Openness on Digital Planet…

What makes for an open platform, and how can you apparently shut part of the internet down – such as Egypt, for example – without breaking it for everyone?

These were two issues that came up in this week’s episode of Digital Planet, from the BBC World Service. As we’ve done a couple of times before, the Open University has joined with forces with the BBC World Service to co-produce another six episodes of the weekly technology magazine programme Digital Planet (/programme page) over the next six months around the general theme of openness.

We’ve got all sorts of things we’d like to try out over the next six months. perhaps even a Digital Planet android app to go with the Digital Planet ringtone we released in an episode from a previous run, the next best font after Comic Sans, Gareth New Roman or the Digital Planet Listeners’ Map (have you added yourself yet?)!

We also intend to support the programme with regular blog posts around the stories that we’ve featured on Digital Planet, as well as ideas for future stories. To start the ball rolling, have you ever wondered What makes for an open platform? (Did you know that IBM originally intended to keep control over the IBM PC platform, and one trick they used was to make the bit they wanted to keep under control public?!)

We also hope to get a few OU voices on the programme… Despite regularly blogging and tweeting, as well as speaking at conferences and workshops, I’ve never really been one for speaking “on-the record”, partly out of fear that I have a face for radio and a voice for mime; but as needs must, I took a speaking role on the first episode in the series and was thankful it wasn’t as terrifying as I’d expected! (Brian Kelly’s notes on ‘how to cope a radio interview’ served me well, I think, as did the friendly faces of presenter Gareth Mitchell, producer Cathy Edwards and OU colleague David Chapman!) The programme will stay “live” on the Digital Planet podcast feed for another three or four days (I think the run of radio broadcasts has finished now?) if you haven’t subscribed yet;-)

You can also listen again to a recording of the whole programme here: Digital Planet/OU special – Introducing Openness

Author: Tony Hirst

I'm a Senior Lecturer at The Open University, with an interest in #opendata policy and practice, as well as general web tinkering...

4 thoughts on “Openness on Digital Planet…”

  1. Tony, your first para “What makes for an open platform, and how can you apparently shut part of the internet down – such as Egypt, for example – without breaking it for everyone?” rang a bell for me. I remember an experience where a University, for which I was ultimately responsible for IT, lost its internet connection for a small number of days. Many of the effects were predictable: no external web access, no external email etc. But we also experienced surprising *internal* effects: we couldn’t see some internal web pages, send some internal emails, or use some internal applications. Most of these effects were the result of DNS problems; some kind of queuing crisis that seemed to have totally swamped our internal DNS servers (you could often succeed if you knew the relevant IP address). Maybe the IETF etc have fixed these problems meanwhile, but I did wonder what the unanticipated effects of detaching a country from the Internet might be. How dependent are we on the Libyan internet space, for example (eg bit.ly)?

    1. HI Chris
      I think there are several issues tied up in the point you raise – and I’ll maybe try to address some of them in a blog post on OpenLearn next week. At the very least, I intend to compare the apparent disappearance of Wikileaks just before Christmas because it lost its DNS lookups, and the different ways that Egyptian sites could have been lost from sight last week, comparing this with a problem that occurred a couple of years ago when Youtube was taken out [starter for ten: http://www.networkworld.com/news/2008/022608-youtube-outage-underscores-big-internet.html ].
      As well as the immediate problems, you make a good point about secondary effects such as those caused by queuing of traffic, which wasn’t something I’d thought about…

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