Rupert Goodwins' Diary

Tuesday 11/11/2003Famously, news is something that somebody somewhere doesn't want you to know. Everything else is publicity.

Tuesday 11/11/2003
Famously, news is something that somebody somewhere doesn't want you to know. Everything else is publicity. It's difficult in IT journalism, which is overwhelmingly about the business rather than the technology of information, to walk that line: most of the stuff written about is a direct result of companies trying to sell something, and the PR game is to get us to do as much free publicity for the cause while heading us off at the pass if we stray into more interesting areas.

So what to make of a  recent report from a large semiconductor maker that Exeter is the UK's most wirelessly wired city? It's nonsense, of course -- the simple metrics of dividing the number of people by the number of hot spots means you could plonk two Linksys access points in Wetwang and be top of the heap. There are many hot spots -- some commercial, some free -- within ambling distance of my modest hovel on the Holloway Road; but I wouldn't send out a press release describing my flat as some hotbed of Hertzian activity.

That semiconductor company is a long way from being the worst offender, and it has some fine people tucked away inside that will work quite hard to help even when the story isn't entirely to its taste. But Exeter... really! I wonder if anyone from the company has ever visited the place? It's the Watford of the South West -- you have to pass through it on the way to anywhere interesting, and the sheer sense of dark foreboding the place radiates does help to highlight the delights of South Devon that appear immediately afterwards, but on no account alight at Exeter St David's.

So next time you send out a piece of mumbledefluff like that, dear people, please tweak the stats so we have an excuse to visit somewhere nice. Or weird. Or with cheap beer. You could even combine it with a Wireless Treasure Hunt, where we have to find the hot spots and win a goldfish. Just not Exeter.

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