Thursday, November 27, 2008

Mumbai Attacks - When Radio Fails

I must confess I switched the radio off this morning and came downstairs to consult the webpages of the same station. It was truly an awful story out of India today. But the reporting and analysis on the radio was truly awful too.

I have seldom heard so much muddled story-telling and pure speculation. There was even a piece about the possible effects on the entire Indian business community. The context to the disaster was totally lacking on the radio and they were spinning out 4 minutes of news into an entire half hour. Yes, I learned they had a reporter outside one of the hotels and no, he didn't know any more than the agencies that there were people inside who'd been taken hostage. But I wasn't told how this had affected travel in(to) the city. All the other news didn't exist in the hope that there would be more breaking statistics to "switch live to". There was so much confusion on the wireless, I switched it off.

In contrast the web gave relevant facts about previous incidents of this type, all the statements from international leaders, maps, and travel advice from people in the region.

Al Jazeera English has the best TV coverage out of the region at the moment. Again, context is so important. Radio used to have the best "pictures" and analysis. Not any more.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Global Warning

Great stuff. Old - but suddenly rather topical again looking outside my window.

Mobuzz TV Buzzes Out Of Bizz

So, Mobuzz TV is history, after nearly 4 years of trying to produce daily tech lifestyle shows, about 4-5 minutes, Mon-Fri in 3 languages. The clue to their failure likes in the slogan at the top - Television 2.0. After the initial enthusiasm died down, they turned it into a studio based compilation of stuff found out on the web. So there didn't seem much added value when compared with the shows coming out of Silicon Valley. They didn't succeed in empowering their audience and when things went bad (like presenters resigning) they made classic communication mistakes in going dark and into a wall of silence. So the fans realised they were being broadcast at (like TV 1.0) and the community on the site shrank to a handful. Conclusions - studio based stuff with "presenters" making mash-ups of stuff the audience probably already has access to is not going to work, especially if the production costs are so high (50,000 Euro a month towards the end). There are clearly formats that will work on these new platforms. But learn from Mobuzz what not to do. Their own routine killed it in the end.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Youtube Widescreen

Delighted to see the Youtube player has just been reformatted to accept Widescreen 16 by 9 material. That has stopped me posting stuff in the past.

Nigel Chapman leaves BBC World Service

Twitter is alive this morning with the news that Nigel Chapman is leaving the BBC after nearly 31 years service. I first knew him when he was Deputy Director of World Service back in 2001, but he since went on to fill the Director's post for four years. He's to become the CEO of the children's charity, Plan International, early next year.

Nigel has presided over a turbulent shift in emphasis at the BBC World Service, as 11radio language services have closed to make way for new on-line and TV activities. It's not easy to explain the reasons for these changes to creative staff, especially when audiences are remote and each country has a different political and media structure. But, having been a judge at the recent AIB awards 2008 and seen a lot of WS entries, it would appear that the short term pain is now resulting into visibile gain - especially in the non-English language services out of Bush and Broadcastingg House. I for one wish him well. Since Plan supports a lot of programme production in developing countries, I don't think he's going to lose sight of the international broadcasting scene very soon.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Flexible OLED displays

Looks like the Koreans (Samsung) are ahead when it comes to flexible displays for the next generation mobile phones. The video just in was shot in Tokyo and spotted by Marc Canter on his blog.

Skype Video Phone launches

Wonder if this stand-alone video phone works on the internal battery or whether it always needs AC power. If it runs on batteries, it might have applications for radio stations in Africa. An increasing source of income is providing chat services between their listeners and their family and friends abroad. Probably need to wait until the price drops, sorry, tumbles below 75 bucks. I am bit worried about investing in a proprietary system - we've all learned the lessons from the Worldspace radio fiasco.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Glad I'm not travelling tomorrow

Local traffic authorities in Holland putting out warning's that tomorrow's commute is going to be challenging. This snow has crept up on us. It is bitterly cold - by West European standards.

No kids & No Cameras

This sign hangs on the door of an old ironmongers at Skansen in Stockholm. They show you how Swedes lived in times gone past and the traditional crafts. Whilst I can understand they don't want buggies, icecream and cigarettes inside, it seems strange there is a ban on photography. If they don't allow visitors to spread the word, it will definitely die out.

No kids & No Cameras
Originally uploaded by Jonathan Marks

rain tickets

rain tickets
Originally uploaded by Jonathan Marks
Someone's been busy at the train station in Schiphol. Looking outside that's exactly what your buying. With delays because of leaves on the line.

NPO opens a test lab

NPO opens a test lab
Originally uploaded by Jonathan Marks
In the spirit of what's happening at the BBC and some of the other public media institutions across Europe, Dutch public broadcasting (NPO) has opened a test lab where they are openly testing new ideas, formats and technologies. At the moment they are experimenting with technologies to help people in the Netherlands find more of the output from what is still a very complex broadcasting system. But there are some creative people behind the initiative and they have great plans for 2009.

NPOX Festival in Sound & Vision Experience

There are hundreds of events for broadcast managers, promoters, and investors. But only one NPOX, a one-day festival of great ideas for programme makers. Cleverly done.

Alternatives to traditional broadcast

Just finished a couple of weeks of conferences and an awards ceremony in London. Big shakeouts coming in the conference world, especially those connected with broadcast.

A digital radio conference in London at the end of October attracted just 15 participants - the rest were speakers. A case of serious bad planning which made me wonder why they didn't cancel it. Contrast that with Radio at the Edge held in London on 10th November. There were several thought-provoking sessions there with some really original case studies. I recommend the 13 minute podcast on the Radio Academy website.

In several countries, the digital distribution model for radio is only just surviving. The whole industry needs to rethink the interface it is using to reach the public. But there is promising work going on in this field. Ask me for more details if you're interested...

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Chris on marketing

My son Christopher is studying media in Amsterdam, but doing all kinds of projects alongside. Since there is so much competition in this field, it's essential to get experience as soon as possible. He's currently doing great things for the MarketingFacts blog in the Netherlands, building concepts for their next generation site. And its all his own initiative which is great.

Monday, November 17, 2008

3FM Press conference at NPOX

These guys won an AIB award in London last week for their efforts through the Serious Request programme to raise 8 million Euro for drinking water projects in Africa. These guys are passionate about their work - and it shows.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

AIB Awards London 2008

AIB Awards 2008
Originally uploaded by AIB London
I produced the AIB Awards 2008 at the LSO St Lukes in London tonight (November 12th)

A truly excellent location - home of the London Symphony Orchestra. Over 300 entries - standards for TV and cross media were well up on last year. There were some great radio entries from independent producers such as Ruth Evans and 3FM Serious Request. But there were also entries from radio stations who have clearly lost their way in this "new media" biz. Overall, budget cuts to radio are showing up much faster than I expected. The place was packed out to capacity.

AIB Awards 2008

AIB Awards 2008
Originally uploaded by AIB London
Food from Fifteen Events was brilliant. Very difficult to do lamb for 215 people and get it right.

Robin Hamman Headshift

Have great respect for what Headshift are doing on the edge of broadcast and social media. Had the chance to have a great conversation with Robin Hamman at the AIB Awards in London.

AIB Awards 2008

AIB Awards 2008
Originally uploaded by AIB London
It's all lit up on the night....busy inside as this is happening.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

reCAPTCHA Digital Books

I think this is truly a brilliant idea.

A CAPTCHA is a program that can tell whether its user is a human or a computer. You've probably seen them — colourful images with distorted text at the bottom of Web registration forms. CAPTCHAs are used by many websites to prevent abuse from "bots," or automated programs usually written to generate spam. No computer program can read distorted text as well as humans can, so bots cannot navigate sites protected by CAPTCHAs.

About 60 million CAPTCHAs are solved by humans around the world every day. In each case, roughly ten seconds of human time are being spent. Individually, that's not a lot of time, but in aggregate these little puzzles consume more than 150,000 hours of work each day. What if we could make positive use of this human effort? reCAPTCHA does exactly that by channeling the effort spent solving CAPTCHAs online into "reading" books.

To archive human knowledge and to make information more accessible to the world, multiple projects are currently digitizing physical books that were written before the computer age. The book pages are being photographically scanned, and then transformed into text using "Optical Character Recognition" (OCR). The transformation into text is useful because scanning a book produces images, which are difficult to store on small devices, expensive to download, and cannot be searched. The problem is that OCR is not perfect.

reCAPTCHA improves the process of digitizing books by sending words that cannot be read by computers to the Web in the form of CAPTCHAs for humans to decipher. More specifically, each word that cannot be read correctly by OCR is placed on an image and used as a CAPTCHA. This is possible because most OCR programs alert you when a word cannot be read correctly.

But if a computer can't read such a CAPTCHA, how does the system know the correct answer to the puzzle? Here's how: Each new word that cannot be read correctly by OCR is given to a user in conjunction with another word for which the answer is already known. The user is then asked to read both words. If they solve the one for which the answer is known, the system assumes their answer is correct for the new one. The system then gives the new image to a number of other people to determine, with higher confidence, whether the original answer was correct.

Currently, the recaptcha team are helping to digitize books from the Internet Archive and old editions of the New York Times.