One of the things which you often hear reading tech blogs, and particularly the comments, is that such-and-such a company is “evil”. What this usually means isn’t that they’re deliberately employing children or forcing workers to work in polluted factories which damage their health.
Instead, the cry of “evil” is used to describe companies that are trying to maximise their profits. That could be by destroying a market by giving away products to undercut competitors. It could mean locking customers in to platform so they face barriers if they want to switch to something else. Or it could mean trying to take a slice of income off every transaction made on their products.
This is a fundamental error, and it misunderstands what companies are designed to do. In a post on his blog, BBC business editor Robert Peston sums this up in relation to multinationals trying to minimise how much tax they pay:
“But given that company law obliges company directors to give greatest weight to the interests of their shareholders, criticising company boards for striving to minimise tax is a bit like attacking gravity for making the rain fall down rather than rise up.”
The same is true of tech companies. Apple isn’t “evil” because it is attempting to squeeze money out of publishers. Microsoft wasn’t evil when it tried to tie Office and Windows. Google isn’t evil because of its practice of giving away stuff which its competitors make money on.
They’re all just companies, trying to make the best returns for the only people that matter, legally, to them: The shareholders.
You know what I’d love the BBC to do? More than anything else in the world?
Turn off comments on all the BBC blogs. And, by way of explanation, post this:
“Dear former commenters. We have decided to save the many millions of pounds per year it costs license fee payers to allow you to post your borderline racist, idiotic and vituperative comments on every single thing we write. Frankly, you are a bunch of cunts. Get your own blogs. Love, Auntie.”
I really don’t see why one single penny of my license fee should go towards allowing every little middle-Englander cretin and every woo-woo crystal-worshipping “concerned parent” to gain the tiny little bit of attention they get from their comments. If they want their voices to be heard, they should start their own blogs. As well as learning to write without using all caps, multiple exclamation marks, or the phrase “Nu Liebour”.
Roly Keating has been appointed as Director of Archive Content at the BBC:
"Within Vision, Roly will have editorial responsibility for the release and management of BBC Vision’s catch-up and archive content on all platforms, including the BBC iPlayer, UKTV and other on-demand or commercial services, working closely with Simon Nelson, Controller, Portfolio & Multiplatform."
Two and a half cheers for this. What also fills me with a modicum of happiness is the way this is phrased:
"Roly Keating said: ‘Unlocking the value of broadcast archives is one of the great opportunities opened up
by digital media – and the BBC has the greatest archive of them
all, with untold potential public value.’"
I’m hoping that this "public value" means "released to the public" rather than "used as a method of gaining more money by selling old content, thus reducing the need to increase the license fee".
And Roly’s first task should be to talk about what the heck happened to the Creative Archive project, last seen lumbering towards its public value and market impact tests…