We only have a month to save the UK

When I worked in the chemical industry sulphur and chlorine were the building blocks of the chemical industry and that in turn helped to drive manufacturing from circuit boards and plastic toys to pharmaceuticals and washing powder.

In the information economy the ubiquity and bandwidth of business and consumer internet connections plays a similar role to sulphur and chlorine in manufacturing economies.

Think about the way that Wi-fi, 3G networks and mobile email has changed the productivity of knowledge workers by breaking down the boundary between work and downtime. Previously unproductive time on a plane or in an airport lounge is made productive.

If I think about myself, I’ve uploaded pictures from half-way around the world, done video calls with a friend in Hong Kong from my living room and blogged from airport lounges on three continents.

Connectivity changes and allows the creation of products, services and ways of working that we can’t conceive. Its a source of competitive advantage like continuous quality process improvement and just-in-time stock management was for manufacturers.

Unfortunately the UK is falling far behind countries like Japan and Korea, (you can read what progress other countries are making here) we won’t be able to reap the benefits and are likely to see whole industries fade into history joining British shipbuilding, motorcycles and engineering.

But there is something that we can do about it, there is a petition to the Prime Minister to Give BT government insentive (sic) to provide fibre to every UK home. This petition runs out of time on February 26. So we have less than a month to get it signed by enough people to make Gordon Brown pay attention.

Now I know that it isn’t as sexy as getting Jedi recognised as a religion on the next census or getting an extra days bank holiday in November to balance the year out a bit better, but it is very important. So here’s what you can do:

  • Sign the petition (it takes 30 seconds)
  • Share the petition weblink with other people through your social bookmarks
  • Twitter that you have signed it and provide a link to it
  • Blog about it and tell people why you feel its important
  • Talk about it over the kettle, by the water cooler and vending machine at work

Here’s the URI for the petition http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/fibretothehome/ and here’s a short version http://tinyurl.com/24neog

Country brands and trust

Edelman launched their Trust Barometer research earlier on today, I haven’t had a chance to read through the summaries and materials.

But one of the most interesting things that came out of the few YouTube-hosted videos from the event was how much the country of origin reputation mattered so much when we assess the trustworthiness of multinational corporations.

So if you are a US, Chinese, Mexican or Russian company you are fighting an uphill battle on trust regardless of how you perform as a business.

  • Is there a real need for country-funded reputation and ‘country social responsibility’ campaigns?
  • Would these country-based campaigns be more cost effective lifting the tide of all boats, rather than companies from these countries acting individually?
  • Is there a sweet spot for countries between nice and nasty which provides maximum economic benefit?

Magazine Rack

On the way back from Hong Kong I wanted to have some magazines to read. So I went along to Great Food Hall in Pacific Place. I picked up three magazines:

  • Wired – I already have a print subscription for Wired, but my copy seems to take the scenic route to get to me at home. Even though all the content in the magazine is online, the graphic design means that the print edition is always a pleasure to read
  • Portfolio – is a Conde Naste magazine that sits somewhere between Monocle and the Economist with articles on why the price of oil will drop and a report from inside Zimbabwe
  • Geek Monthly – is published by a small US publishing house that has all aspects of geek culture including streetwear, gadgets, anime, science fiction films and DVDs with some cool feature articles

I love the web, but there is still something about print publications – at least the better print publications.

ThinkingAloud: The Twitter Man

I had a long caffiene-filled weekend chilling out reading old Wired articles on counter-culture, prediction markets and social media when an idea came to me.

Why not combine the approach of Luke Rhinehart’s novel The Dice Man with an ad-hoc prediction market being substituted for the pseudo-chaotic responses provided by a pair of dice.

Like the dice a number of possible decisions could be created and then a prediction market could be used to decide which decision to take.

Then it struck me that Twitter would be an ideal vehicle for this:

  • The Twitter Man could have a closed set of people who they follow in the prediction market (a kind of advisory board based on the their social graph), which would hopefully provide the optimal decisions
  • 140 characters of Twitter would keep the options simple, closed, inambiguous in nature and enable simple responses; improving responses and making tallying up the results easier
  • Responses should be short, taking up a minimum amount of time and allowing for immediate gut reactions rather than an overly-analytical response

There is also a certain circular reference in this as the proto-online social network The WELL, can trace its history back to the Whole Earth Catalog and the back to land new communalism movement of the 1960s and early 70s which tried to create a collective mind similar to that occurring in a tribal people.

On the other hand it could also pander to the darker modern phenomena of self-centred wannabe micro celebrities.

Sugar Rush

August Rush is a saccharin sweet musical that Americans do so well. Its so inoffensive, the only people you couldn’t bring along to watch it would be an Al Qaeda bigwig (mainly because they would be too busy watching Man Utd game re-runs instead).


The story centres around an orphan who is an Oliver Twist-like character with a trippy outlook on life and music who . What is interesting however is the way the story narrative flips backwards and forwards in time and there is a series of apparently chaotic coincidences that move the story along.

Don’t watch it for the story or how it makes you feel, do it for the structure.

Sakura KitKat

Talking of things sweet Peter Payne has details of a new flavour of Kit-Kat in the Japanese market. One of the most beautiful time of the year is cherry blossom season (sakura is what the Japanese call cherry blossom) and is also the time of the year when Japanese students sit their university examinations and Kit-Kats are eaten by students as a kind of good luck charm.

Kit-Kat is close to the Japanese for you will surely win. This happy coincidence of events means that we get this funky packaging.