Meet ‘The Diggers’ – rural unorthodoxy that chimes perfectly with the last great English Revolution. And now meet those who tell us to think of a light cone…

As those that have suffered this blog down the years will know all too well, I have a number of heroes – those for whom these revolutionary times were tailor-made. One of whom is Christopher Hill, the historian, who would see a world turning upside down; another is a Lancashire farmer’s wife called Chris Conder, aka @Cyberdoyle.

If you haven’t yet seen her YouTube clip regarding the power of digital technology to transform lives, you should. When next we gather to celebrate #1000flowers, I promise now to start and finish the day with that short clip – I might even persuade the good lady herself to come along…

The picture at the top of this page – and credit to Michael Pye for the photo – is of Chris and her rural, Lancashire community digging their own trench to house the fibre cable that will bring 1Gbps symmetric internet access to their homes… not to the nearest cabinet.

The project is called B4RN. And if you haven’t read anything about it, do so now…

There is another interesting post here with regard to how this ’sits’ with the alternative provider, BT. Not well, I would suggest. And, again, the distinction between fibre to the home and fibre to the nearest cabinet is one BT’s Bill Murphy really wouldn’t want anyone to dwell on.

@cyberdoyle and ‘The Diggers’ of rural, upland Lancashire are, of course, a glorious throwback to the last great English revolution that Hill chronicles; in particular a rebellious sect called ‘The Grindletonians’ – whose roots lay in those very same upland, Pennine valleys that Chris Conder and her family farm.

The Grindletonians distrust was of the educated and ordained clergy; B4RN’s is of BT’s ability to ever deliver on a broadband promise.

Both, however, are prime examples of what Hill sees as: ‘the attempts of various groups of the common people to impose their own solutions to the problems of their time, in opposition to the wishes of their betters…’

Including, of course, ‘The Diggers’…

For our 21st Century ‘betters’ read BT; do they f*ck want some rebellious upland community imposing their own solution for one upland community and then threatening to roll out into the next and the next and the next… as all the time BT ’sells’ the notion that mile upon mile of copper wire stretching between cabinet and home will suffice; will meet the needs of the great, rural unwashed…

The point, of course, is that Chris and her crew are not the only people in this great, revolutionary media landscape of ours seeking their own solutions… ‘in opposition to the wishes of their betters…’

You can find prime examples of that in the field of #LocalTV; people for whom tying themselves to the nearest TV mast is of no interest or relevance whatsoever – and yet out so-called ‘betters’ at OfCom/DCMS insist that therein lies the future…

And, of course, local publishing where the likes of Richard Jones at SaddleworthNews, Nigel Barlow at InsideTheM60, SE1, the VentorBlog, LichfieldLive, LoddonEye, etc etc… have long been seeking their own solutions to the local news problems of our times.

As, indeed, have we on How do we get this thing to work? To be sustainable? To, let’s face it, make money? By re-deploying a good, old fashioned ad sales rep into that digital space is, we hope, *part* of the answer as local SMEs, likewise, try to find their feet and their audience in this new world order.

But, basically, across the breadth of the UK, you can find local activists, publishers and ‘diggers’ seeking their own solutions to the problems of their time – all of whom, by and large, will insist that local people are best-placed to address local problems. If you just give them the right tools for the job – half a dozen spades and a length of fibre cable in the case of the heroes of B4RN.

Of course, the problems come when those that are not local believe that they can impose their own solutions on those of us that are… that from the top of BT Tower, OfCom and King’s Place will come connection, signal, Solomon-like wisdom and generic national ads.

Or, indeed, from the top of Mountain View and its vast algorithm and the hot-bed of ‘local’ thinking that is City University.

Mike Rawlins is one of the stars of our local space; I could drink all night with him in the land of Pits and Pots; being handed lessons in ‘How To Build A Local Site’ from those that lunch at The Ivy and dine at The Groucho is, however, asking a lot of me…

In the 29 pages that is The Journalism Foundation’s latest tome on this task, don’t expect to find any pointer as to how *exactly* anyone might strive to make ends meet. In common with 98% of UK media academics, the subject of how anyone might make money is studiously avoided.

The three or four exceptions to that rule, hopefully, know who they are. Two of whom’s best intentions were thwarted when The Guardian decided to ditch Local and send Mr and Mrs Busfield to do America instead.

And so we are treated to the executive editor of The Times telling us what a free Press means to him and ‘What The Essential Qualities Of A Journalist Are’, by the associate editor of The Spectator.

Rod Liddle’s invaluable contribution to the ‘How To Build A Local Site’ is worth a wider audience; for the likes of our Ben from the trick is to think of ‘a light cone…’

‘Every event that happens can be depicted as a light cone. There is the past light cone which, way back when, encompasses everything and then narrows in to a single point; there is then that single point – the event itself, and then there is the future light cone where the event – a riot, a coup, a celebrity dying of a drugs overdose – affects what happens henceforth, spreading out in the end to touch everything.’

And then there is Loddon Parish Council meeting…

Brilliantly, there’s a book list which includes The Guardian style guide – ‘…providing its own specifications on the spelling of Gadaffi…’ crucial knowledge on the streets of Loddon, Lichfield, Saddleworth and beyond.

And, of course, who could ever hope to launch a truly local site without the confidence to manipulate large data sets (Wikileaks, etc…), as championed by the, er… interactive editor from The Guardian.

Once upon a time, a long, long time ago some of us had half a brain. We could count Gawker’s Nick Denton and the FT’s John Ridding among our college contemporaries; and you set out like Chris and her Diggers to address the problems of our time… far from the madding London crowd.

Two Naaarrfalk boys; now with funding and dev work from Newcastle.

Tap ‘Philadelphia’ into our search box…

I don’t see Google doing that; mapping every local ad opportunity down to the nearest zipcode – and then straight into a simple, transparent and accountable transaction with that individual local publisher.

I see Google giving me big bra ads off a Muamba story on The Guardian.

Next week and I’m off to Berkeley for four days; catch up with Clay from before collaborating with the likes of David Cohn and Richard Koci-Hernandez at Collab/Space 2012.

But at least I’ll go in there armed with a new raft of knowledge on ‘local’ courtesy of the ex-editor of The Independent, the executive editor of The Times, the interactive editor of The Guardian and the associate editor of The Spectator.

I’ll know to think of a ‘light cone’ and how to spell Gadaffi in the style of King’s Place…


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