Friday, May 31, 2013

Now this is clever.... British Embassy in Beijing

Now this is clever. I noticed it during the latest Internet trends presentation by Mary Meeker of Kleiner Perkins. Normally guards outside most embassies go mental if you take out your phone and start taking photos. Especially an American Embassy.

In this case though, the British embassy has decided to do the reverse. Nothing much to hide. So they put up a Q code on the wall. If you take a photo with a smartphone, it takes you to the British embassy Weibo website. Cultural stuff mainly, although I do see articles about climate change. And yes, I Google translated it. BBC Chinese should do the same. The concert in the embassy looks rather low key. The band are singing way off key. But no-one seems to mind.

American Forces on Mediumwave goes silent in Europe

For those who remember listening to AFN Europe on 873 kHz, today is a rather nostalgic day. This from the official release.

AFN Europe, in coordination with IMCOM Europe and USAREUR, is turning off its 873 AM radio transmitter in Central Germany May 31, as part of the US Department of Defense’s ongoing efforts to reduce operating costs.

The transmitter is one of two that serves Wiesbaden Army Airfield.  The 873 AM transmitter provides Power Network programming, a mix of news, talk and political commentary.  The second transmitter, 98.7 FM, broadcasts AFN The Eagle, a 24/7 service of contemporary music, community information and top of the hour news. That remains on air. So the Wiesbaden area listeners will still get news, traffic, weather and community information from 98.7 FM. But listeners further afield need to switch to the web.

News and talk fans may still listen to two popular Power Network Shows, Morning Newswatch, from 0600-0900 and Afternoon Newswatch from 1600-1880 weekdays on AFN 360: Internet Radio.  AFN decoder owners may tune in Power Network 24 hours a day on their “box.”   AFN Europe hopes to be able to offer Power Network as a 24/7 streaming audio service on AFN 360 sometime in the future.   Some iPhone and Android mobile device users may be able to listen to AFN’s streaming audio service in their car.

The 873 AM transmitter, which is located off the base in Weisskirchen, Germany, was singled out for cost savings because of its isolated location and high-cost upkeep requirements. As with all of DoD, AFN Europe anticipates additional changes this year as it works to provide the American military with quality entertainment and command information, while simultaneously being good stewards of taxpayer dollars.

Made some great portraits in the past. Enjoy....

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Google, WSJ and Africa

Odd piece by the Wall Street Journal on Google's march into Africa. Google has been backing the development of fast Internet for years, with major projects in South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria and Ghana. And lots and lots of training programmes. The more people use the Interwebs, the more money they make. 

Douglas Rushkoff - on This Week in Tech TV

Doug is definitely back in my books of must read authors, putting social media into a modern context. Why do we install all these interruption apps with alerts etc? It's like living in a permanent crisis or being locked in a television newsroom.

I saw Doug live for the first time in the 1990's when he came to Rotterdam to present a talk connected with his book Media Virus. But lately I thought his material had gone off the boil. But this is good, sharp commentary on the here and now.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Larry King sides with Russia Today

Well well.  Remember Larry King... the talk show host on CNN? Well after moderating a show for Russia Today last year, RT has agreed  to do air a regular talk show. Looks like RT's equivalent of BBC's Hard Talk. It is produced by Larry King's production company, which is already producing for streaming channels like Hulu. Wonder what the viewership will be?

RT will air the new show ‘Politics with Larry King’, produced by in June 2013 as well as ‘Larry King Now’, which was launched on Hulu and Ora.TV back in July 2012. The programmes will be recorded in RT America’s Washington, DC, studios and Ora TV’s studio in Los Angeles. RT America will be the exclusive US broadcaster for both programmes, which will continue to stream online at and and also be available online via Free downloads of the program are encouraged - that's the way the Russian's work.

Pivoting - So important in these times

Writing an article showing how most successful companies always pivot, ending up making something very different from the original plan. Sony started with rice cookers. Apple with blue-boxes to try and beat the phone system. And I'm delighted that these Danes didn't succeed with the world's first keyboard. My first typewriter (an olivetti) was a standard requirement for any freelancer when I working with Austrian Radio (ORF) in 1977. First machine I purchased.

By the way, the article on the history of the Typewriter is really superb. Highly recommended reading.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Contextual Cock Up- Preroll in Bad Taste

There was a tragic accident on Memorial Day in the US where 5 teenagers were killed as their car split in two. So why does the ad server give me a local pre-roll ad for the Peugeot before I see all kinds of reasons for not buying a new vehicle.

In the old days, the nightmare scenario at a TV station I worked at was running inappropriate commercials next to a news story or a particular drama. I remember one European country ran a commercial for AGA gas ovens before a screening of the Holocaust. But those slip ups were few and far between. So when it happened, heads rolled. But now? Who cares?

NPO Meltdown - Biting the Hand that feeds

Dutch public broadcasting seems to be desperately looking for ways to soften the 100 million euro cuts to its overall operating budget in coming years. For me, the answer has be clear all along. Make less material of better quality.

But the vision in Hilversum seems to be to start a campaign to get cable distributors to pay more for the privilege of distributing public broadcast channels in The Netherlands. Seeing that cable companies are busy building their own portfolio of programmes from foreign channels like HBO, the Netherlands Public Broadcasters are risking biting the hand that feeds them. Yes, the programmes are scoring better than some of the current commercial offerings. But this is not the way to address the issue at a time when government economic forecasts are in freefall and the public is not being consulted on what it wants. It's all closed door politics.

So I believe that the idea that this will bring in another 60 million Euro in revenue is just pure fantasy. Public broadcasting is already a "government pay-TV" system. There is no licence fee - it is part of general taxation. I believe the budget is in danger of being cut again at this rate. Public relations madness...

Monday, May 27, 2013

Safari to the Future

Doing a lot more work with companies who are defining the Internet of Things. Like the 3D printing technology company called Shapeways. 

Magnesium Headphones - I kid you not

Richard Kastelein of the great  site passed on this note about Steven Soderbergh - the American film producer, screenwriter, editor, cinematographer, and an Academy Award–winning film director. He has just opened up an eCommerce website called Extension 376, where it appears he is reaching out to his fans in a new way. Apart from some rather unique swag, it seems he's working on some really cool headphones. Not sure why Magnesium is the metal of choice. But it sounds interesting. Also love the terms and conditions on the site.
So far we are just carrying EXT 765 t-shirts and tote bags, but pretty soon we are going to have something totally badass: headphones. It frustrates me that the great-looking headphones sound shitty, and great-sounding headphones look shitty, so we are changing all that. These are cans for super hard-core listeners.
Limited edition, (1000 pairs) made out of magnesium (which no one has ever done before because the stuff catches fire like crazy when you're machining it), LEMO connectors (from cord to headphone jack), custom drivers, custom leather, each engraved with a serial number, so when they're gone, you'll just have to find them on eBay.
The team at RED Camera helped with the design and built the prototype, so all that's left is to figure out where to produce them (they will be US-made). Also coming down the pike: another book on filmmaking to complete the Luckiest Bastard trilogy, and, eventually, the hard-cover version of GLUE, the novella I've been tweeting. Stay tuned.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

A Disruptive Path for Deutsche Welle - Udacity is the future not news

Deutsche Welle, the German international public broadcaster, is holding a conference in Bonn next month. It is supposed to be about the future of growth. That's ironic when this part of Europe is collapsing under an economic meltdown. 

They've invited scholars to talk about globalisation. And political figures to speak to us about the German view on the world. Not quite sure what the take away on that one will be this time. Because we've heard the general story several times.

Mission Control. DW HQ in Bonn
This is the sixth time the DW and the city of Bonn has brought a couple of thousand people to former parliament building next door to one of DW's gigantic broadcast complexes (the other one is in Berlin). Yet, I believe,  the program demonstrates that there is a huge missed opportunity here.

What next for DW in its 60th year?

I believe that instead of pressing the reset button each year in July, the DW should be taking the discussion started last year a lot further. Because the elephant in the room is that Deutsche Welle, along with several other government-financed broadcasters like VOA, has no future as an international news organisation. Radio Sweden, Radio Netherlands, Swiss Radio International have all gone away.

As the streets of Europe come alight with people rioting for change (you don't want to be in Stockholm at the moment), I don't believe audiences anywhere are turning to the Deutche Welle to try and find answers. 

In other words, DW is no longer influencing the global conversation. Other stations with much deeper pockets and a more focused strategy have taken over that role. I would love to be proved wrong. But I cannot find any evidence to prove the contrary to that conclusion. How has DW's activities in Bonn changed the course of a history in any one particular country?

Sadly, DW seems to be missing the main point that I took away from last year's gathering by the Rhine, when the topic was Education and the Media. 

We all got what we said back in a beautifully bound book, as teams of student reporters captured every word of the panels. So what's the point?

Higher Education is going through major changes. Disrupted by start-ups. Lots of what they teach in Universities are no longer in books. The structure of lectures is totally different from what it used to be.

And the irony is that one of the most disruptive organisations bringing about this change is driven by someone who was born and educated in Bonn. Within walking distance of the Deutsche Welle.

I grew up in Germany, a country that offers excellent education. Yet when I started my Master's degree in computer science, I found myself among 1,200 other Master's students with just five professors. Needless to say, I ended up mostly educating myself through books that were available at a nearby research institute.

He left for Silicon Valley, eventually finding his way to Stanford, leading the university team's entry in the 2005 Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa) Grand Challenge to create an autonomous vehicle that could navigate 132 miles through a desert. He founded Google's X Lab. As the Wall Street Journal reported in their profile of Sebastian...

He insisted on a blank slate, letting student imaginations run wild as opposed to proving that some professor's arcane research actually works. "It's sad that we never get trained to leave assumptions behind," he says. Stanford won by 11 minutes.

At the Darpa challenge he met Google founder Larry Page, who would attend the races hiding behind dark sunglasses and a hat. Mr. Page hired Mr. Thrun and his team at first to work on StreetView for Google Maps. But his role soon evolved: "Larry frequently had me to dinner and every time, Larry would dream something up that was completely crazy. My gut reaction was that this makes no sense, it can't work, it's completely flawed. And I'd go home, do some calculations and a day or a week later I'd apologize and say: You were completely right."

He's now picking a huge problem that matters to society. That of the cost and access to higher education. The economic woes of the world are having a major impact on who gets access to the minds that will change this planet.

If, as a young student, I had the chance to learn from the best professors in the world, my life might have been different. I have been fortunate. Yet so many potential learners are still denied access. Education has become much more exclusive, and getting into a top-10 computer science department is still out of reach for all but a chosen few. 

Sebastian is the founder of Udacity, one of the growing number on-line education platforms. They give away excellent courses on important subjects for free. Like the course by Steve Blank on how to start a startup. 

A similar type of course by Prof Kevin Werbach on Gamefication attracted 60,000 students when it launched on Coursera earlier this year. It turns out that putting a course on line doesn't destroy the business model of the Universities behind it.

This triumvirate of industry and academia is now teaming up to use 21st Century technology to level the playing field in computer science education. And while the degree rightfully comes with a tuition fee -- after all, to achieve the very best in online education we will provide support services -- the bare content will be available free of charge, available for anyone eager to learn. We are also launching non-credit certificates at a much reduced price point, to give a path to those who don't care about Georgia Tech credit or degrees, but still want their learning results certified.

So what's this got to do with the Deutsche Welle?

In Bonn last year, several speakers, including myself, suggested that DW wake up to the fact that it has everything in place to become one of the world's leading educators. The country has leading technology companies, universities, even disruptive start-ups. It could really influence the world. Instead of just reporting about it. 

As they say in Silicon Valley - time to pivot! And quickly. I wonder what on earth will happen.

DW Forum last year on the future of Education. But what does it mean for the DW itself?

Outgoing Director General Erik Bettermann leaves DW on 30th September 2013

Discussions by the side of the Rhine. But discussions need to be acted upon.

Guido Westerwelle speaking last year in Bonn about educational partnerships. What happened to that discussion?

Saturday, May 25, 2013

RT and VOA TV to Africa - Switched at Birth?

This is bizarre.
Watching the Voice of America YouTube channel to Africa and comparing it with Russia Today. It is like they were switched at birth.

VOA looks like broom cupboard TV where radio presenters finally get to be TV personalities. The set design must have come from the 1960's. I've never seen so many "bugs" in the picture to remind you you're watching VOA. Presenters don't realize there is something called a lower third. And the general look and feel is rather like Radio Moscow World Service sounded like in the 1980's. Scripted ad-libs. And a sports presenter holding a ball (in lieu of sports footage?). And the total number of viewers for this week's show was 11.

As you may gather, I'm not a fan..

Was this one of the reasons that prompted Michael Lynton to resign from the US Broadcasting Board of Governors this week, leaving the same day he sent a letter to President Obama? This follows the rather sudden departure of the previous chairman Walter Isaacson (the Steve Jobs biographer).

Yes, we know we're watching VOA. What awful graphics. Did they make them in house with Photoshop?
Must be sports...
RT understand screen real estate like no other.

VOA is still huge. US$ 205 million budget. 1209 employees.

Meanwhile in Moscow, Russia RT certainly has a look and feel that looks more like Al Jazeera, Fox News and CNN rolled into other words they have taken elements of each and made something of it. They certainly know how to market their content through YouTube,,'s everywhere where the VOA is not. How much are the Russian's spending on RT? $355.6 million in 2013 apparently. 

More Gremlins in the Works

I notice that the Irish Gremlins in the System website has gone off-line. Wordpress blog is still up. But the parodies of commercial radio formats Brian McColl and  Bren Russell are still on Soundcloud. Enjoy....

Youths in Tottenham, or Stockholm, or wherever....

Vimeo Versus YouTube - which is cooler?

Vimeo Video Jam from Vimeo Staff on Vimeo.

So this is what a day at Vimeo, the video file sharing platform, is like? Well, this is what we're lead to believe. 90 staff so it seems. Interesting camera work - but I expected much better sound. Wonder if it cooler than YouTube HQ in San Bruno California?

Recordium - for the iPad and iPhone

In the radio business? Thanks to a tip from Erwin Blom, the Recordium App is free in the Appstore for a couple of days. I like the ability for quick topping and tailing, but I wouldn't rely on it for fine editing. I like the ability to add a photo tagged to a piece of audio and that it's easy to use the markers to find useful bits in a long interview. I would like the ability to send a quote to a friend ("just heard this") with one swipe and click. The audio quality, even on the internal iPad microphone, is pretty awesome.

Recordium - Innovative Voice Recorder App Designed for iPhone and iPad from Recordiumapp on Vimeo

Wouldn't it be great if Recordium had been there to record the sounds in this video?

Bonus Track: 8 Rulos Classic from 8 Rulos Producciones on Vimeo.

BBC World Service Transmissions 23 years ago

Jonathan Marks at BBC Relay station in Singapore in 1999

The BBC has been rightly criticised for their massive overspend in digital production networks this week. But how did they manage giant multi-million pound networks in the analogue days? On today's safari into the Interwebs, I discovered a 20 minute film commissioned in 1989 from two engineers working at the BBC's transmission base at Lerwick, on the Shetland Islands in Scotland. Remember these were the guys who made sure programmes on radio and TV were broadcast from the transmission masts around the country, indeed around the world. This was before the BBC privatised its transmission facilities in 1997, splitting it off into different companies. Merlin Communications (run by former BBC Engineers and Frequency Managers) took over the responsibility for BBC World Service distribution on MW and HF.

John Waters and Andy Long had a field day (literally) capturing this unique footage of life as a transmission engineer at the BBC. Note the emphasis on BBC's external service. What struck me was that being an HF (high-frequency) engineer was regarded as one of the better sought-after jobs in the network. It's been lurking on YouTube for a while, but I don't think the radio enthusiasts have found it.

I wonder why the Beeb always called them Senders instead of transmitters? Corruption from the German "Zender"?

Shortwave transmitters operating at 500 kWs were continually required to retune to different parts of the dial to cover transmissions in various languages from BBC World Service. For that reason, the external services operating out of Skelton, Wooferton, Rampisham and Orfordness were run 24 hours a day and were clearly the most labour intensive. TV and VHF radio transmitters look boring by comparison. Very little to go wrong and certainly none of the spectacular power incidents you get when you're messing around with 25,000 volts.

I believe these films were made for internal training purposes.

John Fergusson narrates it all, seemingly in one breath. Note that they didn't waste any money on trying to capture natural sound, which means the atmosphere of these places is missing. And clearly the budget didn't stretch to get footage outside the UK. Note the busy managers always shown to be managing and having what look like vital conversations. But overall they are nicely done.

I remember a film was made about BBC Monitoring Service in Caversham Park in the 1980's but I haven't managed to trace that one. A more modern promotional film went up at the end of last year, I guess to explain what they do to stakeholders.

And there other snippets of documentaries about the BBC World Service, like the one which foresaw the closure of the BBC Russian radio service.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Hilversum is History

Netherlands Sound and Vision Archive
History is in these walls
There's an interesting discussion going on in the local on-line "newspaper". Local politicians are asking why foreign tourists don't venture out to this part of North Holland, visiting the sights in Hilversum. 

After all, the National Sound and Vision archives have spent a lot of money making a giant exhibition at the front of the media park in Hilversum. It is a sort of media fridge, since thousands of tapes and discs are stored there under controlled conditions. 

As a foreigner, the challenge I find with the place is that it is celebrating a rather narrow era of the past, television of the last three decades of the last century. I helped with the opening of the media experience in 2006 - made at the dawning of Facebook and well before Twitter. Wandering around again recently, the collection has aged rather quickly...starting to regain the broadcast museum feel. You won't hear about Spotify, Soundcloud, or Tumblr.  Still, the spot attracted 251,000 people to Hilversum last year. There has been a major exhibition about Dutch comic Andre van Duin - though his name means nothing to people outside the country.

Hilversum is a name associated abroad with old radios, nostalgia, and the past. National Sound and Vision is not accessible for foreign visitors because they have never watched Dutch TV and they don't recognise the stars. Hilversum has not answered the reason WHY people should take the train from Amsterdam or Schiphol when they have no connection with what is on offer? I have respect for the culture they're trying to share but anyone from the outside sees immediately why it isn't working.

BBC Digital Media Initiative collapses

BBC just announced its tapeless production system has gone into total failure. Insiders tell me that this was bound to happen because the project was so monolithic it should have died on the drawing board in 2006. Wonder whether the review will reflect badly on previous BBC DG and management for losing control over such a beast....

BBC Radio 4 is announcing the same thing as I post this...

The BBC announced today that it is to close its Digital Media Initiative (DMI).
Beginning in 2008, DMI set out to move the BBC's production and archive operations to a fully integrated, digital way of working. The decision to close DMI follows an operational review of the project which was launched in October 2012. The report found that DMI was not going to deliver on its stated objectives and as a result BBC Director-General, Tony Hall, took the decision to close it with the agreement of the BBC Trust. The total cost of DMI to the BBC will be £98.4m.

Following the decision to close the project, the BBC Trust has launched an independent review to establish what went wrong and why.

BBC Director-General Tony Hall said: "The DMI project has wasted a huge amount of Licence Fee payers' money and I saw no reason to allow that to continue which is why I have closed it. I have serious concerns about how we managed this project and the review that has been set up is designed to find out what went wrong and what lessons can be learned. Ambitious technology projects like this always carry a risk of failure, it does not mean we should not attempt them but we have a responsibility to keep them under much greater control than we did here."

The Digital Media Initiative set out to create new digital production tools and link them with a central, digital archive that would allow BBC staff to access a seamless digital chain throughout the production process, from camera to archive. The BBC has worked digitally for some time, DMI aimed to bring those processes together so that everything could be accessed from the same system and stored on a computer.

The individual components of DMI were: new production tools that could be used to create content digitally on a desktop; a store to house the newly created digital content; a database to search BBC archives and a place to store production reports digitally.

A Guardian article earlier in the month revealed the seriousness of the problems and the fact that BBC Sport has come up with their own solution for a fraction of the cost.

A £133m digital video archive designed to ensure the redeveloped New Broadcasting House is "tapeless" is not working according to programme-makers, with old-fashioned tape editing machines having to be installed as a result. However, because the corporation's central London headquarters was not designed to accommodate the heat from the tape editing machines, plans are being discussed to put them in a specially constructed, refrigerated area.
According to sources, Panorama's office in NBH is "littered" with tapes and news and current affairs staff say their work is being held up due to delays and problems with the BBC's troubled Digital Media Initiative. DMI is an attempt by the BBC to do away with video tapes and create and run a kind of internal YouTube of BBC archive content that staff can access, upload, edit and then air from their computers. 
However, only the "first parts" of DMI have been rolled out, the BBC admitted, and staff who are trying to use the software said it is "clunky", patched together with an old system and it is difficult to find much footage on it.
One BBC insider said of DMI: "Not only have there been huge problems with the software, but only a relatively small amount of the BBC's archive has actually been digitised. The vast bulk remains on tape and film."
Problems with DMI were first exposed during the coverage of the death of Baroness Thatcher last month, when BBC News staff were unable to access archive footage of the late prime minister via computers in New Broadcasting House and were reduced to ferrying tapes from the corporation's archive storage facility in Perivale, north-west London, in taxis or on the tube.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Matt Locke's Brilliant Storythings

If you are a creative storyteller, and you only do one thing today, sign-up for Matt Locke's free Storythings Newsletter. Forget complicated, confusing terms like Transmedia. In the end it is all about Powerful stories.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

So what's next for public broadcasters?

Interesting highlights from a presentation late last year at the European Broadcasting Union. Many broadcasters seem to know they are in crisis. But not clear about what needs to be done to fix it.

And I think people have forgotten the strange message from Anonymous that they're going to do something on Saturday June 1st 2013 at the BBC, because of the recent scandals there. Actually, when it comes to digital production technology, the BBC may turn out to be its own worst enemy. Watch this space.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Comparing Silicon Valley and Silicon Polder

I'm seeing more and more vodcasts made by non-broadcasters. This Week in Tech is well known.

But now author Andrew Keen is also joining the fold. Keen is good because he's prepared the conversation.
Interested in the discussion about how the nonsense of building high speed trains. Good comments about drones , smart cities and pilotless planes. Have some common things suddenly reached their Kodak moment?

I feel that whereas some of the local podcasts in the Netherlands work well in their own language, they struggle in English. Look at these recent examples.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Social Video - Really Different from Cable?

Over the past year, many media organisations have allocated significant resources to 'social video', a category that can be defined in several ways. At this session recorded in New York at the recent social media conference held together with the BBC College of Journalism. we hear from four panellists involved in creating social or 'viral' video as they explain the form and function of this emerging medium, as well as from business leaders of media organisations on how social video fits into their vision of the future.

Roy Sekoff, president and co-creator of HuffPost Live and co-founder of The Huffington Post
Katherine Zaleski, managing editor, NowThis News
Olivia Ma, head of news and media partnerships, Google+
Andrew Polis, Frontline PBS.

Becoming a YouTube Star

There are just a few people who have managed to make YouTube videos a career. Justine Ezarik (29) is one of the few exceptions. In these profile videos she explains how difficult it really is. Slave to 8 channels of video. Her audience? Mainly girls from 12-18

Forced Marriage of Convenience & The Pivot Workshop

Just been to a preview of just under 10 projects to be presented to the Dutch public in a couple of weeks. As in previous years, these ideas/concepts have been put together by matching journalists and designers, giving them a small working budget (about 10,000 Euro per team) as well as a deadline to present their ideas to the public.

We were told that around 2-3 out of 10 ideas and concepts eventually get commissioned by (mainly) public broadcasters. Last year the system did indeed trigger a couple of ideas which are now in the later stages of production.

Taking a completely different approach to building a TV documentary can work by doing exactly the opposite from what is usually done. It's the way TV production companies come up with a new TV format. Analyse the old programme. Write down the elements of the original, then do exactly the opposite. It's the way the BBC moved from a programme with Delia Smith cooking in a kitchen to Ready Steady Cook.

The problem is that this year the projects are too far advanced for them to pivot. And in most countries, the commissioning process is changing rapidly as broadcasters run out of cash. Commissioning editors want ideas that already have an audience. I fear most of the projects this time round will fail before the summer is out. So is there another way?

Learning from Start-Ups

By comparison, I've have done some recent work for a leading start-up accelerator. As a selection mentor, we're always told by the originators of the Lean Start Up methodology that the strength of the team is far more important than the quality of the idea. Great teams with a mediocre idea can always modify or pivot their business into something else. Sony started life by making rice cookers. Brian Millar points out in an excellent article on pivoting that the photo-sharing service Flickr started out as something called Game Neverending. Paypal was originally just for the Palm Pilot users to beam credits to each other via infrared. Twitter began life as a podcast subscription service called Odeo (to which I subscribed).

Film-maker Ondi Timoner made this short video with Dom Sagolla, the nineth employee at Odeo. He went off to work for Adobe and is now at Chaotic Moon Studios which builds great ideas for mobile. More about that pivot here

Back to the projects I saw last week.

What could have happened instead?

I would have taken the Sagolla approach and organised a pitch workshop for the teams about 1 month into the project. By that time they have an outline of what they're thinking about. Time to test whether their idea really matches the information needs of the audience. More often than not, the original ideas don't pass their first contact with the audience. Assumptions are made that "people will like this".  Or creatives assume that the way they use the media is the way everyone else does. Rarely the case.

The Pivot workshop is a mix of the creative teams and selected members of the public. And rather than having the teams pitch their idea and waiting for a reaction, they turn into in a research meeting. They discuss what these audience members do when searching for particular information. How do they amuse themselves when they a moment to spare? What are their favourite websites and why do they keep going back? What apps have their bought for their mobile phone? The insights that the public bring to these meetings are sometimes confrontational. But there is still time for the teams to adjust the plan so they have a new "production vision". Then they can work on a pilot based on the input. And get a powerful story together that  commissioning editors will understand.

Lessons Learned:

  • Audiences should be at the heart of everything you do.
  • Pivoting is not a sign of failure. Learn Do Learn is the most efficient way of moving forward.
  • Pivot early before you start building scenarios or shooting footage.
  • If the story is not clear to you, then it's not going to be clear to the audience.

Inspiration for the Eurovision Song Contest

Wonder if this Dutch song from K-otic inspired this years Eurovision song contest winner from Denmark? Confess my interest in this event waned many moons ago. Technically more interesting than the songs. But it all goes to prove that many of these singers are not very interesting people. Would be curious to know how many people watch old contests in the same way that UK broadcasters keep repeating Morecambe and Wise. At least they won't have to move the set very far for next year's show. Always wondered why there was an ESC button on every keyboard....

Predictive Analysis - Big Mother is Watching You

Had reason to review some research about Big data.

I remember this story by Charles Duhigg  in the New York Times about how Target was one of the biggest users of big data, understanding that if a female shopper started stocking up on certain items she was probably pregnant. Robert Scoble also mentioned what Walmart is up to in the course of this video recorded at MIDEM in Cannes.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Is there Wisdom in the Creative Cloud? A Crisis is Building

There is a crisis starting to develop amongst those who realise what is going on in the professional video editing software industry. Apple messed things up big time when they introduced Final Cut Pro X last year. The program wasn't finished, totally changed the workflow from previous editions and rendered previous projects unreadable. I bought it, played with it for several months in between other work. But it didn't work for me. In the end I took it off the machine. What a waste. Remember the comments on the Conan O'Brian show? They reflected exactly way the way I felt.

Final Cut Pro X was my worst experience with Apple ever. I advised my clients to either wait or switch to Avid or Adobe Premier, which is part of the Adobe Creative Suite (along with After Effects, Photoshop, etc.)

Now it is Adobe that is taking things in the wrong direction. They have announced that their Creative Software is moving from something you buy in a box and install to something that is in the cloud and which requires a monthly subscription. Fine for film production companies. A disaster for small companies and individuals who are now required to pay 46 Euro a month per user for the privilege of using the Adobe software Suite, or 25 Euro a month for a single application. So I can rent my software for the rest of my production life?

I look at production software rather like a carpenter looks at a hammer and a saw. They are the tools of the trade. I want to own them and decide when I need extra functionality  I definitely don't want to rent them.  I will only do that for (utility) services. I don't care if Adobe gave us an option for the cloud. But they have made it compulsory. Adobe is offering me functionality I don't need (I don't have the broadband speed to make it worthwhile shifting around huge video files during production. And I'm only processing video on terminals that are connected together).

So no upgrades for me... What's next? Something else. What have others decided to do?


Long time friend and broadcast engineer, Bill Pasternak, sent me his take on things this morning.

Just finished reading your Critical Distance post on finding a replacement for Final Cut and Adobe Premiere.  I agree with you that Apple has literally lost sight of its professional customer base and Adobe is
-- in my opinion -- simply trying to milk their customer base for every penny it can.  However there is another -- albeit somewhat expensive alternative -- that being AVID.

I have had more than a bit of an acquaintanceship with AVID.  Back in the 1990's when it was first becoming popular with ver 2.4, I took my first combined "installer/servicer/editor" training -- at my own expense -- and -- for lack of a better term -- have been an "AVID person" ever since.

Yes, Final Cut was was good until Apple decided to take it from a Pro product and turn it into a consumer item.  And, typically, Apple ignored the needs of those who use the product on a professional level and making it clear to the pro community not to hold its breath.  Some edit / post production houses that are Final Cut based, are stuck with no way to upgrade.  Others are making the big and costly conversion to AVID because right now its the only product that will do the same or more than Final Cut.

Adobe Premiere was never an important product in the pro U.S. film and television market. Mostly used by wedding and event videographers, but not with anywhere like the penetration of Final Cut.  Where Adobe will really loose out is to the Pro still photographers who require the latest versions of Photoshop.  Lots of grumbling there and lots of folks already looking for a purchasable substitute.  And I suspect that with a market potential that big, some company will come along to fill this void leaving Adobe to "lick its wounds". I suspect that's going to be the outcome as its user base rebels against their new cloud based business model.

So on a professional top-tier video editing level, that really leaves AVID and all the lesser-accepted Pro level software such as Sony's "Vegas Pro" and "Maqix Video Pro" and the like -- all of which have little following in Hollywood, Chicago and NYC -- which in the USA are the post production markets that matter.

What I suspect is going to happen is that Sony will make every effort it can to scoop up the unhappy Adobe customers as AVID has by doing by going after the disgruntled Apple Final Cut users.  While more expensive that Final Cut, AVID Symphony 6.5 (and the top end Media Composer 6.5) are software purchase based and are responsible for an estimated 85% or more of what is seen on video based U.S. television and other entertainment outlets.  And AVID has provided excellent support to the film and television industry since Day One, which in great part accounts for its long term success.

However, AVID at this high-end level is not cheap.  That said, most editors I know prefer it to anything else available here in the USA.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Adobe's Liquid Magma

I note that editing software companies have been rather slow to realize they need to commission some brilliant work in order to sell their software. Just having tech demos is not enough. I think that RedGiant does the best job in explaining how to get certain effects. They work with young documentary maker Seth Worley.


  Now they have been joined by Adobe, who has commissioned a rather spectacular video as part of their promotion of their new Creative Suite in the Cloud.

The Vein / Magma from Dvein on Vimeo.

I find the making of the Magma video to be almost a fascinating as the final product. Because many of the 3D effects in this video are not made by Adobe.

The Vein 'Magma' / Making-of from Dvein on Vimeo.

Still it is a beautiful piece of work....

The new magic for the Canon 5D

My son Chris passed on this tip about how to record RAW video on your Canon 5D Mark III. It turns the camera (already good) into something spectacular.

BBC World Service at Work....

Inside look by BBC World Service correspondent Rob Watsonaround the press enclosure built next to St Paul's Cathedral in London for the recent funeral of Baroness Thatcher. I wonder why the coloured microphone windshields have to be so large? But the use of the Beyer Dynamic headphones with built-in mics makes a lot of sense - the microphone is always at the right distance, and you can shut out extraneous noise. 

I see there was a copy of Private Eye in the press box - and there is Boris Johnson as well.

I guess this video was made for a training course at the BBC Academy. But it would be equally suited to the BBC World Service radio site, explaining the background to international broadcasting. 

Reminds me of the old days when all BBC Microphones in publicity shots had a huge BBC logo on them....never saw them like that in studios.

Alvar Lidell, BBC Announcer in the 1950's

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Virgin Radio opens in Lebanon

Virgin Radio has opened a new network in Lebanon this morning. Curious to hear more. The opening was pre-recorded in London. You can listen here. Thanks to James Cridland for the tip.

Better than the Original - Ground control to Major Tom....

This was the original song by David Bowie. Now a revised version of David Bowie's Space Oddity, recorded by Commander Chris Hadfield on board the International Space Station has got over 9 million views in a few days. It's great. Because it is real. 

Perfect example of something that gets to YouTube first before being picked up by mainstream media. 

Linked In Gets Very Scary....

I have a Linked-In account. Its an on-line Roladex (remember those?). I take part in certain groups, some of them closed. I brainstorm with others. Sometimes its about stuff that may be covered by an NDA. Which looks now as though that was stupid. The new terms and conditions flashing at the top of Linked-In say.....

You grant LinkedIn a nonexclusive, irrevocable, worldwide, perpetual, unlimited, assignable, sublicenseable, fully paid up and royalty-free right to us to copy, prepare derivative works of, improve, distribute, publish, remove, retain, add, process, analyze, use and commercialize, in any way now known or in the future discovered, any information you provide, directly or indirectly to LinkedIn, including, but not limited to, any user generated content, ideas, concepts, techniques and/or data to the services, you submit to LinkedIn, without any further consent, notice and/or compensation to you or to any third parties. Any information you submit to us is at your own risk of loss.

I will think twice before posting anything until this is clarified.

Has anyone read or understood this? Remember the great routine from Eddy Izzard. It's all happening again.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Google Now Boarding....

Is Google Now trying to put Tripit and similar services out of business. Hope it is not in the same way that Google Reader got rid of useful RSS aggregators, only to give up the ghost itself.

My only problem with mobile boarding cards in making sure the battery doesn't go dead before I get the airport, or that the security gate will believe this is a valid boarding pass. Don't try to get into Delhi airport with anything but a paper ticket. 

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Boeing heads for 10 Dreamliners a month

I thought there were challenges with the new Dreamliner at Boeing. If you recall a Japanese airline had a problem with a fire in a lithium battery at Logan Airport in Boston.  But now the Boeing PR machine is back in full swing, explaining that they are heading for production quota of 10 Dreamliner planes a month by the end of the year. I remember that during my visit to the competitor Airbus in Hamburg, they said that a new plane comes out of their production system every 7 hours.

Crisis or no crisis, the building of these airliners continues. I wonder if they will end up with too many? I say that because city planners in the Netherlands have vastly overestimated the need for office space in this country. 25% is empty. 16% is unlikely ever to be filled and discussions have started about demolition.