Friday, May 30, 2008

Interesting Insight into the BBC Radio Lab

Despite today's rather damming report on BBC's Internet activities, I think this area is one bit they should leave alone. Great stuff.

Comparing Conferences - Telling you exactly where to go

One of the services that's popular with my clients is a restricted newsletter called Comparing Conferences, inspired by a generic postcard I bought in San Francisco. It says "Wish You Were Here....instead of me". I've just got an e-mail in summarising a conference I didn't attend. It is so full of generalities as to be complete nonsense - I am celebrating the fact that I didn't go.

This year there seems to be a boom in conferences, especially in the media sector as it struggles with new technology and the gradual move to digital storytelling. I concentrate on conferences which operate on the edge of areas my clients are interested in, looking over the garden fence as it were. In some cases (like Integrated Services Europe) you see that a particular sector is ahead of your own. But the vast majority of festivals and conferences could disappear and no-one would notice. I know ask the question - what would happen if this conference didn't go ahead? How much money would be saved - especially when you consider the salary costs of putting 100 people in a room to watch a badly prepared Powerpoint from a struggling CEO. So I'm making a "not in my agenda" list of conferences and festivals which are being organised for all the wrong reasons, a bit like a Which? Consumer report. There are still some great places for networking and active workshops. There are also some world-class meetings which understand how to share knowledge. But, if I were a line manager at the moment, I'd be banning all conference trips unless the potential participants can show what they are building on previous knowledge gained. This isn't knowledge management - it is building a knowledge network.

Happy to share your suggestions of conferences that are eminently missable? Please get in touch!

Consumer associations happily rate products in the store. There are wine tasters that recommend what to leave on the shelves? Now, with global warming a reality and time increasingly short, think of the money you can save by being selective on where to go next.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Looking Back in Anga

In Cologne today with friends taking a critical look at the cable & IPTV exhibition called Anga. Many people are talking about quadruple play - providing mobile, TV, web and VOIP services. I am not sure that I would want to be that dependent on just one provider. The sudden massive Internet outages in the Netherlands a few weeks back were a reminder how vulnerable many of these backbones are - and I understand KPN, who were the cause of the problem, is planning to play around with the software again in the coming weekends.

I was amazed at the rather poor quality of High Definition material displayed by companies at Anga, some of which were smearing all over the place. The problem was the standholders actually thought the pictures weren't that bad. The HDTV set-top box business is still in a post-beta period. Pictures are not "as advertised". I guess it is similar to the bandwidth promises we get from some providers. Juat think of what you could do with all that bandwidth you paid for, but never had.

Bridge Rumpus

Boy, the trains going over the Cologne railway bridge make one hell of a noise if you happen to be downwind. But the weather here is brilliant. Very wierd, local thunderstorms causing havoc in the southern part of the Netherlands today, not far away.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Lost your camera?

There may be hope - slim chance at the moment, but who knows where this could end?

FunX Focus

So far, I have been using Dutch radio station FunX as an example of clever urban programming, involving the young people of Rotterdam, Amsterdam, Utrecht, Eindhoven and The Hague. They use the Dutch language to link people together of mixed ethnic origin, celebrating their heritage. But I think there is a huge danger they will now lose their focus if they go ahead with their ambition to become a national terrestrial radio network in the Netherlands. FunX has just written to the Second Chamber of the Dutch parliament saying their success deserves national FM coverage. This may be an attempt to revive a discussion of three years back when the Board of Governors of the Public Broadcasters in Holland contemplated replacing the classical music programming of Radio 4 with the output of FunX. That's a bit like suggesting BBC Radio 3 should be available only on cable, web-stream or satellite, and that BBC Asian Network get their frequencies instead. Frankly, I would put the 2 million Euro or so they get from the Dutch public broadcasting pot into making more edgy programming (perhaps combining forces with talents in BNN radio) rather than hoping for bigger numbers by including the provinces.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Essent - Please someone buy these guys

Holland’s largest energy concern, Essent, is at risk of falling into foreign hands and is already believed to be in ‘orientation talks’ with Italy’s Enel, Denmark’s Dong,France’s Suez and the British firm Centrica, reports today's Financieele Dagblad. That sounds like its a bad thing.

Believe me it isn't. Hopefully, it will be sold off to foreign hands ASAP who will run a clean sweep through their truly terrible customer service operations. I am so glad I am rid of these jokers thanks to the break-up of the consumer energy monopoly here in the Netherlands. They outsourced everything to call centres who dealt with complaints by asking you to send a fax - and promptly ignoring what you wrote. With energy prices rising through the roof, a bit of customer service isn't too much to ask.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

The Hague Jazz - Great Music, Poor Communication

The Hague Jazz has become a victim of its own success.

It is described as Holland’s most friendly, comfortable, and intimate jazz party burst for two days on May 23 & 24. That wasn't my experience. Already at 1800, the "World Forum" location was buzzing as an estimated 25,000 tried to get into the building. What amazed me was to discover they were still selling tickets at a booth outside.

So, when it came to the star of the show Miriam Makeba, the main auditorium was heavily oversubscribed - and the special reservation cards at 2,50 each were just meaningless. It reminded me more of a rugby scrum than a jazz festival. Festival director Ruud Wijkniet needs to have a re-think on how they handle the main events, since all this happened last year. The bouncers at the door keeping people out were all full of apologies (including complaints that it wasn't like this when it was the North Sea Jazz Festival).

These kind of events are expensive to organise, but also to attend. They used all the clever tricks of having a token system (1 token = 1 Euro 10 cents) to pay for drinks and food. Yes, it may be a little faster for the personnel behind the counters. But the "exchange" system always means people pay more for a sandwich (Euro 5.50) without realising it and you tend to buy more chips than you need, just in case. This was all in contrast to the excellent music - haven't seen a jazz festival this well attended outside Holland, except in Japan.

The atmosphere was fine - until the last night when several African visitors were very annoyed that "white Europeans are again blocking access to our attempt at saying fairwell to a spokeswoman of the anti-apartheid movement". Ok, full is full. But the ticketing system was clearly at fault here - promising access that just wasn't possible. Irony indeed.

Friday, May 23, 2008

German Wifi Radios - Terratec

The concept of wifi radios seems to be catching on. I have seen these guys before at the IFA in Berlin, but now at duty-free in Geneva Airport. Not seen elsewhere. I wonder how their list of stations compares to

Ice Lolly Free Zone

Haven't seen one like this before. Geneva Airport - not too far away from the restaurant.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Healthy Discussion in Geneva

At EBU today to chair a session on Digital Asset Management. Wow - this is a healthy lunch, breaking all traditions on the top floor of this building.

Not "Loving It"

You'd think that restaurants at airports, especially ones like Schiphol that have a huge number of transfer passengers, would cater for arrivals who are still on another time zone. Not this McDonalds. Its 6.45 am and none of the menu on those lights above is available - just some very expensive pancakes and a coffee. I think I will pass.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

AIB Awards 2008

The Association for International Broadcasting has just launched its quest for entries for this year's awards contest. I must declare an interest here. My son, Christopher, was commissioned to help build the on-line website. And I'll be producing the awards from the entries that come in. Fascinating to see what creative minds are up to in this particular sector of broadcasting. CEO Simon Spanswick explains in his blog why such awards are needed, when there seem to be so many award ceremonies already out there.

Breathing Again.....

Been off line for a total of 12 hours this week because of a major fault at KPN, the provider that handles my XS4All business account. Believe me, when you're phone, web and bank transfers depend on one centre, it makes you feel very vulnerable. However, like 2 million other VOIP users in the Netherlands, I don't mind trading occasional outages like this for a significantly lower price point. I must save a couple of thousand Euros a year by consolidating traffic in this way.

But it remands a real hassle when you're offline for technical reasons. There seems to be a loop with the helpdesks when this happens. I can't gain access to the Xs4all website to read news updates on the problem - or to read the message that you shouldn't call the XS4ALL helpdesk because they don't know when KPN will fix the problem either. They need to rethink this bit. Perhaps an SMS warning service when the VOIP system goes down? It is going to fail again sometime, so why not warn us when it happens?

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Glorious sunshine in downtown Bergen

blue skies....yes it can happen three days in a row in Bergen. What's all this about being the rain capital of the world?

Saturday, May 10, 2008

No End in Sight

Saw this last night on NRK-2 television while in Bergen. Better argued than other documentaries of this type, though it is a shame those in the administration refused to be filmed. Problem is the programme doesn't have a happy ending.

Wifi Wind in Bergen, Norway

Originally uploaded by Jonathan Marks
Not often you see signs outside shops for wifi radios. May be its the start of a trend. But you couldn't miss this one outside a shop on Bergen's main street.

KLM Check-In Broken Again

When it works, its fine. But too often I find that the KLM check-in cannot help me when I am trying to get back to Amsterdam. The flight is in a few hours, yet the check-in says its not time to check-in yet.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Water, Water - but don't waste it

Bergen is the rain capital of Europe (so people from outside the city tell me). Yet, so far, I have always had great weather on my visits. At first glance, the hotel request to save water seems a bit draft. But, washing towels for the sake of it, is just a terrible waste of energy too. So, I withdraw my laughter.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

EU on Youtube with the Russians

Curious to see that Google serves up ads about Russian dating alongside this EU press conference on their media policy. How does AdSense work that one out?

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Its all in the database

This ad is designed to scare the living daylights out of those who don't pay their licence fee in the UK. In Holland they solved the problem by making it part of general taxation. This kind of advertising may rebound on the BBC, even though they don't collect the money themselves. Didn't know it was on liveleak - but thanks to Jim for pointing it out.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Broadcast Asia - Radio Asia - Whats going on?

I really don't understand what is going on in Singapore with BroadcastAsia and the RadioAsia conferences. They used to be at the same place, albeit at opposite ends of the Singapore Expo. That meant a 5 minute bus ride, or a 15 minute walk.

Now, RadioAsia is at a different location downtown, so no swapping between the two conferences. Whilst it may be more convenient, I don't understand why the 2nd day of RadioAsia overlaps with Day 1 of the Broadcast Asia which is entitled Radio Renaissance. Are they competing? Looks like it. Can radio afford to do this? I don't think so. I see on the third and last day of RadioAsia, there are buses from the Suntec conference centre (near to City Hall MRT) out to Singapore expo, leaving at 3.45 pm. But BroadcastAsia closes at, so it is going to be a mighty short trip round the stands.

I would make Radio Asia into a one-day affair like the Radio Academy does in London with their excellent "Radio At the Edge" conference in November. I am disappointed that the subjects in RadioAsia over the last few years seem to have gone into a repetitive loop, with issues such as podcasting still on the agenda. This year's line up is another row of panel-sessions featuring mainly (company) presentations. What's missing is any form of controversy or debate! It is curious that a lot of the titles indicate that some sort of convergence is going on - but in the end the split between radio, TV and mobile could not be more pronounced.

I know where most of the trade and traffic will be this year - in yet another trade show at the Singapore Expo. It has the grand title of The International Interactive, Digital Media & Entertainment Exhibition & Conference (InteractiveDME) Confused? You will be. Any outsider can see this is eventually going to go wrong.

I am also amazed at how late the Broadcast Asia exhibition itself opens - 1030 AM. At least they have improved the shuttle bus system to bring people to the exhibition centre before the conference starts - that wasn't the case when I was there last. The Singapore exhibition centre is a long way out of the centre of the city (35 minutes in the bus during rush hour).

I am afraid that Singapore is in danger of losing business to China (who have their own broadcast trade shows like BIRT, later this year because of the Olympics) and the excellent SMPTE show in Sydney, the latter being better than many of the shows we see in Europe and North America. Why is that? They don't talk about convergence - they show it has already happened.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Organized anti-West tagging campaign

Looking through applications like Skype, it is interesting to see that some people put anti-western media slogans in their profiles. I wonder if this part of an orchestrated campaign, perhaps with government approval? Certainly the international Chinese channels like CCTV9 are on an offensive during the run-up to the Olympics.

Reboot 10 is on

Crowds at Reboot 2007
Originally uploaded by Jonathan Marks
Delighted to discover via Twitter (thanks Nicole) that Reboot 10 will be happening in Copenhagen June 26-27th 2008. This is one of 5 core "don't miss" events if you're interested in social networks and how technology is related to lifestyles. Great bunch of people at Reboot 9. I only wish the website would continue the conversation throughout the year. But it seems to freeze.

Twitter - The Numbers

After some initial relunctance, I find myself using Twitter (and associated apps) quite often. Its impossible to explain to others not on Twitter why it is interesting - and I confess that the people I follow changes - I'm following people who share ideas, not just their geographical position and what they are ingesting at that moment. This Techcrunch article has more on the number of Twitter users. Had faith in the Jaiku guys but since Google bought them its silent. I see that they are having software issues in scaling the service, which may mean going back to the drawing board with a different software platform.

Blessed My Soul!

Now that's fast. Watched the actor Brian Blessed hosting "Have I Got News for You" on BBC 1 last night. He was brilliant - my God what a voice and quick fire wit. Immediately afterwards I checked the web to find out a bit more on what he's up to these days and came across his Wikipedia entry. To my surprise, his hosting of that episode was already part of the Wikipedia entry. Must have made the same impact on someone else too. Will definitely record the extended repeat at 22:00 - 22:40 (UK time) on BBC-2 tonight.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Facebook - the reality

One of the better sketches about Facebook, produced for the BBC 3 channel in the UK. If you use Facebook, you'll recognise how stupd many of the functions are in the real world. Do you really poke friends?