Each month, The Kernel’s Editor-in-Chief responds to a selection of readers’ emails, comments and tweets. This month, readers contacted us about Eric Ries, the Huffington Post, and, yes, Tech City.
A LEAN UNDERSTANDING
SIR — I have heard Eric [Ries] talk several times, read his book and blogs for several years and never heard him mention anything like your article implies. In fact I have heard him mention that entrepreneurs should look to build meaningful businesses and products that benefit society (rather than cheap “hollywood” like entertainment by implication). Perhaps The Kernel could bring us a first-hand interview instead?
— Ian Wilson
SIR — What is this pedantic drivel? There is no such guarantee. If you’re looking for higher earnings later in life, if that is your #1 goal, I implore you don’t do a startup. Take the author’s advice and become a banker, a broker, a manager at a prominent and prestigious company. Pay your taxes, have kids, buy a house, they grow up, you grow old, they leave, you pay for their college, they have kids… By all means, follow the plan that has been so carefully charted by those who came before. Don’t be risky or extraordinary, and don’t you dare try to derive unique and personal value, that only you can truly and deeply gauge or understand, from the years of your life. Go to college, get a job, become a writer.
— Danielle Morrill
We published an editorial while Eric Ries was on tour in the UK promoting his book, The Lean Startup, expressing concern that some of Mr Ries’s remarks could be interpreted as endorsing “short cut” routes to education. We were not attacking Mr Ries: indeed, we wrote, “There’s no suggestion that Ries is anti-education”. It remains true, in our view, that there is a poisonous undercurrent of anti-intellectualism in Silicon Valley that finds fullest expression in the Thiel Fellowship, which encourages students to drop out of university to start businesses. Higher education is not for everyone, yet it remains our view that a university education is the best route to well-rounded human beings and an enlightened society. But The Kernel is not a place for dogmatism, which is why, in December, we were delighted to publish an op ed by British entrepreneur Ted Nash passionately defending his decision not to pursue higher education.
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HALF A MILLION REASONS
SIR — I have heard more than enough from The Kernel about Tech City and I am concerned that your coverage is becoming gratuitously spiteful, particularly with regard to the Tech City Investment Organisation’s chief executive, Eric van der Kleij. What is your agenda? You need to lay off those poor sods or you will find readers getting fed up.
— Jenny Lancaster
SIR — These are pretty small numbers in the context of consulting and service delivery fees, assuming of course the projects were justified in the first place. When compared to the kind of projects in the private sector you could be looking at well over £100million for a new enterprise wide system, £200k-£300k for an organisational review including the implementation of key findings and £10million+ for the annual service/maintenance of an outsourced business process. The numbers can seem pretty eye-watering if you’re unfamiliar with the balance sheet of a major organisation. To properly judge how outlandish (or not) these costs really are, I’d need to know the time period of the contracts, risk assumed by the service provider (i.e. performance related) and what exactly was delivered and how it contributes to the UKTI’s core strategy. You’re probably right to throw your hands up in horror, however I remember the reasons cited by my colleagues in PA that if they didn’t spend it, someone else would. That’s a glib and fairly odious attitude, but is unfortunately very true.
— Steve Davies
The tone and attitude of our coverage of the Tech City Investment Organisation is purposeful. We believe TCIO is a wasteful quango that does not serve the interests it purports to represent, spending large amounts of money promoting itself and its employees, and we are disappointed with our colleagues elsewhere in the media for parrotting Government press releases that fail the most rudimentary of common sense tests. Pursuant to The Kernel’s mission statement, to hold the powerful to account, and in keeping with our affection for the fine traditions of British satire, our coverage can occasionally come across as a little mean-spirited. So much the better, if it makes people question what they read elsewhere – particularly given that we appear, inexplicably, to be the only dissenting voice in the sector. So far, the response to our coverage has been overwhelmingly positive, with entrepreneurs from all over the capital anxious to offer their support and write about their own experiences.
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GREEKS BEARING GIFTS
SIR — I obviously wasn’t alone with my sigh of indifference when HuffPo UK launched. The problem of voice you mention is a key one here, as HuffPo US was started as one of the first places to gain articles with a liberal/democrat bias – back in the mid-00s, the conservatives/Republicans had a notable online voice, but the liberals were lacking one. In the UK in 2011/12, there is no such lack of voice on the web. The Guardian covers the UK liberal standpoint, and with its CiF section, even welcome outside contributors and they break news. If The Guardian and CiF didn’t exist HuffPo UK may have done better, but with it they offer a roughly similar bias but with worse articles by worse journalists with poor editing and quality control. Equally important, HuffPo US gets a huge number of its pageviews for its sensationalist reporting a celebrity gossip/nipslip content. IN the UK, The Daily Mail has both of these covered with ease and is hugely successful for it. Again HuffPo UK offers content we already have elsewhere only worse, and gives users no reason to switch allegiances. And lastly, whilst unknown bloggers may apply to be listed on HuffPo UK, those with talent and a voice all run their own blogs independently – with the barriers to entry as a blogger now being zero (it doesn’t even require the relatively basic technical skills required back in 2005 thanks to WordPress). UK bloggers in 2011 have no reason to give their content away for free to a third party that will profit off it an pay nothing in return. That HuffPo doesn’t even have eyeballs to offer, means that the only content being produced is by people incapable of doing so elsewhere.
— Tim Dickinson
SIR — It may be a negative article but it’s true (and that’s the way we like our news in the UK anyway). I’ve never understand the purpose of the Huff Po and its voice is not distinctive. You’re right to point out how good the Telegraph blogs are, I read them more than the editorial content purely because of the quality of the bloggers and the insight they bring.
— David Bell
We were gratified by the many enthusiastic responses to this piece and we agree – the Telegraph is getting online comment right. We look forward to sharing with our readers what we’ve learned from their approach.
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Once a month, we publish comments, letters and, yes, tweets we consider to be of interest to our general readership. If you would like to write to The Kernel, please use this address. Unless otherwise indicated, we treat any correspondence sent to us marked ‘Letter to the Editor’ as appropriate for publication.