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Digital Britain Unconference Oxfordshire – a brief personal report

May 3, 2009

A very select bunch of people met at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory on Friday 1 May for the first DigitalBritain Unconference. I had initially been worried that with only seven people it would be a bit of a waste of everyone’s time but in the event the small numbers made it possible for us to sit around a table and have a really good discussion. Due to the short timeframe involved this is a personal report on the meeting rather than an agreed formal report. You can find the gathered raw output of the meeting on the Wikidot Wiki we set up.

We had a wide ranging conversation that spread from infrastructure to rights management to government monitoring via education, health, and enterprise. However despite that we kept seeming to revolve around one or two specific themes. The most important of these revolved around user generated content and how this changes the playing field.

The Citizen Content Producer

The interim report focuses on the existing broadcast industry and their existing business models. Yet the promise of a Digital Britain lies in enabling the users to be content producers. The report barely includes the words “people” or “users”. The potential for real innovation, particularly in the current ecnomic climate, lies in enabling microindustries, user/content producers, and communities to compete on a level playing field with existing suppliers. This means:

  • Net neutrality is crucial – anything short of this stifles innovation and content production
  • Infrastructure must enable the upload path – if we’re producing content we need to be able to upload it easily
  • We need a social and legal infrastructure that supports content production – simple and easily understood rights and management approaches based on enabling rather than limiting the ability to create content.

Walking the walk

The second main theme that came out of our meeting was the need for any response from this community effort to demonstrate the values and principles that it proposes. While it seems likely that the formal response will have to be a couple of sides of A4, it should still be possible to embed examples, case studies, multiple media, and links back to the raw material we generate through the various meetings. The key principles identified at our meeting were:

  • Transparency – all the material should be available if someone wishes to dive into it, no hidden process
  • Use the medium/media – collect video, audio, tweets, and above allow people to comment on them. The Read-Write web is key to both the potential and what is missing from the report.
  • Detail and real numbers – it was pointed out the notion of “2 megabit” is totally meaningless without details of contention. We need to provide examples to backup assertions and to query the report where needed and where things are vague.

Thanks to all who came and were involved either in person or remotely and good luck to everyone involved in the rest of the meetings!

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2 Comments
  1. May 8, 2009 2:20 pm

    Good you mentioned Net Neutrality – I made a proposal at the London conference available from here http://cid-8a40f9200c0106b9.skydrive.live.com/browse.aspx/.res/8A40F9200C0106B9!132

    Also submitted to DB team to no effect.

    There is also suggestion how we go about describing our UK Data Transport infrastructure.

    Happy to load all on any available wiki.

  2. May 10, 2009 8:38 pm

    Great unconference, great bunch of folk, watched it live and it was very interesting. The key theme I think is ‘level playing field’ which in my book means every citizen if they want to should be able to access the internet, contribute and gather, and pay for what they want or need. The internet itself is free, but accessing it can sometimes be fruitless or near impossible, due to income, geographical location or lack of infrastructure able to cope. This must be rectified, and a 2meg USO can not deliver what everyone in that room round that table is clearly wanting.

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