The network effect and a departing editor

Computers have, in effect, become like they were always depicted in the movies

As was pointed out in last week’s Forum, communications is the name of the game these days.

It’s hard to remember what life was like when computers stood alone and the only way of transferring data was on a floppy disk. It’s one of those rare occurrences where a marketing term actually lived up to the hype: a paradigm shift. Once computers became connected, the network effect kicked in and every node added to the network doubled the network’s worth. Computers have, in effect, become like they were always depicted in the movies.

I remember Public Address founder and former Computerworld staffer Russell Brown going to talk about the internet to a bunch of students years ago. I told him to tell them it’s just like in Lois and Clark when Clark Kent says “Jimmy, look up those records on the computer” and Jimmy would tap away and come up with financial records, prison records, driver’s licence details and an address for the bad guy.

Finally, computers are starting to make those kinds of mundane connections. Mundane because, like the card file before it, the computer excels at taking the drudgery out of everyday chores.

Who here remembers having to physically run the numbers on a spreadsheet?

And then there are all the unexpected side-effects. Searching for extraterrestrial intelligence is one thing, but completely destroying the music and TV industry’s business models … well that’s something else.

It’s these other things, the unforeseen side of the business, that really makes my heart beat faster. Forget about the mundane and think about the potential, about the possibilities.

There are two consequences to this. First off, Telecom’s decision to rate-limit anyone using its broadband plans for anything other than surfing the net and email will backfire horribly and the government will stand firm in its plan to break Telecom up.

The government has a strong case if this is the way Telecom wants to play it. Support from the voters is huge and across the parties nearly all are in support of the new telco regime to some degree or other. Even National’s Maurice Williamson is opposed to Telecom breaking the neutrality of the internet. At the InternetNZ political debate held before the last general election, Williamson was asked about Telecom and unbundling.

The second consequence is that I’ve resigned as editor of Computerworld. After nearly a decade writing about ICT from the outside, it’s time to put my money where my mouth is and go to work for one of the telcos — Vodafone in this case.

However, I’m here until the end of the year. Of course, since I’m going to work for a telco I won’t be covering the telco sector myself at all, so any stories that crop up between now and the end of the year will be written and edited by other Computerworld staff.

Any feedback on the telco sector should be directed to the team rather than to me (contact details are on the right-hand side of this page).

It will be strange to be out of journalism for the first time in a decade but Computerworld is in good hands. Next year will see the paper’s 21st birthday in New Zealand as well as the 10th annual Computerworld Excellence Awards. Our circulation has increased this year and if the comments from you, our readers, are anything to go by, you’re enjoying the content we provide. The stories we’ve told over the years are tremendous but here’s hoping they’re not a patch on the next decade’s.

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