Wednesday, 24 October 2007
This is how to do it. The California firestorm is a big, visual, story. Show me a 'play' button.
The BBC has only started experimenting with Flash in-page video (on technology pages) because it has too much tied into single platforms — the main criticism of the iPlayer vis Microsoft. The Guardian can just do this with no problem from their previous investment and ability to experiment.
I also notice the Guardian's using Google free tools to display tagged content.
Neither is letting me post their content though. Yet.
Reading the terrible story of the parents who drowned in Portugal trying to save their kids I was reminded of my own experience of rip currents.
Here's what they are:
As I found out on my first venture into the sea in Sydney, at idyllic Palm Beach at the top of the North Shore, on the fringes of Ku-Ring-Gai Chase National Park.
A rip is a strong current of water running out to sea. Waves normally wash up onto the beach and ebb back into the sea. In some places the ebbing water forms a strong channel pulling out to sea. On many beaches the force of this escaping water can drag you far out to sea.
Like all the other Sydney Beaches it's public and used by lots of ordinary people, even though the surrounding suburb is millionaire's row.
I'd got burned, literally, at Bondi. Like most arriving Brits I'd venture. When we travelled around we went first to Palm Beach. Somewhere I'd recommend, though it's not on the tourist trail.
Even I couldn't resist swimming and, bobbing around, I eventually noticed 'Oh, the shore seems a way off'. I had just floated out in the rip, from the middle of the beach, not realised and not fought - which is probably what saved me (alongside the bloke on a board who pulled me onto the board and back to the beach, with my trunks half off).
The advice is:
If caught in a rip, don't panic. Tread water or float. Once out past the breakers, swim parallel to shore and catch waves in. Or signal for help and wait for a lifesaver to rescue you. If you are a strong swimmer you can swim at 45 degrees across the rip into the wave area, then catch a wave back to shore.I really didn't realise the seriousness of what happened at the time but when I did it gave me a big fear of deep water. Stories like this bring it all back.
So if you're heading off to a beach, be wary of rip currents :}
To avoid rips, look out for:
- A darker colour because the water is deeper
- A calm rippled surface, generally with smaller waves
- Debris or foam floating on the surface out to sea
Coastal (most) Aussie kids all know this, coming from a fairly beachy culture, but Brits like these parents, a similar age to me, aren't taught it.
Wednesday, 17 October 2007
Really funny and revelatory incident on Charlie Booker's Screenwipe on BBC4 last night.
Booker is known as "the most vicious pen in TV criticism", firstly for his Guardian columns and now for his TV show. I love him.
Last week he lanced 24hr TV News — eliciting the explanation from an idiot BBC News Editor that the reason that they hired a helicopter to follow the McCanns back from Portugal was because the paper's were covering it (hence, 'public interest').
This week he went for 'youth television', picking on a vile 'America's Top Model' episode where a bunch of fatuous ugly queens + Twiggy got the teens posing as murder victims (I don't jest - 'I love the way that leg looks ... broken').
He then showed a bunch of teenagers TV supposedly aimed at them, especially the mind numbingly bad 'Whatever' from Channel Four. He got them to hold up 'bored' cards when they were and almost immediately most of them were saying 'bored'. (They did like Four's Skins, however).
So Booker tried something left-field. he showed them Adam Curtis' documentary The Power of Nightmares, about Neoconservatism and Islamism.
One of the teenagers, after a while has passed, held up the 'bored' card. The rest sat intently watching. All of them said afterwards, basically, we're learning about the world, why wouldn't this interest us? They felt patronised in the extreme by TV. And they're right.
Yay! Someone's posted the whole thing on YouTube. Godbless Web 2.0.
'Model' is in part 2, 'Nightmares' in part 3.
And here's the three parts of The Power Of Nightmares, courtesy of archive.org
- I love that they offer multiple downloads and a host of other resources like this cute animated thumbnails around the video, plus a lengthy reviews section.
Tuesday, 16 October 2007
Reporters Without Borders 2007 Worldwide rankings — done on their website as plain, flat web pages and hence very easy to find useful info — have highlighted a number of countries slipping down the index because "of serious, repeated violations of the free flow of online news and information".
A decade ago, regime opponents in Vietnam or Tunisia were still printing leaflets in their basements and handing them out to fellow militants at clandestine meetings. Independent newspapers were no more than a few hastily-stapled photocopies distributed secretly.According to the group at least 64 people are currently imprisoned worldwide because of postings on the web, eight of them in Vietnam.
These days, “subversive” or “counter-revolutionary” material goes on the Internet and political dissidents and journalists have become “cyber-dissidents” and “online journalists.” Most of them know how to create a blog, organise a chat group, make phone calls through a computer and use a proxy to get round censorship.
New technology allows them to receive and share news out of sight of the authorities.
The Web is also a blessing for human rights groups, which can now build a file on a political prisoner with a few mouse-clicks instead of over weeks and sometimes months.
The Web makes networking much easier, for political activists as well as teenagers. Unfortunately, this progress and use of new tools by activists is now being matched by the efforts of dictatorships to fight them. Dictators too have entered the world of Web 2.0.
They flagged up the case of Abdel Kareem Soliman, an Egyptian blogger jailed for four years after he used his web log to criticise the country's top Islamic institution, al-Azhar university, and President Hosni Mubarak, whom he called a dictator.
The governments of repressive countries are now targeting bloggers and online journalists as forcefully as journalists in the traditional media.
More and more governments have realised that the Internet can play a key role in the fight for democracy and they are establishing new methods of censoring it. The governments of repressive countries are now targeting bloggers and online journalists as forcefully as journalists in the traditional media.In Malaysia (124th), Thailand (135th), Vietnam (162nd) and Egypt (146th), for example, bloggers were arrested and news websites were closed or made inaccessible.
China maintains its leadership in this form of repression, with a total of 50 cyber-dissidents in prison.
Talking about Burma:
The Burmese government’s Internet policies are even more repressive than those of its Chinese and Vietnamese neighbours. The military junta clearly filters opposition websites. It keeps a very close eye on Internet cafes, in which the computers automatically execute screen captures every five minutes, in order to monitor user activity. The authorities targeted Internet telephony and chat services in June, blocking Google’s Gtalk, for example. The aim was two-fold: to defend the profitable long-distance telecommunications market, which is controlled by state companies, as well as to stop cyber-dissidents from using a means of communication that is hard to monitor.During the recent crisis the Net was, of course, a huge boon for journalists, but then the regime (like the Chinese) turned the tables, undercutting whether the Net makes any real difference:
Several Burmese journalists confirmed that the security services are circulating photos of demonstrators taken by citizen journalists or foreign reporters in police stations and among police informers. Scores of people have reportedly been arrested on the basis of these photos.The same photos sent over the Web, before the regime shut it down.
The Internet was not designed to protect message confidentiality. It is fast and fairly reliable but also easy to spy on and censor. From the first mouse-click, users leave a trail and reveal information about themselves and what their tastes and habits are. This data is very valuable to commercial firms, who sort through it to target their advertising better.
The police also use it. The best way to spy on journalists a few years ago was still to send a plainclothes officer to stand outside their house. This can be done more cheaply and efficiently now, because machines can spy, report back and automatically prevent subversive conversations.
Cuba has installed spyware in cybercafé computers so that when users type “banned” words in an e-mail, such as the name of a known political dissident, they see a warning that they are writing things considered a “threat to state security” and the Web navigator then immediately shuts down.
China keeps a tight grip on what is written and downloaded by users and spends an enormous amount on Internet surveillance equipment and hires armies of informants and cyber-police.
It also has the political weight to force the companies in the sector - such as Yahoo!, Google, Microsoft and Cisco Systems - to do what it wants them to, and all have agreed to censor their search-engines to filter out websites overcritical of the authorities.
China has already signed an agreement with Skype to block key-words, so how can we be sure our conversations are not being listened to? How do we know if Skype will not also allow (or already has allowed) the Chinese police to spy on its customers?
It has become vital to examine new technology from a moral standpoint and understand the secondary effects of it. If firms and democratic countries continue to duck the issue and pass off ethical responsibility on others, we shall soon be in a world where all our communications are spied on.
recyclenow is the main, government funded body and they have nothing which can be reused on other sites. But neither does anyone else.
In fact, I'm having trouble tracking down much in the way of even usable video, especially aimed at UK kids as one of the spaces is for kids, and have turned to the EU! I have posted their recycling cartoon before and they also have a well-produced video about global warming.
This is from an American kids cartoon:
But games? Widgets? What I have found is various local Councils commissioning their own recycling games! Which can't be reused elsewhere. Which is nutty nut nuts duplication.
The sole exception is Abodo, which is about green living, from Delib. A little cryptic (is it clear what the below is about?), it's all I've got/found from the UK.
This sort of thing is great for getting out messages
clock from Poodwaddle.com
And it's looking like I'll end up using similar American product to sell recycling and green issues to - especially - kids in my English city. Because there's nothing I can find to use from the UK's various recycling/climate change official and unofficial bodies. Unless a reader can tell me of some fabulous resource hidden away from view ...
Thursday, 11 October 2007
... he's back.
Back and Unbowed
It is good to be blogging again.
We are back on craigmurray.org.uk. We hope that craigmurray.co.uk will be back too very soon. I have a plan for dealing with Usmanov and getting this matter into court, but am holding fire for a couple of days until we get the co.uk address back,
He then lays into Usmanov. Excellent!
Wednesday, 10 October 2007
Here are seven major aspects of Facebook you can use to increase the visibility of your startup, business, product or service:He goes into detail on those aspects. What Dave means when he talks Bunny, though, isn't what you might think — it's something new:
- Set Up Your Graph: Profiles & Privacy
- Make Connections: Networks, Groups & Events
- The Need for Feed: Your [Shared] Social Activity Stream
- Share Your Content: Share & People-Tag Your Stories & Media
- App to the Future: The Facebook Platform, APIs, & Applications
- Pay to Play: Ad Networks, Sponsored Stories, & Paid Distribution
- Show Me The Bunny: Gifts, Points, & Virtual Currency
There are 3 major types of virtual goods: decorative, functional, and behavioral. Decorative goods are those primarily geared towards self expression. Functional goods are those that meaningfully alter your user experience. For example, a suit of armor in World of Warcraft that confers a special advantage to you would be a functional virtual good. Behavioral virtual goods are graphical icons that capture some sort of social interaction. This is the type that is most prevalent on Facebook today. Virtual gifts are the best known example of this category of virtual good.
Two of the top 10 Facebook apps, X Me and SuperPoke!, are essentially just interaction tools. In the X Me screenshot above right, each of the icons – whether it be Love, Punch, or Kiss – is an encapsulation of a specific social interaction. Though it may not be purposeful, these types of casual apps are training users to understand how to interact with virtual goods. I can easily see how these apps become platforms that launch broader virtual currency systems. For example, expanding this app to allow users to attach custom graphics to their custom actions would create a new, rare class of virtual objects.
I was just looking at Amnesty's great new web campaign, UnSubscribe (Hat tip: David Wilcox, he has a report of the launch). it's all about attempting to exploit the Social Graph. Really great design and lots of stuff in there. They don't even forget valuable things like email sigs. They have video and sign-up widgets.
Couple of things though:
1. It doesn't actually chart results. What is the impact of web campaigning? What has Amnesty already achieved?
I think the Number Ten web petitions shows some of the limits here, the potential for cynicism, although I'm sure you do have an effect (I know you do from experience) but it would help to show this, to demonstrate the impact somehow.
2. All the widgets are with WidgetBox and they have a very irritating method whereby you can't just get the embed code. You have to select your platform then it does it for you and a post magically appears (which I don't want). YouTube usually gives you the code option.
One very real reason why this is more than annoying is because if you auto-ping that's the post content which will appear in feeds - their headline choice etc. and none of your surrounding context. It reminded me of using MySpace and especially using Bebo, which has loads of walled gardens. This is also more than annoying campaign-wise as well because I then had to look elsewhere for the embed code for this campaign video.
Here's the sign-up widget (not in it's own post!)
Tuesday, 9 October 2007
The Dutch have just published a new e-citizen charter, amusingly titled 'The Burger Code' in the translation I'm reading.
Hat tip: Peter Cruickshank
It comes with a workbook for Civil Servants, actually done in PDF so it'd print like a 'workbook', on ruled, schoolbook type paper. Not a good sign.
I baulked at it's first principle and gave up on reaching the first 'to do' list. This wins awards?
First principle was:
Choice of ChannelWhich sounds all well and good but only really available for the well-funded web presence and even then you make budget choices. Especially if you add an eleventh principle 'and the citizen must be able to use it' or do any picking and choosing ('convenient' vs personalised').
As a citizen I can choose for myself in which way to interact with government. Government ensures multi channel service delivery, i.e. the availability of all communication channels: counter, letter, phone, e-mail, internet.
You have to acknowledge that you can't 'do it all' because 'all' is a moving target. As an aim, 'ensures' is worse than pie in the sky. It guarantees B*S. Fab rhetoric though but it's the rhetoric and the claims which get you into trouble. Something falls through the cracks.
Onto how you might reach this aim and a good example in a 'checklist'
Does the website explain how to get in contact and can that be done by visit, phone, letter and mail?Why is a website having to 'explain'? This one choice of word gives away the linear approach of the author, the limited perspective framing the entire exercise. Try 'show' instead.
I know what they're saying and it sounds like splitting hairs but why are you doing this in the first place? Why are you providing a contact point on a website and making sure you don't miss routes.
Call me a tired old cynic, but wouldn't that be because that's what websites do — that is, it's absolutely sod all to do with government, transformed or otherwise, it's to do with websites.
Any business, and community group, anyone running a website will provide multiple contact points and fallback help for users because otherwise you're not making the most of the user interaction opportunities. (Unless you're big or over-scaled like some web properties and don't fund customer service/can't hire fast enough/can't cope with customer contact).
A whole expensive process plus an awards ceremony to arrive at what the web already does (read the document, it's all the way through). But lots of big words, grandiose claims and extra-polished civil-servant speak. All sounds very familiar ....
Disconnected? Parallel universe.
- e-Citizen Charter: Winner of the European e-Democracy Award 2007 (Global e-Democracy Forum, Paris, October 2007) and Finalist of the European e-Government Awards 2007 (Ministerial e-Government Conference, Lisbon, September 2007).
# Choice of Channel
As a citizen I can choose myself in which way to deal with government. Government ensures multi channel service delivery, i.e. the availability of all communication channels: visit, letter, phone, e-mail, and internet.
# Transparent Public Sector
As a citizen I know where to apply for official information and public services. Government guaranties one-stop-shop service delivery and acts as one seamless entity with no wrong doors.
# Overview of Rights and Duties
As a citizen I know which services I am entitled to under which conditions. Government ensures that my rights and duties are at all times transparent.
# Personalised Information
As a citizen I am entitled to information that is complete, up to date and consistent. Government supplies appropriate information tailored to my needs.
# Convenient Services
As a citizen I can choose to provide personal data once and to be served in a proactive way. Government makes clear what records it keeps about me and does not use data without my consent.
# Comprehensive Procedures
As a citizen I can easily get to know how government works and monitor progress. Government keeps me informed of procedures I am involved in by way of tracking and tracing.
# Trust and Reliability
As a citizen I presume government to be electronically competent. Government guarantees secure identity management and reliable storage of electronic documents.
# Considerate Administration
As a citizen I can file ideas for improvement and lodge complaints. Government compensates mistakes and uses feedback information to improve its products and procedures.
# Accountability and Benchmarking
As a citizen I am able to compare, check and measure government outcome. Government actively supplies benchmark information about its performance.
# Engagement and Empowerment
As a citizen I am invited to participate in decision making and to promote my interests. Government supports empowerment and ensures that the necessary information and instruments are available.
Monday, 8 October 2007
My fellow blogger Jack P — expressing interest in my posting on gay subjects which aren't to the fore — has promoted me to post this. It's a speech I gave at our local Holocaust Memorial Day in January this year.
It's seems appropriate to post it on a day when the UK Government announces legislation making incitement to hatred of gay people an offence.
Bent was made into a very good film ten years ago with Clive Owen and Lothaire Bluteau - Trailer:
I also had the honor of knowing the Auschwitz survivor Kitty Fisher in Sydney. Kitty always had a special connection with the gay community because it was a gay man who saved her and her sister's lives in the camp when they were small.
Kitty was in the documentary Paragraph 175, directed by Rob Epstein & Jeffrey Friedman (who also did The Times of Harvey Milk and The Celluloid Closet).
Here's a trailer:
The Memorial Day speech was very hard, emotionally emptying work as I could completely identify with the characters I was reading about. I could then place myself in their shoes, in the Camps, in the Brick Pit. I had much the same experience watching Bent, I felt it viscerally. Same feeling now actually. I can completely understand why people, many survivors especially, never spoke about the Holocaust (although gay victims had different reasons for silence),
People from the local Jewish community could not have been more supportive in giving the speech, offering very useful advice, and it had a fantastic reception, apparently touching people and making them aware in a way they weren't previously. This pleased me greatly as telling this history means talking about how gay survivors were treated by other survivors. There was also another very real link with genocide with a Bosnian survivor, an immensely dignified young man, who I was very pleased to hear and to meet.
Holocaust Memorial Day, 2007
With Germany's military defeat came liberation of Nazi concentration camps, and the discovery of an unprecedented horror.
For our kind - gays - the nightmare began in 1934, one year after the Nazis came to power, with the creation of the Reich Office for Combating of Homosexuality and Abortion.
767 police-identified or suspected homosexuals were arrested by the Gestapo (State Secret Police), awaiting transfer to concentration camps for "reeducation" at the hands of Hitler's fanatical SS paramilitary units.
Treatment was brutal; begun without trial, jury, or mercy. The Gestapo tortured gays for information, confessions, names
- and sadistic pleasure.
In June 1935 a desperate youth wrote to the only person in authority he trusted: Bishop Ludwig Mueller.
The letter reads:
"[Homosexuals] are tortured for weeks and months on end. Hardly anyone can describe what they do to homosexuals and suspects.
"Not only do they use the foulest language they maltreat them in the most brutal way. Each man has to fall in, stand still and watch 50 to 100 blows rained on a poor creature. The cries and the sight of the flowing blood are terrible."
The letter closes naively, "People have said that our glorious Fuhrer would punish such acts most severely if they came to his ears. I am of the same view."
Whether Bishop Mueller had Christian compassion for the plight of gays is not known. There is no record of response from him or of any personal action taken.
German gays - "Varmer bruders" - were worked to death until the war's end.
The death toll for all inmates was 8 million. It is impossible to estimate how many of them were homosexuals. But estimates range from 430,000 (which is probably too high) to 10,000 (which is probably too low).
Detailed statistical analysis of surviving records indicates that homosexual prisoners were systematically placed in the hardest work commandos (notably the gravel pits at Dachau and the brick works where all of the homosexual inmates of Sachsenhausen worked);
that the death rate for homosexuals was 50 percent higher than for political prisoners;
that they received more brutal and more frequent extra punishments than the other prisoners;
and that they formed the highest percentage of prisoners who were "transported" (the Nazi euphemism for transfer to the gas chambers).
One survivor of Dachau reported: "The inmates with the pink triangles never lived long, they were exterminated by the SS with systematic swiftness."
By all accounts, hardly any of the homosexual inmates of the concentration camps survived.
The pink triangles were spurned by all other groups in the concentration camps, and many survivors even today refuse to acknowledge the existence of their fellow gay prisoners.
After the war, homosexuals were denied the reparations given by the German government to other groups, because they were still classified as criminals under German law.
They were even denied state pensions to compensate for the amount of time spent in the concentration camps.
They could be re-imprisoned for "repeat offences," and were kept on the modern lists of "sex offenders."
The humane institutions of every country have condemned the treatment of all of the victims — except for homosexuals.
On annual days of mourning for the victims, few countries officially mourn for homosexuals.
To the survivor's comment that "one day they were simply gone" we might add "and today are all but forgotten."
The memorial plaque at Sachsenhausen
- Germany is building a monument to the gay victims in Berlin
Holocaust victims honoured, Pink Paper, 5th. February, 1999
"Thousands of gays and lesbians who were murdered by the Nazis during the Second World War were formally honoured by the German government for the first time this week. Representatives of the country's gay community joined officials at the Sachsenhausen concentration camp north of Berlin to take part in the annual remembrance ceremony for prison camp victims. Sachsenhausen held large numbers of gay inmates because of its close proximity to Berlin, which had developed a thriving gay community in the 1920s and 1930s."
- US National Holocaust Museum: Nazi persecution of homosexuals
Thursday, 4 October 2007
This rather puts the relationship between local government and Whitehall in context.
In California, Tuesday, one keystroke action by a Washington D.C. bureaucrat deleted every Californian government website, the entire .ca.gov domain, for eight hours.
"We don't for sure have the whole picture, but as we understand it, there was some event at the Transportation Authority of Marin Country where their site got hacked," says Jim Hanacek, public information officer for the California Department of Technology Services. Traffic was being redirected from that site to one featuring pornography.
"The federal government saw this incorrect use of ca.gov and they made a change at a much more global level than probably was necessary and it started taking down all of our ca.gov domain. That impacted Web access and e-mail services."
"Unfortunately there was no prior notification, they just made the change and sent us an e-mail to one of our administrators who wouldn't be a normal contact," Hanacek says.
"Once that person saw the e-mail and started looking we determined how serious this could be and we opened our emergency operations center. Unfortunately that was about 3 in the afternoon and folks back East were already going home, so it took us some time to get hold of the right people in the General Services Administration to get this address reinstated."
Those corrections began between 4 and 5 p.m. PT but didn't restore full normalcy until about 7:30 p.m.
Hanacek indicated that California's IT people will be having a chat with their Washington counterparts: "We'll certainly be discussing how we should be notified of a change of this magnitude."
Colin McKay from Toronto posts about the new Foreign Office (FCO) blogs, led by the inspiring, youthful 'gay icon' (according to the Telegraph) Mr Miliband. Hat tip- Simon Dickson.
It’s important to remember that EVERY member of a diplomatic service is trained - extensively - in skills essential to a blogger:Precisely. All the skills needed to blog are exactly the sorts of skills diplomats have anyway. And many other public servants — not many new rules needing inventing in practice.
* the comprehension of complex ideas and themes
* the synthesis of debates and positions, often conflicting
* the rapid creation of understandable but nuanced subject briefings
* and, most importantly for a government blogger, an acute awareness of the influence and impact of their words and writing.
As I commented on Whitehall Webby, who was worrying about blog maintenance by the chosen FCO authors (there's six all up, including one by the Afganistan Ambassador, who appears very keen):
It implies a shift in resources, i think. That’s a better way of looking at it rather than as another imposition on time on top of something which will continue. Think of how other sectors have shifted resources, such as in marketing, have preempted us in some areas (though behind in others). If online engagement is as effective as we think then it should have resources including time and energy from senior people. However I also think that methods for easier use with emerge as tools match needs. things like twitter are ridiculously unusable but reading scroble twittering his son’s birth was mesmerising - that gap will close.So on the one hand blogging can adopt existing experience/skills but on the other hand it will - and should - take up reallocated time and resources.
Here's the 'kitted up' Ambassador at the Kabul TV station Tolo TV
Wednesday, 3 October 2007
BBC News has an interesting summary of the state of the UK mobile web market. It's healthy, they think;
Figures for February 2007, from the Mobile Data Association show that almost 15 million people use the web via their handsets each month.New flat rate price plans and much faster speeds are increasing usage but most have download limits and stop Skype or streaming video use.
They have only recently stopped ridiculous restriction to their own portals and content and have seen portal content usage rise and spending within previously walled gardens.
T-Mobile said "Usage is as diverse as the people using it."
"Half of our customers surf the internet on their mobile when they are at home watching TV. They do not need to go to a laptop and fire it up. The mobile is there for them."
"Social networking has rocketed up the charts recently," he said. Sites such as Bebo, MySpace, Facebook and eBay have become very popular destinations for customers."
"It's different and relevant to the individual. It's the real long tail of relevance."
It's now hosted on a US server and collateral damage this time included Atlantic Free Press and Pacific Free Press and other sites.