Monday, 29 December 2008

Backlash against Andy Burnham

On several websites there's coverage and debate over UK Culture Secretary Andy Burnham's thing about having a cinema ratings system. here here and here

People who live and breath on the internet are generally a creative bunch, they shouldn't reject Andy Burnham out of hand as being some kind of crazed fascist technophobe, he is after all an elected politician. Instead the homebrew community should embrace his proposals rather than wait for the government to legislate.

What we need is some special version of Firefox that only shows websites that have been 'approved' as inoffensive, and then some site/plugin like Digg or Stumbleupon when special administrators can approve and age-rate websites. You can apply to be an administrator/approver by sending your passport/biometric ID to a government office and enrolling in a the appropriate training program for your certification.

Parents and politicians who are concerned about viewing offensive and inappropriate material will be free to use the special 'Approved site only' version of Firefox, and set their age / offense tolerance for surfing. Perhaps they will get a special warning page if they try to access unapproved or 'offensive' pages.

When Andy Burnham spouts this sort of thing we can just send him a link to the approveable site and browser and suggest he get approving or disapproving sites in his spare time.

This site has it that there are around 30 billion webpages out there and currently grows at 5 billion a year, so say each one takes 10 seconds to approve or age-rate, you'll need a department of 8,000 full time approvers to do it. The payroll will cost around £200 million. And don't forget, these people will be paid to surf the internet all day.

Hmm, actually that 10 seconds to approve a page, that's like the minimum time. Some pages will be somewhat debateable, is it a certificate 12 page or PG or 15 or something inbetween? It could take a few orders of magnitude of time to rate them. Maybe if the approval office manager restricted each page viewing to 10 seconds and was approved by three different people and go with the majority. So our highly trained approval clerk will have a screen in front of him/her, a slot reader for their ID card and a keyboard with about ten buttons (U, PG, 12, 15, 18, XXX, illegal, pass, flag up, play/pause). If it was my approvals department, every month I'd sack the clerks responsible for the most minority reports and also imprison those with appeals against them.

And what about the appeals process? That'll take about 1,000 people, at a higher wage, with some law training.

And that warning page you get when you try to surf to an unapproved page, that's going to need a button on it to flag it up for priority approval. Oh god, the priority approvals process, its going to require a department of size in rough proportion to the number of people surfing the internet in the UK at any one time.

Hmm, with these considerations that £200 million estimate seems a little low, £1 billion might be more appropriate, if the internet grows at a constant rate.

And after a year, no one uses the system, we can say we tried it and it failed, and it was Andy Burnham's idea, his track record may become a track record of FAIL.

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