Adrian Wooster’s Blog

Adrian Wooster is a widely respected consultant working with INCA on the development of technical and business process standards to support the emerging patchwork quilt. We have syndicated the content of his influential and widely read blog for the convenience of INCA members and site visitors. You can view Adrian's site at http://wooster.org.uk

What’s actually going on?

It still surprises me that after 18 months there seems to be confusion in the twittersphere about what is actually happening in terms of deployment and the goal of the ’s policy.

There have been conversations which seem to jump from a position that to every home is the only real solution to suggesting they are being short-changed by some mythical with nothing in between.

Promising signs for UK broadband

During the week there has been disappointing from Akamai’s quarterly state of the internet report which shows the UK slipping further down the international league tables but hidden away elsewhere there has been better news (isn’t that always the same with good news?) – evidence of new entrants and innovation beginning the reach people.

@cyberdoyle (Chris Conder) has been running a Speed Wave on SpeedTest.net, capturing UK speeds and the leader board makes very interesting reading.

Twittering Geotypes – second byte

After my first tinker with collecting twitter location data, I re-ran the test to collect a much bigger sample – around a gigabyte of data over 24 hours this time – so I could rule out any variations by time. The first sample was only run over a morning, missing students that don’t get up until lunch time or party people who tweet only in the evening.

When adjusted for population, the most active group remains professional city areas – more than three times as active as any other ONS super group. All other groups were within a small variation of each other with little to suggest there is any group that might be significantly disadvantaged.

INCA – “Climbing Out of the Silos”

INCA today published a blog, “Climbing Out of the Silos“, which takes a look at the apparent disconnect between Government departments.

The article raises an interesting point – that the Government is intending to spend up to £1.5bn on communications for Smart Metering, while BDUK is leading a Government push to make the UK a leader.

It struck me as I wrote the figures down on a napkin that if the Smart Metering money were matched by the energy industry in much the same way the BDUK funds are, and the combined £3bn were used to secure a novel IRU-like contract with access providers then the investment could be used to significantly increase the investment in broadband by using the combined scale of two disparate programmes and two Government departments.

Twitter geopolicy – what types of areas tweet the most?

To dig further into the relatively small sample of data I collected on UK geo-tagged twitter activity, I matched it against the ONS geo-policy dataset – this classifies census super output areas* by the broad types of people that live there.

Far and away the most prolific areas are those classed as “Professional City Life” – three times more than any other area.

Next were “Multicultural City Life” and “Miscellaneous built-up areas” – each about the same level and 50% more “twitterous” than the trailing groups.

Finally the remaining groups, made up of “Disadvanataged urban communities“, “Urban fringe“, “Countryside“, and “White-collar urban” areas, were neck-and-neck at just 20% of the professionals.

Blackberry, Apple, outages, control and collaboration

Its been interesting to watch from afar the and stories this week.

When my last contract came up for renewal I looked around, asked the opinions of those around me and after long deliberation I still opted to renew with another Android phone.

Android isn’t as fast of slick as an iPhone but its nearly there; the battery life of most Android phones doesn’t match any Blackberry model; and the Market doesn’t offer as many apps as Apple (although its rare I can’t find what I need).

However, the consensus of opinion was clear – if I bought into the world view of RIM or Apple, that I liked their way of doing things, then Blackberry and iPhone handsets were great – in fact arguably better than anything else on the market. BUT if I didn’t, and I wanted to tailor the device to the way I work, choose what features I had and how they worked then neither was a good choice.

Following Tweeters

The world never stops amazing me, and this time (again) its the QGis with a new Timeline tool to map geo-coded information over time -- very cool but what to do with it?

With a very basic understanding of the Titter API and scripts openly available (remember, I’m no programmer) I captured a morning’s worth of Twitter data and plotted the geo-coded tweets as a time-lapse sequence.

Steering the QE2

The hand wringing over the global economy continues, and the UK is now having to consider a second round of quantitative easing (QE – hope no-one thinks this will be about luxury cruises).

In normal times we have Qualitative Easing – changing the quality of the money supply by adjusting interest rates. When you can no longer adjust the quality of money then you need to adjust the quantity – in earlier times that meant printing new notes but today that typically means the central bank buys bonds (debt).

Its all about black and white

Anyone who has been close to any public sector involvement in is likely to have come across references to Black, White and Grey areas but I get the impression that the meaning is often not well understood; this is perhaps not surprising because there are in fact two models and rarely in my experience is the specific one being used named.

A bit of background. In 2009 the EU laid down some guidelines on where it was reasonable for a state to consider intervening in the broadband market; this introduced the concept of Black, White and Grey areas for classifying market failure in both and basic broadband areas. A black area is generally one with a strong, competitive market; grey with a developing market; and White where the market has essentially failed. White does not necessarily mean there is no broadband, just no functioning market.

Unintended consequences

Even the best planned actions can fall foul of unintended consequences but its probably fair to say that the more rigorous the thinking the less likely they are.

In this vein I’m beginning to hear of a growing number of communities that are finding that, far from supporting them as they try to become part of the solution to their problems, their local authorities are becoming hostile. Of course this is far from common but it is being reported and does appear to be growing in some districts.

The root behind it seems to be the mechanism which is supposed to protect them. BDUK is only allowed to spend its funds in what the EU calls “White areas” – areas where the market has failed to deliver a viable broadband solution.

The logic chain says that if a provider delivers a viable solution then the area must be designated as either “Grey” or “Black” depending on the level of new competition.