New blog

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Saturday, June 7

Google Reader clips catch up

Roy Greenslade has been doing lots of reports from WAN 2008, a newspaper gathering in Sweden.

He says that many small newspapers are doing very well with hyper-localised sites.

"News travels fast in small villages but the news in our village never made it into the local newspaper, it was considered to small to make it in," Olofsson said. That changed one year ago when she established Heartproject, a series of eight hyperlocal sites, one for each community in the region. Online reporters file local news for the sites, which had at their heart have 101 reader blogs. The 101 bloggers were given set of rules about blogging and asked to write about their local village. None are paid.
My point, exactly. Hyper-local is a logical web growth point. is a very successful online only French news site with a unique use of 'citizen journalists'.
The motto is "information with three voices, journalists, experts and readers, working together in the news-gathering process," Haski said. One third of the content comes from non-professional sources, in the form of alerts, testimony and commentaries, but professional journalists have the final say on what goes online.
Young people are consuming news differently, and badly.
One fascinating insight: news stories, by their nature, lack resolution, unlike sports and entertainment which generally have a rapid middle and end. This lack of a conclusion is a major reason for boredom among the young.

The study has certainly been taken up enthusiastically by AP. Kennedy says the agency has since designed a new model for news delivery to meet the needs of young adults.

It has resulted in what he calls "1-2-3 filing," starting with a news alert for breaking news, followed by a short present-tense story for the web. The third step is to add details and to format stories in ways most appropriate for various platforms. (This echoes the way in which the Daily Telegraph - and, to an extent, the Financial Times - have approached integrated daily news strategies).
But Greenslade notes that the over-riding theme at the conference was 'Publishers and editors clash over illusion and reality'.
They genuinely believe that digital missionaries, like me, have helped to influence investors and advertisers to turn their backs on newsprint. (I just wish we had that kind of power). They are right to say that newsprint is still the most profitable media sector, as it will be for at least the next five years. But the trend, the future, is online. Editors know that, which is why so much of the forum was taken up with presentations about multi-media journalism.
Simon Dickson picked up on the BBC’s Jem Stone's perspective on BBC blogs:
[Dickson] There are very valuable lessons here for many similar ‘transparency through blogging’ initiatives, not least in government and politics:

[Stone] We’ve found that [engagement with readers' feedback] is possible (and I’m talking about the BBC mgt internet blog here but I’d say it applies to other similar propositions) but only when we’ve had two factors in place:

a) Strong ownership (buy in from senior management even when criticism from users is a “s**tstorm” as Ashley Highfield dubbed the initial BBC iPlayer/Mac period the other day) and

b) Investment in community facilitation, monitoring and hosting. Monitoring feedback and having the antennae to alert issues to teams (and thus the knowledge of the tools that makes this now a lot easier) is often overlooked. Doing this well can’t be done by magic.
Simon also noted the lack of quality amidst the New Statesman's New Media Awards this year.
Most nominees have only received a single nomination, in many cases by themselves, judging by the frequent use of the words ‘I’ and ‘we’. Most are pretty straightforward uses of off-the-shelf technology, by ‘one man band’ operations. And from a technical and/or creative perspective, most frankly aren’t great.
James Ball picked up on some investigative reporting in The Times that found that the Culture of spin costs UK police £39m.
Police forces have stepped up spending on marketing since the Home Office began measuring their performance against public perceptions of crime. Senior officers insist that most marketing is aimed at crime prevention and providing accurate information to inform the public. But there are concerns that forces are withholding information about serious crime in an effort to manipulate the news agenda.
ClickZ on TechPresident reports that the online ad spend by Obama is rapidly evolving, though others have noted how small it is proportionally in marketing spend and others have noted how Clinton ignored it completely and this may have been because of Media Directors vested interests.
Like countless commercial advertisers, the Obama camp has gravitated towards performance-based ad buys, and not only on Google. The other top recipients of his campaign's online ad dollars specialize in cost-per-action ads as well.

While it appears the bulk of Obama's online ad budget was spent on Google and other performance-based media, a small portion did flow towards direct buys on Web sites including Politico ($36,000), ($24,000), and Gothamist ($2,800). Those most likely involved CPM-based display ads.
Jack Pickard picks up on a report which says: "a 10-minute ebreak a day can have significant benefits but, despite this, many bosses are banning them in the fear they distract employees."
If you ban your employees from using the net for personal use, you’ll actual harm productivity… and that the British economy is potentially being damaged to the tune of £ 4 billion per year because of this.

Banksy meets Disney

... via Belleville Rendez-vous ...

More from this mob.

Regulation gone mad

A small town in Illinois devised these fabulous signs to tell car drivers something about .. lurve, and looking out for your pedestrian fellow human beings.

Others added “and smell the roses,” “right there pilgrim” and “means you’re not moving".

Unfortunately some a*****e in some government department told them it was 'against regulations' and they had to pull them.

HT: Etre.

Scrapbook clips catch up

The U.S. Embassy in London is running a series of forums about the election and held one May15th about the web impact: Digital Politics - Effects of the Information Age on the 2008 U.S. Election and Beyond.

Unfortunately they worked with YouGov and and the implementation is awful. First, the video is an obvious add-on to a live event, the sound is terrible (smartcom:tv production), the sell is about watching live, not watching later. No links to speakers texts or speakers notes. And it's not embeddable.

Pity because it was excellent.

Phil Noble, who runs PoliticsOnline, predicted that Obama will raise $1 billion online and put 5-6 million organisers on the streets in November. Andrew Chadwick from University of London spoke about why the UK is lagging. He reminded people about the video conversations going on around politics (which is happening here) and how the predictions missed this, thinking slick would rule. He highlights difference in political environments and how the US is more pluralistic, and we're more vertical. He points at UK candidate selection as dragging us down but sees some hope in the decline of party membership 'incentivising' parties to reach out.

In his very pessimistic speech Jimmy Leach, former No. 10 digital guru, noted that Boris' website the day after the Mayoral election simply noted 'this site will no longer be updated'. He links this to politicians cynical attitude; 'putting the tools away' once elected, take them out again in five years time. He also notes how out of touch politicians are with the basics, Blair sent his first text message after he left office! "If they don't get it they aren't going to try unless they absolutely have to". He also says that "amongst the machinery of government the enthusiasm isn't there".

Definitely worth a view if you can cope with crap sound. has started an initiative to add video from the House of Commons to their site, so you can see what your MP is saying. It's not possible to automate, so they're asking for volunteers (aka crowd-sourcing). Marking the video is easy to do and you can contribute ten minutes and that helps.

Andy Key from Hampshire CC sourced some hard numbers on online take-up for secondary school admissions. "Hackney were top of the form for online secondary school applications, with 85.3%; Medway were at the bottom with 1.1%. " As I commented, I wasn't aware Medway was that 'poor' and Hackney that 'rich'.

Actually, it wasn't the Sun wot won it. Sun readers did — Martin Kettle needles at Brown's courting of the Daily Mail and reminds that: "People choose a newspaper that suits and reflects them culturally. One of the ways it reflects them is political stance - though it is by no means the only one, as politicians like to believe. If politics were all, why would a quarter of Mail readers vote Labour, as they do? Only a fool would say that newspapers have absolutely no influence at all on politics, or say that there is no reason whatever why politicians should try to get good coverage in newspapers. But the rewards to politicians from such efforts are marginal at best."

Follow up on the BBC Trust report from the BBC Web Team. Others have picked up on the linking issue and their positive view on BBC blogging. No one though seems to be picking up my point on their attack on embedding.

My dad got me watching a rah-rah BBC doc on Scots Oil (Video). Jeremy Leggett, a solar champion, says it was so flawed it shouldn't have been screened. The chutzpah I noticed was the endless recitation of how 'no-one is reporting this Scottish success' from a reporter for the channel which would be most responsible for that non-reporting!

Hillary supporters for McCain, oh god. And you could hear some of them booing her at her - great, really - concession speech, even at this point: "don't go there .. the stakes are too high."

LA Times says that McCain's Web gap is showing. But it is starting to close, RNC ads and supporters vids are getting circulated and views in the low hundreds of thousands. They're all character hit pieces (Wright/Rizco) or experience vs. inexperience. The pump pieces for McCain are weirdly unsuccessful though.

The web is having a fascinating impact on Egyptian politics, both big P and little p. YouTube has been used to fight against violence against women. Much of this activity was by bloggers - see the Egyptian Blogs Aggregator. Alaa Abd El Fattah: "Through the aggregator, blogs were used to recruit for and engage with the pro-democracy movement Kefaya, to organize protests, strikes and sit-ins. The aggregator became a platform for various ambitious campaigns, from election monitoring to a broad anti-torture movement." Some bloggers, like just released Karim el-Beheiri, have been jailed and tortured for this work. Now that Facebook is being used to actually organise anti-government protests - about food and oil prices and the gap between rich and poor - the government is considering shutting it down.

Another Bush legacy. Rural America is not online and it's because of the power of lobbyists distorting the market. "The shortcomings of the U.S. broadband market are tremendous - more than 10 million U.S. households remain un-served, while nearly 50 million homes are priced out of subscribing to broadband services - and the social and economic consequences are dire ... The U.S. stands alone among OECD countries without a national broadband program." In Australia this was a major election issue.

Like with the US's 'rendition' planes, aviation enthusiasts have tracked and now set up a Google Map to follow what Silicon Valley Insider calls 'the Google party plane'.

Great line from Etre's newsletter about what's called familiarity blindness, how the brain learns to screen out the familiar, which is why you won't see the letter 'f' in 'of' if given a paragraph and asked to count the number of 'f''s (you won't, I promise you). "It doesn't matter whether you're a web designer, programmer, marketer, manager or CEO, if you are involved in a website's development, you are oblivious to the majority of its flaws. Familiarity blindness means that your nose is pressed so firmly against a tree trunk, that you simply cannot see the forest around you."

Mnemonic from Maureen Dowd: "I’m-A-Dinner-Jacket."

Line of the week from a man (Richard Godwin) about Sex and the City: "But in the end, it comes down to the shoes. I used to imagine the world would be a more peaceful and just place if it were run by women. Sex and the City suggests a more Orwellian vision: a Jimmy Choo stamping on the human face forever."

Funkee tribute

He Really Deed It.


As is 'Podemos Con Obama'!

Tuesday, June 3

CV prodding: tips for Clinton staffers

Hokay, they insist on calling it a resume - whatever that is - in the you-nited stats ... Olberman tells Hillary's staff what to do.

"Tip #1. Forget the resume. Present yourself as the 'inevitable candidate' for that job."

Monday, June 2

Der Untermensch lives on

I was talking to a blind friend today and she told me that, following my suggestion, she'd given a speech to our local Holocaust memorial day about what the Nazis did to the disabled.

Basically, the disabled were the 'practice run' for the ensuing holocaust.

She needed to do the speech to remind people of what the holocaust was really about.

Last week an appalling thing happened around these issues, this memory.

Israel Gutman of the Yad Vashem Institute in Jerusalem said that the Nazis only targeted German gay men, and that they were the victims of political battles within Hitler's National Socialist Party rather than a campaign of homophobia.

(This is an old slander).

Talking about the newly opened memorial to gay victims in Berlin, close to the Jewish memorial, he told Polish newspaper Rzeczpospolita, "the location was particularly poorly chosen for this monument,"

"If visitors have the impression that there was not a great difference between the suffering of Jews and those of homosexuals, it's a scandal."

Gutman speaks to the two different definitions of the Holocaust: Simon Wiesenthal's one that includes 5 million gentile victims of the Nazis along with the 6 million Jews, and Elie Wiesel's one that restricts the term Holocaust to Jews only. The latter definition is called by Berenbaum the Judeo-centric one.

When I spoke to our local memorial day last year ('Remembering Sachsenhausen') at the top of my conscientiousness was that I would have to remind people that gays were at the bottom, that jews (and communists and others) participated in this order. I could not have been more, well, relieved, with the reception I received.

It is history which is very difficult to talk about but all the more important to talk about. It was not only that I could put myself personally into the 'pit' those queers were in but also that I know virtually no-one survived to tell this history. It must be retold.

Much has been lost, or lost in practice. Poles and other slavs were and were to be exterminated. Britain and America sent many hundreds of thousands to their deaths by the hands of the Soviet secret police at war's end. After 1945 Buchenwald survived as a Soviet extermination camp. This is also 'lost'.

People with disabilities were first but there were also assorted political opponents of the Nazis exterminated, Jehovah's Witnesses, and Roma, the latter being the victims of the Nazis' other attempted genocide. There were black victims too.

And then there were the homosexuals. The ones who wore the pink triangles in the death camps, after being offered a choice of castration or imprisonment. The ones subjected to hideous medical experiments. The ones deemed illegal under the infamous Paragraph 175 of the Nazi penal code - a provision that stayed in force in West Germany until 1969. The surivivors, some of whom, after liberation, were forced to serve out their prison sentences for homosexuality under the Allied Military Government of Germany.

Gays, too, were Holocaust victims. Yes, the Nazi policy was never one of blanket extermination in their case - how would they be identified? Yes, far fewer of them perished in the camps than did Jews - many were shot on the Eastern Front as drafted German soldiers. But surely we cannot make our moral judgements solely on the basis of numbers.

Hence a modest monument to the gay victims of the Holocaust has just been erected in Berlin. But it's being protested - by Israel Gutman of the Yad Vashem Institute (Holocaust memorial) in Jerusalem. "A sense of proportion must be maintained," says Gutman.

Fuck you Gutman.

Here's a very Jewish joke from Christopher Isherwood, in conversation with two producers in Hollywood.

"You may forget but Hitler killed 600,000 homosexuals." said Isherwood.
"Sure, but he killed 6 million Jews." said one of the producers.
"What are you, in real estate?" replied the incredulous Isherwood.

Later edit: A reader corrected me:
It's Untermensch - unter = under; Mensch = person e.g. sub-human; "inferior person"

Postscript: Why government IT constantly fails

Monsieur Dickson has prodded me into posting Philip Virgo's conclusions on 'Why government IT constantly fails', an article hidden behind a content firewall and in PDF in CapGemini's magazine Transformation. Jeez, why don't I do Huge Corp CapGemini's job for them and publish the whole thing ... 'transformation' my arse !;]

Take it away Philip (his bolds):

What are the lessons?
The most important is to manage political expectations, beginning with what is realistic, given the time and resources available. This requires ensuring that the minister’s policy team includes advisors with relevant practical experience of delivery.
The next is to try to confine risk to one dimension at a time. For example, if there is a high risk that the objectives or organisational structures will change, you should avoid changing supplier or systems at the same time.
Break the programme into modules. In the private sector, projects that take more than three months are more likely to be cancelled than to go live. If the implementation team has not worked together before on programmes of this type, it is even more essential to begin with a series of small projects and quick wins to build experience and confidence.
By all means think big – but ‘start small, test hard, scale fast’ is the route to systems success in the private sector. It is not a new technique and has had many names over the years: from structured evolution to rapid application development and dynamic systems methodology.
Don’t be an early adopter. But novelty is not always what you think. Linux is not new. It is forty-year-old Unix, re-written for scalability and reliability, and most high performance, high volume, online private sector services have open source software at their core.
Review progress regularly against clear, open and ordered priorities and objectives. A project with more than six has none and is probably doomed. And only the top three count. This is not easy, given the temptation to resolve conflict by adding more. But it is essential.
Maintain team continuity. Bringing component projects in a complex programme in on time and budget entails ensuring that the key players know their next project and are eager to start, but also know they cannot do so until their current one has passed its acceptance test.
As I said, I think this all applies equally to web as to IT (which he was actually talking about). Even what he says about 'early adopters'. Blogs ain't new and much 2.0 stuff isn't actually 'new' and usually isn't tried'n'tested somewhere. What has changed is cheapness. Even when you do TCO.

No more 'foreign' correspondents

Richard Sambrook (Director of BBC Global News) gave a speech is Ishfahan last week which he blogged about.

Interesting quote:

I flew in to Isfahan in the early hours sitting next to a young woman dressed in strictly islamic fashion with a modest chador and headscarf. But the book she was reading was "Why men love bitches: from doormat to dreamgirl", a woman's guide to holding her own in a relationship.
From the speech he restated some basics:
Accurate, objective news and information, which all sides can trust, provides a foundation stone of rational debate in a world that is too easily dominated by intolerance and hatred. It is the gold standard of public value.

I would argue that the world needs informed debate, conducted in an atmosphere of mutual respect and tolerance; even if ultimately there’s little agreement. And basing that debate on reliable accurate news and analysis is the starting point.
The problem for me was when he stated:
That’s why the BBC invests more heavily in newsgathering than any other news organisation I know. Eye-witness reportage is important. Nothing beats saying ‘I was there’, I saw it’. Whether it’s the tragedy in Burma, or the personal experiences of everyday life in Teheran, we want to hear from ordinary citizens on-air and on-screen. This is a vital part of what we do as BBC journalists.
He's still talking about filtered reporting - why? Why aren't local sources trusted to know more about the local issues which define a situation.

This is the BBC's real problem. It invests heavily in overseas bureau's - Sambrook's boast - but, as I know from reading their Sydney correspondent, this doesn't mean they - or, as I have noted, their US correspondents. - understand anything about where they are and truly perform their role of translating local issues for a British, never mind a world, audience. (Though the current Sydney one's far better than the last one).

Recently, the example of the Kenyan crisis where BBC Online experimented with local reporters paid off, I think. In Zimbabwe - where the BBC has no presence - it would be more useful to link, with riders, to local sources like for the benefit of audiences - which they're not doing much of and which the BBC Trust raised as a problem, though not for these user-focussed reasons.

I fail to see why we continue to send Brits to far-away places when it would be more useful to get others who are just as qualified to explain their realities to us.

I recall in Australia Philip Adams on the ABC, child of the BBC, bringing in Beatrix Campbell to do just that. Campbell ain't unbiased but she gave a far better perspective for me on the UK than any ABC correspondent.

Pierre Bergé; now who was he?

Saint-Laurent is dead. And Pierre Bergé is, according to The Guardian "his business partner", Mail "longtime friend and associate." Telegraph didn't mention Bergé.

But according to The Times and The Independent "his business partner and lover." (Indie got it sortof right: "former lover".)

The BBC initially said "longtime friend and associate" (the AP story) but later changed this to "former business and personal partner." "Personal"? What is going on at the BBC? This reads like PC neurosis.

None of them nailed the true fact: no Pierre Bergé, no Saint-Laurent.

Here's the more authoritative (online lead) take from the New York Times:

In September 1961, Mr. Saint Laurent announced plans to open his own haute couture house in partnership with his lover, Pierre Bergé. Mr. Bergé remained his lifelong business partner and was responsible for the company’s financial success, although they split up as a couple in the early 1980’s.
Somehow, none of the British press + BBC have this information readily to hand. Sheesh.

Update: Reading the later, more considered, obituaries in the UK press this point is completely reinforced. Closeting gay artists after death has a long history. 2008 and it just happened to Robert Rauschenberg.

Sunday, June 1

Why government IT constantly fails

Philip Virgo has an excellent piece (HT: Pete Thomson) in CapGemini's magazine Transformation (hidden behind a lengthy sign up and PDF only. Sigh). It's about IT but you could substitute Web and it works just as well.

His main points are:

Why do big systems fail?

The nominal causes of failure are listed in many reports. The usual top six, in order, are:

Analysis of business needs, missing or wrong: failure to undertake a proper needs analysis. Failure to consult those in the front line of delivery, or in receipt of services, is endemic among those planning new policy initiatives or changes to existing systems.
Needs change before implementation: the churn of ministers and political priorities is significantly faster than that of technology. It has been suggested that suppliers commonly bid low on the original specification to get the opportunity to make profits on the subsequent changes.
Over-ambition: about what is achievable in practice, given the people, time and budgets available, as opposed to in theory – with the people, time and budgets that are not.
Delay: particularly in agreeing priorities between conflicting objectives, leading to delay in planning and procurement (compounded by staff rotation) before the project gets under way.
Lack of top customer management involvement: and lack of high-level skills, training or experience in planning, procurement or implementation. This lack of training and experience on the part of the customer causes and compounds the previous four problems and should, therefore, come first – but rarely does so in most reports.
Supplier project or team management: usually because the ‘B’ team is trying to salvage an already doomed system, after the ‘A’ team has moved on to the next bid.

‘Technology problems’ rarely appear in the top six. Complex and untested mixes of semi-incompatible software may result in slow, unreliable or unusable systems but, if so, the fault is not the technology but the failure of the customer to require the use of tried and tested products and services and to check claims of inter-operability or performance as part of the procurement process. Blaming consultants and suppliers for competing to reinvent new wheels at taxpayers’ expense is like blaming fox hounds for tearing apart a tame cat.
Choice quotes:
Once a proposal has been said to have ministerial support, it acquires a mystical status – to be justified and defended at almost any cost, until such time as a new minister can announce that ‘technologies have changed’ and thus justify a new approach.

A practical difference is that in motivation and skills. Those working in the public sector commonly joined for a life of service and security. If they had wanted to be risk-taking, bonus-motivated entrepreneurs, they would have gone into the private sector. There is also the poor provision of opportunities for project implementation experience (let alone training) in the public sector. This is particularly serious when one adds the common expectation that officials can perform roles outside their experience or supervise contractors to do so.

ICELE and how out-of-touch Gordon is with egov

There's been a long thread going this week on the UKIE-Edem network (European edemocracy) about what appears to be the last death thrashes of the International Centre of Excellence for Local eDemocracy (ICELE). This was a 'National Project' funded by the government, then defunded, then thrown to the wolves.

Although there has been deserved criticism of the project, for duplicating blog products for example, much of the work has been very useful, not least their basic resources on blogging etc.

All will, apparently, be lost.

I can't think of a better example of how out of touch Downing Street is with the state of egov in the UK; that this is happening and they aren't interested, actually they're probably completely unaware.

So whilst we have them pioneering good edem initiatives like Twitter and epetitions, at the grass roots it's chaos.

Here's a summary
from Dave Briggs of the thread discussion. And here's what I posted to the thread:

Two points:

1. How much money has been wasted on this and other national projects? Is anyone other than Public Sector Forums paying attention?

2. This just highlights for me the absence of any national central point of reference for egov. It's splintered all over the place, so no one actually working in the area has 'heard of' most of the worthy stuff.

We need an intro point as well as one for researchers - ICELE at least tried to be the former with its introductions.

It just pains me that the Australian state of Victoria and other governments like Hong Kong and New Zealand have managed 'one stop shop' portals to egov for practitioners but all Downing St has led with is endless, endless different initiatives with different websites whilst at the same time preaching to the rest of us about 'just' directgov and businesslink.

We've got truly bad leadership on egov in the country and I'd hope us practitioners could say that with a collective voice rather than 'well, on the other hand ... '

Scrapbook clips catch up

Scrapbook is the Firefox extension I use to quickly capture either a whole page or a text selection. It's not, yet, online - meaning that I can't access clips anywhere - but much more useful for my needs than

Accessibility, two new useful resources.

Why we posted epilepsy film to YouTube
Epilepsy charities condemned Russell Barth andChristine Lowe's YouTube seizure video as a "freak show". Not so, say the couple: the movie has saved lives.

Since posting this footage, we have had over 254,000 views (23 times more hits than the next-most-viewed clip), and have received dozens of emails from people asking for advice in reducing seizures, and hundreds of positive comments about our bravery and compassion.

This footage has been used in medical schools and presentations around the world, and a prison in New Mexico has even used it to help new guards recognize real seizures. Another man in Fort Worth, Texas emailed us to say that our video helped him save another person who had a seizure while at his place of work. Our video has saved lives.

What is it with charities and the web?

Wired's Wiki on how to set up an online pirate radio station.

From the US, UK egov read this and weep:
More than 400 government Web managers from across the country are meeting this week at the fifth annual Government Web Managers Conference, co-sponsored by the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) and the Federal Web Managers Council. This year's conference focuses on new collaborative technologies that allow agencies to work together to create and deliver better Web content for citizens. The Web Managers Best Practice Awards were presented as part of the conference on May 5, recognizing six exemplary federal Web sites.
From Public Sector Forums ( only):
The Cabinet Office is currently embroiled in a huge behind-the-scenes row with the Treasury who they are accusing of failing to sort out tax rules on VAT on shared services for the last two years. Although some public bodies are VAT-exempt, buying shared services incurs 17.5% VAT which they cannot recover. The Cabinet Office, along with many other departments, believes this is one of the two single biggest barriers to shared services, is wrecking business cases for shared services and costing the public sector more than £200 million per year in lost potential efficiency savings.
Others have reported how Gordon Brown talked up the Internet at a Scottish faith gathering. Here's how the Express reported it:
To many it is a talking shop or a playground for perverts. But for Gordon Brown the internet is a new force for global good.
Gordon Brown's speech to Google Zeitgeist:
Churchill once said that those who try to build the present in the image of the past will miss out entirely on the future. And he also warned about people who were facing change, resolved to be irresolute, he said, adamant for drift, solid for fluidity, and all powerful for impotence - and that is a warning to all of us.

Chairman: So am I right in paraphrasing that that you expect the web to drive more responsibility and accountability to our elected leaders?

Prime Minister: Yes.

Chairman: And will we see a lot more 'coups de blogs' and 'coups de social networks'?
Prime Minister: 'Coups de blogs' and 'coups de texts', yes!
What was clear from his speech and answers to questions, though, was that although Downing Street will be webbie he doesn't understand how this isn't flowing down through Whitehall and local government. Now why is that?

Those new online maps from DEFRA showing noise in the UK managed to crash on their first day.

On FutureMajority a neat explanation of the ancient rules which stop the US Congress from doing anything on YouTube or social networks.
Franking Rules state that unless you're in the leadership you can't use anything outside the House/Senate firewall. So, YouTube is technically not ok (even though most members are pushing the envelope), no Facebook, or Myspace... nothing…
The article points out how far behind Downing Street the US is.

The Atlantic magazine on how Obama's use of the web has produced The Amazing Money Machine.
Whenever I think about the quarter billion dollars he has raised so far, the image that leaps to mind is Scrooge McDuck diving joyously into his piles of gold.
Picking up my Google Reader clip on being aware of sadists at the US border - Taking your laptop into the US? Be sure to hide all your data first, The Guardian reported.
They can take your computer and download its entire contents, or keep it for several days. Customs and Border Patrol has not published any rules regarding this practice, and I and others have written a letter to Congress urging it to investigate and regulate this practice.

But the US is not alone. British customs agents search laptops for pornography. And there are reports on the internet of this sort of thing happening at other borders, too. You might not like it, but it's a fact.
When the New York Times reported on the Pentagon's use of retired generals as 'experts' to push propaganda onto US TV networks, they did so from FOI releases of thousands of documents and audio. This huge archive was then put on dailykos for others to hunt through and it's turned up gem after gem, such as this one from audio of Donald Rumsfeld:
RUMSFELD: [Iraqi militias] know the center of gravity of the thing is here in the United States. It isn't out there. And they're designing their attacks to have maximum effect politically, to weaken the will of the American people. Doing a pretty good job. Hell of a lot more skillful at it than we are. Have a lot greater flexibility. They can lie. Don't have bureaucracy. They have media committees that they operate to manipulate the media. And they do it very skillfully. (mp3)
In the wake of the earthquake, Shanghailist carried the Chinese government's order for websites to 'go dark' for three days national morning:
To all propaganda departments, online propaganda units and foreign affairs offices, and to the various bureaus and websites in all cities and counties:

The State Council has gazetted May 19-21 as national days for mourning. In line with the spirit of the Central Foreign Affairs Office's emergency notice, the requirements are as follows ...

Ethical Corporation Magazine on how the exposure of Yahoo's complicity with Chinese censors has had a positive effect

Former Chinese dissident Harry Wu is administering the new Yahoo human rights fund. As John O’Reilly, a leading human rights commentator, said of the letter to Condeleeza Rice: “This is the first time a company has been so explicit in its condemnation of human rights violations and this, together with the establishment of the new fund, is pretty ground-breaking stuff.”
Same magazine has a feature on Olympics 2008: Beijing games – Sponsors enter rings of fire

Sponsoring companies have difficult choices. They have paid huge sums for rights to global marketing. Limiting that marketing to China seems like a safe last resort, but will undermine their investment. Meanwhile, the moment can be seized by their competitors back home.

Speaking up for human rights, as campaigners want, could now be very risky if the Chinese authorities took it as a “loss of face” and retaliated by making life in China difficult for the companies.
Africa is definitely going digital.
For veteran wildlife ranger Joseph Kimojino, the traditional tools of his trade -- binoculars, off-road jeep and a rifle -- have been supplemented by Twitter, Flickr and a blog.

A ranger in Kenya's acclaimed Mara Triangle wildlife park, Kimojino is a member of the Masai tribe. He first learned how to click a computer mouse in November. Now he blogs about the Mara Triangle and posts wild animal photos on Flickr nearly every day.

WhiteAfrican had more on startups in Nigeria and Techpreneurs in Kenya.

Marco Cantu reports on how Microsoft Blames Users for Vista Problems
An article covering "Five Misunderstood Features in Windows Vista" claims that all Vista problems are only perceived by users and blames their judgment of the OS. You can get upset, or have a good laugh.
Joe Lieberman tried to hustle Google into censoring YouTube, here's Google telling him to get lost.

Larry Page criticising a potential Microsoft takeover of Yahoo:
Now, if you put 90 percent of communications all in one company ... that's really a big risk, especially one (Microsoft) that has a history of doing bad stuff.
Scott Schmidt used Google AdWords to discover many Americans Searching for Hilary (it's 'Hillary'). He also discovred a method for Republicans to waste Obama's millions.
Search for either candidate and their own website is the sponsored link that returns - at a cost of somewhere near $3 each time someone clicks on the link, a fortune in click-through ad rates.
Slate details why although Microsoft's new 'cashback' scheme for boosting LiveSearch looks radical on the surface, underneath the hood it's actually all about the same old - limited and hence hardly useful for users - dealmaking.

Google search results can now be tweaked to provide top categories and in-site search. Yahoo has announced the general public availability of their SearchMonkey program. This is a program that has been in beta testing with limited partners. It allows the partner to provide Yahoo with structured data that provides advanced information about a web page. This information is then used by Yahoo to influence the presentation of organic search listing results for that page. This includes building apps into the search results.

From Bootstrapper (no, not a gay porn site) : 50+ Google Reader Productivity Hacks. Keyboard shortcuts, firefox add-ons and time-savers. Very useful.

The generation gap defined:
Ralph Nader showed up at the Google offices to talk about his presidential campaign. About 5 minutes in, he says the Internet has been a "disappointment," and then, "don't get me going on the Internet." He goes on to say that "it hasn't shown much by way of mobilizing, except on Internet issues..."
Here's a gem from Master Miliband's recent trip with Condi to Mountain View:

Finally, Rice and Miliband came out of the auditorium and walked over to the microphones at the edge of our grassy pen.

Miliband remarked that he was thankful that Secretary Rice rescued him from the chilliness of the United Kingdom for the warmth and sunshine of "Southern California."

"Northern California!" Rice corrected him. "Oh, sorry!" Miliband said. Scattered laughs.

In a damned radical move, Comedy Central said it will soon start streaming full episodes of The Daily Show, Colbert Report and South Park. As you might imagine, this raises some eyebrows with cable companies, in this case, Time Warner. “They can’t have it both ways. If they put content they ask cable companies to pay for online for free, they are making it less valuable and we should be expected to pay less for it.”

Great cover story in Prospect Magazine about the moral panic surrounding Gaming.
A generational rift has opened that is in many ways more profound than the equivalent shifts associated with radio or television: more alienating for those unfamiliar with new technologies, more immersive for those who are. How do lawmakers regulate something that is too fluid to be fully comprehended or controlled; how do teachers persuade students of the value of an education when what they learn at play often seems more relevant to their future than anything they hear in a classroom?

So far, the dire predictions many have made about the "death" of traditional narratives and imaginative thought at the hands of video games have at best equivocal evidence to support them. Television and cinema may be suffering, economically, at the hands of interactive media. But literacy standards and book sales have failed to nosedive, and both books and radio are happily expanding into an age that increasingly looks like it will be anything but lived on-screen. Young people still enjoy sport, going out and listening to music. They like playing games with their friends, and using the internet to keep in touch and arrange meetings rather than to isolate themselves. And most research—including a recent $1.5m study funded by the US government—suggests that even pre-teens are not in the habit of blurring game and real worlds. This finding chimes with an obvious truth: that a large proportion of "problem behaviours" in relation to any medium or substance exist for resolutely old-fashioned reasons—lack of education, parental attention, security, support and experience.
Unintentional laugh of the week, from an article about 'lifting the ban' on US soldiers in Afghanistan having sex:
According to Helixon's staff, 28 soldiers from the 173rd Airborne Brigade have been punished for having sex in Afghanistan or for violating the no-entry rule in the past year. Those punishments ranged from letters of reprimand to field-grade Article 15s.

Sky joins BBC in misreporting US Primaries

Joining Justin Webb and his BBC colleagues and most UK newspaper political correspondents in their refusal to accept that the Hillary campaign is over is Adam Boulton of Sky.

Before today's Democrat Rules Committee, where even some Hillary supporters defected over Michigan, Bolton breathlessly reported that:

To my certain knowledge the Clinton campaign is drawing up a legal case to challenge the legitimacy of the entire 2008 Nomination Process.

At the core of this is a furious attack on the caucus system.
The problem with this 'exclusive' is there is no legal case, as a wee bit of research would establish.
Washington Post: Court Lets 'Party Boss' Law Stand, Reluctantly

"None of our cases establishes an individual's constitutional right to have a 'fair shot' at winning the party's nomination," Justice Antonin Scalia wrote for the court.

But the Supreme Court said there is nothing in New York's process that violates the Constitution. "Party conventions, with their attendant 'smoke-filled rooms' and domination by party leaders, have long been an accepted manner of selecting party candidates," Scalia wrote.

More broadly, the opinion said, "A political party has a First Amendment right to limit its membership as it wishes and to choose a candidate-selection process that will in its view produce the nominee who best represents its political platform."
The only way to do anything - and for politicos it's about securing, by blackmail, the vice-presidency or, conspiratorially, another run in 2012 for her - is the so-called 'nuclear option' of appealing today's ruling and taking that all the way to the convention in Denver. Where she would absolutely definitively be a dead parrot.

The other Monty Python reference making the rounds is The Black Knight from Monty Python And The Holy Grail.

Her chief black knight, Harold Ickes, threatened the 'nuclear option' today.

And that's why her unlovely supporters were chanting 'Denver! Denver!' after they lost today.

The real threat is that Hillary, Bill and some of their supporters who say 'Obama will Lose to McCain!' will deliberately ensure he does; a self-fulfilling prophesy. Even though Hillary has repeatedly said she'll work for Obama to win ('should I lose').

BBC's Justin Webb calls all this "a powerful if flawed case".

But Boulton and other British reporters, like their American colleagues who have been getting it wrong since they were surprised in Iowa then miscalled New Hampshire, have a real interest in prolonging the show. For it is a show.

The reality is it's been over mathematically since March and politically since even the media domination by Rev. Wright failed to dent Obama's electoral appeal. But that's all too predictable for our smug reporters on American politics and definitely not very entertaining.