Sunday, October 31, 2010

Keep Calm and Carry On


Found this wonderful book at the Imperial War Museum North in Salford. The poster was initially produced by the Ministry of Information in Britain in 1939 during the beginning of World War II. It was intended to be distributed in order to strengthen morale in the event of a wartime disaster. Two-and-a-half million copies were printed, although the poster was distributed only in limited numbers.

Tends to apply to too many things at the moment. International long-distance radio broadcasting seems to be collapsing as predicted, but local initatives are not taking off due to bad planning or insuffienct funding. Challenging times indeed.
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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

So what was the problem?


I'm afraid I left the exhibition in Amsterdam Central station completely baffled.

Suppose I suggested to you that your city needed another 9 km of underground. And that the project would start in 2003 and be ready 14 years later, 16 if you really are concerned about the final details. And that the bill would be 3.1 billion Euro, so that you could shave off a massive 15 minutes for a journey to the centre of Amsterdam from Central Station on the North Side. You'd say it was a bonkers scheme would'nt you? Well, that's what they're doing in the centre of Amsterdam. During IBC I have wondered what the hell is taking so long and why the roads are such a dangerous mess around the exhibition cente. There's an exhibition centre on the side of Amsterdam central station with brochures in English and Dutch explaining how they are really working on the 10th Great Wonder of the World. Except the brochures don't say what its costing, when it will be finished and what was the problem they were really trying to solve. The wikipedia entry is actually a more balanced view of what looks like a classic case of engineers on steroids. Imagine the disruption to businesses near this gaping hole.

For half that money they could afford to hire movie stars to give away free coffee on golden trams which would be so enjoyable you'd wish the journey took longer. Or am I missing something here?
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Sunday, October 10, 2010

NS - Dutch railways still doesn't get it


Dutch railways has sold off most of its station kiosks. Some of the new owners have turned them into refreshment stalls. And clearly they want nothing to do with the previous owners. They won't give you change for the machine. They don't know anything or care about the trains outside. And who's fault is that? I'd say Dutch railways for not understanding how the public communicate with each other or what information they need, at what time, in order to get the maximum benefit from the system. The way NS has communicated the use of the new RFID travel cards, especially to tourists, is a classic case of communications failure. 4/10.
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Rare radio moment


Approaching one of those rare moments when you can open the studio microphone and say "It's ten seconds past 10, on 10, 10, 2010." Hope it brings you magic as well.
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Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Hamburg - Early Google Street View


In Hamburg at the moment, together wth just over 600 newspaper and magazine editors, for the World Editors' Forum. We're currently in the city hall waiting to be addressed by the city mayor. You need to hear the story before they start serving the local finger food (sausage/fish and salad in a genever glass. It is tradition that speeches in this chamber are only given in German, so we have been handed a translation in English to try and follow along. Looks mercifully short. Above the lecturn are what looks like early Google Seaview paintings. I'm afraid I don't understand the privacy issues that the German's seem to have with Google Streetview. The benefits far outway the negatives.
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World Editors Forum


WEF was originally going to take place in Lebanon, but was cancelled for financial reasons at the last minute (all kinds of security and sponsorship issues). But Hamburg turned out to be a better place for 600 newspaper editors to have a series of very interesting discussions on where publishing, especially news journalism, is heading. I see a widening gap between those titles which embrace and integrate the web and those still holding out. Surprisingly, that seems to be many European countries. The experiments with hyperlocal blogs seem to be the most advanced in Poland and Brazil.
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Discussions in Hamburg


Currently attending the World Editors Forum in the centre of Hamburg, Germany. They have certainly gentrified this part of the city since I was last here a million years ago. More entertainment and clubs now than the seedy sex clubs. In fact the real estate value has doubled in the last few years and St Pauli has become an even more hip place to live. It seems the city of Hamburg made a mistake in the nearby city centre of building lots of shops and offices but no apartments. hence people started looking at other areas of the city where they could live and get entertained.
Whereas Cologne has been the centre for broadcasting, Hamburg has always been the centre of the publishing industry. But the discoverer of radio waves, Hertz, is acknowledged on the side of the TV tower. Seems he was a local lad.
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Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Countdown to Forum Oxford

We are just a few days away from a great non-commercial gathering of leading specialists in the mobile world. When I was at last years event, I asked other people why they came. Wow! I was taken back at the passion that came back to me. Couldn't use all the testimonials - they went on so long.

I have rarely been to a conference where people were so positive about the whole thing (usually people escape from conference sessions to chat in the corridor - not in Oxford). If you're curious as to the magic, then take a look at what several speakers and delegates said would bring them to Oxford on Friday 15th October 2010.

If you'd like to get more info, this is the link . Once again, I have no commercial link with this conference - just think more of this kind of talk needs to happen in the mobile industry and with the broadcasting community.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Forty Miles of Bad Road - Duane Eddy

Amazed to learn this Youtube video at a concert in London a few days ago was shot with a Sony HDR-SR10, with just the on-board stereo mike.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Remembering Radio Berlin International (RBI)

As a young short-wave listener in the early 1970's, I was fascinated with stations I could hear on an old military receiver from the "Communist" East Bloc. They used to send all kinds of (propaganda) magazines in response to reception reports. At one time I sent all kinds of questions off to Radio Berlin International just to see what would happen. I was mentioned all over the place, but especially in the Thank You for Writing letterbox programme hosted by Marjorie Milner. A year after the fall of Berlin wall, I made a documentary for Radio Netherlands Media Network on several East European stations. Kim Andrew Elliott of the Voice of America and I just jumped in my car and we headed for Vienna, Budapest, Bratislava, Prague, and then Berlin. We got fed up of waiting for the official travel proposals at our respective stations would be approved and just took the risk. I am so glad we did. RBI went off the air not long after our visit. Deutsche Welle got RBI when the wall came down, and apart from a few young journalists in English section - and the transmitter site in Nauen, they didn't have much need for the studios on the Nalepastrasse on the banks of the river Spree. That old programme (actually a mash-up of two editions of Media Network) is posted here below.

This September I went back to Berlin and since I was staying in a hotel 20 minutes away from the Nalepastrasse, curiority got the better of me. I recalled that the home of RBI, and its much larger domestic service "Stimme DDR" was housed in former furniture factory. The story was that the original owner had got the building back in the 90's and that it was going back to making furniture.

I took the 21 tram from Frankfurter Tor to Blockdammweg. It is a few minutes walk to Nalepstrasse and the doors of the former broadcast house. To my surprise, the studios are still intact and a small group is trying to turn the place into a sort of new media centre. They have persuaded some orchestras and bands that this is a cheap but effective place to practice and record performances. They have even built a website to offer the services - and its where you need to go if you want to sign-up for one of the tours. At 5 Euro, not really that expensive.

Unfortunately, having signed up for the tour on the same day a few hours before, I discovered that I was too late and in fact no tour was being given that day. But the guard on the gate gave me a brochure and told me that there seemed to be quite a lot of interest in their new found recording business.

The Nalepastrasse is actually broken into two parts, partly because of the security that surrounded the old broadcast centre. To the south of the building, the Nalepastrasse picks up and there the land seems to have been sold off for weekend lodges and allotments. Half way down the Nalepastrasse is a turning to a ferry which takes you across to the other side of the River Spree and the S-bahn back into the centre of Berlin.

I took plenty of photos and video. If there is interest from readers of this blog, I will post the video on my video vault on vimeo.

I also recommend a trip to the Stasi Museum not far away from RBI (15 minute tram ride). There is a museum, usually housed in House Number 1 of the Secret Police headquarters, which turns out to be the archives. While building work is going on in the archive, they museum has moved to Building 21. This was the former general’s canteen, also called “General’s Hill” by the Stasi employees. The museum director points out that not enough of the museum is yet explained in English. But if you ask at the desk, they will give you a photocopied translation of the older guide. I understand German well enough to follow the guide and hear that 90,000 people worked for the Stasi, and another 110,000 were thought to have informed on their neighbours. The East German population declined by three million people throughout its forty-one year history, from 19 million in 1948 to 16 million in 1990; of the 1948 population, some 4 million were deported from the lands east of the Oder-Neisse line. This was primarily a result of emigration — about one quarter of East Germans left the country before the Berlin Wall was completed in 1961, and after that time, East Germany had very low birth rates

The East German Stasi were fanatics. Completely bonkers, I'd say. I remember that East German radio station RBI made a big fanfare about the International Youth festival in 1973. These innocent looking trucks outside had cameras, microphones and even a transmitter inside to relay observations back to HQ. They had more tape recorders that RBI.

Spying on the Youth
Originally uploaded by Jonathan Marks

The museum is open every day and there are excellent guides that explain what really went on in the Ministry for State Security in Berlin-Lichtenberg, where Erich Mielke, the last minister for State Security, had his seat. When the restoration work is complete you can visit the offices which are preserved in their original state. Everything there was made by East German companies like Carl-Zeiss and RFT. But Erich's private chambers had a Philips television in it - I suppose an example of Western luxury or perhaps he was an ardent viewer of RIAS Berlin?

On the second floor of the museum are examples of eavesdropping apparatus used by the East Germans to bug conferences and just spy on other GDR citizens. Cameras built into dustbins, railway sleeps, trees, ties, handbags, as well as extensive ways to bug meeting rooms and send the audio down the phone line. They really were completely mad.

Dark Patterns: User Interfaces Designed to Trick People (Presented at UX Brighton 2010)

I do like this slideshare presentation about the design tricks companies (like Ryanair) do to upsell their products and squeeze more money out of you. I get the impression that GoDaddy is going in a similar direction. Harry Brignull tells a great story.

3D TV Debunked

This year's IBC in Amsterdam was dominated by claims of 3D's breakthrough. If you believed the blurb then you might be persuaded to chuck your 2D camera and film everything in 3D from now on. I can't see the shutter glasses taking on - not only do they cost a fortune, they need a battery and my experience is that the battery is always dead at the wrong moment.

I would wait a bit. Not only is the 3D distribution technology far from being all figured out yet, we're only in the very stages of understanding the production grammar needed to make enthralling 3D. Alice in Wonderland was great in 3D. But a lot of the rest is very poor - infact it gives me a headache. In short, it all not ready for prime time. But that doesn't mean we should be ignoring it in the long-term. I think we need to learn how to use 3D in clever ways. I see it more for the cinema, where the stereographers can control the Z axis during the shooting, whereas live events must be almost impossible to frame correctly.

Watch this interview with David Wood, Deputy Technology at the EBU who does a great summary of where we are at the moment with 3D. Filming at IBC is a challenge because of the limited lighting and the background noise. But I think David's story comes through clearly.

Fake Facebook Posters

Brilliant "fake" vintage ads for Facebook, Twitter and Skype made by a Brazilian production house called Maximidia in Sao Paulo. You can download and print them for your real office wall.
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