IT Week comment
The web needs better PR

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The internet is routinely blamed for many of societys ills, and rarely
receives recognition for all the benefits it brings. It is time the web
had some good publicity, argues David Neal

IT Week comment

The internet is routinely blamed for many of societys ills, and rarely
receives recognition for all the benefits it brings. It is time the web
had some good publicity, argues David Neal

The internet gets a
terrible press. If its not actually the place where terrible crimes such
as cannibalism take place, it is being accused of contributing to them
by advertising and promoting such activities. Its even got crimes of its
own: phishing, hackings, and denial of service attacks to name but a
weekends work.

But is the internet really so toxic? Should the
average person put on a white boiler suit and a pair of Marigolds before
they sit down in front of the keyboard perhaps with an emergency alarm
in easy reach, like those in the homes of the very ill and elderly?

No. We have to be realistic there is a lot of online crime, but it is not as
bad as the publicity suggests. To give the internet its credit and a
better public image I have therefore started an online soap opera in
which the principal characters use, and benefit from, the internet a lot.

Typically people on television shows do not use the internet unless they are
shown breaking into a government system using nothing more than a
graphical representation of a sledge hammer or a skull and crossbones
and a laughing one at that. Other times it is portrayed as a stream of
pornography endlessly spitting reams of boobs and bums into the
workplace of a degenerate or the bedroom of a spotty oik.

Not
once have I seen anyone on Coronation Street celebrate the fact that
their online order of a Region 1 DVD of Q, the Winged Serpent has
arrived, or talk about the successes they have had tracing their family
through a genealogy site.

Of course mine is not the first online
soap opera. But it does pride itself on being the most downbeat.
Imagine, if you can, the most hellish scenario for misery and depravity
basically EastEnders. Now add a flesh-eating baboon that can drive a
car, and participates in radio discussion phone-ins, and you have
BaboonWithaView.co.uk.

Reg, for that is the baboons name, has a
Pat Butcher type role. He acts as a guardian uncle, albeit a belligerent
one, and whenever a character has a problem he points them to a site on
the net that might help them… More often than not it does, and usually
the episode will end with a satisfactory conclusion or, failing that a
screeching car chase or argumentative panel discussion.

I have to
admit that so far my soap opera is not a success. Reg is a real baboon
and does not respond well to instruction. Often an episode, always
screened live, ends up sounding like a man being attacked by a baboon.
After 10 minutes an impasse is reached then the audience is treated to
the sounds of deep breathing and meat being torn. Finally, providing
that there is enough fried chicken in the bucket, I manage to squeeze in
a message about the benefits of the net. I do this four nights a week,
52 weeks of the year.

But the reason why it continues is not
audience pressure quite the opposite, its passion. I am passionate about
the web and I want it to be loved and cherished… with, or without, the
help of a baboon called Reg.