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Wot’s… uh the Deal?

Wednesday 9th April 2008

Okay, first things first (because I forgot on Monday and feel ever so slightly guilty), a motorsport thing… :-(

I’ve been reading a lot about motorsport in the 50s-70s lately, and of course been watching the F1 retro thing that I mentioned in the last post, and there are several things apparent. The sport now is much more professional, more corporate (James Hunt, 1976 F1 Champ, had a badge on his overalls that said “Sex: Breakfast of Champions”. You can’t imagine anyone getting away with that these days…), and much more expensive. F1 specifically is touted as one of most technically advanced sports in the world (with good reason), yet theres much less room for truly inventive and radical thinking. If someone came to the game with a revolutionary part nowadays, other teams would probably try to get it banned. In the past, they’d just try to make something better…

But for all that motorsport fans witter on about “the good old days”, we forget the bad things. Reading about the era, or watching that programme, it’s really scary how many drivers died because of the sport. I literally can’t imagine that, and I have no idea how people drove the cars in those days knowing that they were likely to die in them.

Whilst I’m on the subject of motorsport, a word about Max Mosley: lolz. About bloody time the arrogant tosser goes (assuming he does, of course).

Anyway, now time for rant the second. I talked last time about the net, and the whole “brave new world” thing. Well, now the flip side. On the one hand, I can’t believe that ISPs think the BBC should pay for them to upgrade their bandwidth. The BBC is just a content provider, and I fail to see how that means they should pay for the bloody network as well. It’s purely the ISPs responsibility, and frankly it serves them right. Broadband in this country is shockingly bad when you compare it to other places, and it’s about time it was sorted out.

On the other hand, I’m really not surprised. All infrastructure in this country (roads, trains, post, communications, etc) is overpriced and shit. We seem to have this aversion to investment, the philosophy of “oh well it works ok at the moment, we’ll just patch it up”. Okay, but that means that infrastructure doesnt grow with demand, meaning that service gets worse. I don’t know if that’s a result of privatisation, poor regulation, or just The Way We Are, but it’s really inexcusable. Again, if you compare something like our trains to pretty much any European ones, then you notice how woefully bad ours are.

Actually, making the point about privatisation, it amuses me how most large companies seem to massively miss the big picture. Taking the example of the trains, if they continually invested in stations/trains/tracks (and I mean basic maintenance as well as updates for faster service or whatever), surely over the long term that will save or make them more money? Provide a better service, then more people will use it… I see the same kinda thing when I work in the Bank (but with different things. There it’s the way they treat staff), and I just find it amazing. Ho hum.

Posted at 2:53 pm | Posted In: GeekMotorsportRantTechnology

4 Comments:

Lucy

Wednesday 9th April 2008, 8:36 pm

Long-term thinking will always win out in the, erm, long term. Unfortunately a staggering proportion of the population refuse to see it like that. Trains, government education policy, people taking out credit, being nice to people… it all boils down to the same thing.

And just before Andy gets in… Motorsport. Seriously, boring! :-P

(Having said that, I am still wondering how that article finishes. I just couldn’t bring myself to read five extended pages of car-talk in order to get to the punchline.)

Dickie

Thursday 10th April 2008, 1:07 am

If Andy says that, he’s a bloody hypocrite…

Andy

Thursday 10th April 2008, 1:00 pm

Watching motorsport is boring. I do however enjoy playing racing video games and go-karting. Also, Mario Kart.

I heard that news report about ISPs and the BBC with complete incredulity too. The main problem is that for the most part, ISPs are vastly overselling their available bandwidth, and hoping that most consumers will only use their connections infrequently.

If a significant number of people continuously utilise their connections, it breaks their business model.

I would say that the major difficulty is the botched privatisation jobs – they handed over a public monopoly, accountable to the electorate, to a private monopoly, accountable to no-one.

In that circumstance, long-term investment stagnates because nobody is going to challenge your dominant position. If there’s no competition in a private market, there’s no reason to consume profits in infrastructure improvements.

In London, a good chunk of the suburban rail network was handed over to public control by TfL, and the improvements have been immediate. The station just down my road was a shithole before, now it’s been redecorated, they’ve installed ticket barriers, and it’s now manned while it’s open.

I guess my major beef is that the objective of private industry is profit, and profit tends to be a short-term goal. What makes things worse in some cases is things like rail franchises – the individual train companies don’t have a long term.

Dickie

Thursday 10th April 2008, 2:13 pm

I guess the assumption I make is that people want to offer the best service possible (or that is reasonable). Really, it’s just about the money…

And yeh, London has it half right. The service is good, but it’s still (comparatively) expensive. When we’ve been to Barcelona or Rome, the thing that always occurs to me is that the service is just as good, but much cheaper. Ok, Britain is an expensive place generally, but even so…

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