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RE: [kGen] DTI's Broadband Content Pilots Study...

Hi Alex and All,

Many thanks for your email. I'm finding this a most stimulating discussion. Apologies in advance for my detailed questioning. I'm just trying to clarify the issues and, hopefully, I'm being logical about all this. Please note the last paragraph (9.) has a summary of the most important questions. Sticking to your clarifying numbering system...

1. Great! We are agreed that "there is a need to recognise informational architecture [I guess 'architecture' is the same as 'infrastructure'] as a component of the digital content marketplace" . As I've asked in 5, is the creation of informational infrastructure your priority? And if not, what is your priority?

2. OK. I will accept that you need to "show that a good return can be earned" to provide encouragement. Please could you state the exact return that needs to be earned that will encourage "other private sector operators to enter the area also"? Above this stated return the BBChannel will be considered a success and below which it will be considered a failure.

3. OK. I will accept that you need proof that "informational infrastructure works". Please could you state the exact criteria that you are setting which, when satisfied, will prove that "informational infrastructure works"? I'd suggest that the criteria needs to be based on things that we can measure right now. So that as the BBChannel progresses we can plot these things as they reach their "proof" targets. Without having these strict criteria we can have no proof target and without the possibility of there being any proof, or testing for it, it follows that there's no reason to have a BBChannel - using your reasoning. Yes?

4. We are agreed on this point, however, I am concerned that your "brief was not focussed on standards" because informational infrastructure requires "codifying current business practices" and when you code anything it has to be to an agreed "standard" for it to be interpreted. Are any of the "working bodies in the BSG and DCF" writing reports that will be recommending putting millions of pounds into standards research, in the same way that you've done for portals?

5. I'm sorry but you have misquoted/misunderstood what I am saying in reference to "informational infrastructure" and "sites". I'm absolutely not suggesting that "sites should be de-emphasised" and not saying that we "need to have informational infrastructure rather than sites". Quoting from my paragraph I said "both the sites and the informational infrastructure are required for it to work". I am questioning your idea of putting all your eggs into "one" site/business such as the BBChannel. One site/business does not show evidence of informational infrastructure existing. It's like having a car but no roads; or computers with no Internet; or banks with no banking system; or people with mobile phones but no common spoken language. However, multiple sites/businesses exchanging information does show evidence of informational infrastructure. For Kendra Initiative the two are inseparable. From your conclusions I can only postulate that it is of higher priority for you to see the creation of a big content aggregating company than it is for you to see the creation of informational infrastructure for all people and organisations in this industry to utilise to for revenue generation. Am I wrong? What is your priority here?

6. I don't feel you've gone far enough in saying "what happens after". From everything you've said there seems to be no clear vision of the future that you desire. Without this "clear vision" how does one know what direction to take? Your hope is "encouraging further investment" but it's not clear to me where this investment will go (other than "similar" businesses) and I simply can't help wondering how it's any different from what we have now on the current Internet. Nor is it clear whether any of this is tied to bringing about an open informational infrastructure. I should emphasise the word "open". It means anyone can take part in the content marketplace as long as they talk the protocol/language - in Internet terms that's TCP/IP. What I am not talking about is a closed system where people or organisations can be locked out of participation as that's not going to drive overall revenues.

7. I've discovered a fundamental difference in our approach to solving this problem - it came to me on my bicycle. Your remit is "encouraging further investment in other businesses similar to the broadband channel". You are trying to prove to investors that they should put money into broadband projects. But investors are, respectfully, fickle entities, generally following the heard and not to be considered "early adopters". I don't envy your task. Especially after they've just all been burnt (and continue to be burnt) by technology investments. It seems like an uphill struggle to me. Conversely, we, in Kendra Initiative, are the early adopters. We already have businesses that are up and running and, hopefully, sustainable. We are the people and organisations that are passionate about seeing this informational infrastructure exist. We not only desire it to make ours lives easier but require it for businesses to continue to be competitive and stay afloat. We do not need proof that informational infrastructure will work. We know it will work as long as we are included in its design process. That's why so many of us have listed ourselves on the Kendra website. We want to be part of the informational infrastructure design process. I strongly suggest you re-evaluate your target audience. Do you want to be working with the early adopters - people that are passionate about making this happen? Or do you want to work with people that need persuading that all of this stuff is a good idea in the first place? To quote Obi-Wan, "use the force". I mean, use the people that want this to happen to help make it happen rather than people who are not even sure yet.

8. When I co-founded an ISP (Cerbernet) back in 1995 we visited a few other ISPs. At that time Easynet's modem pool looked smaller than a PC and Pipex's servers and routers fitted into a small room. We knew that TCP/IP worked. That was our informational infrastructure for the business model that we would go on to use: selling Internet connections. We had zero outside investment and put very little hard cash into the business ourselves. We built the business organically over 5 years and were very lucky to sell it off for several million a few months before the "investors market" started to take a dive. Without TCP/IP (the Internet - our informational infrastructure) we would not have been able to achieve what we did and that can be said for all Internet businesses current and dot-com-gone. I guess what I'm trying to say here is that it's not always cash investment that's needed to get an industry going. Sometimes a bit of good old hard labour and sleeping on the office floor is what it takes. In some ways the most crucial bit of investment that the Internet ever really got was the initial cash stumped up for funding TCP/IP's creation. Once we had our common language the industry flourished...

9. I have asked a lot of questions but really I only have two important ones:

9.1. What are your priorities?
9.2. What is your vision of the future that you desire to be created?

Without knowing your answers to these two questions I'm finding it really difficult to make comments on your strategies/methods as I'm not sure of your goals/motives/desires.

Cheers Daniel

At 09:31 14/10/2002 +0100, Birch, Alex wrote:
>Dear Daniel
>>From your last e-mail I think the key issues you would like comment on are
>these (phrased from your perspective):
>1.	There is a need to recognise "informational architecture" as a
>component of the digital content marketplace
>2.	There are lots of examples of the BB channel up and running - no
>need for another one
>3.	Even if the BB Channel "works" it does not facilitate the setting up
>of other businesses - the market doesn't need "proof" it needs "action" in
>the form of tools and "informational infrastructure"
>4.	"Informational Infrastructure" should be broadly defined to include
>5.	Need to have "informational infrastructure" rather than "sites"
>6.	What happens after the Broadband Channel is up and running