Archive for the 'groans' Category

How the health system should work

I decided to blog this here since its a bit involved for a comment on a politics blog. Suffice to say I’ve been argumentatively agreeing with LPUK.This is also the second time, I’ve advocated the semantic web to solve market place failure. There is no particular reason for this, its just that modern life seems to gel with it, or something, and once you are familiar with it you can’t help but apply it when thinking about IT issues. It’s also a very open liberal system of working.

I’m going to get really specific here, because that’s the the best way to avoid being vague:

I’d choose to use Linked Data expressed in RDF+N3 to represent information about my health, and something not unlike FOAF+SSL for authentication, since I’d like to be able to use more than one service provider at the same time so it needs to be a format with native features that enable integration of data. RDF happens to also resemble EAV/CR which is a medical design pattern. The data would be stored wherever, whenever, by any number of arbitrarily chosen organisations and would be brought together ad-hoc via a tools in the Linked Data tradition. Integration tools would also be selected from an open market for doing exactly that job. If I chose to use one provider for every medical service obviously I wouldn’t need this extra bit, but having that allows a more diverse market, more privacy. Importantly, emphasising data integration as a feature leaves scope for organisations to add integration features to whatever system they already have, which includes retaining human procedures speeding up the evolution of this ecosystem.

If I were someone with specific conditions likely to need it then I’d carry a card designed to permit rapid access at A&E departments. I’d buy these cards from a similar marketplace of providers, but probably all of them would be eventually forced to catch up with the state of the art circa 1994 and support content negotiation such that once the URL is accessed whatever the doctor needs is delivered to them over HTTP. All the standard authentication options for HTTP, including FOAF+SSL would be available and may or may not be used in deciding to serve up the data. Imposing a standard protocol and format here wouldn’t be too bad, but the state needed bother compatibility with A&E is the core feature.

The method of formatting the card would be decided by an industry organised standards body, but need only be a URI. There is nothing scary now about URIs! It will contain a very long random number – too long to bother guessing it – and after first use, this URI can only be accessed for a few days. The server will know its serving emergency data and can take care of procedure matters, like waking up your mom, if that’s what you want.

The system is essentially a Summary Care Record resource but hosted by the person I chose to host it, and containing whatever I decided to put on it. If I remain in a coma, the care record will name someone to come sort out access to data, probably a relative or a staffer from one of the many organisations I might buy services or insurance from. Possibly the expired record will still provide that data, just in case.

XML, having at least the ability to be unambiguous and machine verified would be my 2nd choice of format. Automated integration is not a feature, but there is a good selection of tools and an experienced workforce. Stuff like SOAP might make things harder – too many variables – but a proper REST implementation would evolve as a norm (Linked Data is RESTful). With content negotiation the syntax doesn’t actually matter that much, because providers of emergency care cards will be incentivised to run really good software to handle syntax issues, as would the ad-hoc integration providers used in every other circumstance. Obviously then, data integration features  are the deciding factor for consumers, and whatever data-integration techniques work best will rise to the top in an open market.

That said, if people want to squirt pigments through feathers onto bits of reconstituted tree to depict vague and inconsistently applied words and move the resulting “information” around using horse and cart, then they should be free to do that. Want to use something properly stunted like JSON? Sure, but those organisations doing so  should also be perfectly at liberty to loose customers to competitors doing it properly.

Insurance providers would insure against the cost of transferring data out of systems when providers go bust and will set premiums according to how well the chosen providers operate, taking into account things like security, off-site back-up procedures as well as the quality of implementation details. If I choose to rely on paper records, I pay a bit more. If I am foolish enough to use a record-keeping service that uses  JSON then I will pay a lot more – obviously ;-)

Abody of shared knowledge will be created about the quality of each company – known as its “reputation”,  remember them? – that will include horror stories about data coming out wrong and  user interfaces being good, bad or ugly just as search engines or price comparison sites have reputation today for the same features. Obviously consumers won’t ask “is that SOAP or REST?”, or “do you have a comprehensive OWL ontology for health records?” but they’ll get to know the consequences of those technology options. Just like with search engines there will be default choices that people make, and times when you want something different, or more complex to suit your needs, so no-one will be greatly  inconvenienced.

Anyone too stupid to want to own their own records could just be handed the existing dead tree words or digital records on CD and told to keep them safe or suffer their fate. A kinder alternative would be to apply the kind of opt out system advocated for education (not the one for health, but I don’t feel strongly on that) in The Plan, to the NHS until such point that all the pathetic losers that can’t be bothered to think about staying alive end up dead and the NHS is mercy slain in 2060.

It goes without saying, that side issues like access to anonymous data by academics will also be subject to market forces and people will vote with wallets.

Spectator on taxation of the rich

at the time of the 1988 Budget the top 1 percent paid 14 percent of all income tax – by 1997 this rose to 21 percent. And why? Because the top rate was cut from 60 percent to 40 percent.


Idle prediction

By this time tomorrow this petition will have 500,000 signatories or more.

UPDATE: last time I make a prediction like that, top spot today though at 29 thousand, woot!

Open Spectrum as an alternative to a broadband universal service obligation

While the recognition of the internet as an important facilitator of economic growth is accurate and in some senses laudable, I find issue with the Government’s recent announcement of a universal service obligation for internet infrastructure companies.

A universal service obligation can only increase costs on the companies involved and must involve a large Government subsidy, a new tax or the involvement of the BBC – a dominant player in the TV and on-line industry who also benefits exclusively from a special tax. Such options involve a direct use of tax payer money, an explicit redistribution of wealth that will be harmful to economic growth in the short term, a slackening of competition in the telecommunications market, and potential bias introduced by a determinedly left-wing state media company. These side effects are I feel they might make a the measure an overall negative for the economy, broadband service quality and media independence.

An alternative free-market solution exists, but at a time when the Prime Minister is repeatedly criticising other parties for doing nothing, this option requires the Government to sell the idea of doing less than it does already. It is a laissez-fair option.

Wireless internet services allow for the widening of broadband coverage without necessitating the laying of cables along every street, or if there are tall buildings or other high spots in an area, without even requiring the raising of antenna masts. For example, I work at a building in central London that is signed up to a service run from the top of the Centre Point building.

Unfortunately these services traditionally operate using a small band of electromagnetic spectrum which has been left unregulated. An expensive licence is required to expand into other areas of spectrum and licensees are unlikely to share spectrum as readily as they do in the unregulated section. Simply put, more available spectrum means a better wireless broadband service but the Government is selling this monopoly access to this resource to rich corporations at the expense of normal people.

The solution is very simple indeed, and this is to reserve additional blocks of spectrum for unregulated use – that is, to stop regulating parts of the electromagnetic spectrum. The spectrum previously allocated to analogue television provides a spectrum gap and an immediate opportunity for decisive action.

This idea and the deregulated spectrum are called “Open Spectrum”, because access to the spectrum is open to the entire market of providers from individuals, to small grass roots charitable or hobbyist operators (for an example see SPC’s Open Wireless Network), and commercial operators of all sizes – not just large corporations. This free-market access has the potential to fuel an immediate growth in coverage combined with a gradual increase in service quality as device manufacturers improve the technology. Interestingly, it may even drive a shift in infrastructure ownership away from Government and corporations and literally into the ownership of the people, with individuals voluntarily co-operating to mesh their own devices together to further improve services.

A Frequently Asked Questions document is available which covers this from a historical and technical perspective, and is quite accessible to laypersons.

Derived from a letter sent to my MP.

Government plan to brainwash citizens into carrying ID cards

I’m groaning again – being constructive is just so much work – but again its something highly emotive and in this case something very very important indeed.

A leaked “options analysis” is doing the rounds of UK blogs, I picked it up at Samizdata, where seconds poster Ed says:

Once again, the Government decide what the next authoritarian measure is and then try to find convincing arguments to back it up. That document is truly scary.

I couldn’t have put it better myself.

Read the document, and notice how it lays out options according to how popular they will be and how likely they are to encourage “rejection”. If enough people read this docuement, the country won’t be fooled, I hope we all reject the card with equal violence.

Schillings chill Northern Rock document using Copyright Law

The document “Northern Rock Summary” has been removed from Scribd

This content was removed at the request of copyright agent J. Afia of Schillings o/b/o Northern Rock, plc

For more information, please send questions to

I said I didn’t want to use this blog to moan, but having moaned once on the topic of censorship, libel and Schillings the above quote (source) demonstrating the chilling effect of copyright on free speech seems entirely justified.

Guido explains the importance of the document concerned in his post “Northen Rock Nationalised“.

Fasthosts apparently edited didn’t edit Murrays site

UPDATE: No they didn’t, it was an associate of Murray’s trying to keep the site up. See comments for full story.

Holy mother of God, the Fasthost’s censorship debacle worsens:

On my article about Alisher Usmanov which so incensed his lawyers Schillings, let me ask this question. Has anybody seen an argument posted or published from any credible source to argue that what I say about Usmanov is untrue?

I ask the question because one of the edits to this log my webhost made at Schillings’ behest was to say that my claim was “regarded as false by many people”. I have altered that edit, because there is no justification for such a claim. I have yet to see evidence of anybody, not one solitary person, arguing that I am wrong about Usmanov, other than his lawyers. Who are these “Many people”, and why are they peculiarly silent?

I am very sympathetic to my webhost having to change things for Schillings, but not to the extent of altering things to become defamatory of me!!!

Posted by craig on 3:14 PM 14/09/07 under Uzbekistan


Winston Smith is alive and well and living in Gloucester. Utterly irresponsible.

Fasthosts bottle under pressure of lawyers letter

Fasthosts, that bastion of the web hosting industry and pillar of the Gloucestershire community has pulled the plug on a web server hosting several important (and some less important) political blogs, including that of Boris Johnson. They say its because accusations made by Craig Murray and Tim Ireland at bloggerheads defamed a certain controvertial Russian, and mention a lawyers letter.

“In this case, we examined a website for potentially defamatory material and communicated to the customer that they had indeed breached the terms and conditions for Fasthosts Internet hosting.”

Would someone please pull the plug on this pathetic institution?

More on Fasthosts at the Register.

Links and quotes added 22/09/2007.

Internet Bill of Rights?


No Government shall be permitted to initiate any action or pass any
rule whatsoever in relation to the Internet, except to permit
communication by a Government to the public according to the Internet’s
normal protocols or to clarify how the rules of the land will apply to
Internet communication and commerce affecting those within the
Government’s jurisdiction.

I posted the above, half jokingly and half seriously to the ORG discuss list in response to a post on the Dialogue Forum on Internet Rights’ forthcoming meeting. It is obvious that no Government could agree to such a statement because so many groups out there see the Internet as some unique and special evil and there are votes in promises to do something about it.