Stephenfry.Com 2.0

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.

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 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

This blog was posted in Blessays

59 comments on “Stephenfry.Com 2.0”

  1. igna says:

    Hello Stephen and team.

    I ended up here today (laid flat on my front with my laptop as I have two slipped disks!) having watched Stephen in America yesterday. I must say the series is one of the most enjoyable programmes that I have seen for a long time.

    A great site, I have today registered and wish you luck in developing lots of new content, free and paid for – it all sounds very exciting – you are now in my favourites.

    With best wishes.

  2. zcat says:

    I’m not sure you actually intended to make the association, but a few people have somehow got the impression that you’re talking about some perceived conflict between ‘open source’ and ‘charging for content’. There’s never been any such conflict. RMS charges people a rather substantial price for a signed copy of his essays to help pay for his trips, and the FSF was funded in the early days by ‘selling’ copies of GNU Emacs for $200-per-tape. Free software is about Freedom, not price.
    http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/selling.html

    What I found ‘interesting’ is that you would make a video for the FSF promoting the ultra-free gNewSense distribution, and at the same time be a big fan of such freedom-hostile technologies as the iPhone and Kindle. There’s nothing wrong (IMHO) with being less-than-fanatical about Free software but in my case I express it by using a less free ‘compromise’ distribution (Ubuntu) and avoiding DRM as far as practical, at least where I don’t already have the means to circumvent it.

    BTW; your Happy Birthday to GNU video was an excellent resource on Software Freedom Day for explaining to people that “Free” means “Freedom to fiddle about with the plumbing” rather than not paying anything for the taps..

    Anyhow, I know you probably have a very tight schedule but if you had a chance to present your views at WLUG (wlug.org.nz) while in New Zealand, that would be hugely appreciated. Contact details are on the website or you can drop me an email and organise this.

  3. Simon_Wynne says:

    I have been interested in the “correct” use of language since my final year of university. Having read Lacan, Kristeva, Barthes, Saussure and many other known and unknown linguaphiles, as much as they try to be other things that is essentially what they are, I decided there is no “correct” use of language. Something that Fry has suggested as well, something I have wanted to ask many wordsmiths.

    Language is a tool, an instrument, a vehicle, it is actually magic, more or less. To those who would fume with righteous indignation about ‘correctness’ I would say if language is a precision tool then it would only be good for a specific job; if it needed to cut it would not be able to hammer, if it were a guitar it could not produce the rhythm of drums, if it were a London cab it could not fly you to America! Language can do all these things and all of them at once, as the above vehicle will attest. That said, there is an aspect of ‘correctness’ in the use of language, in my humble opinion, and that lies in successful usage. The best way of being understood is using the language that expresses what you are thinking or feeling or even, physical desire. To paraphrase a famous quote about dancing and touch on the psychoanalytical side of things:

    ‘Language is the audible expression of an inaudible meaning’

  4. Number60000 says:

    A little bit of Fry spotting.

    Saw you twice in Uganda. Once at the Entebbe airport while I was picking up to South Africans. Saw this person that looked a lot like Stephen Fry, but the large contigent of crew behind him made me suspect this was the real deal. I would like to know how those cases were cleared without too much custom hastle. If you havn’t discovered already, you can bribe the police officers at the airport with 50,000 shillings if you get caught urinating in the parking lot.
    Second siting was at Kajjansi airstrip just outside Kampala. I’m not the kind of person to go up to famous people and ask for autographs, but let me tell you how distracting it was being in the same room. With one hand on my mobile trying to track down seismic crew that were late for the flight and the other trying to reach over one of Fry’s assistants or directors to make a cup of lovely instant coffee. I was quite dissapointed to discover that the owners of the airstrip gave our caravan plane to Fry and his crew, and to have Russell the pilot so star struck to give me the wrong port of arrival for crew coming out of my company’s camp. As such, it seems whenever I notice you on tv since then, bad things happen… Canellation of a contract after that commercial with you and the ‘street magician’ doing the card trip. Possible malaria after an episode of Black Adder the second…

  5. emery says:

    This is my first comment post, so I hope I’m not too late or following the wrong protocol. I am an itunes subscriber to your podcast and listened to your description of the upcoming changes to your website and possibly to the podcast. I want to suggest a (possibly, or not) American solution to your money problem. Several other “free” podcasts I listen to use a “virtual tip jar” to help fund their service. Examples that come to mind are This American Life and Creative Screenwriting, in case you want to look into how they do it. I would happily contribute a small amount of money to keep your podcasts going and free to everyone. Please consider trying this first before roping off certain content to only those who subscribe and pay a fee.

  6. katey says:

    thank you so much for doing an update of ‘last chance to see’. i am embarrassed to admit that i teared up when i read this entry. i grew up on listening to the all of douglas adams’ works on audiotape (as read by him) with my dad on every long car ride we took. we discovered last chance to see at some book fair in the late nineties; it’s still not a well known work in the US. i tend to make it my mission to tell people about ‘last chance to see’, but try to stop short of grabbing friends by the shirtfronts and yelling ‘IT’S SO GOOD IF YOU CARE ABOUT ANIMALS OR PEOPLE OR DOUGLAS ADAMS OR BEING A NERD OR ANYTHING AT ALL YOU NEED TO READ IT!’ … anyway, i want to sincerely thank you and mark for doing this; and the various staff and funding people as well. it means a lot to a strange little fan in america. i can’t wait for the results :)

    p.s. i think you’re fantastic.

  7. BruceT says:

    Hello,

    I’ve just listened to this particular podgram and have a few comments. I very much like the new site – there is more to see on each visit and more engagement to be had. The design and layout remains tasteful as well. I very much like the idea of the Twitter feed and other such updates as well.

    On the financial aspect of maintaining this growing and elaborate website, I can certainly appreciate that. I am grateful for the decision to avoid garish advertising in the form of banners and the like. I am open to the idea of making purchases now and then as the opportunity comes up. One particular option I am interested in would be a way to access (e.g. DRM-free video download through iTunes or plain old DVD) some of Stephen Fry’s new documentaries. While I do have the pleasure of visiting the UK with some frequency, I am not there enough to see these programs as they are broadcast on the BBC. It is frustrating when one fees beholden to broadcast arrangements and schedules that no longer make sense in this era.

    P.S. I do hope that further books are in the works? Perhaps works to accompany some of the documentaries? Something akin to Michael Palin’s travel books?

    From a Canadian fan!

  8. jd says:

    Hello Stephen,

    I’m new to the blogging world & hope that I’m not treading on a thread.

    My family & I follow most of your shows,films & documentries and enjoy the excellent humour and wit that your are blessed with – keep up the good work.

    One magical question based on how impressive you are on screen with your new ‘slim’look. How did you manage such a formidable weight loss, was it an episode of your America series we didn’t see? Would be grateful for your receipe!!!

    Best regards & fond greetings for Christmas, looking forward to your 2010 shows

    Jean Dantier – Welwyn Garden City

  9. Ellie McGill says:

    Delighted to find you on the net. I’ve really been enjoying QI this season and have to say you look absolutely fantastic!!! Will seriously miss the show now it’s over – when are you back?

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