Monday, July 26, 2010

Pier Review - Tim Hunkin

I did not know Tim Hunkin had revolutionized Southwold pier until I met him at the great ideas festival in the Netherlands a few weeks back. Tim gave a great talk about how he builds crazy slot machines for fun, but also highlighted the fact that to do so you have to think with your hands. In the course of the interview I realized where I had seen him recently. Ive been digitizing some old radio programmes I made. I recalled that Tim had also interviewed the great Gerald Wells of the Vintage Wireless Museum in Dulwich. His encounter was about five years after mine in a series of programmes Tim wrote, drew and presented that aired on Channel 4. These looked at how stuff worked, often involving building something to demonstrate a process or phenomenon. The series has a mad professor feel to it, although I mean that in the nicest possible way. I love anything that makes complex ideas simpler. When you have seen this video, do make the trip over to where there's a whole catalogue of stuff waiting to be discovered, including the vintage TV series. And if you're ever in Suffolk, head for the pier. Opening times are here . I also need to credit Tracy Williams for using some of the pier footage at the start of the interview.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Chat with Cary Fowler and the seed cave in Norway

At the recent PINC ideas festival in Zeist, The Netherlands, I got a few moments with the executive director of the Global Crop Diversity Trust. Cary Fowler explained what needs to happen in order to ensure our global agricultural system can continue to produce as climate changes. The good news is that it seems to be a problem we can solve. Part of the solution involves building a huge cave near the North Pole in Northern Norway. The website reports that some of the latest arrivals to the seed bank in Svalbard have been red hot chili peppers from the USA.

Dawn, Jim, at Leo's place

Dawn, Jim, Leo
Originally uploaded by JimCutler
I see Jim and Dawn Cutler have been following in my footsteps and dropping by on Leo Laporte, the tech guy, at his studio in Northern California. If only European stations were that productive!

Vancouver Festival of Light

Originally uploaded by seannyK
My experience is that the Australians, Spanish and Canadians put on the best firework display..though the Beijing Olympics opening takes some beating

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Kiva Microfinance Method

Matt Flannery is based in San Francisco but travels the world. He was in Zeist, The Netherlands as one of the keynote speakers at the PINC festival of ideas. He explains how their system of microfinancing is changing peoples' lives and why by concentrating on crowdsourcing loans on the web, they can keep their costs to a minimum. They have raised around 145 million dollars in the last five years. Does it work? Yes, perfectly.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Witricity - the background

The PINC ideas festival in the Netherlands is a great place to get inspiration - and see demos of concepts not yet shared with the public. David Schatz was one of this years participants and demoed how his company can transfer significant powers over a distance without the need for wires. He explained to me why that is going to be useful in the next five years and why this really is new technology - not something that Tesla thought of much earlier.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Howard's Way of the World

Part of a series of interviews I have been doing looking back on the age of international broadcasting via shortwave in the second half of the 20th cemtury.

Margaret Howard is best known the UK for presenting Pick of the Week on the BBC Radio 4 as well as several great programmes she made for Classic FM. Internationally, though, I first recall her as the host of LetterBox on BBC World Service.

I first met her at a radio convention in Montreal, Canada and remembered why she left the World Service in the 60's. While passing through London a few months back, I dropped by to capture some of her memories of working for the shortwave wireless. Here's part of our conversation.

After our chat, she made me a superb cup of tea.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

A Chat with Peter Homfray

I remember listening to Peter Homfray on an R-107 communications receiver back in the early 1970s.

With hindsight, I would say Radio Australia in those days was one of the first social media stations - there was a lot of entertainment and personalised style programming in an era where there was no FM, no Internet and an international call was beyond the reach of most people. It entertained and informed with a truly personal touch. It had a sort of Facebook group feel to it all.

Radio Australia is now in its 70th year and has opened up a website to discuss and celebrate the past. That prompted me to find ways to copy a DVCAM interview I made with Peter in 2004, in which we discussed Christmas Island and how a Brit ended up managing Australia's overseas radio service for 18 years. It is a very personal view on his time at RA. The superb Radio Heritage site has a lot more details on the transmitters used in the early days.

Peter also revealed some of the work he did in India and Burma during the 2nd World War. He was part of a unit involved in deceiving the Japanese in Burma, helping to support the Chindits. What a fascinating man! Hope you enjoy our chat.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Beaten by an Octopus

Daylily Detail
Originally uploaded by dragonflysky
So where's that German Octopus? Not the best match I've seen - certainly not world class. But still Holland got very near...

Friday, July 09, 2010

LIFT France FING Inspires


LIFT France is over. was a two day waterfall of great ideas. I don't think it could have happened in Paris. That's because many of the speakers were in town for a few days not just a couple of hours, and took the time to answer questions and socialise. That is what's wrong with so many of the TED clones - they are a collection of people who just want to perform. LIFT France really produce the sessions so they have a coherent story. Full of practical examples of people are doing great things. Made three hours of great interviews. Will build them into some of the sessions I am organising in Africa and also share on the video vault.

I also like the fact that people are approachable. Genuine interest is matched by a genuine willingness to share.
And what a place to sit, relax and chat. Mmmmm...
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Spectacular Port View


It is hot and dry in Marseille. But what a spectacular view from my hotel window looking out to the old harbour.
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Thursday, July 08, 2010

Big Spies Swap Here


Wonder why they chose an empty runway at Vienna's airport for the largest spy swap in recent history. May be it was for old times sake or they were watching old James Bond movies.
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Impressions from LIFT France

More on Flickr

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Wednesday, July 07, 2010

iPhone 5 Preview

iPhone 5 Preview
Originally uploaded by
that should fix the problems people have been having with new iPhone 4. This week inTech was highly critical of Apple's constant desire to bury the antenna inside the case. Its a phone !

Lift-France is brilliant

Really enjoying LIFT France. These guys have managed to find a different group of speakers to the main circuit who pop up everywhere, and its a healthy mix of international and French participants. Add to this the spectacular setting of Marseille (hot but dry) and this is making for a great visit.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Heading out to Marseilles

I confess I don't know enough about how entrepreneurs and social media specialists operate in the Francophone world. My work in Benin has been with people who speak local languages - can't really describe it as Francophone. Time to explore - and capture on video. LIFT-France kicks off Monday night and promises to be really hot property. It's 32 C in Marseille, but it is dry. It is great to see where the successes are happening in South Europe, Africa and the US (in Austin and SFO particularly). So sad to see some great ideas collapsing in Northern Europe because of peoples' unwillingness to share instead of shout. On the other hand, congrats to my colleague Soule Issiaka for the success in bidding for training contracts in West Africa.

Dutch Football Misses a Golden Opportunity

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Travelling in West Africa, I have always been amazed at the popularity of UK football clubs. It is basically thanks to the World Sport programme on the BBC World Service - and the fact that local bookmakers are offering bets on the outcome. They may be crap at the game - but they are geniuses when it comes to marketing and sharing the passion.

Meanwhile, Dutch football is on a roll, having reached the quarter finals of the World Cup. Some clubs like AJAX Amsterdam are doing great coaching schemes in South Africa but, in general, the Dutch football club sites like Ajax Amsterdam are not much more than a little-bit-of-news site in English and Mandarin, with the addition of a shop. There is no way a signed up fan can really be involved in the magic of what's happening in Amsterdam or Rotterdam or most of the other sites (I think PSV Eindhoven is an exception). The Dutch clubs seem to be very insular for the most part, just doing a tiny fraction on-line when compared to other European clubs, like Celtic or Barcelona.

May be the problem is the Royal Dutch Football Association, KNVB, which seems to have one of the most passionless websites I have ever seen. It's all about money. Let's make sure we don't share any of the passion to foreign visitors unless it runs out on the playing field. KNVB have had a terrible history when it comes to the media - being control freaks. Their efforts to launch a pay-TV channel in the Netherlands called Sport 7 ended in tears. They attempted to control the way Dutch football fans would celebrate the return of their heroic team in Amsterdam on Tuesday 13th July. KNVB sold exclusive rights to the tea'm's boat to the SBS channel, until a deal was struck with the NOS. KNVB radiates the story of money, not about the game. If they continue that, then the Dutch football success will quickly sink behind the UK's sports media strategy.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Investigating the Jeff Jarvis CUNY Business Models

Currently exploring Jarvis's business models mentioned in the video linked below to see if they fit the work I am doing in Africa. Always on is still a fantasy for most users. Local radio is migrating to become local media centers. Enjoyed his talk in Bergen back in May, even though he wasn't phyically there. More practical info than his recent talk in Germany. Can't get the video to embed properly.