Weekend news roundup

5 Dec 2011

A roundup of some of the weekend’s top newspaper tech stories, including Bono’s lucrative investment in Facebook about to deliver, how a Limerick town name is too obscene for Facebook, digital ogling is the latest thing in New York and London, and how programming should be part of the school curriculum.

It’ll be a beautiful (pay) day

The Sunday Independent reported that U2 singer Bono’s investment in Facebook via his involvement in Elevation Partners could deliver him a handsome US$1.1bn pay day. Once dubbed “the worst investor in America”, Bono is looking pretty shrewd these days.

Facebook is limbering up to raise €7.5bn in a stock-market flotation early next year. This sale of 10pc of the firm would value the company at an extraordinary €75bn.

Bono is one of the key players in California private equity group Elevation Partners, which has spent more than €156m for a 1.5pc stake in the social network.

Elevation spent €67m for 2.5m shares in November 2009 and a further €89m for 5m shares in June 2010. But since then, valuations of Facebook have exploded, with Elevation seeing its stake increase more than sevenfold in just more than two years.

The shares are now worth around €1.1bn.

Come on Facebook, stop ‘Effin’ about

The Irish Independent reported on the curious case of the Limerick town of Effin, which has found itself blacklisted by Facebook because it has judged the town’s name as too offensive.

Ann Marie Kennedy said the social networking site would not allow her to list Effin in Co Limerick, Ireland, on her profile page because it deemed it obscene.

She contacted Facebook a number of times but received no reply, so she then tried to set up the group “Please get my hometown Effin recognised”, but that was also rejected.

“It came back with an error message saying ‘offensive’,” said Kennedy.

She went on: “It will recognise Limerick but I’m not from Limerick City, I’m from Effin.

“I’m a proud Effin woman. And I always will be an Effin woman.”

A logical argument about ICT curriculum for schools

The Observer’s John Naughton has hit out at the lack of ICT skills in UK schools and urges a rethink. Coding skills, he warns, should be taught like any other language.

“The ICT (information and communications technology) curriculum in our secondary schools has been a national disgrace for as long as I can remember. This is because it effectively conflates ICT with ‘office skills’ and generally winds up training them to use Microsoft Office when what they really need is ICT education – that is to say preparation for a world in which Microsoft (and maybe even Google) will be little more than historical curiosities, and PowerPoint presentations will look like Dead Sea scrolls.”

Rory Cellan-Jones’ blog post was prompted by signs that the campaign to rethink ICT education is gathering momentum. It first received a boost by a report written by two elders of the computer games world, Ian Livingstone and Alex Hope, on the need to transform the UK into “the world’s leading talent hub for the video games and visual effects industries“. Their report recommended, among other things, that computer science should become part of the national curriculum.

Digital ogling is the next new thing

The New York Times reported on a new phenomena that indulges commuters’ crushes by allowing people to snap the objects of their desires with their smartphones and post the photos anonymously online.

Equal parts photo blog, personal ad and online stalking tool, TubeCrush was started in London last spring as a place for Underground riders to upload and share photos of men on the train who caught their eye. (Yes, only men.)

Stephen Motion, 30, a sales manager, said he and his roommates started the site for fun. Within a few months, the press had seized on it, and the site was receiving thousands of unique visits daily.

The natural next step was New York. In July, they announced they had created an M.T.A. version, SubwayCrush.net. Motion said it has 4,000 to 28,000 unique visits a day. Next year, the founders plan to add photos of women and a means for crushes to independently connect with admirers.

In some ways, the TubeCrush concept is the 21st-century incarnation of a lost variety of printed personal ad, in which people wrote about seeking a connection with that attractive regular at the bus stop or cafe. In 2000, Craigslist introduced its own free version, called Missed Connections, and it was only a matter of time before photos entered the mix, the perfection of the camera phone having made stealth photography especially easy. To unsuspecting subjects, an admiring photographer is as likely to be checking email as snapping a shutter.

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John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years