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Posts Tagged ‘Community’

After a while from posting, I could not but comment on the recent announcement of Facebook launching Places on their acquisition of start-up “Hot Potato”.

Having tried the FourSquare service a few weeks ago and finding that some bloke two villages away was “Mayor” of our local cafe, and cycling shop, I gave up.  It might work in urban areas – but in the country the idea seemed daft.  To me, anyway.  The blogs are all spinning with questions about FourSquare’s survival.

Yet now we have Facebook Places, it is pretty clear that to be successful, you will have to put your app on this new platform to get the reach that Facebook offers.  For me this is a problem solved.

“You can immediately tell people about that favorite spot with Facebook Places,” said Places product manager Michael Eyal Sharon.

“You can share where you are and the friends you’re with in real time from your mobile device.”

Facebook members can “check-in” at restaurants, bars, or other social venues and let their friends at the social network instantly know where they are and with whom.

A Places application for iPhone handsets was released, and social network members with smartphones with Web browser software that supports geo-location and HTML5 could use Places at the mobile website touch.facebook.com.

I expect that now things will develop rapidly.  With the popularity of Farmville (more users than Twitter) and the possibilities of bringing places into games, the opportunities of blending local marketing schemes and even local currencies linked to your mobile phone all becomes possible.

However, my concern is that most of the innovation and the platforms that own the new location-based social media gaming platforms all appear to be in the US.  Europe had its chance with the mobile industry – but this new applications-centric world is beyond their corporate ken.  Which means that the UK and Europe may well slip behind in exploiting the new business models and job creation that is so vitally needed to get out of the recession.

That said, the UK still has a vibrant games creation industry and there will be opportunities to develop on top of Facebook’s Places to reach a global marketplace.  So not everything is gloomy.

How neat it would be if we could keep the currency (and value) of the internet gaming industry WITHIN the actual community that the games players are playing in.  Otherwise this new development will simply continue the erosion of communities of place to the useful but often abstract clouds-in-the-sky of communities of interest.

Excerpts in italics from:  “Facebook grabs Hot Potato mobile check-in startup” by Glenn Chapman (AFP)

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Imagine a world where all the bus companies own and maintain their own roads and only busses can travel on those roads.  In the same world the the taxi-drivers also own and maintain their own (separate) road system.  Oh, and the council own their own roads, too – for their dustbin lorries (garbage trucks) and other municipal vehicles.  The land-owners also have their own private roads across their estates – but charge transit rates to the other road owners who cross their land.
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This all sounds pretty impractical, doesn’t it?  Yet this is the exactly the system that we currently have in the Telecoms industry – with each of the carriers owning their own ducts, poles, cables, networks and exchanges.
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Interestingly, Korea is often cited as leading the world in the roll-out of fibre optic broadband.  The picture below is from Seoul in Korea.  Maybe they havn’t got it quite right either!

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And here is another mess of wires from Bangkok:
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We are now at a proverbial cross-roads in deciding how to rollout the next generation of telecommunications networks.  The old structures, which have served us well in the past, are under significant pressure with the rise in demand for internet services.
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A renewed mandate for more regulation to ensure competition is not the answer!  The next generation networks of the telecoms industry are now far more intimately connected to the rest of the economy.  Electricity companies want their own fibre-optic road system to monitor household meters.  Media companies want the equivalent of their own fibre-optic road system to carry the new channels of news, sports, gaming and entertainment .  And the Telecoms companies also want to upgrade their networks to provide faster and faster bandwidth to businesses and higher-use consumers.  Overlay the rise of the demand for internet and data services from mobile operator and the picture becomes similar to the very impractical picture that we outlined at the beginning of the article with the road transport system.
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Given that about 70% of the cost of a telecoms network goes into digging a hole and filling it in again, the majority of the cost of building-out underground telecoms networks is, literally, a sunk cost.  The leaps in fibre-optic technology have been matched by the innovation in the physical ducting industry that produces the pipes that will carry and protect those fibres.  It is now possible to lay a pipe a little over 2.5cm (or 1 inch) in diameter that will contain 20 micro-ducts.  Each micro duct can contain a fibre that will ship the whole of the information in the British Library to California in less than a second!  The economics of the old copper network are truly dead.  It is time for a radical re-think on how we create the multi-service local access networks of the future.  The diagram below shows how multiple services can be laid in a single trench.  This is surely the way to go!
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Res Locus believes that it is time for local municipalities to enforce the laying of  a SINGLE OPEN NETWORK OF DUCTS AND POLES that will carry the fibre optic distribution networks of the future.  Current (often sparse) records of existing networks and termination points (from incumbent network owners such as BT and Virgin Media in the UK) should be updated in a single place and properly maintained.  When practical, the local council should be allowed to take over the ownership of these ducts and poles and then give access to multiple service providers who want to provide fibres or wavelengths of light within the fibres to others.  Investment should be encouraged in new-style telephone exchanges which should allow easy remote access and configuration for multiple service providers.
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The supply-side of the industry won’t like the scheme.  They have long enjoyed providing five pieces of equipment to “competitive” operators when one or two would have been sufficient.  It was for this reason that the telecoms bubble of 2000-2001 made the industry move from order to near collapse.  We all learnt from that experience.  The time has come to join up our local communities with a single, efficient network of fibre that serves both local businesses, households AND local public services as well as the commercial service providers such as businesses, ISPs, mobile operators, electricity companies and media companies that want to put their “vehicles” over the new highways.
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The old-fashioned National regulators won’t like the idea much either.  However, in a way, they have done their job and it is time for them to move out of the way!  It is time to remove the private road ownership and the toll booths and design a new system that will creates a far more efficient way to run local transport services from any service provider.
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With local support, local initiative and local innovation, it will take much less than the 10-15 years that traditionalists say it will take to wire-up Britain.  The UK’s Conservative Party seem to be moving in the right direction here with their recent Open Source Planning initiative as well as their ambitious plans to wire-up Britain by 2017.  Res Locus believes that even the Conservatives are being under-ambitious.
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Surely it is time for local communities to take ownership of the planning and provisioning of holes and poles so they can compete effectively in the emerging hyper-competitive global economy of the 21st Century.
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Picture of cable mess in Korea from: 40 of the most disastrous cable messes

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Introducing very innovative approach to local planning, the Conservatives today issued a green paper outlining how they will introduce opensource planning for many and various schemes to ensure that communities are much more involved.  Very inspiring!

What is so refreshing is the scrapping of the current crazy costly system that has evolved over the last ten years and taken any real decision-making away from local communities.  This is combined with sensible reviews of existing national nonsense policies and burdensome inspection schemes.

As a specific example, copied below is an extract from the green paper on mobile phone masts:

Mobile phone masts

Mobile phone masts are an important part of the nation’s infrastructure, especially given the growing demand for mobile data services. But there has been significant public concern about masts being erected with little consultation and in an insensitive manner.  We believe that all types of mobile phone masts in England (including Network Rail, TETRA and small pico masts) must be subject to the same, full planning process as other forms of development, so giving local communities a greater say on where they are located.

We will also review the case for greater incentives for operators to share masts and allow domestic roaming, and will investigate new technologies, such as WiMAX and wireless broadband, which have the potential to reduce the number of new masts required. And we will review potential health issues related to mobile phone masts in the light of ongoing scientific research.

More at: http://www.conservatives.com/News/News_stories/2010/02/New_homes_and_jobs_through_Open_Source_Planning.aspx

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To bridge the large digital divide in the US, the FCC is looking at multiple options for funding a more robust broadband infrastructure.

FCC Chairman, Julius Genachowski announced earlier this week that by 2020 the FCC wants at least 100 million households in the US to have access to broadband speeds of at least 100Mbps.  Broadband speeds available today to most Americans are about a tenth of that figure.

Reuters reports that Genachowski also said that he wants to reduce the cost of the Universal Service Fund by allowing schools to offer access their broadband  connections.

Res Locus has long thought that access to local schools’ IT infrastructure is an obvious way to extend broadband access into the community. Unlike many of the security issues that arise from giving access to local surgeries and the extended healthcare network or giving access to the utility companies’ smart-metering network, providing access to the education network is a natural extension for community connectivity and for sharing local and regional information.

However, such a scheme brings significant challenges.  Schools that are already strapped for cash might well find the additional overhead of opening up their facilities and providing after hours access a difficult and costly service to provide.  It will be up to the local communities to step-up to provide voluntary or near-voluntary help to provide the necessary security, supervision and training that will be needed to make the scheme work.

Overall, Res Locus thinks this is a good idea, but it will need a lot more work to make it a national success.  Other countries should look seriously at this model to provide faster broadband into local communities – particularly where there are large parts that are excluded because they are in rural areas or are unable to get broadband access for other reasons.

More at: http://bit.ly/csiVGp

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The Third Place

The third place is a term used in the concept of community building to refer to social surroundings which are separate from the two normal social environments of our homes (first place) and the workplace (second place).  In his influential book The Great Good Place, Ray Oldenburg (1989, 1991) argues that third places are important for civil society, democracy, civic engagement, and establishing feelings of a sense of place. Oldenburg calls one’s “first place” the home and those that one lives with.  The “second place” is the workplace — where people may actually spend most of their time.

Third places, then, are “anchors” of community life and facilitate and foster broader, more creative interaction. All societies already have informal meeting places; what is new in modern times is the intentionality of seeking them out as vital to current societal needs. Oldenburg suggests that the three hallmarks of a true “third place” are that they are free or inexpensive; provide food and drink (while not essential, quite important); and that they are highly accessible.

As more and more people choose to telecommute and work from home, third places become even more important as the bridge between the old world and the new world.

If Res Locus is about championing and rediscovering “things of place or locality”, then the nurturing of our third places becomes central to this new philosophy for 21st century living and the reemergence of our “communities of place” from the industrial and call-centre/office factories of yesterday.

More at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Third_Place

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