back to article While the BBC drools over Twitter, look what UK's up to: Hospital superbug breakthrough

The BBC has gone Twitter-crazy this week, with every pre-IPO twitch reported in the top-of-the-hour bulletins. But when you peek beneath the hype, it's not the wonder-fest you might think. Twitter "changed the world, hashtag-by-hashtag" gushes the website. "Could we hatch a British Twitter?" asks Rory Cellan-Jones. Short of …

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  1. Christopher Rogers

    Ooooh Shiny shiny

    I cannot for the life of me see what Twitter can offer to an investor outside of the potential to throw advertisements at people. Surely at 26$ a share, the price is going to collapse. Facebook didn't exactly cover itself in glory with its IPO last year, but unlike Twitter (which I like and use by the way) it is not a 1 trick pony. So a handful of people get mega rich and everyone else gets commercials in their feed and thats it.

    The rise of Whatsapp et al and the continued existence of Facebook and Google + surely puts the value of Twitter at serious risk?

    Maybe thats where Blackberry are going wrong? They should just sell everything and become Blackberry Messenger and directly rival Twitter?

    I wish I owned Twitter. I'd be minted today.

    1. Professor Clifton Shallot

      Ad enough.

      "I cannot for the life of me see what Twitter can offer to an investor outside of the potential to throw advertisements at people. "

      I'm not sure it can even do that. I am one of that third of users (according to the article) who just uses Twitter to follow a bunch of more or less interesting people. If they become dull I stop following them. If the whole thing became full of adverts I'd just stop altogether.

      There's nothing binding me to Twitter the way a few relatives who use nothing else bind me (albeit loosely) to Facebook so there's no way it will ever become a good vector for getting adverts into my face.

    2. Steve Crook

      Re: Ooooh Shiny shiny

      The BBCs coverage of the Twitter IPO is symptomatic of much of its news coverage. Shallow, repetitive, pointlessly speculative and largely without balance. Still, at least Twitter stories will struggle to be the UK centric nonsense that normally makes up 80% of BBC news.

      1. Badvok

        Re: Ooooh Shiny shiny

        " the UK centric nonsense that normally makes up 80% of BBC news."

        ROFL, I suggest that you may want to look up what the first B in BBC stands for.

        1. gazthejourno (Written by Reg staff)

          Re: Re: Ooooh Shiny shiny

          Try looking at Google News UK edition. Then the US edition. Compare and contrast how many BBC stories you find on each.

          Hint - they're not chasing UK audiences.

        2. Steve Crook

          Re: Ooooh Shiny shiny

          @Badvok.

          Rofl yourself all you like.

          The British bit implies ownership not the spectrum of its new content. Contrast the quantity of coverage of the Twitter IPO with the forthcoming Chinese Plenary Session due to start more or less now. Twitter may be important to the BBC, but what happens in China over the next week or so is far more important to normal people. Coverage? What coverage?

          The main reason I have a subscription to the Economist is the parlous state of BBC foreign news.

    3. Vociferous

      Re: Ooooh Shiny shiny

      > I wish I owned Twitter. I'd be minted today.

      Well do as all the cool kids and invent your own unprofitable internet venture, and sell it for meeeellions of bucks. Since the whole motivation behind the circus is share price and bonuses, it doesn't ever have to be profitable, and you can go right on to creating your next investor scam exciting venture.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Ooooh Shiny shiny

      "I cannot for the life of me see what Twitter can offer to an investor"

      Like me, you probably think investment consists of finding an undervalued share and holing onto it till the market wakes up.

      Alas no, "investment" nowadays means "how quickly can I buy and sell this and turn a profit".

      Social media shares are good for this because their value is completely a matter of opinion, and so pump and dump is relatively easy - especially, in a wonderful example of the Poot bird that flies in ever decreasing circles till it disappears up its own bottom, using social media as the pump.

      Real companies that make things you can go and watch working are harder to manipulate, which is why IBM and Rolls-Royce are not interesting.

    5. kiwimuso
      Unhappy

      Re: Ooooh Shiny shiny

      I cannot, for the life of me, see what Twitter can offer........ period.

      Each to their own, I guess.

  2. Zola
    Holmes

    [snipped by mod]

    Rory Cellan-Jones makes me cringe with his fawning and general lack of insight which makes BBC tech coverage typically no better than that of T3 or The Gadget Show (both utter jokes). Hardly a surprise they should focus so heavily and unquestioningly on the Twitter IPO rather than the more important underlying issues.

    mod edit - please at least try not to insult his appearance

    1. lurker

      [mod snippage - see above]

      Indeed, I'm not usually a BBC-basher, I don't mind paying my license fee. But Rory Cellan-Jones is nauseating. If you put him and Stephen Fry in a room together, the universe might well disappear up it's own backside as a result of the ensuing "smug IT pseudo-expertise" critical mass event.

      1. Eponymous Cowherd
        Thumb Up

        Re: Teeth sucking Welsh slap-head

        Agreed.

        My granny has more technical insight than RCJ.

        And she's been dead for 15 years.

      2. cambsukguy

        Re: Teeth sucking Welsh slap-head

        Yes, but at least Stephen Fry does other stuff that is worthy, even one good novel is more than most accomplish let alone QI etc. RCJ, OTOH, nothing but Apple-loving crapola and contempt for everything else.

    2. Zola

      Re: [snipped by mod]

      mod edit - please at least try not to insult his appearance

      OK fair does, apologies to all Welsh baldies, but the teeth-sucking does really grate.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: [snipped by mod]

      Who is Rory Cellan-Jones? Should I know?

      1. monkeyfish

        Re: [snipped by mod]

        To be fair, I don't think the The Gadget Show was ever supposed to be a serious look at modern technology. It's on at a time when kids are still up, and its something you could watch with them. If they started doing pieces on the relative merits of tech privacy vs using your data to give you a service, they'd probably loose their audience (both figuratively and in reality).

        1. Gio Ciampa

          Re: [snipped by mod]

          Does anyone actually still watch The Gadget Show these days?

          I gave up on it ages ago - when an iPhone won a "tech" challenge (something to do with GPS navigation if I recall) because (the-blonde-who-wasn't-Suzi-Perry) took forever to choose a dress to change into for the final leg...

          1. DaddyHoggy

            The Gadget Show

            I watch The Gadget Show with my 12yo daughter (who I think the show is aimed at).

            Suzi Perry was easy on the eye, as is Rachel Riley.

            I also keep waiting for Jason Bradbury to really hurt himself - not spitefully, but the law of averages says he's bound to stuff up quite badly at some point and I'm curious to know how Five would deal with it...

      2. Tom 13

        Re: Who is

        From the commentary I take we should simply count ourselves fortunate not to know and stay away from Pandora's box.

  3. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Unhappy

    A British "Ampliphi" ?

    Well Beechams and Smith Kline were IIRC.

    The problem is the modern UK VC view. Get something that does not quite suck and sell it off to someone who wants to be a global player.

    And repeat.

    It take vision to want be be more than a research team and confidence that you can be more, in fact be a global player.

    Maybe one that even invests in US teams but banks their IP results int he UK.

  4. cbars

    Hmm. Well that's a poor show for letting the yanks get the IP! But, I thought it wasn't a British Invention....

    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2013/10/21/bacteriophage_leicester_ampliphi/

  5. kmac499

    Phages in Russia

    As I remember it when the Soviet Union dissolved, the world leading russian scientists doing work on phages nearly lost the lot, because they didn't have the money for the leccy bill to run their fridges..

    1. Ancientbr IT

      Re: Phages in Russia

      Yep - Russia's been using phage therapy since the 1950s. It's slowly making inroads in the UK and US after the FDA stopped pouting over "experimental" treatments.

      New Scientist reported on one such therapy several years ago in which an infectious bacterium was eradicated from sheep in 20 minutes (contrast that with antibiotics that take days to even begin to have an effect).

    2. Naich

      Re: Phages in Russia

      Phages have been around for a long time and there are fundamental problems when it comes to using them to fight infections. News that, effectively, "research is continuing" on the subject is not really anything new. It's certainly less of a news story than the Twitter one, no matter how crap it was.

      1. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

        Re: Re: Phages in Russia

        I detect an envious researcher.

  6. Bob 15

    More science less Twitter

    You should have flipped your article - less about twitter and more about the medical breakthrough.

    The reason why the Twitter IPO is getting more press is because more people can make money off of it where the medical breakthrough just saves lives. It is a sad realization but what is more important to society - money for a new shiny in the short term or saving a persons life in the long term...

    1. cambsukguy

      Re: More science less Twitter

      Perhaps they will eventually have lunch with Bill and be persuaded to use the vast profits they might make one day to save the lives that got ignored today, or some others.

    2. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: More science less Twitter

      Maybe that's because El Reg covered the phage research previously.

      "Bacteria-chomping phages could kill off HOSPITAL SUPERBUGS"

    3. Naich

      Re: More science less Twitter

      It's not a medical breakthrough. Phages have been having research done on them for their antibiotic properties for decades.

    4. Tom 13

      Re: More science less Twitter

      If it really is a good medical breakthrough, in the long run we'll all make more money off it that we will off Twitter. All the more shame Andrew didn't flip the article.

      Although I suppose there is the chance we would have been hauled off in cuffs for insider trading allegations...

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I've always wondered about the BBC's odd love of twitter.

    First it was mentioned all the time without a "other messaging services are available" and then they even started using hashtags, which we are supposed to assume are twitter and not IRC.

    They should have been making their own open alternative if anything, or finding someone in Cambridge to do for them.

    Then we would have our own British twitter and we could use it to ask where the British Ampliphi is!

    1. Marketing Hack Silver badge
      Holmes

      @AC

      You're right, it does make more sense to ask where the British Ampliphi is.

    2. Thecowking

      Would we really want a Britter? Do we want the UK to be known for that?

      Though the name did rather write itself.

      1. Soap Distant

        @ Thecowking

        "Would we really want a Britter? Do we want the UK to be known for that?"

        Don't they make water-filter thingies already?

        Totally agree though. Never knowingly visited Twitter's web site, I once read what it was for and decided it was about as much use as an ashtray on a motorbike.

        SD

    3. Professor Clifton Shallot

      "They should have been making their own open alternative"

      Yes. And because of the BBC's unique position and advantages they could have too.

      I don't understand how the Beeb has been able to get away with constant advertising of Facebook and Twitter.

    4. Yet Another Commentard

      ^^This

      I could never see that either. I mean giving a reaction from Twitter is about as journalistically sound as hailing a cab and getting a quote from the driver. Or passenger. Or both.

      Todays gushfest practically credits Twitter with the invention of the hashtag. I remember it in use on IRC before Twitter's founders were born (possibly) and it may well predate that too.

      What amazes me most is that the BBC tech people can use Twitter - finding # on a Mac keyboard isn't all that obvious...

    5. Paul 135

      Media loons love the 140 (or whatever the useless figure is) character limit as it lets them report quick sound bites in the headlines without having to do any research or thoughtful analysis.

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      This has always slightly perplexed me too. French broadcasters were given a stern talking to about the constant stream of free advertising for Twitter and Facebook, how has the state-funded and commercial-free BBC got away with it for so long?

    7. Bunbury

      I'm not sure it's exclusively the BBC who's overly keen on twitter. It seems to me journos and minor clebs in general who are best servded by the technology. For the journos, a celeb or sports person tweeting replaces having to wait in the wind and rain for three hours to get a snatch of converstaion with the celeb. For the minor celeb, they used to have a problem communicating with whoever was interested because they weren't newsworthy enough to attract the attention of the media go-betweens. Now they can prattle directly to fans.

      So I can see that journos, celebs and celeb fans would like it. Perhaps the journos have fallen into the "it's really handy for me and everyone must be like me" trap?

      ps. Blabbergasm - brilliant. Top marks.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Destroy all twitter and fakebook users. The earth will thank you, and so would I!

    1. monkeyfish

      Destroy all twitter and fakebook users.

      Don't be ridiculous man! Don't you realise Facebook and Twitter are the lightning rods of the internet? Where have all the spammers gone? What about all the crap chain emails, or pictures of puppies with cute slogans? It used to come into your inbox. But all of that crap circulates on twatbook now, avoid these places and you avoid all that junk as well!! Don't say they've never done anything for us.

  9. knarf

    Bebo, MySpace Anyone?

    Social networking sites are a fad, they're great until something better comes along, then they get dumped like last years fashions. Engagement for site owners must keep them awake at night.

  10. dogged
    Go

    Short of Lord Reith rising from his grave and striking Paul Dacre dead during an edition of Strictly Come Dancing (Judgement Day edition),

    PLEASE let this happen.

    1. Andy 12
      Thumb Up

      Now that is a programme I would watch ! SCD-JDE

    2. MJI Silver badge

      As long as

      the female dancers are in skin tight catsuits

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    RCJ's article on "Why Isn't there a British Twitter" had me shouting at the screen in frustration...

    The answer is simple - in the UK, if you don't make money or have a viable plan to make money, people don't invest and you go bust... Can you imagine someone advertising Twitter on one of those entrepreneurship programs (Dragons Den or whatever)?

    Dragon: "So you have millions of users, you have no idea how many are real. The ones that are real (however many that is) you have no idea how to monetise. You have made zero profit in the history of the company, and you want millions of £ for 1% of the company?"

    Twitter Founder: "Yep... What's your point?"

    Dragon: "I'm out..."

    I trust there will be a Bong special soon from all this...

  12. i like crisps
    Big Brother

    Me too...

    ...i've often been puzzled by BBC News's lack of 'NEWS'

    1. FrankAlphaXII Silver badge

      Re: Same here anymore

      In the late 1990's and up until about the beginning of 2010 BBC was my go to place for world news, then when they started really overtly pushing their political agendas and opinion pieces at the expense of reporting factual news they've dropped pretty far down my list. Which sucks when I'm compiling OSINT reports from media sources. At least the Economist, Torygraph, and Grun haven't changed much.

      As it stands, IMO they're about as trustworthy and unbiased as CNN, meaning that they're only slightly better than Al-Jazeera, MSNBC and Faux News. Which is a damn shame as they're one of the very few places Americans could get news coverage about the rest of the world, at least DW is still broadcasting an half hour English version of their nighly news on some PBS channels here. But for the most part international news coverage sucks in the US.

      BBC's news department need to get their act together and regain some of the respect and trust that they've squandered, and for what I have no idea, its not like that they're getting ad revenue in their home market, and their revenues from the US market are nowhere near what the major American players like CBS, Comcast, CNN, Fox, and Disney are making. It doesn't make a fuck of alot of sense to me.

  13. Anonymous C0ward

    I've heard Dutch tulip bulbs are doing pretty well at the moment.

  14. Fred Goldstein

    Of course Twitter is worth over $40/share... look at all the money they're making! Oh, wait. Maybe it's worth it because hashtags are becoming the new Internet identifier, and will soon be as important as AOL keywords! Oh, wait...

    Phages have an interesting history. They were being studied some decades ago, but then antibiotics came along and seemed to do the trick. But antibiotic resistance (gee, thanks, meat industry) is spreading much faster than new antibiotics are being developed, so phages may yet turn out to be the only thing that works for many infections. At the risk of sounding like a Durty Kommy, it's so important that it really should receive government funding, on both sides of the puddle, so that they can be used without paying big pharma's patent pricing. Here in the US, prescription drug prices are several time higher than in any EU country.

  15. Vociferous

    Inversion of importance

    The more important something is the less press it gets, and the other way around.

    C.f. sport, tweets, 'wardrobe malfunctions' vs malaria, war in Syria, peak everything.

    I think it's a function of news being entertainment, not information.

  16. MondoMan

    phages well-known

    Er, bacteriophages (viruses that attack bacteria) have been well-studied over the past century, and have become essential tools in modern molecular biology. Phage lambda in particular has been heavily engineered for all kinds of genetic engineering uses, and a number of phages had their genomes sequenced by the very early DNA sequencing techniques in the 1970s, since they had small (short) genomes, were easy to grow in quantity, and their DNA was easy to purify.

    1. Mephistro Silver badge

      Re: phages well-known (@ MondoMan)

      " bacteriophages (viruses that attack bacteria) have been well-studied over the past century, "

      But their therapeutic value hasn't been studied, except by the Russian group and now the British one. Needless to say, the investigation described in your post will be extremely useful to create and/or select the best virus strains for fighting a given bacterial infection.

      With any luck, in a few decades hospitals will be using 'phage printers' creating 'personalized' phage varieties designed using a DNA 'design library'. This way, there'll be no need to keep in cold storage many thousands of phage strains. This could become the biggest medical achievement of this century.

      1. MondoMan

        Re: phages well-known (@ MondoMan)

        Not sure I described any specific "investigation", but here's a link to an American Society for Microbiology review of the history and state of phage therapy as of 2001: http://aac.asm.org/content/45/3/649.full

  17. RegGuy1

    Ok tell me again...

    ...what's the point of Tw@tter?

    1. Vociferous

      Re: Ok tell me again...

      omfg u liek can follow kim!! she tweets fotos n stuf 2!!!

      #kardashian #omfg #celeb #cnnbreakingnews

  18. JamesWhatley

    Corrections

    1. I wasn't brought in as any kind of expert on Twitter's 'financials'. If you listen to the segment I described how Twitter is currently bringing money into the business (eg: promoted tweets + trends). How would it bring more money in in the future? Through [the widely reported] TV + media partnerships.

    2. I was never in the 'public relations' function at SpinVox; I was brought in to build social media products and ended up writing the blog. Hence my job, some four years later, as a social media strategist at an ad agency (who spends money with Twitter - so I have a little knowledge in the area).

    3. A cursory glance at my LinkedIn will tell you that I 'appear' to have five years of finance experience (2001-2006).

    That aside, good article - keep it up Andrew, you're a shining light in the world of tech commentary.

    Thanks,

    James Whatley

    @Whatleydude

    Ps. For some reason you left this off the article but FWIW my Twitter following is 3% fake, 32% inactive, 65% good - http://www.flickr.com/photos/whatleydude/10730484885

    1. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

      Correcting Whatley

      Thank you for such an interesting contribution to The Register, James.

      1) At SpinVox, a business based on a fraud, you were performing a public relations function. You may not think you were, but that's what your job was. Indeed, you were the *only* public face of SpinVox for a week after the BBC revealed the true nature of the fraud, at which point the grown ups had to take over. For this, you have my sympathies:

      "We’re really not avoiding being honest" -

      https://web.archive.org/web/20090801034421/http://blog.spinvox.com/2009/07/27/spinvox-update-an-faq/

      To defend the fraud you were either incurious or dishonest - I prefer to believe the former.

      An enduring memory of SpinVox's "demo day" is the CTO advising you not utter a word. Quite wise, I think, in retrospect.

      http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/technology/2009/07/spinvox_we_stand_by_our_story.html

      http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/07/29/spinvox_mechanical_turk/

      http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/08/05/spinvox_demo_day/

      http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/08/18/spinvox_russo_hello_goodbye/

      2) "A cursory glance at my LinkedIn will tell you that I 'appear' to have five years of finance experience (2001-2006)."

      Is this what you mean?

      "LWT: Duties included: Processing monthly payroll. Evaluating and distributing staff expenses for the LWT Factual department."

      "Contributions Clerk: Daily Mail - Duties included: Processing invoices for contributors for the Daily Mail. Cutting, marking, pricing and processing the all printed images."

      If you hadn't become so obsessed with posting photos of yourself onto the internet, you could have had a promising career as an accountant. It's a good job, my Mum always said.

      3) You gave the BBC a view on Twitter's business prospects. Since your job today relies on Twitter's continued success, so I would expect this to be positive.

      1. JamesWhatley

        Re: Correcting Whatley

        Thanks Andrew, I appreciate the tacit agreement with my corrections.

        Have a great day,

        James.

        1. DavCrav Silver badge

          Re: Correcting Whatley

          @ JamesWhatley:

          I don't think processing invoices qualifies you to comment on companies' financial health. Otherwise a glittering career awaits me as an analyst on the following subjects:

          1) Motor racing (I drive to work every day)

          2) Engineering (I just said, I *drive* to work every day)

          3) Tax law (I pay taxes)

          4) Financial planning (I have a folder with all my bank statements in and -- get this! -- they are in chronological order and everything)

          5) Poltics (I've voted on *several* occasions)

          6) Er...

          7) that's it.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Correcting Whatley

        "you could have had a promising career as an accountant"

        Management and chartered accountants do not do those jobs. They are done by clerical workers.

        Also, "financial experience" is rather different from A/R and A/P, not to mention internal expenses.

        I'm a former financial director of a small company, and even in a small company I had people to do those jobs. Now, mortgages, leasing, borrowing against receivables, negotiating terms, especially with foreign customers, querying the bills of the accountants, setting dividends and bonuses, legal compliance - yup, done that. (Tax reduction? It made a lot more sense to devote the potential accounting bills to measures to improve margins).

        Just agreeing in general with AO, except as regards the skill set needed to be a successful accountant.

  19. Robert Grant

    This is not a coincidence

    They already boast more active users than Twitter and they haven't yet begun to tap the commercial potential of this engagement in a professional way.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Horizon covered this back in 1997 - 'The Virus that cures'

  21. Dick Pountain

    The only people for whom Twitter has become essential are journos, which is why it gets so much coverage. Given those stats, the only future for Twitter is to start charging journalists and live with a vastly shrunken user base

  22. FunkyEric
    Happy

    I still think of Twitter users

    As twats

    Now I can add Twitter investors into that category......

  23. MJI Silver badge

    Phages

    Even the name sounds mysterious

    I just hope we get something soon.

    Good article Andrew BTW.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Phages

      It's just the Greek for "eater". A bacteriophage eats bacteria (except that it doesn't, it turns the bacterium into a little factory for making more bacteriophages).

      Oddly, the word "sarcophagus" is also pretty inappropriate as it means "eater of flesh", rather than merely referring to a box where flesh can decompose in peace.

      At one time you could only learn Greek at school if you first learned Latin, and indeed the lessons were in Latin. This made sure that, if you came across a Greek speaker, you could be sure that they had really been to a proper Public School like you, and weren't just some Greek person who spoke with a pronounced English accent. But nowadays they let anybody learn it, even hoi polloi (ordinary citizens)

      1. Irony Deficient

        sarcophagus

        ribosome, sarcophagus originally referred to a type of stone (probably limestone) which was believed to consume flesh; thus, it was thought to be a good choice of material for coffins. Coïncidentally, the word coffin also comes from Ancient Greek (“basket”); however, casket comes from cassette.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I wonder if Twitter will be listed in the BBC Pension Investments next year?

  25. promytius

    twits is a better term

    you need know nothing more - the world in a 140 characters - how's that working for ya?

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