Monthly Archives: May 2010

BBC film was not just a rant

I had a few comments about my appearance on BBC Click suggesting it was just a rant. There were a few unsympathetic voices by email even. It’s pretty easy to find me online, so I had to expect that.

Well, I’m not hanging my head asking for forgiveness, or ranting about how unfair it is that the big boy Google is a bully. The film on Click was a measured look at how the strict application of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act is essentially not going to work as we head further into the future.

Think about this for a moment. Where do you store your photo collection? I know that I have over 10,000 photos on Flickr, along with a box of old photos, but I am not taking any new photos that are going in the box – they are now all going online.

What happens if people start complaining about my photos and the host decides to delete my account? I don’t keep a local backup of all that content. And even if I did keep everything locally, what happens if the hard disk fails or goes up in flames?

The point about my YouTube account was that there were two complaints from over two years ago, then the Jimmy Carr complaint caused the account to be wiped without any notification. I just had no account anymore. Nobody told me a thing. I had to chase YouTube for several days just to find out why my account had vanished.

Google does not make the ‘three strikes’ policy clear anywhere, even in the small print. Saying repeat offenders will have their account removed is not the same as explicitly saying three-strikes-and-you’re-out.

And I never contested those earlier copyright claims – I never felt that I could. Imagine if Jean-Michel Jarre invited his fans to upload video, but his music publisher complained to YouTube. How would I think that I have any right to fight the music publisher? Because that’s the exact situation that occurred.

Naturally, when I lost my account, I did push back on these complaints – even the ones from 2008 – and as I said in the film, they were all removed as mistakes. But they were mistakes that for a period of time had cost me my entire video collection.

The whole point of this is that I agree that the law has to be followed, I agree piracy needs to be managed, but the fact is that the way the law is applied by Google at present means that many innocents will get caught up and will lose their content, even though you could not argue that they are deliberately trying to pirate material.

Book review: Facebook Marketing for Dummies

The `for dummies’ franchise has covered just about every topic under the sun, including information technology, so it’s no surprise to see a new title focused on how companies can get the best out of Facebook.

Facebook has grown into the dominant global social network over the past few years with over 400m active users, so I read this book with some trepidation about which level of user it would aim to inform. As an experienced Facebook user with experience of online promotions and campaigns, I was interested in seeing what it could offer.

However, the first 52 pages of the book are consumed with a step-by-step guide to Facebook, without any focus on the specifics of using online marketing tools. Then the book focuses the next one hundred or so pages on creating pages, groups, and events.

Only in the latter third of the book does it begin to explore the use of applications and viral marketing, which is a shame, because there is an important tale to tell for companies who really want to reach out to consumers online.

Facebook is a constantly evolving environment so the book should have steered clear of screen shots and detailed guidance on menu options – who can say whether those menus will look the same next week, let alone in a couple of years? This book will have dated by summer 2010.

A book is not the natural medium for guidance on how to use a social network. The authors should have abstracted away from the nuts and bolts of Facebook and focused more on the challenges of marketing using any social network. This may not have given the book a typical `for dummies’ approach, but it would make it more useful for marketing professionals.

The book assumes the reader is still considering whether to sign up and use a social network. Educated marketing professionals are not browsing bookstores looking for guides that will give them a reason to get online. They are already online, already using Facebook, and already familiar with all the tools described in at least the first 200 pages of this book. This is 2010 – not 2006. Over 100m mobile devices connect to Facebook every single day…

File this one under doorstop.

Nowt as queer as folk

When I published my first book, I remember hearing someone bitterly complain that they could write a better book on the same subject. I challenged him and said that although the poet laureate may not be scared of my work, at least I had sat down, done the research, formed an opinion, and published it for all to see. The person who grumbles that they can do better should recognise that and go away and write their own book.

Of course, there is some real trash published by writers or musicians. Sometimes you do wonder how on earth it does ever see the light of day, but even those who publish trash have worked hard to get that book or album out into the world. The critics who claim to be better need to demonstrate that, rather than just criticise. At least I could talk to my own book critics and find out what they propose could have been done better. And I do think that I’ve improved what I have written over time.

I was on TV all over the world this weekend, presenting a part of the BBC ‘Click’ TV show. I cannot tell you how many abusive and unfriendly emails I have had. Very strange indeed. I have had lots of texts and mails from people who liked what I said, but why do people send emails saying ‘I hate you’ or ‘I don’t like the way you walk!’

The funny thing is that I suspect these people are not just critics. They are a couple of kings short of a full deck of cards. How do you engage and argue with boneheads like that?
Mark Kobayashi-Hillary Speaking at the Oxford Bookstore, Bangalore - Aug 2004

BBC Click is now online

At last! The BBC Click TV show where I present an entire package on Google is online and being broadcast all over the world this week on BBC World TV. It went out on BBC1 this morning in the UK and my sister was texting me, surprised to get messages from her friends telling her to switch on!

Click here to go and watch it on the BB iPlayer…

Me on BBC Click

Wenlock and Mandeville

Callers to the BBC Five Live radio breakfast show this morning seemed dismissive of the new London 2012 Olympic mascots, Wenlock and Mandeville.

What do they want? Another cuddly teddy bear?

Take a look at the history of Olympic mascots – not much that is inspiring in that list is there? And not much purpose to the mascot, other than to have a cute cartoon character for merchandise.

Here’s three reasons why I think the London 2012 organising committee has done a fantastic job unveiling Wenlock and Mandeville to the world:

1. The focus is entirely on children. The purpose of these mascots is not just to look nice on a T-shirt, it’s to get kids interested in the Olympic games and sport in general.

2. There is an entire back-story to their creation. They are two drops of steel from the last girder that went into the construction of the Olympic stadium. Michael Morpurgo has written about their life so far and no doubt he will develop the story as we head to 2012. Click here to watch the film about their life so far.

3. They are designed with a multimedia future in mind from the start. They are designed to be customised and shared. Because they are made of steel, their skin can change colour and reflect the world around them. So kids will be able to go online and adopt the character of their choice and customise the colours, creating avatars that reflect their own interests – even changing them to be the colours of their favourite football team for example.

I think the committee has done a great job of focusing the mascots on kids, encouraging the future of sport, and thinking hard about what it is that kids will want to do with the mascots over the next two years.

Forget the teddy bears, I’m following Wenlock and Mandeville online now!

Creative Commons

If you take a look at my Flickr page right now, there are over 10,500 photographs. I’ve also got about 1,000 ready to be uploaded – I just haven’t had enough time to get them all tagged. Almost all my photos are uploaded and tagged with a description of the content and then licensed as Creative Commons – meaning they are free for anyone to use provided I get credited as the photographer.

I just had an email from the Museum of London telling me that they are setting up an exhibition that will be there for the next ten years and they are planning to use one of my photos – this one.

That’s just the latest use of my photos.They have featured in magazines in the USA, Japan, and across Europe. My Rothko photo has been used by many artists and art academics. My Ajanta photos from India have ended up in a very detailed academic book on the subject of cave carvings.

I am forever finding my own photos on blogs and in Wikipedia. I once noticed a photo in Wikipedia that looked familiar and found – after a bit of digging to find the credit – that it was my own.

I enjoy seeing my photos being used all over the world by people for all kinds of reasons and I’ve no problem with people using them for purposes that may even be profitable for them – so long as I get credited. I once found someone selling coasters and bags on eBay featuring pictures of dogs – one of the dogs was my own pet and these products were all using my photos! When I contacted the seller asking where they got the photos, I was told to sling my hook… when I showed them my Flickr account, they removed their products and slunk away tail between legs.

I’m just a snapper. I’m only capturing images using a camera-phone, but I might upgrade soon to a decent camera. There are many photographers populating these repositories of stock photos and doing it in a more professional way than I am – what does that mean for the future of the *paid* stock photo library?
Rothko - Black on Maroon

Is genealogy the only attraction for silver surfers?

My parents don’t use the Internet. They don’t need to use the Internet and they don’t really want to, though I know my father is tempted by news reports of family tree history being easy to research online.

Yet there are endless stories like this in the BBC of how much time everyone is spending online. It seems web use is 65% up in the UK, compared to three years ago. But a quarter of all that time is spent on social networks and blogs.

So what about the generation still thinks spam is a cheap tin of meat?

What will be the ‘killer app’ that encourages people to explore the Internet when they have spent their entire life not needing it? I suspect the government will use a carrot and stick approach to getting people online – free training, tax breaks for doing government business online (tax returns for example) – but ultimately, what will it be that convinces people they have to get online or miss out?
Spam

Farewell British Airways

It was nice to know BA and to be a member of their Executive Club for many years, but with their ongoing battle with the ash cloud and now the battle against their own cabin crew, I fear this is going to be a battle to the death.

BA refuses to budge from the insistence that the changes they are enforcing are required, and the Unite union is insisting that the changes (particularly around the deal for new recruits) is unfair. It looks like both sides are prepared to go right to the brink and then to head over into the abyss.

Loyalty to BA is haemorrhaging amongst those I know who travel regularly. It’s bad enough trying to deal with all the random flight delays caused by the Icelandic ash cloud, but add a seemingly regular pattern of strikes and the chaos caused trying to get the service back to normal after each one, and there is not much hope for the future.

If the regular business travellers are giving up on BA and the union is going all out to bring down the firm then regardless of whether you support the striking staff or not, it really looks like they might be striking themselves out of a future.
BA flight from London to Cairo, Egypt

BBC Click – this week!

I went down to the BBC TV Centre in Shepherd’s Bush today to record some final voiceovers for the package I am presenting on the BBC Click TV show. It will be broadcast on Friday this week.

It will go out first on BBC World and BBC Online – at about 3.30pm – then later in the evening on BBC News 24 and the following day on BBC1 in the UK.

BBC TV Centre

It’s been a lot of fun putting this together with Dan and Spencer and the rest of the BBC team. I saw a rough cut of the package today and it looks great – we had such a nice day filming in Bath so those sections look really good.

I’d guess we are looking at 5 or 6 minutes of TV here, but it needed a day of filming in Bath, a few hours filming in London, a session in the recording studio doing voiceovers, and a further voiceover session today – and today I got everything right first time. Maybe I’m getting better at this presenting stuff eh? Add to that all the effort editing it together and you start getting an idea just how much effort goes into keeping a weekly show on the road.

Click is the flagship tech programme for the BBC and has a massive global audience so I’m looking forward to hearing from a few of the viewers once it goes out.

Filming 'Click' in Bath

Birds of prey hovering over Downing Street?

I loved the ornithology section on Radio 4’s Broadcasting House yesterday. Take a listen on the iPlayer, it’s in the final 5 or 10 minutes of the programme.

Do you remember the Cameron / Clegg love-in on the lawn last week? While they were speaking to the press in the garden of 10 Downing Street, there was a lot of bird noise in the background. BH got an ornithologist to identify them.

The noisiest bird was a Robin – the red of Labour trying to ruin the press conference – but what was really interesting was that he identified a Kestrel. Kestrels hover around over their prey before swooping in for the kill. Did the Miliband brothers send it swooping over the garden that sunny day?