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Friday, August 15

An anthropological introduction to YouTube

Library of Congress presentation. Jul 29th, 2008 by Prof Mike Wesch.

Really, really good.

Send Mugabe a Red card

Reading this? Hate Mugabe?

Click and do something.

The organisers of a march on the SADC conference this weekend in South Africa (which Tsvangirai was blocked from attending) have appealed to Avaaz for international support, and will carry signs at the march representing the "red cards" sent by Avaaz members.

So join and send a red card.

We, the undersigned, issue a red card for Mugabe — and urge Southern African leaders not to recognise Mugabe as President; to acknowledge that the Mbeki-brokered talks have failed — and to urgently devise a new negotiating process to bring a just and democratic resolution to Zimbabwe’s crisis.
Don't just read this! Click and do something! It all helps!

Notes on a Dirty Island

Bill posing with Wombles

Notes on a Dirty Island was a really good Panorama fronted by Bill Bryson about litter.

Yeah, I can't link to a persistent video and - of course - I can't embed.

[Shakes fist] C'mon BBC!

You will find it on iplayer and a google video search, but not for long. Otherwise, here's the sole YouTube clip.

In an otherwise excellent report there was one aspect very noticeable by its absence - the responsibility of business. The sole aspect which covered this was about bottles and cans and how a deposit scheme is opposed by industry because it's "not profitable". And seeing someone like Joan Ruddock parroting this industry line summed up nu labor's creepiness like nothing else.

The issue isn't just lazy, chavvy Brits. It's also the producers of products taking some - any - responsibility for what happens after they're sold. Think rubbish around fast-food outlets and you can see the area Bill chose to ignore.

This was the only thing which marred an otherwise excellent. rare raising of this usually ignored agenda.

BBC US election coverage - and another thing ...

The BBC's US Election correspondent Justin Webb's blog tells you all you need to know about the framing of the BBC's election coverage.

Practically every link is to the MSM (or the MSM's blogs). There aren't even links to sites like politico or Ben Smith or Matthew Iglesias or even Huffpost or others who you'll see driving the real news agenda through one glance at Memeorandum.

The news agenda in this election is web-driven in a way which Webb is clearly out of touch with.

Just a glance at the BBC's current headlines shows nothing but spin, which reflects MSM's angle.

US election takes a negative turn
attempts to claim that the Obama campaign is just like the McCain campaign. It's not. McCain went negative and largely because he had no alternative. But this piece doesn't explain why McCain went negative.

Candidates' possible running mates

has Hillary at the top. Why? UK name recognition? No other reason I think. She has been long written out as a possibility in serious political coverage. Next is John Edwards, is this a joke? Bill Richardson? Whoever wrote this should be fired.

Michelle: Barack's bitter or better half?
this says that:

She weathered a storm of criticism following a comment she made about her husband's candidacy, saying that "for the first time in my adult lifetime, I'm really proud of my country, and not just because Barack has done well, but because I think people are hungry for change".
Noticably, this was by Molly Levinson rather than Mr Bouffant Webb and she nailed this 'criticism ' to 'conservatives' and Fox. It's not brilliant but it's a darn sight better than Mr Webb. Give her his job.

My take? The Beeb's top correspondents are far too 'beltway' and consequently the whole operation is selling us, the license-paying UK public, a lemon in US election coverage. It often appears to a casual observer like me that they could just slob around with a family pack of Doritos and get their their leads from watching cable news and then feed that back to us. 'Job done'.

That is not journalism. That's lazy. Maybe the problem is further up the food chain in WhiteCity but, really, the final nail in any damnation of their election analysis is, again, shown up by Memeorandum - find me one blog post by Webb which any US political blogger has commented on. In terms of fresh thinking, he - and so goes the mighty BBC - are nowhere.

Thursday, August 14

Another UK blogger censored

Sensing a theme?

Matt Wardman has alerted me to the story of Phil Groom, who is yet another blogger being censored for free speech in the UK (where's that Bill of Rights?)

Phil used to work for the SPCK chain of Christian bookshops, which is owned by people not some benevolent, holy authority, and they appear to be behaving as many 'owners' do - i.e. like pigs towards the staff.

The Brewers then started screwing people’s contracts around, trying to impose new terms of employment that didn’t comply with UK employment law. They also started to narrow down the range of stock and stopped paying their suppliers.
Phil has been blogging about this and, like with Arsenal's suitor, The Brewers then started throwing the legal letters around.

Always a giveaway when there's something to hide.
Dave Walker and myself had each been independently reporting on the story on our websites and this year I set up a separate, dedicated blog to allow for more focused reporting and discussions. Unfortunately the Brewers didn’t like people talking about the way they were running things etc so they decided to try and nail us down by sending out ‘Cease and Desist’ (C&D) messages threatening legal action if we didn’t take down our websites.
Now there's a very obvious irony in me defending Christian bookshop workers right to whinge but ... what's that Voltaire line again? (Or was it actually Evelyn Beatrice Hall).

China and smog

Here's Manchester's Oxford Road in 1910

Pierre Adolphe Valet
'Oxford Road, Manchester'
Manchester Art Gallery

Here's Linfen, China: 'the most polluted place on earth'.

Embedding: another reason

The Guardian carried an interesting story earlier today about Channel Four News' Alex Thompson's interrogation of an IOC spokesperson at a Beijing press conference. Thompson is a very impressive journalist and his subsequent report is far better and more illustrative of the context than the Guardian's edit.

Here is his report.

I can show you what I'm talking about and, maybe, help this go viral and therefore aid Channel Four News, because they have turned on embedding in their Brightcove subscription. Unlike The Guardian's Brightcove subscription. They urge you, as does the BBC, to 'link to this video'. C4 News do this despite the C4 News video carrying no advertising.

Presumably The Guardian's business model is that they repay the investment with pageviews and ads, their reported deal suggests this. C4 I would imagine make business assumptions around building brand (their quality journalism), loyalty and a future where they can deliver advertising via embeds. Infact the C4 wide Brightcove deal, focussed on monetisation, strongly suggests branding is all for news.

Although the Guardian has retained #1 online UK newspaper site (where I think its long term and early investment is paying off because they've built more experience), I can't help thinking that not switching on embedding doesn't help, long term. Apart from Brightcove, other providers could provide in-video advertising, therefore losing you no revenue. They have a very strong, very granulated video library now which could be achingly viral. I can't imagine it's getting the views it deserves.

Wednesday, August 13

The Condoms Of Champions

A Chinese rubber maker called Elasun 'feels the spirit':

Great idea, but good for the gays?

Tuesday, August 12

Big org goes guerilla

At # 7 in my 'ten point plan' is cheaper usability methods. This means so-called guerilla usability, as championed by Jakob et al — and resisted by the 'experts'.

Just to elaborate, this doesn't mean the expert have no role, Shit, no. Just that we (egov) can't always afford them. So applying 'usability' in practice has to mean systematic engagement with audience and specific engagement with experts rather than handing over everyrthing to experts. And the only way to do that is to use guerrilla methods. My (debated at length) bone with Nomensa.

So let's just say I was 'most pleased' to read that my favourite 'internet radio station' used self-described 'guerilla' methods to interrogate their new designs. did it. Worth shitloads to US MSM did this. Guerilla HCI is mainstream, proven methodology.

Grabbing a seat at the nearest café with wifi, I arranged to meet a few people in the area (long-time users who’ve been with us for years; new users still discovering what we do; friends and relatives; random people off the street; anyone with a spare twenty minutes, really) to show them and watch them having a play with it. Loose, informal user testing — or, to use its technical term, ‘chatting to and watching people try out our new ideas over some free coffee and cake’ — is fascinating, great fun to do, and, combined with our other feedback-recording methods, as I believe Mr. Matthew Ogle, Esq. will discuss, reveals fantastically rich layers of information that really help us improve the experience.
Doh! Yeah, this has 'value'. Doh! Yeah, you need basic people skills to conduct. Doh! Yeah, it yields "fantastically rich layers of information". Doh! Yeah, it's not as easy as it looks but you can learn how to do it. Basically, PEOPLE engagement is the key. Geeks locked away from audience ain't good. Guerrilla usability is but one tool to get over the barriers, force people to truly engage, and break the cycle. It's all good. It'd not complicated and doesn't require complication.

And this has no relevance to egov?

Transference in egov

Here's one tale you'd have a hard time novelising, but it's true.

Top government mandarins are paying £480 to be lectured, amongst other things on poker strategies by someone called Caspar Berry, who used to work alongside Ant & Dec. PSF has the story.

Last week (or, possibly the week before) leading Departmental representatives were asked to attend a 'special one-day conference' on 'transformation, innovation and delivery' chaired by David Bell, DCSF Permanent Secretary and 'designed primarily for senior civil servants and equivalent levels across the public sector.'

As a recipient of the missive put it:

'… at a bargain price of £480 senior staff can pay to hear their Ministers and colleagues speak about what they’d like to see their Department doing; listen to examples of how this has been done and also apply professional poker strategies to their work.'

There's form on this gravytrain. Emma Mulqueeny didn't exactly rave about him in May.

The agenda for this session introduces Poker Master Berry thus:
'A dawn of new professionalism needs to emerge where sufficient incentives are in place to ensure appropriate levels of risk are taking place across the public sector. In this session, leading poker player Caspar Berry will illustrate how the public sector can become less risk averse. In particular, how do we manage risk in a sensible and proportionate way by bringing about a change in approach to risk? How do we reduce the cost of risk management and do more with less?'
Berry describes himself as:
A highly distinctive speaker within the corporate world with a unique and challenging message that forces people to question many of the things they took for granted.
Why they're not going to the source and hiring gurus/'motivational speakers' from either India or California I don't know ...

By the by, here's an interesting quote from Rob Preece's book 'The noble imperfection', that warns about the naiveté amongst Westerners as to the nature of the guru/devotee relationship:
When we transfer an inner quality onto another person, we may be giving that person a power over us as a consequence of the projection, carrying the potential for great insight and inspiration, but also the potential for great danger. In giving this power over to someone else they have a certain hold and influence over us it is hard to resist, while we become enthralled or spellbound by the power of the archetype.
Now I know I've mentioned breaking down egov's walled garden and inviting 'industry' expertise ... this wasn't exactly what I meant ... Jakob Nielsen would be a tad more apt.

Monday, August 11

Gay rap

Yeah? S'exists.


Eminem, filtered.

a/screeching funny.
b/ geez. catchy like f***k.
Much better than my namesake from some band called Ryes.

"He will make Cheney look like Ghandi"

This is the most powerful anti-McCain viral I've yet seen. I hope it really builds an audience.

Titled 'Republicans and military men on John McCain' it's produced by Aaron Hodgins Davis. Help the virality by digging it here.

SCOTT RITTER: The Bush Administration has built a new generation of nuclear weapons that we call "usable" nukes. [TEXT: Cochran statement.] And they have a nuclear, you know, posture now which permits the pre-emptive use of nuclear weapons in a non-nuclear environment if the Commander-in-Chief deems US forces to be at significant risk.

If we start bombing Iran, I'm telling you right now it's not gonna work

McCAIN: Bomb Iran? Heh-heh. [singing, to tune of Beach Boys' "Barbara Ann"] Bomb, bomb, bomb, anyway, heh-heh.

RITTER: My concern is that we will use nuclear weapons to break the backbone of Iranian resistance, and it may not work. But what it will do is this: it will unleash the nuclear genie. So to all those Americans out there tonight who say, "You know what? Taking on Iran's a good thing,"

McCAIN: My friends, I know how to handle the Iranians, and I'll handle them.

RITTER: And if we use nuclear weapons, the genie ain't going back in the bottle until an American city is taken out by an Islamic weapon in retaliation. So tell me, you want to go to war with Iran: Pick your city. Pick your city. Tell me which one you want gone. Seattle? LA? Boston? New York, Miami? Pick one! Because at least one's going.

And that's something we should all think about before we march down this path of insanity [repeating "insanity" as pictures flash on screen.]

We [may] use nuclear weapons to brake the backbone of Iranian resistance and it may not work, but what it will do is this: it will unleash the nuclear genie, and so for all those Americans out there that say taking on Iran is a good thing…if we take on Iran we’re going to use nuclear weapons, and if we use nuclear weapons the genie ain’t going back in the bottle until an American city is taken out by an Islamic weapon in retaliation, so…pick your city!”

Sunday, August 10


'W' trailer. "Who do you think you are, a Kennedy?"

Scrapbook clips catch up

Make your own at

lastfm has a new design which I'm slowly getting used to. It appears to have a couple - that's all - new features, but they're useful. Techcrunch thinks it's buggy. The Times nails the business model, which is rather good, boasting the "'smartest' ads on the web".

An example of the new "smart" adverts displays an image of a mobile phone handset which changes according to what the user is doing. For instance, if someone is listening to Bon Jovi, the phone would appear to start playing a Bon Jovi track, showing off its MP3 player.

Hotel chains will be able to tap into a user's list of favourite artists and display adverts for hotels in cities where those artists have upcoming gigs. Train companies, similarly, will be able to advertise services running to other music-based events that may be of interest to the user.
iphonic madness? Behold: "I Am Rich," a $999.99 app from Armin Heinrich, which just displays a red gem on the phone's screen — nothing else.

directgov is soon to launch a tellmeonce tool, which has some designs leaking out here. PSF has the story noting that it's the much-anticipated 'Citizens Account'.
Here we see the Citizen's Account is split into two sections, the first showing an inbox of messages from government departments, and a second listing the user's relationships with given individuals.

A further page shows how the user manages these relationships. An explanatory states: 'Please note that most relationships need to be created by having a face-to-face interview with an officer at the Department for Work and Pensions'.
North East Connects, a consortium of local councils, has raised urgent and serious concerns about councils' readiness for NI 14 (measuring avoidable contact). It says:
Avoidable contact' figure which councils need to report to CLG [Whitehall], and which will be published nationally, is 'relatively meaningless', despite it underpinning one of the Government's two key progress measures for service transformation.
When parliament wanted "improved design and navigation" and "simpler presentation" of bills and a "greatly improved" search engine it cost £3,644,000. But to show us our MPs speaking in the house cost virtually nothing, because MySociety volunteers did it. Sheesh.

The Tiananmen Massacre Map (PDF)

Smart of China to parade an earthquake victim in the opening ceremony. In Schezuan, parents whose kids died in collapsed, shoddily built government schools (where schools for kids of officials didn't collape) are being repressed from protesting.

Yu Tingyun, left, lost his daughter, Yang, in the May earthquake in southwest China, and Huang Lianfen, right, lost a nephew. Ms. Huang holds an agreement that Chinese officials want parents to sign, saying they will not hold protests about collapsed schools.'s latest campaign is the Olympic Handshake.
The handshake began with the Dalai Lama, passing through the streets of London, now it's gone online where all of us can join in -- help the handshake travel toward Beijing, where our message will be delivered through a big Olympic media campaign before the closing ceremonies. Join the handshake, and see yourself and others as it goes around the globe! has a set of stunning exhibits. Here's one, a kinetic sculpture, which seems terribly early 80s to me ...

Anyone using a filter, created by US technology company SonicWall, which gives employers the option to block access to websites simply because they “promote or cater to gay and lesbian lifestyles” could be breaking the law. Here's one UK school using them.
SonicWall’s Anna Wright declined to say if the company would warn its UK customers they could be unwittingly breaking the law by using the gay-blocking setting.
Wired's great take on those photoshopped Iranian missiles.

Matthew Inman's great take on the 'state of the web, summer 2008'.

Quote of the week:
"These brainstorming meetings at Guantanamo produced animated discussion," writes Sands. "'Who has the glassy eyes?" Beaver asked herself as she surveyed the men around the room, thirty or more of them. She was invariably the only woman in the room, keeping control of the boys. The younger men would get excited, agitated, even: "You could almost see their dicks getting hard as they got new ideas" [reported Beaver]. A wan smile crossed Beaver's face: "And I said to myself, you know what, I don't have a dick to get hard, I can stay detached."' [Sands, p 63]
From Naomi Wolf, Sex Crimes in the White House.

Music: RIP Isaac Hayes

Soulsville live at Wattstax.

Disco connection.

Shaft live at Montreux.

Muppet does the EU anthem