0 definition and aligned with social networking and wikis under the generic heading of "user generated content." Politicians have started using these tools in their election and electoral engagement activities. Corporations have started using them to connect with customers. Examples include blogs by software developers at Microsoft.

Our very own Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy has decided to give this a go with a blog to discuss the Digital Economy. Now the purists would probably claim it is not a blog - it is really a "forum" more like whirlpool. And as a forum it suffers from a number of factors - not least the absence of discussion threads and the lack of a registration process (so you do't know if the two "peter's" are the same).

But they've got some reaction and I'm trying to contribute. My motivation for establishing this blog is to create a place where all my responses to their blog can be housed - because the structure of their blog makes finding specific comments hard.

This blog will morph into a general digital economy blog.