The good, the bad and the really ugly

I've started writing this, my last Dial Tone column, six times now but it's just not working.

I've started writing this, my last Dial Tone column, six times now but it's just not working.

I wanted to write about how far we've come since I began at

Computerworld seven years ago. How the PC has developed, how the software is more capable, how the market has matured, how the dot-com revolution and telco meltdown, Y2K and the network worm have changed everything.

I also wanted to write about telecommunications and the strange and bizarre alternative universe we find ourselves in today with peering disputes, interconnection agreements, unbundled partial circuits, rural customers getting better access than urban, traditionally adventurous New Zealanders seemingly happy to fold their arms and watch the broadband revolution pass them by, the TSO, WACC and OECD.

I'd like to write about the silly things, like 0867, the 3G spectrum auctions in Europe, about Econet Wireless and its $5 million "stepping-out" grant from the government, about how once I used to be able to call company owners and directors but now I talk to marketing managers and public affairs spokespersons. About commercially non-viable customers that everyone wants to have on their books, about trying to explain why broadband is important to mainstream journalists who don't use laptops or cellphones and hold their ignorance as a badge of honour. I wanted to talk about the incredibly slow pace at which court cases are prosecuted by the Commerce Commission.

I wanted to write about squandered chances and the lack of vision that sees us still wondering how to implement the knowledge economy, about how Telecom can make hundreds of millions of dollars in profit yet Vodafone is still required to pay it $12 million to keep its network intact. I wanted to write about the difference between unbundling and facilities-based competition.

I wanted to discuss the huge changes that have been wrought not only in our industry and in our working day but in our social fabric and the way we go through life. The difference between Altavista's 12 million hits returned and Google's feeling lucky button. The death of Netscape and the birth of Mozilla Fire Critter, tabbed browsing and spyware, why online advertising doesn't work and how the internet has killed the newspaper as we know it.

I wanted to write about how it took only three Christmases between turning up at home with a cellphone to the amusement of all, to comparing phones with everyone, to treating them like any other accessory. I wanted to talk about how some companies still don't understand why they need to put their phone numbers on their websites and how some companies have integrated print, TV, radio, online, call centres, contact centres, B2C and B2B and are reaping the rewards.

Yet as I sit here trying to think of what's important and what was a passing fancy I find it all blurs together somewhat. There's always another breaking story, another lead story to find, another technology or business model or buyout or merger or invention or piece of legislation on the horizon. And the best thing about IT from this journalist's point of view is that while it alternates between frustrating and enlightening, pointless and inspiring, scary and entertaining, overpowering and underwhelming, it's never dull. And no two days are alike.

Brislen, formerly Computerworld's online reporter, has stepped outside and may be some time.

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