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Thursday 7 July 2000, 23:10 BST
Confused? You will be … [Via Rebecca's Pocket ]
Why do internet users tend to trust brands they're familiar with from offline? Techdirt highlighted an article reporting the results of a study which suggests that brands with a pre-existing offline presence are more trusted than purely online brands. At this stage in the internet's development, when many users are taking their first, faltering steps online, this is entirely understandable: paranoia about the safety of online credit card transactions is going to take some time to fade as people learn that they can trust online retailers. Furthermore, customer inertia is a hugely important factor in all, and there's little reason to suppose that for the vast majority of people this will cease to be the case on the internet: if you usually buy your books at Waterstone's it's likely you'll try waterstones.co.uk before going to amazon.co.uk .

The most "trusted" single British web site is that of the BBC , which neatly leads me to an article in today's Guardian. Some of the UK internet business community are complaining about the BBC's massive online presence, claiming that there's plenty of scope for privately-funded sites to provide coverage of news and sports and that the public funding of such a powerful brand is unfair and detrimental to the ability of entrepreneurs to get funding for competing sites. Further evidence of the excellence of the BBC's efforts comes today with the BBC sweeping the board in the online categories at the Association of British Science Writers awards.

As I see it, the BBC is doing what a public service broadcaster should, especially on the news-gathering front: providing informed, in-depth coverage of a wide range of issues on a site which is very usable (not least because it usually provides links both to earlier stories on related topics, and to relevant external sites) and making that information freely available to licence payers. If the BBC didn't have a significant online presence in the medium which, we're always being told, is the future of mass communications, critics would soon accuse it of missing the boat and call into question the BBC's right to collect a licence fee. Why should the BBC be the only major broadcaster which isn't permitted to leverage its content online?

If the BBC site was clearly poorer than its would-be commercial rivals that would be one thing, but the truth is that the BBC is providing good content (especially news ), and surely it's up to competitors to provide content so good that there's no need for any of us to visit the BBC's site? I thought competition was always a good thing.
Are any parrots reading this page? If there aren't yet, there soon could be . [Via Honeyguide ]
Who was your favourite Doctor Who? Do you remember Tom Baker's wonderful scarf? This guy does. [Via Bifurcated Rivets ]
Wednesday 5 July 2000, 23:40 BST
Salon tells us where members of the Hollywood elite go when they're in need of cash in a hurry . Not what you'd expect.
From pawn to porn. As WAP phones start to, er, penetrate the marketplace, Wired News tells us that WAP-enabled porn sites are appearing, and as you'd expect anti-porn activists are worried. They point out that the greater privacy afforded by the mobile phone makes it easier to access porn in 'safety', and that it also makes it more difficult for parents who wish to be responsible and monitor their childrens' online activities to do so.

It seems to me that the former point is neither here nor there - WAP (in principle) makes all types of online content more available, and until someone comes up with a method of segregating or reliably marking XXX content that's just something we all have to live with. As for the ability to monitor one's children's access (which is a perfectly reasonable practice, after all) the simple solution is to not buy them WAP-enabled phones. I truly doubt that many kids really need wireless internet access at the moment, and in the long run no doubt the suppliers of filtering software will develop versions of their software for WAP systems, or else online "family friendly" WAP portals will appear.

In case anyone's wondering why I'd suggest filtering software as the solution when I've mentioned more than once how unhelpful it can be: I don't oppose people using filtering software if they so desire, I just think that the supplier of such software should be open about what it is they're blocking and the criteria they apply, and that I should be as free to have unfiltered internet access as they are to have filtered access.
Monday 3 July 2000, 23:15 BST
Lightning On Demand. How cool is that ? [Via Bifurcated Rivets ]
Tim Berners-Lee came up with the idea of the World Wide Web, and somewhat less than a decade later a good percentage of the households in the developed world have access to the Web. This picture of his original web browser shows that we really haven't come that far software-wise in the years since. Are we overdue for a revolution in browser design, or was it just that Tim Berners-Lee got it very right indeed when he was working at CERN? [Via Pigs & Fishes ]
Consumers 1, Greedy bastards 0. It's good to see that occasionally even the biggest companies can be humbled when they try to ride roughshod over their customers' wishes. Now if only the public would wake up to how anti-competitive BT are being over ADSL. [BT/ADSL article via Dan Hon's Daily Doozer ]
The Register told us last week about problems users could face in updating their PC's BIOS under Windows 2000 and Windows Millennium Edition. Happily, they now find that Intel have produced a highly effective solution.
BBC News Online reports that Anna Provorova, the Russian schoolgirl who lost her place at medical school as a result of writing a letter to President Putin has been offered a scholarship elsewhere. Ironically, journalists analysing the written account of the whole affair produced by the bureaucrats who marked her down have spotted more than 100 errors in spelling and grammar in the report.
Sunday 2 July 2000, 23:10 BST
What do you do with a national network of post offices, many of which are vital to the local communities they serve but aren't really economically viable, especially now that you're wanting to save money by paying as many state benefits by electronic fund transfer as possible? BBC News Online reports that the government's answer is to turn them into replacements for the local bank branches which are being rationalised out of existence in many small villages, and to let them serve as internet kiosks and delivery points for e-commerce purchases.

The Register is characteristically sarcastic about this idea, but I think it's a perfectly decent proposition. Admittedly you have to mentally tune out the constant "we're a world leader in e-business" mantra chanted by every minister whose department so much as turns on a computer these days, but once you can get past that nonsense this is a good way to provide new business for small post offices.
Test screenings are a waste of everybody's time. Former Party of Five star Neve Campbell recently starred alongside William H Macey, Tracey Ullman and Donald Sutherland in Panic , a low-budget film which won rave reviews at the Sundance Film festival and looked as if it might do good business if it was marketed carefully. Instead distributors Artisan Entertainment, who bought the rights after its Sundance triumph, have dumped it straight to cable TV. The reason? It seems that they put the film before a test audience which didn't like it. According to the Washington Post the problem was that Artisan tested the film before an audience of ordinary filmgoers, as if it was a summer blockbuster, rather than finding an audience of arthouse film lovers and planning a campaign to sell the film to that type of audience.

The problem isn't that a film featuring a favourite actress of mine was dumped. It's that even a smallish distribution company like Artisan, which made its name by carefully orchestrating a campaign to sell us The Blair Witch Project and has also marketed arthouse films like Ghost Dog and Polanski's The Ninth Gate , may now be turning into a risk-averse outfit just like the big studios. [Via TKTV ]
The Grumpy Old Man is no more. Walter Matthau, star of The Fortune Cookie and dozens of other films , Rest In Peace.
You want hot stock picks and hot women? This is the site for you! [Via Metafilter ]

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