On the originality of ideas

A friend sent me this the other day and it made me laugh.



I was googling to try and find out who wrote it, and it turns the out the original was by a French cartoonist called Kadey. Whoever did the English version, as well as pasting out the French and replacing it with English, also deleted Kadey’s signature. Naughty.


Not giving credit where it’s due is rather a sore spot with me, as anyone who followed the story of Ross Ashcroft and Four Horsemen will know, hence this post now.

But, of course, it may be that Kadey got his idea from Gary Larson – he of The Far Side.


There’s no such thing as an original idea, we all know that. Ideas evolve. Great thinkers are often just product of the collective conscious at that time, while IP, copyright and patenting laws, designed to protect, are often subverted for the purposes of rent-seeking. But there is a fine line between directly nicking something – as happened to Kadey – and taking an idea and moving it forward (as happens all the time in film, literature and music – especially sampling). Quite what that line is, I’m not sure.

For more on sampling and the originality of ideas this Marc Ronson Ted Talk is excellent:

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The Money Pit

This Thursday night (October 29th) sees episode 1 of The Money Pit, starring Jason Manford and yours truly.

Dominic Frisby and Jason Manford in The Money Pit

So tune into Dave at 7.30.

Here’s the blurb from Dave: forty total strangers put their own money on the line in the quest to invest in fledgling businesses that could make their fortunes. But they’ll have to club together to raise enough money to get the businesses to their target – and that’s when tempers flare and the game-playing begins. Inspired by the growing trend of crowd-funding, anything can happen in the Money Pit.

It was great fun to do and my thanks go to exec producer Michele Carlisle, producer Pat Doyle, director Charlie Anderson, commissioners Richard Watsham and Iain Coyle, and to Jamie Isaacs, Liberty Bell and UKTV for making it happen. Thanks also to Jason, all the production team, the crazy crowdfunders and the entrepreneurs who needed their money.

I’ll see you at the BAFTAs.

Frisby & Manford again


Life After The State reduced from £6.99 to £2.99 and the Amazon vs publisher wars

You’ve now doubt read about the ongoing war between Amazon and book publishers.

BookCoverAmazon’s business model is predicated on getting the best possible product to the customer at the cheapest possible price with the best possible service, even if that means squeezing the supplier and obliterating the competition. Publishers – the suppliers – are, quite understandably, not so happy to be squeezed. They’re trying to fight back, to defend their profits and, to an extent, their writers’ livelihoods by keeping book prices, as much as they can, up.

My publisher, Unbound, recently signed a deal with Penguin Random House (PRH) to distribute their books. And so, suddenly, I found myself unwillingly caught up in the crossfire of Amazon-PRH wars.

PRH – for reasons I completely get – want to keep the kindle prices of their books somewhere close to the print prices. And so Life After The State was priced at £6.99. But people stopped buying it. Why shouldn’t they, when there are so many kindle books available for 99p, £1.99 or £2.99?

In the Amazon rankings, Life After The State has always been in the top ten, and often top of the obscure category ‘political economy’. But priced at £6.99, it slid to 396th. At its peak (when I was on the Today programme) Life After The State got to top the of non-fiction, and it remained for a long time in the top 10 for economics. It slid 840th earlier this week. The price of £6.99 effectively killed sales of kindle version of the book.

I kept begging and nagging Unbound to reduce the price, but they couldn’t. Now though, thanks to the wonderful negotiating skills of Jason Cooper at Unbound, PRH have reduced the price to £2.99. We have already “soared” back to 168th in the political economy charts. ( I know how ridiculous that sounds).

Life After The State was a work of, I don’t know, passion, love, something. It was never about the money. I just wanted as many people as possible to read it and see the light about our stupid government systems, which create so much inequality, waste and unnecessary unhappiness. With everything that is going on in the world, there should still be an appetite for the book. At the new price of £2.99,I’m hoping that appetite will be rather sated.

Thanks to PRH for compromising – and thanks Jason!

On literal translations and Mario Balotelli aka @finallymario ‘s Twitter handle

MBMario Balotelli’s Twitter handle is @FinallyMario.

Despite what many assume, the Italian ‘finalmente’ does not translate into English directly as ‘finally’. There is a subtle difference.

When an Italian says, ‘finalmente’, what he or she means would better translate as, ‘At last’. At last we are saved – ‘finalmente, ci siamo salvati’. What I suspect Balotelli  intended by his Twitter handle, given his form in the arrogance stakes, is a literal translation of ‘Finalmente Mario’ – ‘At last,  it’s Mario’.

But ‘finally’, in English, has several meanings, all of them with slightly different implications.

  1. ‘Eventually’ or ‘after some time’ – as in ‘John finally showed up to training’. I’m pretty sure ‘Eventually Mario’ is not what he means.
  2. ‘Lastly’ – as in, ‘finally, sprinkle with sugar ’. I’m certain he doesn’t mean, ‘Lastly Mario’.
  3. ‘Permanently’ – as in ‘The manager must finally resolve the Balotelli issue’. I would wager that he doesn’t mean ‘Permanently Mario either.’

Twitter kept nagging me to follow Balotelli and the result was this. I think I need to put my energy to something more productive.

In the meantime …

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How to thrive in the age of robots

Now there’s an interesting question.

What are the skills and qualities you will need to survive and thrive when robots are going to be taking all the best jobs?

Tech entrepreneur and author, Richard Newton, says the desired qualities will be the things robots can’t yet replicate: creativity, compassion, empathy, curiosity, emotional intelligence, playfulness.

“We are witnessing the end of meat machines and the rise of human beings,” he says. “And we are on the verge of a creative revolution. To be future proof in this world of constant, rapid change we must adopt the liberated, individual behaviour of artists, entrepreneurs and inventors.”

Richard speaks to me in the latest Virgin Podcast:

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