Adventures in Radio

A couple of weeks ago we had a call to the office from a BBC radio producer asking if the creators of Votegeek would like to be interviewed for the Radio 4 programme “Click On”. After thinking about this for a femptosecond or two the answer was “Yes!”. So on Friday I found myself sitting in reception of Broadcasting house in London watching lots of probably famous people that I didn’t recognise wandering in to work. After a little while I was called up to the studio (very nice anechoic chamber and separate room with mixing desks and blinking lights) and we got on with the interview. You can Listen to the show or read the transcript below.

Simon Cox:
Now the parties policies on technology probably aren’t not going to influence who gets your vote in the election. While the digital economy bill now may become law, the debate accompanying it’s rather speedy passage through parliament revealed just how little many politicians know about technology. With the economy dominating the campaign how can you find out what your local candidates think, or even know about technology. Well the answer is votegeek, the brainchild of Alan Bell, and he is with me in the studio. Alan, what are you hoping to achieve then through your site?
Alan Bell:
Well we have got a dual aim really, one half of it is to get the geeky type personality more interested in politics, and get people to understand that politics matters to them. The second aim is to get the candidates aware that we exist and that we are voters too.
What are the issues that people are wanting to focus on with candidates, presumably it is not just about broadband speed?
No, it is a wide range of issues, we are not focussing on a single issue, but we are focussing on a single topic. So there are issues such as the use of Free Software in the public sector. Public procurement policy, digital freedom, privacy, and censorship are definitely topic areas of interest.
In terms of the candidates you have been contacting what kind of reaction have you been getting from them?
A very positive reaction from some of them, and a lack of response from others! We have had responses from all the major parties, and a number of the minor parties. I was particularly pleased with a comment from the Official Monster Raving Loony Party for instance!
Are they surprised when you contact them?
The Official Monster Raving Loony Party gentleman was yes! But I would say it is not just me and my group of helpers that are contacting people, we are asking people out there to go and find their constituency on the site, look at the candidates that are available for them to vote for, and then contact their candidates. So the message to the candidates is coming from one of their constituents. There is then a comment area where people can record emails and letters they have sent to their candidates and also responses they have received back.
So it is trying to build up a profile is it on their views on particular technology issues?
Yes, it is allowing people to share information about their candidates views.
Now Rupert, what do you think about this, I mean with the Digital Economy Bill the politicians didn’t really cover themselves in glory did they?
Rupert Goodwins:
Well following the Digital Economy Bill closely was quite an eye opener for me, because not only did it transpire that the politicians didn’t know what they were talking about, but they didn’t quite realise why it was being rushed through so quickly, and this is an important part of anyone who wants to be an active democrat because you can’t be good at democracy unless you are informed. Things like votegeek mean that we can get much more involved and force politicians to be more serious about their jobs and that is an excellent thing.
What about the way that technology is being used during the campaign, we are always hearing that this is the election where we are suddenly going to see technology really beginning to take off, have you been struck at all by way it is being used?
Well yes there was the big debate, well the first of the debates between the three candidates for Prime Minister and if you were online whilst watching that there were lots and lots and lots of people talking away on twitter, blogs and instant messaging. There was an awful lot of debate going on at the same time which never happened before. The most important thing about politics is to be involved and to be informed and technology is allowing that to happen in a new way for the first time.
Alan Bell, thanks a lot for that, and Rupert thanks to you too.

The Economics of Free: For Free

Remember the short piece I posted about the Radio 4 programme “In Business” a couple of weeks ago? Well, very kindly, the programme’s editor has provided me with a transcript of programme to

please use as you wish, but it has not been checked for accuracy. Good luck.

I have just read and listened again and didn’t find anything glaring although I did fix one rather amusing typo: “Linux Colonel” to “Linux Kernel”. It was sent to me as a Microsoft .doc file. I opened it in and exported it as a PDF so it should be readable by virtually everyone.

This programme does provide some excellent answers to the types of questions we repeatedly get asked in our day-to-day business:

  • “How do they/you make money from Open Source”
  • “Why should you/they give it away?”

So for those of you who get asked these sorts of questions and would like some non-technobable answers from a rather reputable source to use, the transcript can be downloaded in it’s entirety, for free, from our website here. On that page, there is also a link to the BBC’s permanent archive so the podcast can be retrieved too. As an interesting titbit, in his email with me, the editor said that about 600k people download the programme every month!

And just to whet your appetite, here is quite a nice quote from Chris Anderson – the editor of Wired

… Microsoft’s financial success is about taking a product whose underlying economics are zero, the marginal costs of reproducing software is zero, and charging $300 for it. You know incredible net profit margins. Unfortunately, economics always wins. People recognised that the underlying economics of distributing software were zero and so they were like okay, so Microsoft is getting monopoly profits because they are in fact a monopoly. What we need to do is break the monopoly. Not, as it turns out, by regulation and regulator, but instead the marketplace broke the monopoly.

If you are involved in any way with the promotion of FOSS and/or CC then this really is well worth listening too and or reading,

And although the editor didn’t provide any specific license conditions with the document, I plan to repsect the BBC’s copyright, and provide suitable attribution when and where we use snippets etc; something like this perhaps.

BBC R4 In Business 08/01/2009

I’m an avid R4 listener, it’s by far the best radio anywhere; apart from The Archers of course… “Eauw Neauw” (The Open Sourcerer dons asbestos suit).

Anyway, over on Laney’s Blog Iain highlighted the most recent edition of Radio 4’s “In Business” (IB) programme. I do listen to IB quite often but had missed this one, so thanks Iain for pointing it out.

IB is a pretty bloody interesting programme generally, but this one was a great programme. It discusses in some detail both FOSS and Creative Commons and this makes an excellent introduction to both subjects for the non-technically minded listener. When the script is combined with Peter Day’s wonderfully full and rounded voice and enquiring mind, it makes a great podcast and listen again.

It’s a 30 minute programme. You can download the podcast (mp3) from here (I’m not sure how long it will remain available so I’d grab it for posterity if you want to) and you can also listen to it via the streaming iPlayer.

However, for me, there were certainly some really good snippets and quotes I’d love to be able to use to help promote FOSS to my customers.

An idea struck me whilst I was leaving a comment on Iain’s original post.

On behalf of my company, I have requested of the In Business team, that I might use snippets/transcripts of the programme, and also I asked if they will release this programme under a suitable CC license. After all, the discussion during the second-half of the podcast is all about the CC and Peter is clearly enthused by the subject, so I think it would be a good idea for the BBC to do this.

The contributor for the section on CC is James Boyle who is Chairman of the Board for Creative Commons so I doubt he would object 😉

Of course, if the BBC won’t/can’t release it under a CC license, that will also make an interesting follow-up post too…