Economists: always surprising

I’m always surprised by economists and the things they come up with. If you’ve ever read Freakanomics, you’ll be aware of the exciting trends they can uncover (abortion as the cause of reduced crime in the US, etc).

But they can also devise some extremely clever ways of encouraging certain behaviours and discouraging others. Take carbon trading: it’s worth billions already and is encouraging industry to become greener using the motivation of large profits for those who are environmentally friendly. Carbon taxes, currently being argued about by all the main UK political parties, are a way of discouraging environmentally unfriendly behaviour.

The most clever green proposal I’ve seen is to discourage electricity suppliers from charging per kilowatt, but instead to provide a warm, well-lit house as a service, to be delivered in whatever way the supplier deems necessary:

“People aren’t fussed about how much power they buy,” explains Philip Sellwood, chief executive of the trust. “If energy suppliers sold a service – a lit and heated house, rather than units of gas or electricity – then they would face incentives to provide it as efficiently as possible.” In theory, such companies would even pay to improve their customers’ homes, cutting their own costs in the process. One is already operating in Woking, a green-minded town; another is planned to start in London.

See? That’s clever.

New rights to consider

PWD 34One of the big tussles in freelance journalism these days is over rights: who has copyright over an article; what media it can be used in, by whom and when; how much this all costs; and so on. It’s a long and complicated business with freelances on one side, wanting to be able to get the most money possible from their work, and publishers on the other, wanting to get as much for their money as they can.

Normally, the debate is over reprints, reuse on web sites, etc, but in this Web 2.0 world, there are new things to think about. I mention this in passing (since I’m not too fussed about it), but is anyone looking at the rights involved in having an article read out during a podcast?

I’ve recently had a tutorial in Practical Web Design on embedding Google Maps in web sites. And now, it’s pretty much been read out, introduction and all, on the PWD podcast. As mentioned, I’m not too fussed (although it would have been nice to have been credited), but has anyone been looking at the rights situations, because I think Web 2.0 is going to throw up a whole heap of interesting copyright questions?

Speed of payment after liquidation

In case you’re owed money by Highbury – although let’s face it, unless you’re a preferential creditor, there’s probably nothing coming for us because of all the debts the company owed to preferred creditors – I thought I’d give you an idea of how long it takes liquidators to decide how much money to dish out.

I’ve just received notice that the liquidators of a company that went bankrupt mid-2004, owing me £875 from an invoice I’d sent in May 2004, are about to pay out. I’ll get 22.98p in the pound.

So that’s just over two years to get paid a fifth of what I was owed. The wheels of financial justice move slowly, my friends.

Actually, the liquidator were going to pay out in August, but they got my address wrong and sent the cheque to the wrong address. I only found out because they’ve just sent me the “we’re winding things up now” letter, which somehow made it through.

PS Anyone who did work for Highbury’s “ringfenced fund” back in January should now have received a letter telling them what’s happening. If you haven’t yet received a letter, give BDO Stoy Hayward a call or else you won’t stand a chance of getting paid.