A notice to staff and parents, a little housekeeping…

Hello all. I have flown to Nairobi to start work on the five films I am making with Mark Carwardine for the BBC. Mark Carwardine, you may remember, wrote Last Chance To See with my late great friend, Douglas Adams. This was a pioneering, prophetic book which saw the pair travelling the world in search of eight critically endangered species. Twenty-five years later Mark and I are revisiting the same places and looking for the same animals to see how world wildlife has fared in a quarter of a century. We already made one film in Brazil earlier this year, searching for the shy and endearing Amazon river manatee. It was during this expedition that I broke my arm. Who knows what will happen in Africa? Well, I hope that whatever does befall, you will be the first to know and witness it, for I intend to make use of the superior options available on this all-new re-skinned, revamped, reworked website to keep you as up to date as possible.

Stephenfry.com 2.0
The new Stephenfry.com 2.0 is out of its box

I have written a general hello which greets all who visit, but I will add for you, loyal blessay subscriber, an extra warm welcome. I aim to provide more and more content on this site as time goes on: before long there will be greater opportunities for you to contribute too, in new and different ways. Visitors will find on the new site a little activity status bar, which will let them know where I am and what I am up to: I should be able to keep it up to date even when out of range of digital networks, thanks to twitter’s text service. I shall try to refresh it at least daily. I shall also, over the next few weeks and months as I travel the world, be uploading little Flip and Vado films of myself like the one of me packing for Africa that is already up.

African \
Afrycan — Video
Afrycam /

A fry can video an African video on a frycam and he will do so. He will start with daily video digests of the journey around Kenya and Uganda. From Africa I go to Madagascar, and thence to New Zealand, Indonesia and the Sea of Cortes. It is fairly clear that I won’t always be able to communicate well enough with www.stephenfr.com Central Control to be able to upload heavy duty video, podgrams and blessays, but I hereby undertake to do my level best to keep those of you interested as informed of my movements as possible.

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My web colleague Andrew Sampson (the genius behind www.stephenfry.com since its inception) and I both apologise for any teething problems that the migration and overhaul of the site might have caused or might yet cause. We have had to take elements offline for short bursts of time, and there will, naturally, be glitches to be ironed out as the new site beds in. Your comments, observations and bug reports will be welcomed and acted upon.

Money. Money, money, money. Up until now everything I have offered you has been free of charge. I will continue to provide enough entirely free content to satisfy you completely I hope, with blessays, podgrams, video content and much else besides. I do not intend to grow rich (or richer, I suppose would be fair) from www.stephenfry.com but I don’t especially want to be impoverished by it either, and the very popularity of the site (which, causes me the greatest imaginable pleasure, I promise you) has meant increasing expenses, year on year, indeed month on month. Hosting, servers and other incidentals have pushed the running costs up and up as the volume of traffic has increased. This has also meant that personnel and companies who up until now have been happy enough to contribute their expertise and services to the running of the site free of charge or for minimal amounts now have to be properly remunerated. I feel therefore that www.stephenfry.com must start to pay for itself. The last thing I want, and the last thing you all want too, I am sure, is to have a site bristling with ads and banners and commercial links, so Andrew Sampson and I have been mulling over (he in Australia, me in London) the best way to ‘monetise’ our web presence without losing your trust and respect, or indeed our own self-respect. Much of our income stream will come from sources that will never intrude into the content – but aside from these transparent entities, there will be signs of commerce on the site that I hope will be tasteful, appropriate and unobjectionable. Your views, as ever, will be welcome. Be assured, however, that your IP numbers, email addresses and identities will never be shared with anyone, we are certainly not in the business of ‘selling you on’. That is a guarantee. In the next few months some content will appear which is not free, but which is priced competitively and which I hope will justify its small charge. I do hope that all of you with a view and the inclination to share it, will feel able to contribute to a constructive debate on how this site can support itself without losing its friendly, open nature.

I have opened myself to charges of the most monstrous hypocrisy by championing open source and free software while simultaneously using proprietary systems here and there, hither and yon. I hold my hand up to the sin of being inconsistent – hypocrisy is going a bit far I think. I am no purist or fanatic when it comes to computing, software and the internet, or when it comes to anything, come to that: I like the idea of open source and free software, but I can’t honestly find it in my heart to boycott any individual, company or consortium that patents its routines, algorithms, codes or protocols and chooses to make money from of its research, innovation and ingenuity. As in all things I’m a muddled, hand-wringing liberal who believes in a mixed economy. I don’t think freedom is indivisible. I can contemplate regulation and entrepreneurialism, cooperatives and corporations, open source and proprietary systems all coexisting. In the end I like structures that are human-shaped, not idea-shaped and humans are great heaps of inconsistency, ambiguity and complexity. All I’m saying is that if you expect this to be a kind of Open Source madrassah you will be disappointed.

Welcome to www.stephenfry.com 2.0. Have fun, I’m sorry I can’t answer individual letters easily, there just isn’t enough time I’m afraid but I do hang around and I do listen and I do watch and I do try to participate in anonymous and peculiar little ways, so thank you, thank you for taking part in this extraordinary and exciting experiment, 2.0.

Your comments are welcome, as ever here and in the Forum

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