Sunday, March 30, 2014
Saturday, March 29, 2014
Dutch public broadcasting put out this reportage today on the rise of the commercial YouTube channels in the Netherlands. Whilst there are some that are making money, the genres are somewhat limited. It is mainly about make-up, humour or gaming.
Richard Kastelein raises an important point in this interview he did while in Australia. What happens if Facebook, Apple, Google or Yahoo start bidding for sports rights? And what role does radio play in an increasingly visual world?
If people thought that hate speech was eliminated when Radio of a thousand hills in Rwanda was closed down 20 years ago, then sadly the lessons learned there are being repeated elsewhere in the world. A study by a Harvard University researcher David Yanagizawa-Drott estimates that 9.9% of the participation in the genocidal violence in the Great Lakes Region was due to the broadcasts. The estimate of the study in 2012 suggests that approximately 51,000 deaths were caused by the radio station's broadcasts.
This investigative documentary was broadcast recently by BBC Arabic and BBC World News. It is well worth watching.
There is growing tension between Shia and Sunni Muslims in Iraq and Syria, fueled by these satellite television stations operating from countries like Egypt and the UK with money from Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.
BBC Arabic Journalist Nour-Eddine Zorgui, writer and director Sam Farmar, and the team have done an excellent job is bringing the true extent of hate media to light. Because of language and cultural barriers we simply do not understand what's going on. It takes careful thought to put the issue into a meaningful context. For me, this documentary is an excellent example of why international investigative journalism is still needed.
Friday, March 28, 2014
Thursday, March 27, 2014
Monday, March 24, 2014
Great to see Doc Searls and others explain why people don't trust many of the online ads we see. This was six months ago. I still get strange banner ads offering me things I have already bought. Don't you?
Sunday, March 23, 2014
I have been looking at how the private sector in Silicon Valley is stimulating innovation. It's partly by offering prizes to solve big problems. US$30 million on the table if you can build a moon explorer. US$10 million if you can build the medical tricorder. US$2 million if you can work out why the ocean is getting more acidic. Of course, you will be hard pressed to build a lunar lander for US$ 30 million, but prize winners seldom fail to find partners. Think of the prize as just the publicity budget.
But you can see there is a wide variation in the quality of the teams entering these competitions. At least, judging by their opening pitch. The US teams are much better prepared to explain what they are doing. For example, just compare the video from Team Splendo from the Netherlands with Team Scanadu from Mountain View in the race for the Tricorderprize. I'm afraid it is the difference between night and day. (Actually I thought Scanadu's video for Kickstarter was much better than any of the videos they have produced since). Evidence below.
So what's the point?My point is actually linked to NASA. You can see that government agencies don't understand how to involve the public in the same way as the private sector. The comedy show "The Bugle" pointed out this week that you can win US$ 32,000 by answering 5 trivia questions on the game show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. NASA has just announced perhaps the hardest challenge in a long time. They are asking citizen scientists to develop improved algorithms that can be used to identify asteroids. The winning solution must increase the detection sensitivity, minimize the number of false positives, ignore imperfections in the data, and run effectively on all NASA computer systems. And the reward?
I was reminded about the excellent interview with Jerry Pournelle, who explains to Leo Laporte what went wrong with the US space program and what could have happened. Have at look at what Jerry says 7 minutes in to this video.
Compare the NASA challenge with the X-prize. No contest!
I took a look at the videos made by teams entering the Qualcomm Tricorder Xprize. Xprize doesn't seem to attract the best entries in storytelling.
I thought this earlier video from Scanadu is much better.
So what don't I understand?
Saturday, March 22, 2014
Which begs the question: how quickly will all this fade? Actually, we're already seeing that the web has saved many of these stories. YouTube and Soundcloud have become the archives that radio stations threw out. And listeners did a much better job of curating the best stories than most of the professionals.
|Dick Klees, ex Veronica and Radio Netherlands International. One of the many radio specialists who understand good radio produuction.|
|May be it was the radiation that turned many of us all bald!|
|One of the few conventions where engineers are heroes. Peter Chicago, chief engineer at Radio Caroline.|
More photos on Flickr
Friday, March 21, 2014
The last meeting was in 2012 and also featured Radio Caroline. Half of the video reportage is in Dutch (because it dealt with REM Island) and the second half as from 16'22 is in English.
The shortwave transmission towers at Sackville have gone off the air and now are off the face of the earth. Later this month, shortwave transmissions will stop from the Seychelles and across Russia. Thanks for hours of interesting programmes. It was worth it in an era when information was scarce. I respect those who made it possible.
Thanks too to filmmaker, Amanda Dawn Christie, who has been gathering footage to create Spectres of Shortwave: a 90 minute documentary film focusing on the Radio Canada International Sackville transmitting site. I hope she will look at a day in the life of the transmitting station and capture the stories of the high-frequency business rather than just the technology.
And now it is time to move on.
Wednesday, March 19, 2014
Monday, March 17, 2014
Friday, March 14, 2014
Thursday, March 13, 2014
This vintage Media Network from March 1986 includes a visit to Maastricht, which was then home to a regional station called ROZ, (Regional Broadcaster South). The station's head was Armand Sliepen, who years later joined Radio Netherlands, mainly to run the expansion of the BVN project. The programme also includes news of a bombing at Radio Veritas in the Philippines.
Wednesday, March 12, 2014
Newsday is like watching BBC Breakfast TV (without the pictures) when I would rather be listening to Today. It's a classic case of cost-cutting to a point where it goes into failure mode. It's a programme which is not tuned to the needs of an on-demand world. They banter on in London and Johannesburg and then chuck up an audiofile in the hope that the listener will sort out the mess by listening again. What did Tony Hall say about an on-demand world? With no guide, there's no chance of anyone listening. And expensive items get lost the moment they air. They even have the cheek to take it off line after 7 days - so it clearly is not the programme of record. Which is why this whole sequence needs a radical rethink.
In the meantime, I'm going back to the Today programme. Now there's an example that Newsday should be following.
Sunday, March 09, 2014
More time travel, this time 32 years!. Welshman Tony Jones, who lived in South America at the time of this recording, later went on to help with editing Passport to World Band Radio. He made a series of talks about broadcasting in several countries in Latin America. We didn't have much in the way of recordings to illustrate the piece. You can see the restrictions 12 years before the we had access to the Internets. This programme also includes the voice of Prof John Campbell explaining the Radio Beauvais hoax. He also talks about the tradition of Sunday morning pirates and the Radio Freedom broadcasts towards apartheid South Africa.
The programme was recorded in 1982 after the first stone laying ceremony on the site of the new transmitter site for Radio Netherlands on the Flevo polder. I remember it well because the fog came down that day and it was almost impossible for the coach to find its way back to the road. The Flevo polder wasn't as developed as it is today. The late Joop Acda, then DG of Radio Nederland Wereldomroep, explains the thinking behind the new station. Jim Vastenhoud, Director of Technical Services, talks about energy saving technology to reduce the collosal power bill. Four 500 kW transmitters used 3.2 Megawatts of energy from the mains.
In other news, Richard Ginbey has African media news and Radio Hallam in Sheffield puts out a fake nuclear warning.
Media Network didn't only cover broadcast technology. Occasionally we ventured into other areas where radio played a role, like radio astronomy. It was an opportunity to visit the only radio telescope facility in the Netherlands at Westerbork. It is still there. This programme from 1986 also includes the voice of Arthur Cushen and Fred Osterman of Universal Electronics in Reynoldsburg, Ohio.
Saturday, March 08, 2014
I am looking for examples of outstanding storytelling about new emerging companies. I must say that Alexis Ohanian and the Verge does an excellent job. I think he has told the best story I have seen about the 3-D printing startup called Shapeways. They are now big in New York, although their origins are in Eindhoven, The Netherlands.
Alexis also did another episode which takes the lid off Squarespace. We hear about these guys on many podcasts like TWIT.TV and the Guardian. But this is the first tour I have seen. They claim that nothing can take them down. And the story of what they did when bad weather hit NYC.
Know of other examples? I personally feel that in Europe we're not really trying hard enough.
A very clever piece of interactive advertising has been dreamed up by the Stockholm advertising agency Åkestam Holst from Sweden, working with production company Stopp for Apotek Hjärtat’s Apolosophy products.
Stopp says the ad was scheduled to be run for one day only, but it was so popular that the company which owns the screens asked for it to run for the rest of the week “as a way for them to show the opportunities their screens can offer”. It turns out the billboard is driven by a Raspberry Pi computer which is still powerful enough to drive a full HD digital display and can be hooked up to respond to real-world inputs. Thanks to the Raspberry Pi blog for the tip.
Same company also made some cool business cards which I think would really work for executives at radio stations. What do you think?
I note that Radio Shack is supporting the guys at Maker Media in California with some excellent "how to" projects for the home constructor. Two of the projects involve making your own FM radio transmitter. The first one is a tiny low-power mono circuit, with a range of just a few feet. The video of how to built it is beautifully filmed.
And then, for the owners of the Raspberry Pi computer, there's a hack to turn that it into an FM station too. Thought they don't say what the radiated power is, if you built the right antenna, and you are on the right terrain, the signal may go for a couple of hundred metres. I wonder why they are not dropping Raspberry Pi's into some of the fragile states to assist opposition groups. Of course there is a disclaimer in both videos that transmitting on FM without a licence can end up with a fine or a jail sentence.
This simple hack turns your Raspberry Pi into a FM transmitter!
PiFM software enhances the capability of your Pi, but does so with nothing more than a single length of wire. This hack starts with the absolute minimum you need to run a Raspberry Pi — an SD card, a power source, and the board itself — and adds one piece of wire. It’s the coolest Pi hack with so few materials.
PiFM was originally created by Oliver Mattos and Oskar Weigl, and revised by Ryan Grassel. It was written by MAKE Labs engineering intern Wynter Woods.
MAKE labs give advice on which frequency to choose. 88-108 MHz is the range for FM in most countries (except Japan). That reminds me of the pirates I bumped into at the Picnic Festival in Amsterdam a few years ago. Radio Manuela 109 MHz was a small team of Djs and presenters who were busy interviewing VIP's at the festival. When I asked them if they had any listeners on 109 MHz, they said no. That wasn't the point. They wanted to get in to the festival and being from the media got them access to the people they wanted to see. They did have a low-power transmitter on 109 MHz, but they pointed to the slogan on the stand. We keep you young, sexy but not famous.
Best low power microstation I ever met was George FM in Auckland, New Zealand. They are part of this programme (around 24 minutes in) that I made in January 2000. They were operating then with 300 milliWatts, but into an antenna which was cleverly positioned so it covers most of the centre of Auckland where the students live. Looks like they are still on the air.
We also made a Media Network programme on the London pirates in October 1984.
And lastly a programme from 1995 when we looked at the pirate radio stations on AM (mediumwave) in the East of the Netherlands. They often used powers of 1-10 kW's rather than the couple of milliwatts you'll get out of a Raspberry Pi.
Richard Kastelein is doing a lot to push the frontiers of orchestrated television. It needs both composers and conductors to tell compelling trans-media stories. Delighted to see the word is getting out. Richard is based in Groningen in the Netherlands but has recently organised some very original creative hackathons in London and San Francisco. He's now touring Australia. Definitely someone to watch.
Thursday, March 06, 2014
Again YouTube comes up with the goods - a radio enthusiast's visit to the transmitter site of Vatican Radio, actually outside the Vatican on Italian soil but owned by the Holy See. Gradually, houses have been built around the site, to a point where there were severe power limitations put on the place.
Wednesday, March 05, 2014
I find this rare off-the cuff interview with Steve Ballmer to be quite fascinating for all kinds of reasons. It is billed as Steve giving insights for the audience of business students in Oxford, 13% of whom are planning to be entrepreneurs. I guess the rest plan to join a bank or an accounting firm.
He certainly has a unique style of management - a loud football coach - born to sell. I wonder whether he may be hard of hearing. He's definitely a shouter in a world that makes money out of sharing these days. I'm sure people can work for him. It just must be so difficult to work with him.
At 24'40" Steve seems to be saying exactly the opposite to Steve Blank et al. "Those who say fail fast are completely wrong. Great companies and start-ups don't fail fast". They modify their idea, regroup and move on".
In fact I would call that pivoting, accepting that taking a particular path will lead to failure before you go too far down that path. Microsoft should have done that with Windows Millennium, Windows Vista and Windows 8 operating systems. And even Steve acknowledges their ventures with mobile have been a failure to capture the market.
But frankly, hiring someone like Steve Ballmer for your start-up would be a recipe for disaster. He is busy executing a plan. God help you if you are still searching for your business model, as is the case for most start-ups. I wonder what he will do now? Sounds like the Said Business School Dean Peter Tufano is planning to write his biography.
Steve Ballmer is still a director of Microsoft Corporation. He joined Microsoft in 1980 and was the company's first business manager. Ballmer retired as Chief Executive Officer on 4 February 2014. He was guest at the Saïd Business School in Oxford.
Had a US anchor resigned on a major US network because they disagreed with the editorial policy of the station or political events in the country, you would expect the station to erase all trace of that person as soon as possible. It has also happened in Europe when presenters have been involved in some kind of controversy. Russia Today figured that they would be better off publishing the clip of presenter Liz Wahl's resignation. It's even the clip that's been added to Wikipedia, though anyone could have done that.
What I find very strange is that Wahl then goes on to do an interview with Anderson Cooper on CNN from the same RT studio set in Washington DC. If you'd just resigned in the stations I've managed, you would be escorted to the door after an outburst like that. Not left to broadcast your resume to your next employer to rival networks. Which makes me believe this is all theatre.
Update: By far the best analysis is on the media analysis show "No Agenda" with Adam Curry and John C Dvorak. March 6th edition, 20 minutes into the show.
This is a repost with updates from January 2004. But with some great new resources.
I confess. The Northern (and Southern) lights fascinate me and one of my dream trips is to return to Northern Europe when the northern lights are blazing. The Northern lights is the result of our atmosphere shielding against solar particles which would otherwise make our planet uninhabitable. During large explosions and flares on the sun, huge quantities of solar particles are thrown out of the sun and into deep space. These plasma clouds travel through space with speeds varying from 300 to 1000 kilometers per second. But even with such speeds (over a million kilometer per hour), it takes these plasma clouds two to three days to reach our planet. When they are closing in on Earth, they are captured by Earth's magnetic field (the magnetosphere) and guided towards Earth's two magnetic poles; the geomagnetic south pole and the geomagnetic north pole.
On their way down towards the geomagnetic poles, the solar particles are stopped by Earth's atmosphere, which acts as an effective shield against these deadly particles.
When the solar particles are stopped by the atmosphere, they collide with the atmospheric gases present, and the collision energy between the solar particle and the gas molecule is emitted as a photon - a light particle. And when you have many such collisions, you have an aurora - lights that may seem to move across the sky.
In order for an observer to actually see the aurora with the naked eye, about a 100 million photons are required.
One of the best sites for more information is in Northern Norway. There is also a superb site covering the Aurora Australis or Southern Lights. When I was in Australia, one of the best shows in the evening was simply to walk outside. Once you get out of Melbourne or Sydney, where there is a lot of light pollution, the night sky just opens up. If there is any storm activity, the night sky is just fantastic. Makes you feel very small though.
A few years ago I remember seeing a documentary on the now defunct BBC HD network. It has now made its way onto YouTube. Best one I have every seen on the Northern Lights. Beautifully done.
The channel costs 85 million quid to run in the current financial year, but cutting transmission costs would not recover all these costs. Remember the channel isn't 24 hrs - only starting at 7 pm each evening. We will know more shortly. I wonder why they haven't got rid of BBC News as suggested by Richard Sambrook writing in the Guardian. Now that is a prime target for going online.
In the meantime, remember the BBC 3 blobs idents from 2002? Best continuity campaign ever. I remember the microelectronics blooper originally came from a Kenny Everett show (at least that's where I first heard the blooper).
Tuesday, March 04, 2014
History keeps repeating itself, both on the ground and on the radio. The theatre going on in Crimea and Ukraine at the moment remind me of other situations. But there is a difference. The programmes below were all made when the Russian's had an external broadcasting service called Radio Moscow, later renamed as Voice of Russia. Just as Voice of America shouted at the Russia, so Voice of Russia shouted back.
That was before Facebook, YouTube and Twitter can along and disrupted traditional international broadcasting out of existence. By creating Russia Today, the Russians found the way to influence was by joining in other conversations, producing shows that others were not expecting and making the audience into the distribution system. It's a sharing strategy which works in an era of influential social media. Rolling news networks in the West are facing declining audiences because audiences are getting better than broadcasters in just reporting the events. Russia Today has realised they can trigger a discussion by putting their arguments in a surprising embeddable context. BBC World Service and US International broadcasters are still shouting. They don't know how to engage.
Remember 1968? This is the complete edition of a documentary called Truth Shall Prevail, the engaging story of Radio Prague in 1945 and 1968. I discovered a rather large set of recordings in Dutch archives in 1988 because, it seems, there was an agricultural conference going on in Prague at the time when the Russians invaded in August 1968. I have also managed to do a video interview with Peter Skala, the frequency manager of Radio Prague and the founder of the Radio Prague Monitor Club. He is just fascinating. He confirmed that many of the educated guesses we made at the time in 1988 were correct. If you're interested in more of this, check out the interviews I made with Wolf Harranth, former DX editor at the ORF in Vienna. He followed those eventful days very closely, being so close to the Czechoslovak border.
A visit with Wolf Harranth, OE1WHC, Dokufunk Curator from Jonathan Marks on Vimeo
Dokufunk Part 2: More from the Vienna radio vaults from Jonathan Marks on Vimeo.
A few nights before the Americans went into Kuwait in January 1991 to liberate it from the Iraqi's, Russian troops went into Vilnius, the capital of what is now the independent country of Lithuania. This is the story of that Russian invasion as recounted by Radio Vilnius, operating at the time from the recording studios of the blind foundation. Transmission date January 20th 1991.
A year later there was a chance for follow-up, after the situation had got back to normal. 15 minutes into the next programme there's an interview with the new boss of Radio Vilnius who told us the inside story on what happened when Soviet troops raided the station the year before and how they broadcast from the blind institute not knowing if their voices were being heard. I find that sign-on music they used to be very haunting.
We had no idea of what had really happened in the Ukraine at the end of April 1986. I remember that when the news broke, we were celebrating Queen's Day in the Netherlands (April 30th). I tuned into Radio Moscow and Radio Kiev, but they didn't give us much detail. I love the offhand way the announcer in Kiev says "and now sports". The programme also had contact with Pat Gowan, G3IOR a radio amateir in the UK who monitors and contacts Russian amateurs on a regular basis. He confirmed that amateurs in Kiev made no mention of the situation.
And so back to the present. It seems that a Ukrainian pirate radio station has been on the air, asking the West for support. Best way to do this now is via Twitter rather than shortwave radio. And it is ironic that many of us found out about it by screening what appears on Youtube. Recording made on Monday March 3rd 2014.
I'm sure these shots would not have been captured if they had used a helicopter.
Monday, March 03, 2014
Wonder what will happen to Russia Today presenter Abby Martin. If they are clever in Moscow, nothing at all. After all, can you imagine if the tables were turned and a presenter on US government network had a similar postscript?
Saturday, March 01, 2014
Some cities like San Francisco and Seoul are doing experiments with a civic peer to peer economy. Michel Bauwens explains that Ecuador is taking steps to do this as a nation state.
Michel Bauwens is the founder of the Foundation for Peer-to-Peer Alternatives and works in collaboration with a global group of researchers in the exploration of peer production, governance, and property. Belgian by birth, he normally lives in Chang Mai, Thailand. He is currently in Quito.
He is currently Primavera Research Fellow at the University of Amsterdam and also coordinates a research group at the Ecuadorian National Advanced Studies Institute called the FLOK Society.