Jan 19

2014 – Week 3

Reading

Doing

  • Had my first ever full-length sports massage. Ouch! Seriously, I had bruises. But I did notice a difference in the next run, with muscles that often give a twinge working fine. Ideally, you’d get one weekly, but every 3-4 weeks at a minimum. It all depends on finances as they’re not the cheapest!
  • I was on Russia Today, on its programme CrossTalk, directly as a result of my appearance on Al Jazeera. The topic was pretty much the same, social media and journalism. This was not in a dedicated dark studio, but on the corner of the office, so had people working around me. Weirdly, I had a screen backdrop which showed a live view of London – the camera providing the view on the screen was pointing out the window behind the screen!
  • A had a good chat with the people behind Digital Mums. I’m probably going to be doing some mentorship on their pilot project, to train at=home Mums to do community management. I think this is a really good idea!
  • I had brunch with someone I used to work with in JWT New York. He’s just started a new role and is over here for 3 months connecting with new and existing clients. Had a good meal in Chinatown and took him on a whistlestop tour of Trafalgar Square, Whitehall and the Southbank. We were going to go into Westminster Hall, but apparently at a weekend, you can only get in if you are on a paid tour!
  • Had dinner with a bunch of bloggers. David Weinberger was visiting London and there was a small dinner with some old-school bloggers.

London streets

Training

It was a lighter week in the plan, a recovery week before it all gets hard again. Two light recovery runs and the following main runs.

  • 8 miles with 8 * 100m sprints, speeding up to get the legs moving quicker.
  • 8 miles easy running, done along the river, just about getting the tide time right so I could use the tow path
  • 12 miles easy running, in Richmond Park on a sunny morning. So many runners out in the park, wonder how many of them are doing the London Marathin too?
Mar 03

Watchmen Review

I got the chance to see the new Watchmen film today, at a bloggers preview sorted out by those nice people at Paramount and PPC. It was a pretty exclusive gathering, the numbers restricted by the less than 24hours notice and the fact it was at 10.30am. I was lucky in having an understanding boss!

I’ve not read the book, so had no idea what to expect. I’ve seen enough graphic novel adaptations – and read the reviews – to know they rarely meet the fans expectations. The reviews for this one have been mixed as well, with people not sure what to make of it. I’m not sure what to make either, except I enjoyed the experience. Here’s a relatively spoiler free review, no plot points, just my impressions.

What I didn’t like

  • It was long, it felt too long. There was whole sections in the middle, exposition and backstory, which I felt could have easily been removed from the film. They helped the story, but were not essential and I think they could have easily been removed and added to the DVD or put online for those who were interested.
  • The excessive and graphic violence. I have generally no problem with films displaying violence/fighting, but this was too much for me. There were scenes when I had to close my eyes to avoid the squirting and breaking and crunching. It was not every scene (in fact, there were some absolutely superbly choreographed fight scenes) but enough to put me off a little

What I liked

  • I liked the movie in general, the stories, the characters. It kept me involved for most of it (with the exception of the aforementioned slow scenes).
  • I liked the complexity. It was not a straightforward ‘superhero’ movie, it made you think. It was a thriller, a murder-mystery, a scifi, lots of stuff in there. I’m still working through the ethical questions it invoked. There was another level of complexity that I’m sure will come clear once I read the novel and go through all the easter egg sites!
  • I liked the film style. At the start they introduced a scene that slowed the action down to draw attention to particular viewpoints, which are obviously key panels from the novel but this technique reduced as the movie went on (which was a good thing from my POV). But throughout, the style was gorgeous

Would I recommend it? Yes. But you will have to go in with an open mind. It’s not a straightforward hero movie, it’s far more complex than that.

Would I see it again. Yes. However, I think I now want to see it post reading about it, so I can get a better idea of the world that surrounds.

Watchmen (screenshot from site)

Watchmen (screenshot from site)

Apr 07

Twitter Frustrations

I’m getting really frustrated with Twitter at the moment and it has nothing to do with the service itself but to the explosion in use. Since the start of the month I’ve received 50 new followers, very few of whom I’ve followed back. Some of it, I’m sure, is because I’ve been on the service a long time and am often on the front page of the followers list due to my ‘membership number’. I’m pretty much on my limit of people I’m following, the limit of how useful the tool is. For me, it is not a broadcast tool, it’s not a popularity tool, it’s a way to connect with friends and ‘friends’ (those online acquaintances who I know virtually, or want to know or find interesting). So here’s some of the reasons I will and won’t follow you. Everyone has different reasons – which is why I don’t feel aggrieved if someone does not follow me, if I don’t fit into their reasons for use, why would they?

  • I follow you if I know you personally – and know you have a Twitter account. Recently I’ve not gone out and tried to discover accounts of everyone I know; I’ll come across them eventually
  • I follow you if I know you virtually, having had interactions online with you
  • I follow you if I’m met you and you mentioned Twitter, or your twittering about an event we’re both at. (for example, I started following a few new people after Over the Air.) I tend to review these after a while to see if we still have shared interests
  • I follow you if someone I already follow starts to refer to to you and your tweets look interesting. Again reviewed after a while
  • If you start following me, I rarely return the favour if I look at your numbers and seeing you are following 100′s or 1000′s and very few following you. You’re either promoting yourself or just started on the service and think that is the way to do it. If I don’t know you, I won’t follow.
  • However, of you start following me, it looks like you are trying to learn how to use the system and you are following connected people, then I’ll see what you have to say
  • I have blocked 2 kinds of accounts. Obvious promotion accounts for things I don’t like and people who I feel are creepy (that’s usually men who are following nothing but loads of women – they write in a certain way)
  • I won’t follow promotion accounts in general, nor politicians, etc

There’s my list, that’s the sort of thinking I go through when I look at an account. It has to fit with what I can cope with and what I am interested in. If I don’t follow you after you connect with me, it’s not necessarily you, it’s probably me ;)

Dec 17

Civility and Copyright

One of the latest hoohahs to occupy the mind of bloggers is about video We Didn’t Start the Bubble, the Richter Scales and Lane Hartwell. A fun video has been taken off YouTube under DMCA provisions as the band did not credit Lane (nor any of the other photographers) in the video for the work that was used. There’s a lot of stuff on it, but here’s a brief summary.

  1. The Richter Scales made a very funny video parodying the web bubble and all the stuff that goes on. They used a lot of images grabbed from the web. They did not credit any of the photographers, but only the people who actually worked in the video. As they say on their blog:

    We did make an effort to credit those people we actively worked with on the video, as well as Billy Joel, which we listed in the comments on YouTube and on our blog. But, given the large number of sources we used, the task of assigning credit for each source seemed impractical.

    They thought the task was too hard, they thought the use was OK under the US ‘Fair Use rule’ so did not do it.

  2. Lane Hartwell, whose photo of Owen Thomas was used in the video, contacted the band. The photo was published all rights reserved, they had not credited her and she wanted to sort it out. She apparently felt that her query was not treated seriously enough, although she did get a credit on the YT notes, and moved onto the next step
  3. Ms Hartwell filed a DMCA notice with YT and requested the video be taken down. YT complied, as they have to, and it’s up to the Richter Scales to prove they are not using the image illegally.
  4. The Richter Scales have acknowledged the need to credit the photographers.

    Some folks have left comments saying we should acknowledge all the people who created the images we used in the video. Good point. We will go through the video and cite every source, and wherever possible, we will credit the original photographer. Once the list is up, if you see a mistake in it, please let us know, and we’ll do our best to rectify it.

  5. Ms Hartwell is currently in discussions with the band and will release a statement soon

There’s a more reportery take on this story at Wired magazine. Those are the facts as I see them at the moment. But there is a LOT of opinion out there, with people coming down on both sides. So here’s my opinion to add to the mix:

  • I think both parties were right as they believed at the time. Fair Use and Parody is a complex piece of law with no true guidelines, each instance has to be interpreted at the time. As you do not want a lawyers involved every single time, the interpretation comes down to what the individuals involved believe and what they can negotiate. Lawyers have been consulted, or just adding opinions, in this case and they do not agree.
  • Once the group had been contacted, I believe they were wrong to ignore, or give the impression of ignoring, lane’s concerns. She then moved onto the logical next step, a take-down notice. Because the US has woolly laws of fair Use (although often giving far more rights to use than other countries) they have a process to simply get things sorted – even if it is often mis-used.
  • With a take-down in place, the band can protest and prove they are using the images legally. What appears to be happening is a lot more discussions between the band, ms Hartwell and maybe more photographers. The video could still be back
  • Putting media ont he web is not free licence for all to use. There are still rights and restrictions and if an image is labelled All Rights Reserved, or CC By Attribution, it tells you what you have to do to use the image. But putting stuff on the web, or on the radio, or on the TV, or in any media that can be copied, brings with it risks and as a content producer you have to be aware of those risks and what can happen. There’s no place for naivety because many, many people completely ignore the copyright issues or just don’t know what they are. Civility at times is lacking, as the web can spiral down into a free for all.

Which brings me, at last, into a point about civility on the web. Tempers got hot on this subject and on some blog posts the comments turned into a slanging match. Especially the one from Mathew Ingram, who believes Lane Hartwell is wrong. Read down the comments and you this series: (I’ve summarised):

  • Shelly Powers stating she is on Lane’s side and using the image was wrong
  • Mathew Ingram stating that he believes her legally wrong
  • Michael Arrington also believing that the use of the DMCA was incorrect in this place. Then accusing Shelly of only supporting Lane because she is a woman.
  • Mathew asking Michael not to use a gender card as it is not relevant to the discussion
  • Michael stating” actually, Mathew, I’ll do whatever the fuck I feel like, and you can decide to censor comments or not.” and accusing Shelley of being “a fascist around these issues.”

Now, the comments may not be from the people named, but the posters are consistent throughout the stream and I’m hoping Mathew has done a cursory look at IP addresses to do some verification. Given that Arrington is one of the most influential tech bloggers, who earlier this year came out with statement below regarding the Kathy Sierra situation I find it astounding that he can use the same tactics that he previously decried. In this case they are not anonymous but they are ad hominem and should be avoided.

A lot of people we interact with daily seem very normal. But put them behind a keyboard and allow them to make anonymous comments and some really evil stuff can result. There’s no clear line as to what’s acceptable and not acceptable. But if you find yourself making anonymous attack comments that may be going overboard, ask yourself if you really want to be causing people the kind of pain that Kathy is going through. And then just stop

Read the rest of the comments stream, take a look at Arrington’s influence and then make your own mind up about how much you value his opinions.

Update 1: Hartwell posts her statement:

The band’s response was that upon receiving my complaint, they contacted an attorney who told them they had the right to use my work without gaining permission, paying a licensing fee or giving me credit. They said the video was a parody and thus the unauthorized use of my image was protected under something called “Fair Use”. Normally when I contact someone about my work, they apologize and remove it immediately. Because they didn’t, and mentioned talking to a lawyer, I felt it necessary to talk to a lawyer myself. Despite reports to the contrary, I have not sued the band. I spoke with a lawyer to clarify my standing on the issue of copyright.

….

When I find someone using my work without my permission, I ask them to remove it or pay a fee. They usually remove it and we are finished. The band did not remove the image from the video when I brought it to their attention and instead they told me they had the right to use it. They could have easily apologized, removed the video from YouTube and re-edited without my image and reposted.

Update 2: Arrington posts about the comments.

Sep 23

Editing Posts

On Thursday, work held what it calls a Digitivity day, a day for employees, clients (and some press) to get them thinking about what they can do on the web and what the rest of the world is doing. I live blogged the day, with permission, and so have a pretty good record that can be sent round internally for those who missed the day. I think it was also filmed, but with different intake modes, sometimes text is better ;)

After the day I ended up editing 3 posts, for 3 different reasons.

  • A type. I made a pretty bad typo in a post about online video that completely changed what a sentence was meant to say. Pretty sure I hit the wrong word on the spell checker. Luckily Joost, as a company that obviously watches what is being said about them, caught the mistake and we corrected it.
  • I edited out some of the more annoying insults from Andrew Keen; I’m pretty sure he’s said worse on the record but I was just not comfortable with them in the post, even though they were pretty mild.
  • I removed bits of information from a presentation about the mobile space and 2 d codes about the company that was doing the presentation. This I was asked to do, after some confusion about what was public or not. I’m not a journalist, but i’m sure something in the stuff I took out was news, but it’s of less relevance to me than a general picture of the space, so this I did not argue. The comments had already being picked up by other sites so the information is out there anyway.

But the last one did lead to a pretty annoying battle in the comments about rival companies in the space, lawsuits, patent infringements and all sorts of stuff. I the end I removed 7 comments and that I’m not happy with. Obvious spam is the only stuff I usually delete. I’ve even left up astroturf comments, with an added editorial about what they are and who they are from. But in this case there were a whole bunch of legal issues being discussed combined with personal attacks between people who look like they are in the middle of a running battle across multiple sites. Some of the comments were also cross-posted to a forum where the discussion continued along with a few emails. (I wonder if the posters considered the irony of battling for patent protection whilst ignoring copyright protection?). The posts are published under a CC license, but other peoples comments aren’t.

I closed the discussion by saying I needed to understand more of the issue and I’ve taken a look at it and decided that I’m not going into it anymore (the reason I’ve been careful with company names and technologies in this post) as it can only get ugly.

Jun 13

There’s no local

I was listening to local radio this morning. Local radio in this case being Leith FM and the lunchtime show provided by Ewan Spence. Through the power of the internet streaming the show and through the connections Ewan has around the world, he had listeners from San Francisco, New York, New Zealand and London. What do the ‘locals’ make of that, when requests for songs are global? ( I had my first radio request played. Woot!)

I’m also earwigging on the NMK forum, through Twitter and Jaiku and blog posts, finding enough content to have a pretty good idea of what is going on and the announcements that are made. For example, Jason Calacanis’s announcement of his ‘publically’ driven Mahalo Greenhouse came via Twitter and Suw Kevin. Not through any press release or traditional media method. (Corrected as I’m getting my Strange Attractors messed up. Not enough coffee when I was reading things)

Although one thing I remind people constantly is that the rise of a global connectivity is still only for the minority – a growing minority sure, but confirmed to people in certain countries of certain ages or inclination. Very few of the people I know ‘before web’ are connected in the same way; in fact very few of the people I’ve met where the meeting was not facilitated through the web, are connected in that way. So whilst a lot of us are all busy globalising the local, still remember the people who are local only.

Jun 05

Do you speak kitteh?

The Globe and Mail, the Toronto paper, had a lovely piece on Thursday about the rise of kitteh, the ‘language’ found on the lolcatz images and the derivatives that have sprung up. Unfortunately I left the paper in the hotel and it’s behind a paywall on the site, although the article does appear to be here for now (I wonder for how long, as this appears to be a back door). It’s a semi-serious look at the language and the rules around it and how they have evolved.

Lolcatese is often based on such catch structures or snowclones. Grown-ups don’t recognize these snowclones because the formulae may come from gamerspeak or from the dramatized sequences of Japanese video games. Variations of the phrase “im in ur base killing ur d00ds” (apparently, a famously hilarious joke to players of Warcraft III) are a commonplace of lolcatese, where the sentence “im in ur x, ying your n” is frequently varied.

They can analyse all they wish, I just enjoy the stuff.

Apr 30

B5Media Growth

A nice piece over at Chitika Blog, where Jeremy Wright, President/CEO of B5 Media talks about how the network developed and some lessons learnt. He discusses the 4 key things that could be regarded as the company mission statement:

1. Make our bloggers famous – every chance we got we wanted to promote our bloggers

2. Value community – we honestly felt (and now know) that a strong internal community can make anything happen

3. Focus on great writers and keeping them happy – do this and the rest (traffic, revenue, etc) will happen

4. Build an industry – we’ve believed from day 1 that working with other networks, other owners and building real partnerships and sharing resources was the only way to turn the hodgepodge of networks into a real industry

Meanwhile, Behind the Buzz, the blog I’m writing for B5, has ‘officially’ launched.

Jan 28

Linkage

After Robert Scoble manages to piss off quite a few people yesterday with his post about big blogs not linking to people, who writes a post today questioning whether the ‘A-listers’ have a responsibility to link to others and opens up his comments to people to post their links:

Another thing I can do? Ask you to post your link in the comment area on this post. I’ll visit them all and subscribe to good tech blogs, which will mean more links in the future from my link blog.

He’s got a 100 comments to work his way through – and how many will he add to his subscriptions. The key difference here is the promise to read the links, after all every comment usually comes with a URL attached or at least that opportunity.

So how many bloggers go and read the blogs of their commenters and add to their feeds? I tend to (helps that I don’t have that many commenters) and it’s a good way to find some gems.

Jan 28

Blogging ROI

Charlene Li over at Forrester has completed a report on ROI for corporate blogs. I need to be at work to access the full report but looking forward to reading it.

The metric is not cut and dried, it never can be for something as subjective as opinion leading and conversations, but the framework is a great starting place that can be adapted based on the business objectives.

It’s something I’m struggling with on a number of different clients, both the value of being online and for the different aspects of it. Proving ROI for a website that is all about engagement and not about ecommerce is not always the easiest. And I don’t think it’ll ever become clear, you just move towards standardisation across the industry. As with TV advertising, the numbers aren’t necesarily accurate it’s just that everyone believes the same set of numbers.

Nov 30

Girl Geek Dinner and Maryam

There was Girl Geek Dinner in London yesterday ably organised by Sarah BlowIan Forrester did his usual superb job of videoing the speakers and here’s Maryam Scoble‘s speach.    From reading the reports, it sounds like I missed a great evening. I was honoured to be mentioned, along with Nicole Simon, as one if the causes of Maryam taking up blogging.   If you have not subscribed yet, go take a read – it’s well worth it.

Nov 27

Choosing a Blog Consultant

Eric, over at CommonSense PR, has listed 5 key points about choosing a blogging consultant.  Some excellent points there, especially about checking the blogging history of the consultant and ther references.  I would add a further one, in that also check the variety and breadth of previous work.  One thing I have found with digital teams for marketing websites is that sometimes the company can have a very long track record of completed projects but every single one is the ‘same’, they just changed the colours and the words with little or no creative thought.   SO, when choosing a consultant check that they understand the media well enough to know that you cannot apply the same solution each time, each solution has to be created anew.

Oct 25

Normal Service Resumed

My webhost turned off the service due to my a complaint about my domain being used for spamming. It’s been used once, but a while ago, but still, they shut down access and removed all permissions from anything that actually did anything. IT seems to be back OK and so do some comments that never got through to me nor appeared on the list, despite me being able to post. Let’s hope things don;t go wrong again.

Oct 19

When is a blog not a blog?

when it’s a post. Tom beat me to writing about this. After reading a couple of papers* about the ‘One Day In History‘ initiative, I noticed the trend to use the word ‘blog’ as meaning a single posting/entry onto a website which is also known as a blog. This mistake is not new, I’ve noticed it being used in conversation with people who do not blog but have picked up the meaning from media. My guess is this usage is becoming too common and we are stuck with it. Prepare to be annoyed forever.

*I do like the Telegraph’s word ‘blog-clog’; it’s the first time I’ve seen it, despite it seeming to have a longish history .

Jul 08

MySQL goes missing

I went to write a blog post this morning only to find that all I got was error messages about the connection to the databse being broken. And according to the Control Panel, I no longer had a database..it was missing. I was pretty sure I’d not done anything too stupid, so next step was the hosting company. Nothing on their website that I could see, it looked like all the servers were up so still no idea.

Now was a chance to test their support for the first time – simplewebhosting give you the opportunity to connect direct with a support person there and there, admittedly through a downloadable IM app that keeps their annomynity. But 30 seconds after clicking the link, here was the IM mesage back that they’d seen the problem and were rectifying it. ANd now it’s back.

They’ve always proved great at support and at following up any outages (about 2 in 2 years that I’ve been affected by) with aplogies and explanations. The instant support is a great tool – I don’t want to be waiting on the phone. Well woth a look if you are after somewhere.

Jun 22

Brew Blog

The Guinness Blog I worked on in my previous job took time and effort to work out the legal restrictions. I’m pretty sure the Glenfiddich blog (which I discovered today via Suw) had some similar issues, although their lawyers are not making them use a age check.

But the Miller Brewing company are taking a different approach. They are publishing a blog that discusses the whole brewing industry, written by a journalist. So it attracts anyone who is interested in the industry, whilst pretty subtly pushing across the seriousness of the brand.

Diageo has also started another blog lately in the same vein. The No Bull Bar Blog is being written by Guy Smith, Executive Vice President of Diageo North America and is being used to challenge and correct ‘anti-alcohol studies’ or at least point you to places to make up your own mind. I’m a fan of companies using tools like this to challenge the media, either by arguing the point or just publishing the raw interviews so that the information can be seen without spin or the reporters spin.