Tag Archives: google

Google Translate and The Beatles

When The Beatles changed their name from The Quarrymen, it was an amusing play on the words beetle… something dark scurrying around late at night, and beat.

Beatle was never a word in the English language until coined by Lennon and McCartney, so I’m a bit confused by something I noticed on Google Translate.

I went to see the Brazilian rock band Os Paralamas do Sucesso at the weekend. Their name is also something that the band members created just as a laugh – ‘the mudguards of success’.

But try putting that band into Google Translate – if you translate it from Portuguese to English, the band name is translated into The Beatles. Try it – you might need to shorten it to ‘Os Paralamas’ for it to work, but that should still read as the mudguards.

So, were the Beatles known in Portuguese as Os Paralamas or is there an Easter egg within the Google Translate system because someone is a Beatles or Paralamas fan?
Paul McCartney at Hard Rock Calling in London

Free speech

The business conference circuit is a merry-go-round of people trying to get on a platform and pronounce their expertise in a subject in the hope that they get noticed by someone in the audience with a bit of budget, so the speaker can drum up some business for his or her company. Because of this dynamic, most speakers at business events are not paid to speak, and in many cases (where they are a sponsor of the event), they are paying to speak to an audience.

But I don’t have anything to sell, other than myself. I do have years of experience speaking at events, organising other speakers, and chairing events. I’ve spoken all over the world on many subjects and in a variety of formats, and even written speeches for politicians, diplomats, and FTSE100 CEOs to help them speak on areas I am familiar with.

I do speak for free at many events, for not-for-profit organisations, or events that have a particularly important audience I want to reach and it’s worth it for me to do the event free. But I don’t normally speak at commercial events for free. And after all, if a conference organiser wants a decent chair who can handle speakers, field questions, ask relevant questions when the audience doesn’t, and generally keep things running, then surely that has some value?

So it’s a bit annoying to get called by a conference organiser who says he “heard of me from somewhere” and who then asks if I want to chair his conference. I said the agenda looks interesting, so maybe. He then asked me to detail if I have ever chaired an event before. Perhaps he could have done a little bit of the most basic homework? Google is quite good for that.

He offered me a free ticket to the event. Which, as a speaker, is kind of essential to get in. And the free ticket has a value of £1,400! So there is my payment – in free entry. If people are paying £1,400 to get into the event then that’s a commercial event, so why are important elements of the event – such as deciding on a chairman – done on the cheap by calling around to find someone who will do it free?

I actually have a speaker agent in the UK and USA now, because I often found that companies would book me, then change date or cancel events with short notice, meaning I would turn down other work and hold dates blocked in my diary, only to find them refusing to pay for an event that did not happen. At least with an agent in the middle it’s all contracted. I once had to explain opportunity cost to an Indian technology firm after they cancelled an entire week of work with two days notice.

Maybe I’m just ranting, but I know that most of the free speakers have a company to promote. If the conference organisers want someone independent, ready to offer opinion and thought, and with great experience speaking and chairing, then they should be prepared to pay.

Mark speaking at Chatham House, London, June 2005

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.

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

Filming with the BBC in Bath

I spent all day on Tuesday filming in Bath with Dan Simmons for the BBC ‘Click’ programme. It’s the biggest technology show on the BBC, being broadcast on BBC World, BBC1, and online. Even the Twitter stream for the programme has nearly two million followers.

Filming 'Click' in Bath

This was following up on my recent experience with Google and their decision to delete my entire Youtube account. I have got my videos back now, but only by appealing to everyone who had ever complained about me and getting them to withdraw the complaints.

I haven’t been out doing TV work in a public place before. I’ve done lots of talking heads work in TV studios, getting wheeled in to speak on the news as an expert in this or that, but shooting all over Bath over an entire day with Dan was great fun. We had kids desperate to get on TV without even knowing what the show was about. We had someone in a Manchester Utd shirt who insisted we should cover the story of his work with children’s football teams in Bath. We had people asking if it was ‘candid camera’. We had people laughing as I was getting my make-up done in the street.

It was certainly an experience to see how people react to a BBC camera out in the street. We certainly do live within a celebrity-obsessed culture. One woman outside Bath sports centre insisted that she already knew me because I am ‘famous and off the telly…’ even after I protested that there was no way she could know who I was, she just insisted!

I had assumed the hardest thing about doing pieces to camera in the street would be to remember my lines, but Dan had all kinds of ideas about how to take different shots, meaning I had to not only remember my lines, but also look in the right direction, walk in the right way, hit my spot on the pavement… then assuming I got all my stuff right we could still foul up a take if a bus had just gone past or some kids were screaming nearby. And even if there was no noise and I got my lines right, there were times when the camera-work could have been better. So you really do need to repeat the lines over and over until everything falls into place.

We spent the entire day filming in Bath, plus I still need to go to TV Centre in London to record some pieces in front of TVC and some voiceovers. Then there is a lot of editing to be done. It’s a lot of work for 4 or 5 minutes of television, but I hope you like it when it comes out.

Filming with BBC ‘Click’ in Bath

I’m filming in Bath today with the BBC. It should be a nice day in the sun down in Somerset.

This is all part of my battle with Google over them shutting down my Youtube account. All the three complaints against my account have now been dropped, and in each case, I never mentioned I was doing anything with the media. I just asked them to remove the complaint against me and each one agreed.

It’s a very interesting case and I’ll let you all know when the BBC plans to broadcast the show – it will be available online.