New blog

All new content on my restarted blog is here

Wednesday, October 24

What kind of blogger am I?

According to Blog Action Day's Professor Blogstein (summarising every sterotype of 'scientist' known to western man ... ):

What Kind of Blogger Are You?

Socialite? Ya think?

Hat-tip: JackP

Guardian shows Beeb how to tell stories

This is how to do it. The California firestorm is a big, visual, story. Show me a 'play' button.

The BBC has only started experimenting with Flash in-page video (on technology pages) because it has too much tied into single platforms — the main criticism of the iPlayer vis Microsoft. The Guardian can just do this with no problem from their previous investment and ability to experiment.

I also notice the Guardian's using Google free tools to display tagged content.

Neither is letting me post their content though. Yet.

Beware rip currents

Palm Beach

Reading the terrible story of the parents who drowned in Portugal trying to save their kids I was reminded of my own experience of rip currents.

Here's what they are:

A rip is a strong current of water running out to sea. Waves normally wash up onto the beach and ebb back into the sea. In some places the ebbing water forms a strong channel pulling out to sea. On many beaches the force of this escaping water can drag you far out to sea.
As I found out on my first venture into the sea in Sydney, at idyllic Palm Beach at the top of the North Shore, on the fringes of Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park.

Like all the other Sydney Beaches it's public and used by lots of ordinary people, even though the surrounding suburb is millionaire's row.

I'd got burned, literally, at Bondi. Like most arriving Brits I'd venture. When we travelled around we went first to Palm Beach. Somewhere I'd recommend, though it's not on the tourist trail.

Palm Beach, showing the rip

Even I couldn't resist swimming and, bobbing around, I eventually noticed 'Oh, the shore seems a way off'. I had just floated out in the rip, from the middle of the beach, not realised and not fought - which is probably what saved me (alongside the bloke on a board who pulled me onto the board and back to the beach, with my trunks half off).

The advice is:
If caught in a rip, don't panic. Tread water or float. Once out past the breakers, swim parallel to shore and catch waves in. Or signal for help and wait for a lifesaver to rescue you. If you are a strong swimmer you can swim at 45 degrees across the rip into the wave area, then catch a wave back to shore.
I really didn't realise the seriousness of what happened at the time but when I did it gave me a big fear of deep water. Stories like this bring it all back.

So if you're heading off to a beach, be wary of rip currents :}

To avoid rips, look out for:
  • A darker colour because the water is deeper
  • A calm rippled surface, generally with smaller waves
  • Debris or foam floating on the surface out to sea
Here's the rip at Tamarama (aka Glamarama), next to Bondi.

Coastal (most) Aussie kids all know this, coming from a fairly beachy culture, but Brits like these parents, a similar age to me, aren't taught it.

Wednesday, October 17

Shock: The youth want 'boring' TV documentaries

America's Next Top Model: 'I love it because her ankle looks broken'

Really funny and revelatory incident on Charlie Booker's Screenwipe on BBC4 last night.

Booker is known as "the most vicious pen in TV criticism", firstly for his Guardian columns and now for his TV show. I love him.

Last week he lanced 24hr TV News — eliciting the explanation from an idiot BBC News Editor that the reason that they hired a helicopter to follow the McCanns back from Portugal was because the paper's were covering it (hence, 'public interest').

This week he went for 'youth television', picking on a vile 'America's Top Model' episode where a bunch of fatuous ugly queens + Twiggy got the teens posing as murder victims (I don't jest - 'I love the way that leg looks ... broken').

He then showed a bunch of teenagers TV supposedly aimed at them, especially the mind numbingly bad 'Whatever' from Channel Four. He got them to hold up 'bored' cards when they were and almost immediately most of them were saying 'bored'. (They did like Four's Skins, however).

So Booker tried something left-field. he showed them Adam Curtis' documentary The Power of Nightmares, about Neoconservatism and Islamism.

One of the teenagers, after a while has passed, held up the 'bored' card. The rest sat intently watching. All of them said afterwards, basically, we're learning about the world, why wouldn't this interest us? They felt patronised in the extreme by TV. And they're right.

Yay! Someone's posted the whole thing on YouTube. Godbless Web 2.0.

'Model' is in part 2, 'Nightmares' in part 3.




And here's the three parts of The Power Of Nightmares, courtesy of
- I love that they offer multiple downloads and a host of other resources like this cute animated thumbnails around the video, plus a lengthy reviews section.




Tuesday, October 16

Dictatorship 2.0: Bloggers as targets

Reporters Without Borders 2007 Worldwide rankings — done on their website as plain, flat web pages and hence very easy to find useful info — have highlighted a number of countries slipping down the index because "of serious, repeated violations of the free flow of online news and information".

A decade ago, regime opponents in Vietnam or Tunisia were still printing leaflets in their basements and handing them out to fellow militants at clandestine meetings. Independent newspapers were no more than a few hastily-stapled photocopies distributed secretly.

These days, “subversive” or “counter-revolutionary” material goes on the Internet and political dissidents and journalists have become “cyber-dissidents” and “online journalists.” Most of them know how to create a blog, organise a chat group, make phone calls through a computer and use a proxy to get round censorship.

New technology allows them to receive and share news out of sight of the authorities.

The Web is also a blessing for human rights groups, which can now build a file on a political prisoner with a few mouse-clicks instead of over weeks and sometimes months.

The Web makes networking much easier, for political activists as well as teenagers. Unfortunately, this progress and use of new tools by activists is now being matched by the efforts of dictatorships to fight them. Dictators too have entered the world of Web 2.0.
According to the group at least 64 people are currently imprisoned worldwide because of postings on the web, eight of them in Vietnam.

They flagged up the case of Abdel Kareem Soliman, an Egyptian blogger jailed for four years after he used his web log to criticise the country's top Islamic institution, al-Azhar university, and President Hosni Mubarak, whom he called a dictator.
The governments of repressive countries are now targeting bloggers and online journalists as forcefully as journalists in the traditional media.

More and more governments have realised that the Internet can play a key role in the fight for democracy and they are establishing new methods of censoring it. The governments of repressive countries are now targeting bloggers and online journalists as forcefully as journalists in the traditional media.

In Malaysia (124th), Thailand (135th), Vietnam (162nd) and Egypt (146th), for example, bloggers were arrested and news websites were closed or made inaccessible.

China maintains its leadership in this form of repression, with a total of 50 cyber-dissidents in prison.

Talking about Burma:
The Burmese government’s Internet policies are even more repressive than those of its Chinese and Vietnamese neighbours. The military junta clearly filters opposition websites. It keeps a very close eye on Internet cafes, in which the computers automatically execute screen captures every five minutes, in order to monitor user activity. The authorities targeted Internet telephony and chat services in June, blocking Google’s Gtalk, for example. The aim was two-fold: to defend the profitable long-distance telecommunications market, which is controlled by state companies, as well as to stop cyber-dissidents from using a means of communication that is hard to monitor.
During the recent crisis the Net was, of course, a huge boon for journalists, but then the regime (like the Chinese) turned the tables, undercutting whether the Net makes any real difference:
Several Burmese journalists confirmed that the security services are circulating photos of demonstrators taken by citizen journalists or foreign reporters in police stations and among police informers. Scores of people have reportedly been arrested on the basis of these photos.
The same photos sent over the Web, before the regime shut it down.
The Internet was not designed to protect message confidentiality. It is fast and fairly reliable but also easy to spy on and censor. From the first mouse-click, users leave a trail and reveal information about themselves and what their tastes and habits are. This data is very valuable to commercial firms, who sort through it to target their advertising better.

The police also use it. The best way to spy on journalists a few years ago was still to send a plainclothes officer to stand outside their house. This can be done more cheaply and efficiently now, because machines can spy, report back and automatically prevent subversive conversations.

Cuba has installed spyware in cybercafé computers so that when users type “banned” words in an e-mail, such as the name of a known political dissident, they see a warning that they are writing things considered a “threat to state security” and the Web navigator then immediately shuts down.

China keeps a tight grip on what is written and downloaded by users and spends an enormous amount on Internet surveillance equipment and hires armies of informants and cyber-police.

It also has the political weight to force the companies in the sector - such as Yahoo!, Google, Microsoft and Cisco Systems - to do what it wants them to, and all have agreed to censor their search-engines to filter out websites overcritical of the authorities.

China has already signed an agreement with Skype to block key-words, so how can we be sure our conversations are not being listened to? How do we know if Skype will not also allow (or already has allowed) the Chinese police to spy on its customers?

It has become vital to examine new technology from a moral standpoint and understand the secondary effects of it. If firms and democratic countries continue to duck the issue and pass off ethical responsibility on others, we shall soon be in a world where all our communications are spied on.

The kids aren't alright

Having great fun finding cool, green content for two webspaces — not.

recyclenow is the main, government funded body and they have nothing which can be reused on other sites. But neither does anyone else.

In fact, I'm having trouble tracking down much in the way of even usable video, especially aimed at UK kids as one of the spaces is for kids, and have turned to the EU! I have posted their recycling cartoon before and they also have a well-produced video about global warming.

This is from an American kids cartoon:

But games? Widgets? What I have found is various local Councils commissioning their own recycling games! Which can't be reused elsewhere. Which is nutty nut nuts duplication.

The sole exception is Abodo, which is about green living, from Delib. A little cryptic (is it clear what the below is about?), it's all I've got/found from the UK.

This sort of thing is great for getting out messages

clock from

And it's looking like I'll end up using similar American product to sell recycling and green issues to - especially - kids in my English city. Because there's nothing I can find to use from the UK's various recycling/climate change official and unofficial bodies. Unless a reader can tell me of some fabulous resource hidden away from view ...

Wednesday, October 10

Craig Murray not silenced

... he's back.

Back and Unbowed
It is good to be blogging again.

We are back on We hope that will be back too very soon. I have a plan for dealing with Usmanov and getting this matter into court, but am holding fire for a couple of days until we get the address back,

He then lays into Usmanov. Excellent!

Show Me The Bunny

I was mentioning today about trying to get my head around the aspect of Social Networking called the Social Graph, known as Facebook's 'secret sauce', and reviewing what's in my Reader I came across this neat summary from Dave McClure on TechCrunch

Here are seven major aspects of Facebook you can use to increase the visibility of your startup, business, product or service:
  1. Set Up Your Graph: Profiles & Privacy
  2. Make Connections: Networks, Groups & Events
  3. The Need for Feed: Your [Shared] Social Activity Stream
  4. Share Your Content: Share & People-Tag Your Stories & Media
  5. App to the Future: The Facebook Platform, APIs, & Applications
  6. Pay to Play: Ad Networks, Sponsored Stories, & Paid Distribution
  7. Show Me The Bunny: Gifts, Points, & Virtual Currency
He goes into detail on those aspects. What Dave means when he talks Bunny, though, isn't what you might think — it's something new:

There are 3 major types of virtual goods: decorative, functional, and behavioral. Decorative goods are those primarily geared towards self expression. Functional goods are those that meaningfully alter your user experience. For example, a suit of armor in World of Warcraft that confers a special advantage to you would be a functional virtual good. Behavioral virtual goods are graphical icons that capture some sort of social interaction. This is the type that is most prevalent on Facebook today. Virtual gifts are the best known example of this category of virtual good.

Two of the top 10 Facebook apps, X Me and SuperPoke!, are essentially just interaction tools. In the X Me screenshot above right, each of the icons – whether it be Love, Punch, or Kiss – is an encapsulation of a specific social interaction. Though it may not be purposeful, these types of casual apps are training users to understand how to interact with virtual goods. I can easily see how these apps become platforms that launch broader virtual currency systems. For example, expanding this app to allow users to attach custom graphics to their custom actions would create a new, rare class of virtual objects.

I was just looking at Amnesty's great new web campaign, UnSubscribe (Hat tip: David Wilcox, he has a report of the launch). it's all about attempting to exploit the Social Graph. Really great design and lots of stuff in there. They don't even forget valuable things like email sigs. They have video and sign-up widgets.

Couple of things though:

1. It doesn't actually chart results. What is the impact of web campaigning? What has Amnesty already achieved?

I think the Number Ten web petitions shows some of the limits here, the potential for cynicism, although I'm sure you do have an effect (I know you do from experience) but it would help to show this, to demonstrate the impact somehow.

2. All the widgets are with WidgetBox and they have a very irritating method whereby you can't just get the embed code. You have to select your platform then it does it for you and a post magically appears (which I don't want). YouTube usually gives you the code option.

One very real reason why this is more than annoying is because if you auto-ping that's the post content which will appear in feeds - their headline choice etc. and none of your surrounding context. It reminded me of using MySpace and especially using Bebo, which has loads of walled gardens. This is also more than annoying campaign-wise as well because I then had to look elsewhere for the embed code for this campaign video.

Here's the sign-up widget (not in it's own post!)

Tuesday, October 9

Cruel Intentions

Jon Stewart on form — Pain equivalent to organ failure .. or even ... death? 'Cruel, inhuman, degrading or O-Tay'

John Oliver continues the Tortured Logic

Hacking (at) 'The Burger Code'

The Dutch have just published a new e-citizen charter, amusingly titled 'The Burger Code' in the translation I'm reading.

Hat tip: Peter Cruickshank

It comes with a workbook for Civil Servants, actually done in PDF so it'd print like a 'workbook', on ruled, schoolbook type paper. Not a good sign.

I baulked at it's first principle and gave up on reaching the first 'to do' list. This wins awards?

First principle was:

Choice of Channel
As a citizen I can choose for myself in which way to interact with government. Government ensures multi channel service delivery, i.e. the availability of all communication channels: counter, letter, phone, e-mail, internet.
Which sounds all well and good but only really available for the well-funded web presence and even then you make budget choices. Especially if you add an eleventh principle 'and the citizen must be able to use it' or do any picking and choosing ('convenient' vs personalised').

You have to acknowledge that you can't 'do it all' because 'all' is a moving target. As an aim, 'ensures' is worse than pie in the sky. It guarantees B*S. Fab rhetoric though but it's the rhetoric and the claims which get you into trouble. Something falls through the cracks.

Onto how you might reach this aim and a good example in a 'checklist'
Does the website explain how to get in contact and can that be done by visit, phone, letter and mail?
Why is a website having to 'explain'? This one choice of word gives away the linear approach of the author, the limited perspective framing the entire exercise. Try 'show' instead.

I know what they're saying and it sounds like splitting hairs but why are you doing this in the first place? Why are you providing a contact point on a website and making sure you don't miss routes.

Call me a tired old cynic, but wouldn't that be because that's what websites do — that is, it's absolutely sod all to do with government, transformed or otherwise, it's to do with websites.

Any business, and community group, anyone running a website will provide multiple contact points and fallback help for users because otherwise you're not making the most of the user interaction opportunities. (Unless you're big or over-scaled like some web properties and don't fund customer service/can't hire fast enough/can't cope with customer contact).

A whole expensive process plus an awards ceremony to arrive at what the web already does (read the document, it's all the way through). But lots of big words, grandiose claims and extra-polished civil-servant speak. All sounds very familiar ....

Disconnected? Parallel universe.

  • e-Citizen Charter: Winner of the European e-Democracy Award 2007 (Global e-Democracy Forum, Paris, October 2007) and Finalist of the European e-Government Awards 2007 (Ministerial e-Government Conference, Lisbon, September 2007).
Here's their ten principles - nb: a translation - which other than when they talk 'web', are mostly good, common sense (although you'd have to think as well, surely restatements of existing principles?):
# Choice of Channel
As a citizen I can choose myself in which way to deal with government. Government ensures multi channel service delivery, i.e. the availability of all communication channels: visit, letter, phone, e-mail, and internet.
# Transparent Public Sector
As a citizen I know where to apply for official information and public services. Government guaranties one-stop-shop service delivery and acts as one seamless entity with no wrong doors.
# Overview of Rights and Duties
As a citizen I know which services I am entitled to under which conditions. Government ensures that my rights and duties are at all times transparent.
# Personalised Information
As a citizen I am entitled to information that is complete, up to date and consistent. Government supplies appropriate information tailored to my needs.
# Convenient Services
As a citizen I can choose to provide personal data once and to be served in a proactive way. Government makes clear what records it keeps about me and does not use data without my consent.
# Comprehensive Procedures
As a citizen I can easily get to know how government works and monitor progress. Government keeps me informed of procedures I am involved in by way of tracking and tracing.
# Trust and Reliability
As a citizen I presume government to be electronically competent. Government guarantees secure identity management and reliable storage of electronic documents.
# Considerate Administration
As a citizen I can file ideas for improvement and lodge complaints. Government compensates mistakes and uses feedback information to improve its products and procedures.
# Accountability and Benchmarking
As a citizen I am able to compare, check and measure government outcome. Government actively supplies benchmark information about its performance.
# Engagement and Empowerment
As a citizen I am invited to participate in decision making and to promote my interests. Government supports empowerment and ensures that the necessary information and instruments are available.

Monday, October 8

Remembering Sachsenhausen

gay prisoners at sachsenhausen

My fellow blogger Jack P — expressing interest in my posting on gay subjects which aren't to the fore — has promoted me to post this. It's a speech I gave at our local Holocaust Memorial Day in January this year.

It's seems appropriate to post it on a day when the UK Government announces legislation making incitement to hatred of gay people an offence.

I first became aware of the specific experience of gay victims in the Second World War through the efforts of the very few remaining survivors in the late 70s, especially the play Bent, which was based on the first testimony to be published, in the book the Men with the Pink Triangle.

Bent was made into a very good film ten years ago with Clive Owen and Lothaire Bluteau - Trailer:

kitty fisherI also had the honor of knowing the Auschwitz survivor Kitty Fisher in Sydney. Kitty always had a special connection with the gay community because it was a gay man who saved her and her sister's lives in the camp when they were small.

Kitty was in the documentary Paragraph 175, directed by Rob Epstein & Jeffrey Friedman (who also did The Times of Harvey Milk and The Celluloid Closet).

Here's a trailer:

The Memorial Day speech was very hard, emotionally emptying work as I could completely identify with the characters I was reading about. I could then place myself in their shoes, in the Camps, in the Brick Pit. I had much the same experience watching Bent, I felt it viscerally. Same feeling now actually. I can completely understand why people, many survivors especially, never spoke about the Holocaust (although gay victims had different reasons for silence),

People from the local Jewish community could not have been more supportive in giving the speech, offering very useful advice, and it had a fantastic reception, apparently touching people and making them aware in a way they weren't previously. This pleased me greatly as telling this history means talking about how gay survivors were treated by other survivors. There was also another very real link with genocide with a Bosnian survivor, an immensely dignified young man, who I was very pleased to hear and to meet.


Holocaust Memorial Day, 2007

With Germany's military defeat came liberation of Nazi concentration camps, and the discovery of an unprecedented horror.

For our kind - gays - the nightmare began in 1934, one year after the Nazis came to power, with the creation of the Reich Office for Combating of Homosexuality and Abortion.

767 police-identified or suspected homosexuals were arrested by the Gestapo (State Secret Police), awaiting transfer to concentration camps for "reeducation" at the hands of Hitler's fanatical SS paramilitary units.

Treatment was brutal; begun without trial, jury, or mercy. The Gestapo tortured gays for information, confessions, names

- and sadistic pleasure.

In June 1935 a desperate youth wrote to the only person in authority he trusted: Bishop Ludwig Mueller.

prisoners with pink trianglesThis Berliner - alone, panic stricken - tells the bishop the treatment awaiting gays:

The letter reads:

"[Homosexuals] are tortured for weeks and months on end. Hardly anyone can describe what they do to homosexuals and suspects.

"Not only do they use the foulest language they maltreat them in the most brutal way. Each man has to fall in, stand still and watch 50 to 100 blows rained on a poor creature. The cries and the sight of the flowing blood are terrible."

The letter closes naively, "People have said that our glorious Fuhrer would punish such acts most severely if they came to his ears. I am of the same view."

Whether Bishop Mueller had Christian compassion for the plight of gays is not known. There is no record of response from him or of any personal action taken.

German gays - "Varmer bruders" - were worked to death until the war's end.

The death toll for all inmates was 8 million. It is impossible to estimate how many of them were homosexuals. But estimates range from 430,000 (which is probably too high) to 10,000 (which is probably too low).

arbeit macht frei - work will make you free - sign at sachsenhausenDetailed statistical analysis of surviving records indicates that homosexual prisoners were systematically placed in the hardest work commandos (notably the gravel pits at Dachau and the brick works where all of the homosexual inmates of Sachsenhausen worked);

  • that the death rate for homosexuals was 50 percent higher than for political prisoners;

  • that they received more brutal and more frequent extra punishments than the other prisoners;

  • and that they formed the highest percentage of prisoners who were "transported" (the Nazi euphemism for transfer to the gas chambers).

One survivor of Dachau reported: "The inmates with the pink triangles never lived long, they were exterminated by the SS with systematic swiftness."

By all accounts, hardly any of the homosexual inmates of the concentration camps survived.

The pink triangles were spurned by all other groups in the concentration camps, and many survivors even today refuse to acknowledge the existence of their fellow gay prisoners.

After the war, homosexuals were denied the reparations given by the German government to other groups, because they were still classified as criminals under German law.

They were even denied state pensions to compensate for the amount of time spent in the concentration camps.

They could be re-imprisoned for "repeat offences," and were kept on the modern lists of "sex offenders."

The humane institutions of every country have condemned the treatment of all of the victims — except for homosexuals.

On annual days of mourning for the victims, few countries officially mourn for homosexuals.

To the survivor's comment that "one day they were simply gone" we might add "and today are all but forgotten."


The memorial plaque at Sachsenhausen

gay memorial at sachsenhausen

  • Germany is building a monument to the gay victims in Berlin
    Holocaust victims honoured, Pink Paper, 5th. February, 1999
    "Thousands of gays and lesbians who were murdered by the Nazis during the Second World War were formally honoured by the German government for the first time this week. Representatives of the country's gay community joined officials at the Sachsenhausen concentration camp north of Berlin to take part in the annual remembrance ceremony for prison camp victims. Sachsenhausen held large numbers of gay inmates because of its close proximity to Berlin, which had developed a thriving gay community in the 1920s and 1930s."

  • US National Holocaust Museum: Nazi persecution of homosexuals

Thursday, October 4

Look behind you

This rather puts the relationship between local government and Whitehall in context.

In California, Tuesday, one keystroke action by a Washington D.C. bureaucrat deleted every Californian government website, the entire domain, for eight hours.

"We don't for sure have the whole picture, but as we understand it, there was some event at the Transportation Authority of Marin Country where their site got hacked," says Jim Hanacek, public information officer for the California Department of Technology Services. Traffic was being redirected from that site to one featuring pornography.

A department within the U.S. General Services Administration in Washington oversees and polices the .gov domain.

"The federal government saw this incorrect use of and they made a change at a much more global level than probably was necessary and it started taking down all of our domain. That impacted Web access and e-mail services."

"Unfortunately there was no prior notification, they just made the change and sent us an e-mail to one of our administrators who wouldn't be a normal contact," Hanacek says.

"Once that person saw the e-mail and started looking we determined how serious this could be and we opened our emergency operations center. Unfortunately that was about 3 in the afternoon and folks back East were already going home, so it took us some time to get hold of the right people in the General Services Administration to get this address reinstated."

Those corrections began between 4 and 5 p.m. PT but didn't restore full normalcy until about 7:30 p.m.

Hanacek indicated that California's IT people will be having a chat with their Washington counterparts: "We'll certainly be discussing how we should be notified of a change of this magnitude."

Love to be a fly on the wall at that one.

The Miliband effect

Colin McKay from Toronto posts about the new Foreign Office (FCO) blogs, led by the inspiring, youthful 'gay icon' (according to the Telegraph) Mr Miliband. Hat tip- Simon Dickson.

Colin says:

It’s important to remember that EVERY member of a diplomatic service is trained - extensively - in skills essential to a blogger:

* the comprehension of complex ideas and themes
* the synthesis of debates and positions, often conflicting
* the rapid creation of understandable but nuanced subject briefings
* and, most importantly for a government blogger, an acute awareness of the influence and impact of their words and writing.
Precisely. All the skills needed to blog are exactly the sorts of skills diplomats have anyway. And many other public servants — not many new rules needing inventing in practice.

As I commented on Whitehall Webby, who was worrying about blog maintenance by the chosen FCO authors (there's six all up, including one by the Afganistan Ambassador, who appears very keen):
It implies a shift in resources, i think. That’s a better way of looking at it rather than as another imposition on time on top of something which will continue. Think of how other sectors have shifted resources, such as in marketing, have preempted us in some areas (though behind in others). If online engagement is as effective as we think then it should have resources including time and energy from senior people. However I also think that methods for easier use with emerge as tools match needs. things like twitter are ridiculously unusable but reading scroble twittering his son’s birth was mesmerising - that gap will close.
So on the one hand blogging can adopt existing experience/skills but on the other hand it will - and should - take up reallocated time and resources.

Here's the 'kitted up' Ambassador at the Kabul TV station Tolo TV

Wednesday, October 3

Mobile web taking off - slowly

BBC News has an interesting summary of the state of the UK mobile web market. It's healthy, they think;

Figures for February 2007, from the Mobile Data Association show that almost 15 million people use the web via their handsets each month.
New flat rate price plans and much faster speeds are increasing usage but most have download limits and stop Skype or streaming video use.

They have only recently stopped ridiculous restriction to their own portals and content and have seen portal content usage rise and spending within previously walled gardens.

T-Mobile said "Usage is as diverse as the people using it."

"Half of our customers surf the internet on their mobile when they are at home watching TV. They do not need to go to a laptop and fire it up. The mobile is there for them."

"Social networking has rocketed up the charts recently," he said. Sites such as Bebo, MySpace, Facebook and eBay have become very popular destinations for customers."

Said Vodaphone:

"It's different and relevant to the individual. It's the real long tail of relevance."

Usmanov vs. Murray update

Tim Ireland reports that Craig Murray's website - due to go back up on Monday and including everything which was there before about Uzbek tycoon Alisher Usmanov - was hacked into just before it was to go live.

It's now hosted on a US server and collateral damage this time included Atlantic Free Press and Pacific Free Press and other sites.

Monday, September 24

Ahmadinejad: "We Don't Have Homosexuals Like In Your Country"


[Speaking at Columbia University today] Ahmadinejad was asked a question about gay executions in Iran, which he attempted to avoid by referring to the death penalty in the United States, ignoring the sexuality aspect of the question completely. Moderator Dean Coatsworth kept on him however, and received this answer:

Presumably his death squads are killing phantoms.

Saturday, September 22

Usmanov · All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others

usmanov cartoon- and the creatures outside looked from pig to man and from man to pig again but already ..

From Matt Buck's Hack Cartoons

Uzbek billionaire Alisher Usmanov sent one letter to Fasthosts, a Gloucester-based hosting company, alledging defamation and got Craig Murray's website taken down, and along with it a stack of others, including that of Tory Mayoral candidate Boris Johnson.

usmanovA friend of Putin, Usmanov has form in the UK, having demanded similar censorship from Arsenal Bulletin Boards and fan blogs (he's trying to buy the Football Club) and having made requests to Fasthosts to insert editorial changes to Murray's site previously.

His UK legal firm, the appropriately named Schillings, also has form. They are "the celebrity defamation firm par excellence", Keira Knightley and Britney Spears amongst their other, more attractive, clients. In this case, they have even threated under 'copyright' bloggers who've published their legal letters.murray


"As a former British Ambassador in Uzbekistan, I know a great deal more about Mr Usmanov, and especially about his criminal record, than he finds comfortable. The principal point at issue is that he has been able to take down one of the UK’s leading political websites without anything being tested in court. Fasthosts have pathetically repeated Schillings bluster that my site is 'Defamatory', as though that were established."
murder in samarkandIn fact, the supposedly defamatory 'allegations' were repeated from a book, Murder in Samarkand, by Murray published over a year ago and never challenged in court by Usmanov.

Usmanov, however, has been badly served by his lawyers. The heavy handed tactics and 'collateral damage' done to Johnson in particular has, in 48hrs, let loose a wave of support online for Murray from all across the political range.
"This is London, not Uzbekistan," Johnson said.

"It is unbelievable that a website can be wiped out on the say-so of some tycoon. We live in a world where internet communication is increasingly vital, and this is a serious erosion of free speech."
Plus, Murray's original posts are now mirrored across the world and easy to find.

David Warner
It appears Schillings has fallen victim to something our pals at Techdirt like to call "The Streisand Effect." streisand houseBack in 2003, Barbra Streisand sued a photographer in an attempt to remove an aerial photo of her California home from the Internet, despite the fact that the photo was part of a publicly funded coastline erosion study and wasn't even labeled as her home. As a result, photos of her house were published all over the web within days.

A similar situation happened last year to Diebold when internal memos discussing their easily hackable electronic voting machines were leaked to the web, and a group of students at Swarthmore College published the memos to the web. Diebold attempted to have the memos removed, claiming the students were committing copyright infringement. The company was successfully sued for issuing unlawful takedown notices under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and forced to pay $125,000 in damages.

The Chaser's War on APEC · the stunt

Top effort blokes!

Friday, September 21

Diller gives good ankle

Simpsons greenlighter Barry Diller, also college dropout and former William Morris Agency 'mailroom clerk', also Huffingtonpost supporter, gives a great interview to Portfolio:

The internet mogul speaks his mind on videogames, newspapers, and his own style of management.

[He's] managed over the last four decades to position himself at the forefront of whatever has been new in the popular culture.
I guffawed at one point when the very Ivy League looking interviewer, former gossip columnist Lloyd Grove, probing about the extent of Diller's stake in a Games start-up, said:
L.G.: I was going to ask you to show a little ankle on that.
This bit as well, probing about his 'management style':
... the president of Expedia [Dara Khosrowshahi] talking about how it’s generally people sitting around a table shouting at the top of their lungs.

B.D.: Well, he exaggerates ... But with almost every decision, particularly the ones that get tougher and tougher, you don’t have all the information; you’re never going to get all the information; it isn’t there to get. What you’ve got to try and do is listen for what truth you can hear out of the passions of people arguing what they believe in. Because it’s what they believe in when you don’t have the facts, where you can maybe find something that will give you a lead on what’s more interesting to do, what’s the right course to make a decision.
Talking about the Games start-up:
B.D.: The Xbox and the PlayStation—and of course they’re incompatible with each other. And they’re whiz-bang on graphics—they’re beautiful. But on both sides of it—on the equipment side of it that you have to purchase in on, the production side where you make a game—you’re spending huge amounts of money. The Web, as is proven in so many other areas, is a pretty good distribution mechanism for programming. And very few people have done really high-graphic Web games in a system that will have—in, which is a gathering place both for people who make the games and for viewers to get them—where there’s one easy-to-use, fast place to do pretty sophisticated games. So we think it’s a really original and good idea.
Grove probes him on whether he misses the Hollywood glamour:
L.G.: Some people wonder, just looking in from the outside, they would’ve thought that things like running a movie studio, starting a television network, being an enormous influence on what today is our culture, popular and otherwise, and being responsible for so many things that we just take for granted as part of our daily intake of entertainment, would be much more glamorous and exciting than selling shoes [as with]. Or being in the financial-services business [].

B.D.: Well that would be if you were after glamour. It’s not something I want to be after.... The brilliance of Shoebuy [is that] it is one of the first companies that found out to have a virtual inventory, meaning they have no inventory of their own, what they have figured out is how to get the inventory from hundreds of people who sell shoes in a way that one person can come and access all of it and then get instantly—find out instantly—whether that product is available and buy it instantly. And that’s fascinating to me. Each of the things that we do, we’ll find in there some different, new way of doing things. And that really has interested me since the moment that I kind of got involved in it 13 or 14 years ago. So to the people who say that isn’t making a movie and all of that—I ran movie companies for 20 years. If I wanted to repeat myself, it seems quite boring. It doesn’t seem glamorous to me, it seems repetitive.
LendingTree "will emerge very well" during the current US mortgages crisis, Diller says. But the website being down, small thing though that is, don't bode well. Diller is philosophical.

Talking about the future of newspapers (he's on the Washington Post board):
It’s hard when you use the word newspaper. If you mean news-gathering, or just news, take the paper off, then I’m very hopeful.

So the problem for print is print. I mean, it’s paper, it’s current distribution, and it’s going to be supplanted by other paths. So I’m optimistic about the paths but you certainly can’t be optimistic if you’re running a newspaper.

I think that the work that is done produces value, and it will produce value in the internet and in other forms.


Diller also likes very big yachts "I promise you, it’s not about size, it really isn’t" and is bisexual "[he] did not live as a monk before his marriage [to Diane von Furstenberg, designer and fellow former Studio 54 habitué] at the age of 59".

Wednesday, September 19

'Twittering while holding Milan is just freaking awesome'

Tech pioneer Robert Scoble has just Twittered the birth of his son.

The moment, Twittered:

Hugh: I can't get a good link for Flickr for some reason. Hospital wifi is a bit flaky. Just visit my blog and click the Flickr feed there. 04:32 AM September 14, 2007 from twitterrific
Photos of Milan are up at N01/" rel="nofollow" target="_blank"> 04:26 AM September 14, 2007 from twitterrific
Thank you so much to everyone for your kind wishes! Everyone is doing well. Milan is 9 lbs and was born at 2.24 p.m. today. 04:25 AM September 14, 2007 from web
Phoned-in TwitterGram 02:55 AM September 14, 2007 from TwitterGram
Milan is here! 02:30 AM September 14, 2007 from iTweet
Phoned-in TwitterGram 02:28 AM September 14, 2007 from TwitterGram
He notes:

Milan isn't the first baby to be blogged from this hospital [Stanford University], either. was born here


Silent Debate

God bless Harry Shearer.

Round I: Clinton V. Romney: "Kind of like all the debates we've had so far this year."

The video 'letter to the Editor'

Here's some history.

The New York Times had posted its first ever video Letter to the Editor.

The damning ten-minute letter responds to an op-ed penned by Paul Bremer III — former Iraq Viceroy — entitled "How I Didn't Dismantle Iraq's Army".

It's classy stuff but that's because it comes from filmmaker Charles Ferguson, and uses footage from his film, No End In Sight.

Said NYT Editorial Page editor Andrew Rosenthal:

"It is an amazing use of the Internet. This is what the Internet is all about."
I think the entry barrier's quite high by that standard! (not what the internet's all about) but it's very significant in breaking from text for one thing and adding immeasurably to the power of the Letter to the Editor. There's a discernible editorial choice in allowing the ten-minute long answer to Bremner to be the history maker and to be done in such a powerful way.

Also noticeable that the NYT doesn't have the vid-letter behind it's pay-wall - TimesSelect - as it's dropped the whole pay concept in its entirety; another significant event, headlined as Paid Newspaper Sites To Become Obsolete. This complete switch in strategy includes the archive.
Why is TimesSelect ending?
Since we launched TimesSelect in 2005, the online landscape has altered significantly. Readers increasingly find news through search, as well as through social networks, blogs, and other online sources. In light of this shift, we believe offering unfettered access to New York Times reporting and analysis best serves the interest of our readers, our brand, and the long-term vitality of our journalism.

We encourage everyone to read our news and opinion - as well as share it, link to it and comment on it. Our highest priority is to increase the reach and impact of our journalism online. The Times's Op-Ed and news columns are now available free of charge, along with Times File and News Tracker. In addition, The New York Times online Archive is now free back to 1987 for all of our readers.

All great. All sensible. Now I (and others) can catch up on Maureen Dowd's great columns.

Social Media's Impact On Mobile Marketing + PR

from Technology and Entertainment Video Network by Jennifer Jones
The mobile phone is the link in the movement from a networked society to a more connected one. What does this mean for mobile marketers? Jennifer Jones spoke with Chad Stoller, executive director of Organic, a digital marketing agency, to gain his perspective on current opportunities.

"Location-based services are the key"
"The biggest problem with GPS is people can't figure out where they are"
"We're 3-4 years behind Europe"

"Now your customers are giving it to you whether you like it or not"

Jeremiah Owyang interviews PR professional David Parmet at Miami's WeMedia conference at the University of Miami, in February, 2007. David writes Marketing Begins at Home. David's got some clients that embrace social media, such as English Cut, Stormhoek, and Scrapblog. He explains some of the things to look for when searching for a social media PR professional, and why some of the best consultants aren't afraid to give their clients "bad news."

Tuesday, September 18

Fight for kisses

Great, spooky online viral ad.

Google Docs in Plain English

Monday, September 17

That's how they get you

... or try their hardest to. But:

Story about a group of Care home workers who started an online campaign about their pay.

Their bosses cried 'defamation' and because the default is 'take-down' when pressured with such talk, their ISP, 1&1, complied and took the site down.

Fortunately, the workers could call on a big stick - their union, UNISON - and got the ISP to reverse. This was after the workers website had been mirrored on overseas servers.

Defamation is a great tool for silencing people. You need lots of money or good, free legal to defend yourself against the rich and determined. ISPs have a business to run.

I notice that they used an Australian non-profit host (SocialChange).

A decade ago I did a website for an Aboriginal group which was trying to stop a sacred site being developed over. The developer's lawyers used defamation law extremely well (amongst other tactics, chiefly lying) to try to silence them. The site got chased from four hosts, around the world before I found another Aussie non-profit (GreenNet) who would take the risk.

Pattison: "The whole privacy thing isn’t going to go away"

addicted2tv has an interesting interview with David Pattison, former President of the IPA (Institute of Practitioners in Advertising).

He talks about his career and the relationship of a 51 year-old with Social networking. Pattison's asked about all the developments pointing towards increased policing of the net, or the division of the Net:

Yes, its on its way, but its hard to see how you can do it without it being so severe that it limits the upside, I think its such a shame but of course one persons censorship is another persons freedom.

Who is going to be the judge and whose going to set the level? If you leave it to the authorities its all about lowest common denominator stuff. That usually means that context is ignored. It’s going to come, but its not going to come in a good way.

One of the things that became clear at the IPA is that the lobby groups are very well funded. Probably more so than the group defending the issue.

There is also the whole area of who is right. So if you take an issue such as ‘advertising junk food to children’, your view on junk food versus my view on junk food is probably different and that’s just two people. Put four people in and you’ve got four different views, in order to police it most times the solution resorts to lowest common denominator. Everyone suffers.

He thinks that "The whole privacy thing isn’t going to go away".

Most of the issues about the Internet moving forward are about privacy, about limitation of use rather than extension of use.

The Social networking comments are funny:

Im quite a private person and I think there’s an element about blogging that is about therapy and showing off. I don’t feel the need to do any of those things. If I want to talk to someone I tend to use a thing called ‘mouth mail’. I am not dismissive of social networking, its just that I am 51 years old and all of these things are generational. I use the computer loads, email, searching, online shopping, use it all of the time, the whole social networking thing is something I've just not got into. But I do understand the importance of it, to a company like ours its absolutely fundamental to what we do.

Owh, sarcastic. Not that Mr Ad Man would know anything about 'showing off ... '