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Saturday, May 10

Google Reader clips catch up

Not on Reader:
  • barackobamaisyournewbicycle
    Neat timewaster — 'Barack Obama wanted you to have some cupcakes ... Barack Obama recited a poem that reminded him of you .... '
  • Barack Obama delegates wiki
    Not been done before - really. Another outcome of the Obama method, they did this themselves, learning from previous campaign efforts and nobody came from HQ and took them over ...
  • Ya Libnan Lebanon News Live from Beirut
    Breaking News Live coverage of the Situation in Lebanon - 'liveblogging', indeed.
  • Networks reportedly refused to appear on PBS' NewsHour to respond to NY Times' military analysts story; several continue blackout
    MediaMatters documenting just how the US TV News networks are trying to kill the story off, blogosphere is keeping it alive and kicking.
  • Killing by the numbers
    Shocking tale from Iraq
    'In 2007 elite U.S. snipers executed an unarmed Iraqi prisoner in cold blood. Have the insidious tactics that led to atrocities in Vietnam reemerged in Iraq?'
    'Top battalion leaders, who had to sign off on the charges, have faced no serious questions about whether their demand for more bodies, their vague rules of engagement or the confusion sown by the secret program might have contributed to the events of spring 2007.'
  • Political Commentariat in Group Circle Jerk
    Iain Dale, with top political bloggers list: 'The one thing which the report immediately provokes me into asking, is just who the Commentariat influences apart from its own members? How many 'normal' people are influenced by newspaper leader columns or indeed blogs? Do we all not feed each other in some amorphous way rather than be a crucial individual influence on a particular debate?'

  • Face to face with climate change
    The Sun is running a blog from Alaska in their Climate Change section. Stop spluttering. Good stuff and a great object lesson in Plain English.
  • The Visible Man: An FBI Target Puts His Whole Life Online
    HT: Stephen Colbert!
    Hasan Elahi is tracking his entire waking moments online at Because he was once mistakenly picked up by the FBI.
    'So it dawned on him: If being candid about his flights could clear his name, why not be open about everything? "I've discovered that the best way to protect your privacy is to give it away,"'
    'For now, though, Big Brother is still on the case. At least according to Elahi's server logs. "It's really weird watching the government watch me," he says. But it sure beats Guantanamo.'
  • When Democrats Go Post-al
    James Wolcott in Vanity Fair: 'The vicious Clinton-versus-Obama rupture at Daily Kos, the most activist site in the liberal blogosphere, reflects a party-wide split. What really rankles, as Democrats tear at one another, is the free pass they’ve given McCain—and the White House.'
  • Young Video Makers Try to Alter Islam’s Face
    New York Times: 'When Ali Ardekani started fishing around on the Internet a couple of years ago for video blogs about Muslims, he did not like what he found: either the world’s 1.3 billion Muslims were depicted as bloodthirsty zealots, or they were offering defensive explanations as to why they were not.'
    “Arabic sounds foreign and scary — you don’t know what is going on,” Mr. Ardekani said in an interview at his small Sherman Oaks apartment, its walls decorated with Koranic verses. “Or they show a woman with the veil, who doesn’t speak, and it is assumed if she did speak she would say, ‘Help me!’ ”

Blog wars

Professor David Perlmutter talks to Jon Stewart about the rise of political bloggers. He then does some reflecting on The Daily Show.

Just finished taping The Daily Show. I was interviewed by Stewart himself. What stuck me was how the discussion about blogging was pretty straight and without any real mockery. I argue in Blogwars that 2008 is the year blogging has arrived—becoming part of journalism, entertainment media, and, of course politics. Well, I think one sign is that instead of making fun of bloggers as geeks and freaks Stewart himself stated that many talented people blog and that blogs were no longer a fringe phenomenon. That’s a significant leap from the past. Lets spin back to when that was not so. Bloggers recall the March 2004 segment of The Daily Show that made fun of blogs and blogging via a satirical segment on “$ecret$ of New Journalism $ucce$$.” Jay Rosen, an NYU professor and one of the early academic proponents of blogging was roundly skewered by a TDS correspondent.

So it’s lucky for me that blogs have come so far!

By the way, in person Stewart is gracious and really puts guests—like, say, nervous academics—at ease.
Checking out David's blog, he picks up - as I did - on the false media spin on some survey results earlier this year which showed a huge number of Americans using political blogs as news sources.
A Harris Interactive survey conducted between January 15 to January 22 of 2,302 adults found that “Just under one-quarter (23%) say that they read them several times a year and just 22 percent of Americans read blogs regularly (several times a month or more).” Almost always when the story was picked up the headline was some version of the way it appeared on the Reuters wire: “Poll: Most Americans don’t read political blogs.” Harris themselves headlined their survey as “More Than Half of Americans Never Read Political Blogs.“

It’s a sign of how far blogs in general and political blogs in particular have come that 22% (or half!) of Americans seeking political information is classified under the modifier “only.”


I also understood that, as I have put it, “peasants don’t blog” or “bloggers are not the ‘people.’” Overwhelmingly the profile of bloggers and blog consumers depicts them as middle-class folk in America (or Nigeria or Iran). In the U.S. they tend to be more white, more educated, more literate and have more money than a profile of people who don’t blog.


Last, in politics sheer numbers are not necessarily significant. For example, some of the caucus states “won” by Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton or John McCain involved only a few thousand people out of millions. To expand upon what I write in BLOGWARS: “Even if blogs are not vox populi, it does not follow that, as blog critics love to taunt, bloggers (and blog readers) are the tinfoil hatters of American political life. To the contrary, bloggers and their audience may not be the people, but there is growing evidence that they have an extraordinary and extraproportional effect on the people and on politics, campaigns and elections, public affairs, policymaking, press agendas and coverage, and public opinion.” In fact, I claim that bloggers are influentials, people who speak up about politics, give money, get involved in campaigns, and vote. That is their profile according to my own research and that of others: they may not be the majority but the influential minority matters. The same applies to those who peruse polblogs.

So even if only 20% of Americans read blogs, I will predict that those are a group of people (a target segment in the language of marketing) that any political candidate will be very happy to reach.

Thursday, May 8

Bump: Zimbabwe reality

These are farmers Mr and Mrs Rogers, from Chegutu, south of Harare.

Mrs Rogers was beaten and has suffered a cracked jaw and broken ribs. Mr Rogers has broken ribs and a broken nose - and his ear was bitten. He was shot at seven times and apparently said he felt one bullet going through his hair.

Farmers in the area were all called into the police station in Chegutu and were “re-educated” in a lecture on ‘how to vote’.

They were told that if they or their workers voted for the MDC in an election run-off they would not be allowed to farm any more and would be evicted.

This is 3 year-old Samson. He was beaten on Golden Star farm, Shamva. His parents are ex farm workers who remained living on the farm after their white employer was evicted.

His parents were beaten on 21st April by militia who were saying “Whites left you on this farm, you are MDC, you want whites to come back and look after you”. Their houses and everything they owned was burned.

More and what you can do to help

From Solidarity Peace Trust

Zimbabweans ask that you direct your anger at the UN and South Africa - Contacts. Other action you can take.

Follow the worm

Tom Watson posted about one of Slate's great campaign vidoes, one that summarises everything up to Pennsylvania in seven minutes.

This reminded me to post another of Slate's great videos, which uses tracking across demographic groups as a speech is given.

Or rather, in these videos, as a selection from a speech is given. Or a selection from a speech from a selection of speeches ...

What they're using is a market research tool called a 'worm'. According to Wikipedia this was first developed in Australia and first employed in the 1998 Federal election.

Each member of the audience firstly fills out a questionnaire, used to describe the composition of the audience, and then each member has a dial, to which they select their feelings towards the vision or stimuli. This dial is checked centrally three times per second, and as the audience reacts differently over time, the collective feelings of the audience are gathered.
The major Australian election debates happen on commercial TV, and the 'worm' was first introduced for commercial reasons - to spice it up. But it's been very controversial because the sample sizes are so small and in the last election John Howard was able to get it removed.

Drat, drat, and double drat!

Public Sector Forums has a gem in coverage of 'Directgov - A Vision of the Future' (coming soon to a multiplex near you)from a presentation given by Directgov and Businesslink to the Government's 'Civil Service Live' conference in London very recently on their 'Vision for 2011'.

The un-deleted speaker notes for Slide 11 suggest neither Directgov and Businesslink, currently anyway, appear certain about how they should respond to this opportunity/threat (the increasingly decentralised information 'mash-up' that the Web is evolving into) – and nor do they seem particularly well prepared.

"Should we be throwing government information into the mixer?", state the speaker notes. "What would the implications of that be? Would the inevitable loss of control be worth the increased exposure we might gain for our messages?"

"Any step down this road would mean we'd have to operate in very different ways from now", states the notes. "Moving away from the static delivery of information on government-controlled websites and towards something much looser, much more fluid and responsive to immediate need. This is our challenge going forward…"

Bloody web ... mucking up our nicely laid out plans ...

Every Simpsons couch

Wednesday, May 7

Myanmar (Burma) - How to help

UK Disasters Emergency Committee have launched an appeal.

New York Times has this list of relief organisations

World Food Program appeal

UK Bloggers

Use this code to create button

<a href=""><img src="" ></a>


Lady Macbeth and all that

I wasn't seeing things. 'Shakespearean': most overused word in the Indiana/North Carolina fallout.

Someone else posted 'Ding Dong, The Witch is Dead' as an appropriate musical response to 'Events, dear boy'. My suggestion - The Jacksons. Tracing her final moment back to Gary, Indiana, The Jacksons' family home.

Tuesday, May 6

Silver surfer advocacy

HT: Dave Briggs. Bob Holmes of Digital Unite, who are encouraging ’silver surfers’ to get online and make the most of what the web has to offer. He's a great advocate + this all rings true to me!

Jakob: keep cutting those word counts

Continuing my love affair with Jakob Nielsen, he has some sound, tested advice from the latest Alertbox:

On the average Web page, users have time to read at most 28% of the words during an average visit; 20% is more likely.
Something interesting he cites in the detail is that, although the research is with 'high-end users':
This might not be a problem in the long run, however. If, for example, we compare data we collected in 2008 for our Fundamental Guidelines for Web Usability seminar with a similar study we ran in 2004, we find that 2008's average behavior is close to that of 2004's higher-end users.
The authors found that the Back button is now only the 3rd most-used feature on the Web. Clicking hypertext links remains the most-used feature, but clicking buttons (on the page) has now overtaken Back to become the second-most used feature. The reason for this change is the increased prevalence of applications and feature-rich Web pages that require users to click page buttons to access their functionality.
He also reports two interesting observations from WebSiteOptimization:
(1) Over the last 5 years, the average Web page grew from 94 KB to 312 KB: a growth rate of 82%/year.

(2) Despite this obesity epidemic, observed response times for U.S. users with broadband decreased from 2.8 to 2.3 seconds per page (average across 40 big business sites) from 2006 to 2008.

My comments:

(a) First, let's remember that almost half of the Internet users still don't have broadband, particularly in rural areas. In fact, explicitly decided to design for dial-up access.

(b) While 2.3 seconds is better than 2.8, it's still 130% slower than the 1.0 seconds required for optimal user experience and a true sense of flow while navigating.

(c) In the past, big images were the largest offender, but now response times are delayed by the inclusion of ever-more external objects, code snippets, and "widgets." Keep a lid on it. The biggest contributor to interactivity is still the ability to navigate fast and furiously.

Using PhotoShow to create stories + let's laugh at Scoble

Podtech is promoting this video even though it's actually a year old. But it's a great example of the new wave of integrated online software built around ease-of-use, a big issue for me when I'm thinking about project recommendations (why I tend towards using Google's suite rather than, gulp, Wordpress).

Geeks wouldn't like what they'd see as limited options with Photoshow but I know relatives who would. This video is great at selling, classic 'I want one of those'.

Flaming Scoble though ... stadium rock and "who are you?" begins 'The Scoble Show'. These big dicky mega-geeks need a few queens in the room to puncture those egos ... as in, Hans Christian Anderson (Queen!) and the courtier to whisper "you're naked!" in their ears ... I mean, look at him ...

UK sites do terribly well @ Webbies

This needs to get more headline media play — UK sites have won 26 awards across 119 categories at the industry Oscars, the Webbies. That is a lot.

Really pleased to see Zopa win 'best financial service site'. I met the guy behind it a while back and was extremely impressed with his drive and purpose.

Transport for London also deserved to win 'best government site', mainly for their online journey planner but the design is really good too. I could get picky (no! moi?), but have you seen US government websites? The competition? As I was pointing out the other day, 10 Downing Street's efforts are several thousand miles ahead of the White House. Seriously. they should enter for next year (paging Mr Dickson) ;] Problem of course with UK egov sites is kindof that's it. Quality at the top is award-winningly good but then it kindof falls off a cliff ...

New York Times won 'best news site' from the judges (they also finally beat The Guardian for 'best newspaper') but BBC News online won the people's choice.

Other deserving UK winners included for best science site, and in the highly competitive 'best visual design' category a small, Leicestershire agency Checkland Kindleysides won. Their site has great, subtle Flash but the text is too small (but they all do this, these 'creatives')! Plus Flash's limitations are blindingly obvious as I have to screenshot to show you what they're like ... no 'right-click, save logo' ... no Flash/HTML integration ...

Flash: great looks, lots of issues ...

The BBC won for their Radio site for BBC World Service and Radio 1's Meet the DJs for best music site. The latter is pretty good going, but they've won for radio before (against lesser competition). Annie Lennox won too. As did from Pinsent Masons.

Nothing for Patient Opinion in Health, but maybe next year, if they nominate themselves. (n.b. on Patient Opinion - I love their self-description, what you get in Google, "Patient Opinion is all about enabling patients to share their experiences of health care, and by doing so help other patients, and perhaps even change the ..." 'Enabling' actually is a real-world word and not, as you might think, 'elitist'. Just check The Sun's website, as I've suggested before as a Plain English checker shortcut).

Deservedly, the Huffington Post won best political blog (note absolutely no political parties even nominated). As did Invisible Children in activism.

Monday, May 5

Hillary's nuclear option

Reading this in the UK papers or seeing it on the BBC coverage?

Guardian's Michael Tomasky argues today that Hillary has a "40%" chance of getting the nomination. This fits with a lot of other UK media commentators idea that she still has this sort of chance.

Huffpost today outlines just how that might happen and it's called the 'nuclear option' or the 'destroy a village in order to save it' strategy.

This is what she would have to do at the Denver Democratic Convention.

"With at least 50 percent of the Democratic Party's 30-member Rules and Bylaws Committee committed to Clinton, her backers could -- when the committee meets at the end of this month -- try to ram through a decision to seat the disputed 210-member Florida and 156-member Michigan delegations. Such a decision would give Clinton an estimated 55 or more delegates than Obama, according to Clinton campaign operatives. The Obama campaign has declined to give an estimate."
Both Florida and Michigan primaries were held outside the Democrats rules (they decided to go early, before February 5). In Michigan, Obama wasn't even on the ballot. Thus, those delegates currently shouldn't be seated.
"A controversial decision to seat the two delegations, as currently constituted, would be appealed by the Obama campaign to the Democratic National Convention's Credentials Committee."

"The full make-up of the Credentials Committee will not be determined until all the primaries are completed, but the pattern of Clinton and Obama victories so far clearly suggests that Obama delegates on that committee will outnumber Clinton delegates. Obama will not, however, have a majority, according to most estimates, and the balance of power will be held by delegates appointed by DNC chair Howard Dean."
This backrooms strategy is also of course dependent on:
  • willingness to cause complete uproar and probably lose huge constituencies, most notably the black vote but also youth and liberals, in November;
  • Clinton loyalists on the Rules Committee would have to be persuaded to put their political futures on the line by defying major party constituencies;
  • her argument that she is a better general election candidate than Obama -- that he has major weaknesses which have only been recently revealed -- would have to rapidly gain traction, not only within the media, where she has experienced some success, but within the broad activist ranks of the Democratic Party;
  • Dean would have to be convinced of Clinton's superior viability in the general election, and that she has a strong chance of defeating McCain next November.
All of which Tomasky thinks has to a "40%" chance of happening.

Given the above information, are you kidding me?

Sunday, May 4

Americans: don't look to BBC for unbiased election coverage

I've posted before examining the pretty shameless ignorance and bias in the BBC's coverage of the presidential election. It is clear that all the the BBC Washington-based reporters Matt Frei and Justin Webb are doing, and have been doing for months, is regurgitating what the US Networks decide is important.

There are a couple of current major stories which those networks are deliberately ignoring and which Frei and Webb therefore ignore as well. I think both British license fee payers and Americans need to forget the idea - which is especially popular with Democrat Americans - that the BBC is somehow superior to the justifiably maligned US media in covering US politics, when in reality they have been reduced to being just another part of the 'beltway' circus.

[Here's their main elections page]

On April 20th, the New York Times published an expose of how the Bush administration had a program of paid-by-the-government, Pentagon-approved "military analysts" to appear on TV to help sell the invasion of Iraq, and then put a positive spin on the occupation. Propagandists in other words.

"Records and interviews show how the Bush administration has used its control over access and information in an effort to transform the analysts into a kind of media Trojan horse - an instrument intended to shape terrorism coverage from inside the major TV and radio networks," the newspaper said.
This is a good video excerpt.

Due to their refusal to comment, there's reason to believe the TV Networks were actually in on it. The analysts were sold as objective but were far from it. Not for nothing has the expose of this major propaganda operation been compared to the release of the Pentagon Papers during the Vietnam War.

Hillary Clinton said it raises questions of "credibility and trust at the Pentagon", Barack Obama was "deeply disturbed" that the administration "sought to manipulate the public's trust." A Senate investigation has started.

Needless to say the story got absolutely no mention anywhere on those same networks, Fox News, CNN, NBC, CBS, and ABC, nor in newspapers.

Nor on the BBC.

As Arianna Huffington put it;
This near-complete blackout imposed by the culpable news organizations is a despicable abdication of their central role in our society.
Said Glenn Greenwald at Salon:

Whatever one's views are on the media's proper role and its obligations to its viewers and readers (if any), this is a major story by any measure. These media outlets were either duped by the Bush administration and their own sources into feeding government war propaganda to their audience, or were knowingly complicit in doing that.

The fact that they simply refuse to account for their behavior -- hiding behind "no comment" walls of obfuscation or issuing cursory, empty statements -- demonstrates rather conclusively that they are in the business of doing everything except revealing relevant news to their audience. It's really the height of hubris, and unmistakable proof of their core corruption, that not even a front-page, lengthy NYT expose can cause them to address their central, ongoing role in uncritically disseminating government propaganda about the weightiest of matters.
Do I need to spell out how the use of propaganda in relation to misrepresenting the 'surge' might be of interest to the BBC's UK audience, given our Iraq presence and how tied it is to American actions?

The next campaign issue ignored by the BBC is the endless recycling of the Rev. Wright story and how this will affect the selection of the next American President - again, not something irrelevant to UK license fee payers - Vs. the complete silence over McCain's own "crazy preachers". There are several of them. You will have heard and seen Rev. Wright's "god damn America" on the BBC. You won't have seen either Rev. Falwell or Rev. Pat Robertson blaming 9/11 on America's "sins" or the others Reverands.

One is Rev. Hagee, a truly loony fundamentalist whose endorsement McCain sought, was "glad to have" and has refused to disown.
McCain needs, and therefore owes these people, to support his campaign, to send their flocks out to vote for him. That's why he actively sought Hagee's endorsement.

Here's a Montage of McCain's Reverends.

None of this is being replayed endlessly on US TV news. Therefore the BBC isn't telling us about Hagee et al. Most shockingly, even when McCain was, finally, asked about Hagee's attacks on catholics (because they'd understandably kicked up a fuss) on Network news - he's keeping the endorsement - the BBC didn't mention it.

The difference with Rev. Wright? These are white preachers who don't throw their arms around and yell in a way which the likes of the BBC's Justin Webb admit to having difficulty 'relating' to and which the American media is refusing to focus on, whilst Wright has now been a huge story for two months.

As Frank Rich explains in today's New York Times, there is a word for the sort of hypocritical double-standards we're seeing in US media coverage of the election - it's racism. And the BBC is unquestioningly bringing it to you.

Best HIGNFY in years

I was in tears from beginning to end. So totally f**king hysterical it hurt. Blessed is a national treasure.

Part One

Part two

Google Reader clips catch up

Not on reader

  • Mick Phythian from Leicester Uni is running research into electronic government channel measurement via

    If you have anything to do with this, please go and help him out by filling in the short survey and maybe commenting.

  • New and very interesting EU project the 'Semantic Interoperability Centre Europe'. It aims to build a platform for interoperability assets and services available to the public sector and its stakeholders in Europe, focusing on semantic (ie. content) interoperability.
  • Not new (but just seen it) is a project coordinated by EU Transparency, a non-profit organisation in the UK and Kaas og Mulvad, a data consultancy in Denmark. The aim is to obtain detailed data relating to payments and recipients of farm subsidies in every EU member state and make this data available in a way that is useful to European citizens. The project has brought together journalists, analysts and campaigners in more than ten countries.
  • The word on the web: 7 keyword trending tools
    Dan Taylor has a useful survey.
  • The Most Dangerous Men in Kenya
    Fascinating, rare interview with young men in Kisumu, on the banks of Lake Victoria and scene of some of the worst violence.
  • Nepal gets its first gay representative in parliament

  • And finally ...
    Mommy 2.0 - A new picture book about plastic surgery aims to explain why mom is getting a flatter tummy and a 'prettier' nose.
    "My Beautiful Mommy" is aimed at kids ages four to seven and features a plastic surgeon named Dr. Michael (a musclebound superhero type) and a girl whose mother gets a tummy tuck, a nose job and breast implants. Before her surgery the mom explains that she is getting a smaller tummy: "You see, as I got older, my body stretched and I couldn't fit into my clothes anymore. Dr. Michael is going to help fix that and make me feel better." Mom comes home looking like a slightly bruised Barbie doll with demure bandages on her nose and around her waist.

Stupid cycle lanes

Cambridge cyclist Paul Jones has produced some great videos, which have occasionally ended up on TV news, but the local campaign don't put these upfront enough. Can't think how better to demonstrate cycling realities.

'Mr Average Driver'

'Pinch point' reality

Watch how close the red car comes to the concrete island to force past the cyclist behind. Then squeezes past at the next pinch point.

'It's a shame I can't record the audio. The sound of cars approaching at this speed just as you enter a pinch point is terrifying. You just brace yourself for an impact, not quite sure if they've allowed enough space. Once you've been brushed on the arm by a wing mirror, as I have, you lose all confidence in your safety.'

This video reminds me what an unusual place, for cycling (for the UK), I do live in though.