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Tuesday 23 November 2010

The EMDA Toolkit - you need IT

Read more! I've been pushing this for years as an approach to CAN (Community Access Network) in a Box - the roadmap required for communities to build their own networks. Whoever produces CAN in a Box, I think it needs to meet the format of giving communities the questions they need to ask, NOT the answers they are seeking. Answers will undoubtedly be out of date before the Toolkit is produced, and the answers will differ for each community. But the questions won't!

This blog post can be read at

I've just spotted the name of someone for whom I have a deal of respect - Alan Srbljanin, who I came across when quizzing Mason Bros about the Toolkit and how we could extend it to include communities during the CBN supporting communities era. That was way back when I was organising the End Game conference in 2004/5.

If I could reach under my desk right now and not distract myself reading through every meeting note since 1995, I'd find my phone conversation with Alan and re-run it for you. Suffice to say, I put the phone down with a huge grin on my face. Here was an RDA person who really, truly got IT.

In London last week at the Tweetup and in other meetings, I was asked by more than one person to link to the EMDA Toolkit on the blog so here it is.

EMDA Toolkit for IT, property developers, councils, communities etc.

Bear in mind when it was written and look beyond the possible changes and focus on the STRUCTURE of such a resource. And then buy Alan a drink.
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Mobile broadband experiment - Land's End to JOG

Read more! On the motorbike in Scotland
It is difficult not to find the exploits of @Documentally completely compulsive "viewing". Which may mean my mobile beeps constantly for two plus days as Twitter updates come in on his progress from Land's End to JOG (John O'Groats), and the twittersphere shows why social media is a comms mechanism of huge potential.

This blog post can be read at

As an internet marketer, I've already blogged about using new tools (inc. Twitter which for many is still a mystery) as a branding exercise, as a quick win, as guerrilla marketing, for press releases etc. (Quick Tip: Put RT in your headline!) I have already blogged @Documentally's jaunt to JOG for a client, but I'm not sure they get IT!

As a broadbandIT person, I'm interested in how @Documentally is coping with mobile coverage, data transfer, info overload, juggling devices etc. To date, it seems we have videos, audioboos, photos, texts, tweets and a level of automation to spread the word that implies he is managing jes' fine. And keeping up interesting in-car conversations, sightseeing, accommodation solving, as well as hitching the length of the country using only a mobile phone.

I'm also rather fascinated at how slowly traditional media are picking up on these type of stories. To the extent that I have resorted to trying multiple routes in to them to get this story coverage. The only one which seems to work is the phone - I got an answerphone on my last attempt.

It may seem a mental escapade and one for which @documentally is well suited, but if it doesn't show Big Society at work, I doubt anything does. At some point, tradmedia will pick it up, by which time, at this speed, he will be either in JOG already or on his way home!

I sort of wish he could have taken longer. Highlighting people's plight around the country for different issues, holding impromptu social media surgeries (@cyberdoyle wins for holding the first one on a bridge with council divers and diggers!), bringing new personal interest stories to light which revolve around technology, IT, broadband etc. But you can sort of understand that would need to be funded as forcing @Documentally to stay on the road without a bean in his pocket would be more than unfair, and far beyond the Big Society ethos.

In the meantime, he has reached Edinburgh from LE in 2 days - an incredible achievement. Now, who can get him to Inverness tomorrow so he can enjoy the slap up meal promised by Vodafone UK?! And I hope someone has warned him JOG is not what it used to be and provides him with a wee dram to drink when he gets there?!

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Ofcom + BT ducts and poles

Read more! It seems that once again all may not be as it seems in the telco nextgen finalthird world. Massive sigh of disappointment and frustration.

This blog post can be read at

ISTR, Ofcom announced on October 7th 2010 that BT had to submit a draft reference offer for duct and pole access by mid-Jan 2011. However, on the very same day, the Wholesale Local Access Market Review pretty much scuppered the chances of the draft reference document holding any value.

For instance, use of ducts and poles for fixed wireless access, leased lines, mobile broadband etc is apparently not part of the undertakings being laid on BT's doorstep when permitting duct and pole access, according to the WLA. (You have to read, hop, skip and jump through the doc to get the whole picture).

That sort of wipes out much of the FiWi approach, and would leave the UK without the chance to build a FTTH network with a wireless cloud on top, use existing infrastructure to wireless easily across rural areas without needing to put up new masts, extend mobile coverage using femto cells on poles etc etc etc etc. On a "Let's think out of the box and into the future" front, it appears to be preventing most new network operators from getting close to the game.

What this sort of seems to boil down to, and I may be wrong, is that Ofcom have said, as they seem far too wont to do, "We won't do anything that threatens your SMP or future profits, OhBTWhoFundsUs."

Stuff the communities and consumers who are desperately trying to extricate this country from the enormous comms problems we suffer and to whom Ofcom has a statutory duty. Never mind the new entrants who are champing at the bit with innovative and exciting, low cost and faster to deploy solutions. Hell no, let's not give them a chance to threaten the great god of last century solutions.

Let's not even mention that, on the very same day, we have announced two things which are as near as dammit mutually exclusive. Allow the press to focus on the "BT must give access to ducts and poles" (which a quick Google will show you) and let's not pop the bubble by pointing out that, "Actually, that's not strictly true, oh media peeps, telcos, communities and consumers".

Any mention by Ofcom that they may have tied themselves into a knot? I can't find one. But then finding an Ofcom spokesperson isn't the easiest task, even on a bright, sunny day!

I'd welcome some input on all this as it would be superfine to discover I am mistaken. Meanwhile, over to Broken Telephone to blog there about this issue and follow on from Ian Grant's article on the subject.

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Friday 19 November 2010

Wedding of the year, the Canutes marry the Cocklecarrots

Read more! A pronouncement by the Lord Chief Justice, whilst well intentioned under under-estimates the common-sense of Juries, and over-estimates the ability to control the Internet
This blog post can be read at

The lord Chief justice has spoken, the whole system of jury trial is at risk from jurors tweeting, googling. It's not unknown for jurors, bored out of their brains to start surfing their Blackberries, or i-phone for the latest football gossip, but now the Lord Chief Justice seems to think that the whole jury system is under threat from modern technology, well it's not. For years jury members have been told that they mustn't talk to anybody about the case they are trying, and I get the feeling from talking to people who have served on juries in the past that this is respected. This lack of understanding about modern technology amongst the members of the legal profession rather harks back to the days when the average High Court Judge would have to interupt proceedings to confirm with their clerk that these Beatles were indeed a popular beat combo.

It's impossible to un-invent modern technology, but at the same time Jurors read papers, which will have carried just as much information as is available online. But the vast majority of people who serve on juries do so extremely responsibly.

Often their biggest concern is not trying to delve too deeply into the forensic background to the case they are trying, but more often to marvel at the stupidity of it being brought in the first place, A friend of mine once spent two weeks doing jury service, and the only case for which she was called was a theft trial involving a man who was alleged to have stole ONE shoe from a shop!
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Thursday 18 November 2010

1st London 5tth Tweetup

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Just reached tonight's accomm, courtesy of Helen. Thank you all for attending, it was great! There were a couple of #fails - name badges, people arriving and not realising who we were (apologies to those people), venue too small and loud, but there were multiple #wins.

This blog post can be read at

I may miss out the odd name, but it was great to have Philip Virgo (Eurim) present to talk about VOA/fibre tax amongst other things - watch this space for ongoing movement there!

Rob Leenderts (C&W) and Matthew Hare hotfooted it over from the TEN conference, although we lost Lorne Mitchell who was networking there! Andrew Churchill (a cybersecurity expert) fell into our clutches entirely accidentally, but turns out he is from Teesdale (just o'er t'hill from me, so that was an interesting coincidence!). Jim joined in, another accidental attendee, and has gone off to introduce his mum to social media surgeries in Leicestershire. (So, if you are planning one in that area, let me know please).

Aled turned up - a face from the old days and a welcome sight. He and I go back to before the day of the Wyboston vote to give the Community Broadband Network the go ahead to take on the entire membership of the Association of Broadband Communities. Many of you were not around then and do not know the history of CBN's birth through the work of the very many people like Aled who were building wireless networks before many in the UK had even heard the term 'broadband'. Aled - stay in touch!!!

We had an apology for absence from Computer Weekly, who earlier in the day had become the first "#rorysreivers do Ambridge" sponsor. There was some minor blog award ceremony that apparently took precedence!

Dave Winder, Bob Franklin, Anna, Paul Griffiths, and Louis Mosley from Rory Stewart's office were all there too and contributing.

Conversations were wide, varied and full on. And the meal afterwards was great. Two people are going off for a tour of the Olympics shindig in the morning, I'm off back to meet a few people at the House tomorrow (and not going home yet!), and who knows what other collaborations came out of it!

Apparently, the next tweetup is at NextGen 10 in Brum. I suspect, as I haven't been offered a ticket, (yet!) I'll be outside at the Unconference again, but for the rest of you, have fun!! And we MUST do this again.
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Set the controls to neutral

Read more! The government says it is minded to allow ISPs abandon net neutrality, but will it work,and should it be fought?
This blog post can be read at

Yesterday, in a speech the Culture Minister Ed Vaizey said in effect that he favoured the end of the principle of `Net Neutrality' where all content providers were given equal treatment in the speed of delivery, to the final user, of that content by ISPs. He said:-

We have got to continue to encourage the market to innovate and experiment with different business models and ways of providing consumers with what they want. This could include the evolution of a two sided market where consumers and content providers could choose to pay for differing levels of quality of service.

This has not gone down particularly well with many in the Internet Community, although as Mr Vaizey pointed out, there is a degree of content delivery management going on at the moment anyway, known as throttling.

There is a fundamental question, which it is right to ask, about whether it is right that there should be some management of high demand sites, so that the rest of us can get on and get important stuff done whilst the world and his significant other are downloading `Top Gear' in HD from the BBC i-player.

What a lot of people are highly suspicious of is the fact that ISPs might choose to charge certain content providers extra to get their content out there faster. To many that goes against the entire principle of the Internet.

I personally believe that if I pay a monthly fee for access to the internet, then all of the content that I wish to access should be accessible at the same speed. I find it deeply irritating that the X Factor could pay extra to get Simon Cowell streamed in HD in priority to something I actually want to look at.... live streaming of paint drying comes to mind as the alternative.

I got a brief customer survey from my ISP, Virgin, today, following a small change I made last week to my billing arrangements. At the bottom of the comments box I wrote the following

`If you abandon Net Neutrality as an ISP, I will abandon you for another..'

If enough people say this to their ISPs they might get quite nervous about breaking away from a neutral net, the market may work in the end and Net Neutrality could become a selling point for some ISPs

Also it will be interesting to see how this all affects communities who, like Great Asby, or Ashby de la Launde who have set up their own high speed networks. Will they have a two tier delivery system imposed from above by whoever is providing their `fat pipe' or will they be able to insist on `Net Neutrality' in their supply contract?
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Tuesday 16 November 2010

Twitter, it's like a flock of starlings

Read more! Thanks to Twitter it is becoming harder and harder to control the Internet, as the Met has found out today
This blog post can be read at

Last week's student demos in London showed that the police are perhaps beginning get a very vague handle on how Social Media works, when they Tweeted to the demonstrators who has occupied the roof of Conservative Campaign HQ, suggesting that they'd had their fun and they might like to come down now.

A valiant effort to get with it, but the Rozzers' cyber-awareness rather hit the buffers today when they asked a hosting company to take down a blog called Fitwatch which was handing out handy hints to the students on how to avoid getting their collars felt. The hosting company duly obliged, and the Fitwatch blog disappeared....or did it.

A quick search on Twitter reveals that the offending information is now available on more than twenty other websites, quite a few of whom are not .uk sites.

If the boys, and girls, in blue want to get this information off the web, they've got their work cut out... it's the age old net-lesson, as soon as you ban something, it will simply move elsewhere, usually attracting massive publicity along the way. It would be easier to dictate to a flock of starlings the kind of formations in which they should fly, or perhaps even it would be easier to herd cats.

Good night all
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Monday 15 November 2010

Thursday Tweetup in London

Read more! As per previously announced plan, various Rory's Reivers and 5tth people will be meeting up in central London after work on Thursday 18th Nov.

This blog post can be read at

My knowledge of central London is limited, so if anyone would care to suggest a venue....... Otherwise, I'm plumping for St Stephens Tavern as I can usually find Big Ben!

4pm onwards....see you there!
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Sunday 14 November 2010

Rory's Reivers do Ambridge!

Read more! I am very proud to announce Radio Lentil's latest contribution to the broadband world. Light listening for the masses!

This blog post can be read at

We decided to 'do' Ambridge aka Asby because we have been trying to feed rural and community broadband stories to Radio 4 plus the TV soaps for years. Almost ten years, in fact. Having tried various routes and got nowhere, it finally dawned on us that technology was now perfectly advanced to let us make our own version.

We are all ready to admit that the final cut of our first episode could be more polished, but we learned many lessons and are ready to put them into practice in the following episodes. And boy, was it fun making it!!!

Here is how it happened:

Lindsey has late night idea, runs it past a couple of people with the necessary skills and enthusiasm – Mark Holdstock, former BBC presenter; John Popham, blogger/social media/citizen journo; and Chris Conder – who needs no intro!

Draft script gets sent round, written hurriedly as a first draft, but, as ever, no-one really has time to think it through or do more than make passing comments.

All arrive in Great Asby for the Reivers Broadband Conference for Cumbrian communities, organised by Rory Stewart MP. Having had John Popham to stay overnight, plus picking up Chris at the station on the return from Doc/Fest in Sheffield, we have ¾ of the cast present. Or so we think!

Take up residence in the Three Greyhounds, as after all the episode is set in the pub. John looks constantly at his watch as he is filming, livestreaming, photographing and reporting live from the event which begins at 2pm. It is now 1.30pm. No-one has even seen the script for two weeks, let alone read through it. We finally pull it out of the cloud over the GAB network to display it on Mark's laptop.

Recording begins, with zero rehearsal whatsoever and a few strays sitting around the table who are being gesticulated at “Can you read this line?”. Knowing nothing about writing a radio script, different characters are indicated with the marginally casual – Some1, Some2, Some3!

Short of Cumbrian voices, we drag the landlady from behind the bar and force her to overcome her stage fright to read a line. Next line says “single mum”. A what?! Look out the window and spot a female wandering towards the event. Cyberdoyle rushes out, explains breathlessly what is required and drags her into the bar. My Radio 4 hoody and Mark's professional recording kit convince her this is for real. No point bursting that bubble just yet – she reads her line perfectly and takes up position to capture the event on her camera! (Turns out later, this is Nicky @getgood from@talkaboutlocal – a speaker at the event).

We duck and dive around the table and bar, thrusting the mike into anyone's face just to get all this recorded before the main event of the day. We reach the penultimate line – we need a Parish Council Chairman. In the door walks Rory Stewart, MP. Oh sweet! “Rory, Rory, please, just read this into the mike”. He looks at us, somewhat bemused, and then realises it's his Reivers. You can see the look of resignation. Whatever we are up to now, he knows it is “for the cause”.

Several of us cannot hide our grins of delight as our MP becomes “victim” and contributor to our latest mad idea. We couldn't have arranged this if we'd wanted to, so the BDUK reps look on, waiting for his attention, whilst he makes at least one constituent supremely happy.

“It's a wrap”. We've collared people in and out of the pub, recorded at least enough to make it work (ish!) and the job is done.

Grab our laptops, bags, recording equipment, thank the locals who have put up with us this last half hour and rush to the Village Hall for the real thing.

With many thanks to Mark Holdstock for editing, Chris Conder for putting together the Youtube video/slideshow, Ian Bankhurst; John Popham; Nicky @getgood; the landlord and landlady of the Three Greyhounds, Great Asby; Bill Conder aka Eddie; Rory Stewart, MP; and the Archers/Corrers/Emmerdale teams for refusing all these years to listen and forcing us to make our own soap!

The next episodes will follow communities in the Big Society vanguard and BDUK area of Eden, as well as other communities elsewhere, as we all try to solve the problems inherent in getting next gen into rural areas for businesses, citizens and communities.

If you have script ideas, want to take part, or wish to offer advice on how to improve on our first effort, please do get in touch! Sponsorship and product placement opportunities also exist ;o)

Suffice to say, we are highly critical and equally delighted that we JFDI! Enjoy....
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Friday 12 November 2010

London tweet up

Read more! I will be in London next week. You know this is rare!!
This blog post can be read at

My original plans have changed, and I would very much like to meet up with a few people if possible whilst in the Big Smoke. There are a slightly astounding number of 300+ regular readers of this blog. Would you like to meet each other?

Come out of lurk mode, suggest a venue, and point us all in the right direction.

Big Society, newly lit fibre communities, next generation, etc. Hell, you can even talk about the BT pension fund if you wish!!

I'll just do as I'm told by y'all.....;o) Just tell me where.
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Sunday 7 November 2010

Radio Lentil - The Digital Village Pump

Read more! Simon Davison, from NextGenusUk was in Great Asby for the the Broadband Day on Sat 6th Nov. So was I, so I got him to explain the concept of the Digital Village pump
This blog post can be read at

This Radio Lentil Broadcast is in two parts


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Read more! I know you think I've sold out, but that isn't true. I suspect I am learning, finally, to stay stumm occasionally! However, this last week deserves a blog post

This blog post can be read at

Sunday: 600 miles to drive in 2 days.....Having negotiated a mainly closed motorway network on Sunday (and no, you can't send the kids back to school/college over Skype - I have tried), I finished my cross-national double zig, (Cumbria-Leeds-W Mids-Wales/Shrops) with a big zag to Lincs.

My first big surprise was a sign saying "Rutland". So, Dave et al, *that's* where you are!! I've now moved my personal Watford Gap so that Lincs and Peterborough are on the same side of it. Rutland Telecom - be warned. Arrive at South Witham Broadband late at night. Which other ISP will put you up when you are stranded on their doorstep?! I suspect most would have told me to sleep in the car....

Monday am: Met with Tref from Timico. For lunch. We ate pigeon.

Monday pm: Drove into the deepest flattest wilds of Lincs. Much of the rest cannot yet be told, but suffice to say, I learnt more about fibre laying by a community than you may want to hear. Sadly, however, you will shortly be able to read about it #3 in the JFDI Community Broadband series. (Like the others - NOT available from Amazon, buy it from Lulu).

Was gutted to find the bubble car museum highlighted on my endurance rally map had moved. But, not to be deterred, I tracked down the owner, and now have a new pin in the map. (If you don't know, my kids' book character has a bubble car and I have an unhealthy fascination for them - James Caan now knows! And I am 1/4 Manx so what better fit for the Peel car?).

Monday night: Turns out this is a very small world. Invite a local rally driver I met on the Lombard for a pint and find he knows the fibre folk I am with from waaaaay back when - when fibre was made by Tuaregs and only in blue. (Oh, was that Paris-Dakar fibre, not the Lombard?).

Get told a cracking story about a consultancy employed to advise on dark fibre. "We've just realised we don't know what it looks like".....

Tuesday: Meeting with fibre training company about the conference in June and the new book. (I lie because really what I wanted to see was the fibre training courses and the blowing demo. Sneakily sign up for a course and now have to be in't Midlands for 8 weeks masquerading as someone who works for an overcome telco who has suddenly realised they laid off all the wrong people not that long ago).

Surprise meeting in a driveway: Long conversation, out of the blue (bloody Tuaregs and sand getting in the way again!), about disaster relief and fibre. In the middle of nowhere. Brain goes into overdrive......Watch this space.

Afternoon: Get informed that sometimes my blog posts don't make sense. Have re-read the above and think they were lying.

Tuesday night: get home and within less than 5 mins out of car get calls from Canada and USA. About fibre. Am beginning to think I should try to carve a career out of this....

Wednesday: Discover am ill

Thursday: Day off, prone and exhausted. Or as you lot think, another day not answering phone when you ring.

Friday: Watch Big Society meeting online. Finally devour enough painkillers to be able to be present - John Popham's video footage was right. This was one event that was too good to miss. Kidnap two of the attendees and force them to stay at my house. And wait for news that @cyberdoyle has won the £10k video prize from digitalrevolutions. When we finally learn she lost to a PROFESSIONAL photographer in the amateur category, Sheffield becomes a no go zone. Possibly for ever. 10km of fibre needed now to connect her community vs a flash camera for a man who earns his living looking through a lens. Not impressed.

Saturday: Rory's broadband day. You want links? #gab10 on Twitter. The rest you must find alone.....Hover between groundhog day (about 8 years ago) and a feeling of elation. I think BDUK can make the right scenario occur IF Cumbria County Council don't relive Project Access (my biggest fear). Ups and downs. Pick Cyberdoyle up from the station, and spend the rest of the day watching her hand out fibre to strangers. "It's a sharp" LOL. CD on form and wasted in the audience. She should have been on stage. Ditto Barry Forde, whose Powerpoint I will hopefully put up here in the next day or two.

Prior to event, we move into pub with our pet BBC sound recordist - Radio Lentil interviewer extraordinaire, Mark Holdstock - and make our own version of the Archers. Obviously, called The Reivers. Collar landlord, landlady, passing strangers (who become friends (@talkaboutlocal) to read lines, and then Rory Stewart MP walks in the pub and agrees to feature in it! Radio Lentil hits a new high - the edit should be available in the next few days. Scripts for future episodes are welcome.

Had a momentary burst of pride when Gt Asby was cited as a model community broadband network in the event - I know the history! Fast, Faster, EdenFaster - today, six years ago, was when we got the funding. (Another day I was at a broadband conference instead of remembering the kids' birthday but some of you may remember filling a Pringles tin antenna in Hawes to make up for it!)

OK, we weren't right with all we did way back then with Edenfaster, but we put two networks in place that still exist and are now breaking the ground for everyone else, and not just in Eden, Cumbria. Indirectly, we set off more than just a few others. Pat ought to get some glory and recognition; I was very pleased to hear some tales of GAB installs that were about his hard work, but in the wider world, the ground we/he broke then is often unknown.

Sunday: going to get an engine for my very poorly car. Stay on the road a while longer - no buses, trains to speak of that would have made last week even vaguely possible. See my parents. Post the kids' presents. Enjoy autumn. Ignore broadband for a whole day.

The last paragraph probably won't come true, but the rest happened, and far more!

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