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Thursday 27 March 2008

'The bloggin' bosses'

No, not another insult to throw on the picket lines, Paul Caplan has an interesting update about which CEOs are blogging and how they're getting on.

Not that many are, Paul calls it:
imagine the leap of faith needed by a Boss. Like King Theoden in Lord of the Rings, they have their own (usually paid) Wormtongues whispering in their ears.
But the ones doing it are enthusiastic. Hardly surprising because CEOs tend to like to, well, speak and give their opinions!

And as Steve says:
They make it easier for those of us who are talking to the frontline troops in the public sector and saying: “Yes it’s OK to get out there and have conversations. Yes it’s OK to talk like a human being and tell stories.” Because now we can add: “… because look, your Boss is doing it!”
He has lots of links to these 'heroes/heroines'. Now I wonder how many union leaders are doing it ...

What Rev. Wright actually said


Pass it around.

Wednesday 26 March 2008

Google: like to-tally white, dude

Secret's out. Or should be.
There are no black people at Google. I saw one throughout my entire tour, (other than the man I mentioned outside of the elevator,) and he might have been visiting too. Indians, Asians, Canadians: yes. African Americans: no. Really. Forget about China. Somebody call Al Sharpton.
Asked about this in Congress today, Laszlo Bock, Google's white vice president of 'people operations', was asked:
"How many [of Google's employees] are African-American?"

"I don't actually have that data at my fingertips," was Bock's reply. "I apologize."
You have to be, like, shitting me man.

Someone tell Trevor Phillips. Seriously.

Five years on: rare American TV Iraq debate

It's been reported that when 4,000 US soldiers had died, only two US newspapers put it on their front page.

Surprise, coverage is biased. Which makes this debate with Iraqis Sinan Antoon and Ali Fadhil, hosted by Charlie Rose on PBS, of particular, rare, interest.

Well worth 18' of your time.

Hat-tip: Glenn Greenwald, who comments:
In the American media's discussions of Iraq, when are the perspectives expressed here about our ongoing occupation -- views extremely common among Iraqis of all types and grounded in clear, indisputable facts -- ever heard by the average American news consumer? The answer is: "virtually never."
You could say the same of the UK.

AdBlock shock: still no threat there

Back in September, Nicholas Carr posted a long, highly combustible diatribe invoking Geezuz against AdBlock Plus: the Firefox extension which will stop practically all those revolving, screaming ads (that's one way, my way, of looking at it). Much online advertising is still stuck in the throw-mud-at-wall stage and, sorry, but I can't read when I have intense visual or auditory distraction. So, like a few other useful extensions (list in right-hand column), AdBlock saves my time and energy.

I explained, at length, how Carr was plain wrong and more than a tad hysterical (although he was timid compared to some hysterics who think it's all about Marxism in disguise). This was simply because it remained and would remain largely a geeky thing. At that point, the only numbers which anyone could source on AdBlock's worldwide usage was 2.5 million, which is nothing.

Because I was reading him again I thought I'd try and find some numbers on AdBlock usage seven months later.

It's now 3 million 'active daily numbers' (where the 2.5 million came from) and probably X3 - 9 million, not-daily, say the geeks who are very excited it's that many. Here's the details.

When Firefox claims it is approaching 20% of worldwide browsers and in a month where China finally eclimpsed the USA as #1 for web users, even 9 million is a pittance.

I suppose getting-a-grip in a follow-up would be out of the question, Nicholas?

How piracy helps business

Karen Croxson, a Junior Research Fellow in Economics at New College, Oxford, gave a lecture at the Royal Economic Society Annual Conference explaining how software and music piracy can actually help businesses.
While piracy may harm sales, it can also serve to provide free marketing, helping to create ‘buzz’ about a product.
This is product specific and may explain certain protections: console games vs. office software for example.
The unauthorised copying of digital goods such as software, music and films – a practice referred to as ‘digital piracy’ – has been claimed to place in peril the viability of whole industries. With perceived losses running so high, one might expect to see all sellers moving mountains to safeguard their intellectual property technologically. In fact there are some puzzling differences in attitudes.
Piracy can displace sales but highlights the importance of being realistic about this: not every copy implies a lost purchase. In any market there are some who value the product but never would buy (perhaps children with limited pocket money) and their piracy poses no threat to sales.

Given that the cost of piracy is likely to come down to a personal calculation (related to such things as the value of time, fear of penalties and moral costs), there may be variation across markets in the genuine sales threat – the temptation to pirate by those who would otherwise buy.
Croxson using the example of the Arctic Monkeys to explain how valuable 'word-of-mouth' is, although putting a sterling value on this is very hard to do.
The instant success of the music group's first album was due not to traditional marketing muscle but to the energy of early consumers who hyped its songs through social networking site

Hat-tip: Etre

Think before you blog!

Object lesson for bloggers in the story of the Medway Tory Councillor, John Ward, now resigned, who posted about sterilising so-called 'welfare mothers' on his blog:
"A pushy cold caller at the door got me so irate and upset that I didn't finish what I was doing correctly".
Despite his rather Nazi-like sympathies (Lynne Fetherstone gave a good example of where this thinking would lead), I actually felt sorry for him. He can think what he likes (and one look at the Mail's comments shows just how prevalent this type of thinking actually is) — it helps no-one if he blogs it without thinking through and in anger (or blaming someone else who's trying to make a probably very small living).

There are lots of resources and support for blogging councillors and many have now been doing it for ages: all the perils are well understood, explained and out there. Did the council actually support his blogging and do any of that, I wonder?

Try Designing for civil society, David Wilcox's blog, and a host of others in my eGov links.

NB: Ward has a really badly designed site - but it's not as bad as this ... get out the sunglasses.

Sarkozy: what is he on?

Er, doesn't that affect your sperm count or something ...

Free our bills

If you haven't seen this and you're British, go and sign up for MySociety's Free Our Bills Campaign.

It's about getting Parliament to produce Bills in a way that others can reuse the content online, rather than having to retype from parchment or whatever they do currently. i.e. It's 2008 FFS!

This is because TheyWorkForYou cannot currently do things like:
  • We can’t give you email alerts to tell you when a bill mentions something you might be interested in.
  • We can’t tell you what amendments your own MP is asking for, or voting on.
  • We can’t help people who know about bills annotate them to explain what they’re really going on about for everyone else.
  • We can’t build services that would help MPs and their staff notice when they were being asked to vote on dumb or dubious things.
  • We can’t really give a rounded view of how useful your MP is if we can’t see their involvement with the bill making process.
  • We can’t do about 12 zillion other things that we’re not even bright enough to think of yet.
They are resorting to their first campaign because lobbying failed:
  • There’s some vague notion that it’ll all get done one day, as part of some miraculous project plan to make everything OK, but we understand ‘sod off’, even when spoken in Whitehall-speak.
And I love the Aussie freshwater marsupial they're using for the emblem. Any campness gets a big tick in my book (and she's camp).

Quite interesting stories about platypuses: when the first specimens arrived back in London, they were assumed to be fakes (Engels was one who thought 'those damned English are trying to fool me!'). Then they thought it was a bird. They puzzled scientists for years. They're also venomous, though it won't kill you. And it's a snout, not a bill :} Though 'free our snouts!' sounds like something MPs would support ...

Tuesday 25 March 2008

Guido is pathetic

Paul Staines aka Guido Fawkes shows his true colours in today's bigoted attack on Chris Bryant. Lots of lovely undeleted comments follow on.

Gives me a chance to run the video again of when Michael White casually exposed him on Newsnight.

What a pathetic little man he is.

Postscript: Tim Ireland and others have been doing some digging on Mr Staines ...

Monday 24 March 2008

The coming 'tracking' storm

Greg Sterling has an excellent analysis of the coming storm over online tracking by advertisers - prompted by a first legal move in the New York State Assembly:
Here’s where we are today:
  • Traditional media are less and less effective because of audience fragmentation
  • Agencies are still largely clinging to traditional media because of “inertia” and familiarity
  • The Internet is where huge audiences are today but they’re harder to effectively reach
  • Arguably search is the most effective online ad medium
  • Brands generally don’t want to spend money on search
  • Taking the lessons of search to heart, display advertising — where most of the brand advertising is seeking to go online — is tapping behavioral targeting (BT) and other, similar strategies to make display more “relevant”
After reading about how Internet companies like Google, Microsoft and Yahoo collect information about people online and use it for targeted advertising, one New York assemblyman said there ought to be a law — Assemblyman Richard L. Brodsky, the sponsor of a New York bill to limit how companies collect data on computer users.

And because it would be extraordinarily difficult for the companies that collect such data to adhere to stricter rules for people in New York alone, these companies would probably have to adjust their rules everywhere, effectively turning the New York legislation into national law.

From a legal standpoint this law wouldn’t survive a court challenge because, assuming it passed, it would violate the Commerce Clause of the US Constitution, which doesn’t allow individual states to regulate “interstate commerce.” Of course there are exceptions one can find but this wouldn’t be one of them.

What’s significant here is that it represents a first step in what is sure to be an ongoing legislative and regulatory discussion of consumer privacy. This is analogous to what happened with Click Fraud only more extreme: the search engines failed to “get out in front” of the issue from a PR perspective until they’d been repeatedly hammered in the press.
He's right. Web companies aren't good with PR. I can see the Panorama 'expose' now ... maybe written by the 'ubiquitous' Nicholas Carr, who goes all paranoid again in this post about a new Google ad-serving patent.

MPs: We're afraid of embarrasment on YouTube

This actually made me laugh.

Parliament's youngest MP (and that's relevant), Jo Swinson, has called for an end to the ban on reuse of clips of Parliament on YouTube .. and blogs ... and news sites - it's about a lot more than YouTube.
Parliament should be embracing new technology as a way to reconnect with the public, so isn't it about time we ditched the ridiculous ban on Parliamentary clips being shown on YouTube?

If there is a copyright issue, will the House authorities review the current contracts and bring Parliament into the 21st century?

Video clips of debates in Parliament can be hosted on MPs' personal websites, but the rules currently ban their use on YouTube and other video streaming sites.

I personally think that the more people see what goes on in Parliament, the better, which is why I am pushing for the rules to be changed.

This is fundamentally an issue about Parliament reforming itself to keep up-to-date with modern technology.
Er, unfortunately she's not got a clip of her saying this on her own blog (which is allowed), but I'd be breaking the law if I added it here anyway.

Dumb. Dumb. Dumb.

Another LibDem (you mean they don't have a policy?!), Nick Harvey, who represents MPs interests in such pant-wetting matters and whose website is down at writing, responded that:
At the moment the rule is that the clips can be streamed to be viewed in real time, but not downloaded in such a way that they can be manipulated at a future point
My god! The horror! MPs manipulated! Stop it before I s*%@t myself for the fear of it :{} Must leave that to the TV satirists and not the public!

You can see why I'm laughing.

NB: I 'manipulated' Mr Harvey's image. I believe that's still legal.

Serious point: I would have liked to have shown you the Home Office's response to intense questioning in the Lords over Mehdi Kazemi and gay refugees. Not only can't I do that without flouting the law, also I couldn't find the b****y thing in a 7 hour session. God help the general public. I could, however, legally republish clips from the European Parliament - who obviously don't hide in fear of 'manipulation' by evil bloggers.

Postscript: Jo tells me that she actually has to buy the clips, hence not yet on her blog ... ya laugh, ya cry ...

Michael Moore gem

Cheney spent Wednesday, the 5th anniversary of the war, not mourning the dead he killed, but fishing off the Sultan of Oman's royal yacht

Spitzer twister: He was after GW Bush

Greg Palast has an interesting twist to the Spitzer-hooker scandal.
While New York Governor Eliot Spitzer was paying an ‘escort’ $4,300 in a hotel room in Washington, just down the road, George Bush’s new Federal Reserve Board Chairman, Ben Bernanke, was secretly handing over $200 billion in a tryst with mortgage bank industry speculators.

Both acts were wanton, wicked and lewd. But there’s a BIG difference. The Governor was using his own checkbook. Bush’s man Bernanke was using ours.
Three weeks before the FBI leaked information to the New York Times, Spitzer wrote a Washington Post piece titled:
Predatory Lenders' Partner in Crime
How the Bush Administration Stopped the States From Stepping In to Help Consumers
Spitzer was after how Bush was stopping States Attorneys General who wanted to sue loan-sharking banks. They had engaged in illegal 'predatory' loans: this is 'the mortgage crisis' which hit Northern Rock and may lead to an economic downturn.

When history tells the story of the subprime lending crisis and recounts its devastating effects on the lives of so many innocent homeowners the Bush administration will not be judged favorably.
As in the UK, Banks have been bailed out with hundreds of billions of dollars and the White House stopped the states from pursuing the lenders through the courts.

I posted about how a booker for a 'high class escort agency' in her reflections had noted:
Show me a rich and powerful man between the ages of 35 and 60 who has never paid an escort for sex, and I will show you a man who is a very rare exception.
Interesting how Spitzer is the one exposed: via the FBI ...

Tesco: Brilliant SEO but Satan in disguise

Owh, they're good, but evil... you have to get past the tenth (standard) Tesco Google hit before you get Tesco critics cited on (even) the BBC and Guardian. Mega-tricks. Don't know whether to raise my hat or let loose a blast ...

Let's try a blast.

Tesco offers Sheringham £1.2million
COUNCIL coffers will get £1.2m (sounds like Shirley Porter's hairdressing bill) from super-market giant Tesco if the controversial store at Sheringham gets the go-ahead. But North Norfolk District Council has stressed that the deal does not affect the long-running planning saga - which is due to come to a head at an inquiry, which will take place in July.
Sheringham is a North Norfolk small town I have connections to (and love). It and it's small selection of, albeit slightly 1950s (some close for lunch but 'sell everything') shops (I believe people appreciate 'siestas' and 'work-life balance' in EspaƱa), face decimation - really - if Tesco moves in.

And like the massively profitable juggernaut they are, Tesco ain't giving in.

Their attempts at a store in the town have, literally, been going on for years despite massive opposition.

They are trying to do the same in the one remaining 'character' (i.e. non-bog standard) shopping street left in Cambridge. This is their moot point: they never give up. They is evil. They will dominate all. Profit. Profit. Profit.
  • 'Tesco hell' - 'anything-dot-Hell' sites are somewhat infamous, but, somewhere with this one, I gave up. The SEO maestros defeated them or tell me if I'm missing something.
These sites I found relatively quickly, no such luck for the general public I would guessLesson 1: yes, search positioning (SEO) is very important for online campaigning but T*sco is fu****g loaded and has search tricks down pat;
Lesson 2: I've tagged this 'censorship' because that's what it - effectively - is.

More Obama speech reaction - it's positive but you won't read about it

I've been following the reaction to Obama's speech on race (which you can watch in full in this previous blog post).

The only polling done that I can find (for CBS) gave 69% of Americans who had heard or read about it giving it a positive reaction.

63% agree with Obama's views on race relations. Seventy-one percent say he did a good job explaining his relationship with Rev. Wright - the pastor of his church whose sermons have been edited and received blanket news coverage.

The only negative was when people were asked if Obama would unite the country 52% said yes. This is down from 67% last month.

Most voters following the events say they will make no difference in their vote.

Nearly a quarter of Democrats say the events have made them more likely to back Obama, while a similar number of Republicans say they are now less likely to do so. Three in four independents say the events make no difference, and the remainder are nearly evenly split between those more likely to support him and those less likely to do so.

As well, his overall poll numbers have returned to a lead over Clinton (via Andrew Sullivan)

Another Gallup Poll
shows a 'Perceived Honesty Gap for Clinton Versus Obama, McCain'.

Nevertheless, reporters continue to assume a negative reaction for Obama (see the Times/BBC) and US Networks have continued to selectively edit both the original sermons by Rev. Wright as well as comments by Obama himself.

The BBC's North America Editor Justin Webb posted the following about Wright:
"The fact that he is shouting in the clips, and swaying about, does not do him any favours."
Which is astonishing, given that this is how black pastors preach: something you'd assume he would know about and understand. This sort of comment reflects the tenor of the BBC's coverage of Obama and Wright and is also to be found in some of the broadsheets.

Some commentators have noted that the real reason that Wright's comments continue to dominate TV News coverage of Obama - despite, for example, a lengthy speech last week further explaining his position on Iraq - is because they need the Democratic race to continue for their own reasons.

Despite there being little chance that Hillary will win, the media needs the conflict and is unwilling to call the reality: baring acts-of-god, Obama will be the Democratic nominee. Plus, it's a statistical tie with McCain vs Obama (post 'race speech' polling).

Journalists have become partners with the Clinton campaign in pretending that the contest is closer than it really is. Most coverage breathlessly portrays the race as a down-to-the-wire sprint between two well-matched candidates, one only slightly better situated than the other to win in August at the national convention in Denver.

One important, if subliminal, reason is self-interest. Reporters and editors love a close race — it’s more fun and it’s good for business.
Just this week, Clinton made the bizarre claim that she had to run to avoid sniper fire when visiting Tuzla in Bosnia with her daughter in 1996. This, well, lie, has received no play at all. However some have rebelled over the 'loop' on Rev. Wright and Obama.

CNN's Anderson Cooper 360 looked at the actual tapes of Wright, rather than the excerpts and discovered that one of the most quoted excerpts, made just after 9/11, was actually Wright quoting somebody else, a former Ambassador.
“I heard Ambassador Peck on an interview yesterday did anybody else see or hear him? He was on FOX News, this is a white man, and he was upsetting the FOX News commentators to no end, he pointed out, a white man, an ambassador, he pointed out that what Malcolm X said when he was silenced by Elijah Mohammad was in fact true, he said Americas chickens, are coming home to roost.”
They said:
His sermon thesis:
1. This is a time for self-examination of ourselves and our families.
2. This is a time for social transformation (then he went on to say they won’t put me on PBS or national cable for what I’m about to say. Talk about prophetic!)
The Washington Post provided more context by highlighting similar comments made by Martin Luther King:
Listen to what King said about the Vietnam War at his own Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta on Feb. 4, 1968: "God didn't call America to engage in a senseless, unjust war. . . . And we are criminals in that war. We've committed more war crimes almost than any nation in the world, and I'm going to continue to say it. And we won't stop it because of our pride and our arrogance as a nation. But God has a way of even putting nations in their place." King then predicted this response from the Almighty: "And if you don't stop your reckless course, I'll rise up and break the backbone of your power."
And imagined what would have happened to King's campaign if today's technology had existed then.

Even on arch right-wing News Channel Fox News, the 'loop' so outraged two anchors that one upped and left and another berated his fellow anchors.

On another channel, the 'loop' was challenged by someone whose comments surprised many - Mike Huckerbee (comment @ 3' 20" — notice the lead male with his arms crossed):

In their reaction to Obama's historic speech - the tenor and content broke new ground for any leading American politician, black or white - much of the media, both in the USA and UK, appears a/ ignorant of Black America and b/ determined to continue to pump up the Democratic primary election for their own reasons.

Where to turn to for accurate reporting?

Previous: NB: "20 hour days"! 20 "hits" in the morning! Something lost in the translation ...

Sunday 23 March 2008

Tibet and boycotts

Jack P has blogged about Tibet, writing that people should boycott Chinese-made goods and suggested that:

If you know of anyone who was due to compete in the Beijing Olympics this year, ask them to consider what is more important: taking a stand against ethnic cleansing, or their own personal achievement.

Now I can remember the only really successful boycotts, of Moscow and then Los Angeles in 1980 and 1984, over Afghanistan. People said much the same about British athletes who went to Moscow, one of whom was Sebastian Coe.

This time though, the Tibetans, through the Dalai Lama and the Free Tibet Campaign, aren't calling for a boycott.

This year, the Chinese people are proudly and eagerly awaiting the opening of the Olympic Games. I have, from the very beginning, supported the idea that China should be granted the opportunity to host the Olympic Games. Since such international sporting events, and especially the Olympics, uphold the principles of freedom of speech, freedom of expression, equality and friendship, China should prove herself a good host by providing these freedoms. Therefore, besides sending their athletes, the international community should remind the Chinese government of these issues. I have come to know that many parliaments, individuals and non-governmental organisations around the globe are undertaking a number of activities in view of the opportunity that exists for China to make a positive change. I admire their sincerity. I would like to state emphatically that it will be very important to observe the period following the conclusion of the Games. The Olympic Games no doubt will greatly impact the minds of the Chinese people. The world should, therefore, explore ways of investing their collective energies in producing a continuous positive change inside China even after the Olympics have come to an end.

Here is his full statement about the Tibet events.

Instead, they say that they want pressure on our government and our Olympic authorities.
As Britain has become a fellow custodian with China of the Olympic ideal, Free Tibet Campaign is calling upon the UK Government to commit to a special initiative that will secure a negotiated settlement for Tibet and improve human rights in China before the Beijing Games of 2008.

"If our Government really wants to make Britain proud, it will back Tibet," said Yael Weisz-Rind, Director of Free Tibet Campaign. "We have no doubt that London is capable of hosting a truly great Olympics, but unless there is substantial progress on Tibet and human rights in China, the 2008 Games in Beijing will be badly tarnished."
Jack also suggest that people boycott Chinese-made goods, but recognises how difficult this might be.

The Dali Lama isn't calling for that either:
China is emerging as a powerful country due to her great economic progress. This is to be welcomed, but it has also provided China an opportunity to play an important role on the global stage.

I think people should be aware of the conditions under which much ‘Made in China’ imports are produced - they have been compared to modern-day slavery.

Organisations involved in this, again, suggest that protests be directed closer to home - to the British retailers who don't ask about those conditions as well as politicians who don't consider labour issues in trade relations with China.

The Free Tibet campaign has a number of ways in which people can get involved in some way, including spending your money on some lovely goods like this teeshirt over the web :}

Postscript: Jack P has responded to my post. To which I added these points:

From my previous work with Aboriginal people as well as past anti-Apartheid work, I do think it's important to take a lead from the people themselves: those you want to help.

Unfortunately, writing to your MP and/or Gordon Brown and/or the Olympic Authorities is often seen as boring. However this is what they - the Tibetan leaders - say they want: pressure at home. It's also, from my experience, part of the long-haul thankless process by which change happens.

Friday 21 March 2008

Another wow: mobile calls without voice - seriously

Via New Scientist comes this staggering demo of a new voiceless communication technology.

One application: shuts up loud people talking to themselves on trains.

All about it.

The demo.

And here uses for people who have lost or degraded speech:

Cameroons: Listen up - 'Getting Bloggers To Write About You '

Here's '17 Tips For Getting Bloggers To Write About You' by Boing Boing's Cory Doctorow.

  1. Have a link
  2. Have a permanent link
  3. Have a link for everything
  4. Use real links
  5. Use links that go to pages
  6. Flash sites stink
  7. PDFs stink
  8. Streams stink
  9. Put your URL on your images
  10. Linking policies are ridiculous
  11. Don't worry about "bandwidth stealing"
  12. Offer high-res images
  13. Forget the "copyright protection" Javascript
  14. Enough with the legal boilerplate
  15. Let bloggers know how you'd like to be attributed
  16. Creative Commons licensing takes the guesswork out of blogging
  17. Finally: Send suggestions by the preferred means
Here be the nuggets (#9 is particular genius).

Thursday 20 March 2008

Home Office aligns with George Galloway

Some absolutely shameless statements by a Home Office Minister in the Lords yesterday.

Lord Spit, sorry, Lord West of Spithead (Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Security and Counter-terrorism), Home Office), made the claim that in the one case they'd investigated it wasn't homosexuality which the execution was for but for rape.

This echoes George Galloway's repetition of the Iranian regime's lies.

For the Home Office to:
  1. admit they have investigated only one case
  2. use the Iranian regime's lies against gay asylum seekers
is almost hard to take in. The complicity is just astonishing. Shameless.

Spithead said:
We are not aware of any individual having been executed solely on the grounds of homosexuality in Iran.

We do not consider that there is systematic persecution of gay men in Iran.

We have no evidence of anyone we have sent back being executed
[Ugandans sent back (including lesbians) are immediately hauled off to a detention centre and tortured. This is known to have happened to at least one gay Iranian.]

In the one case that we looked into, because it was shown on television, we found that two young males were hanged because they were found guilty of raping a 13 year-old boy. They were hanged for the offence of rape.
He is talking here about Mahmoud Asgari and Ayaz Marhoni, pictures of the execution of the two boys are widely available (as are those of other barbaric executions), and - yes - Amnesty and Human Rights Watch have said that rape in that case may be true and it was also true that the case was used by the exiled Iranian opposition for their own purposes.

In Iran, one of the two partners arrested can find themselves able to escape the death penalty only by charging rape.

But there are numerous other well-documented cases (the link is to Human Rights Watch), so for this to be the one he chooses to mention, to, like Galloway, imply that executions are always for rape and to admit that this is "the one case that we looked into" just shows that they aren't being at all 'careful' about deportations. "We are not aware" is not true - aka a lie.

It is exactly like 1939 all over again: when we made it as hard as possible for Jews to flee Germany - the Kindertransport was largely due to Jewish effort. Or 1946 when thousands were returned to the USSR and certain death. As a tireless defender of gay asylum seekers, Omar Kuddas, puts it:

"To say that homosexuals are safe as long as they are discreet and live their lives in private [that's their policy!], is to say that Ann Frank was safe from the Nazis in WWII as long as she hid in her attic."

Lying. Incompetent. Shameless. I am ashamed of my government.


Human Rights Watch - one of the NGOs whose work Spithead is selectively using - have been supporting Mehdi Kazemi's case for over a year. This includes November when the Home Office last rejected his asylum claim and over Christmas when they last made a real attempt to seize and deport him.

Here's what a Tory London MEP, John Bowis, said about people like Lord Spit last week in the European Parliament during the debate on a resolution supporting Mehdi and Pegah Emambakhsh - the Iranian lesbian who is on her last legal thread and under real threat of being secretly shipped out like Mehdi almost was. The resolution passed nearly unanimously. Bowis' EU MEP Group was divided, with a Forza Italia MP speaking for and a CDU MEP abstaining for that Group.

"It is my country which, if it does not relent in this case, should hang its head in shame."

My country ...

Until the Home Office is finally forced to change the policy which lies behind these cases people just like Mehdi - and Mehdi himself is not safe yet - will continue to be shipped back to torture and death. And they know this. They are lying when they say otherwise.

And who does this attitude appeal to? Who do they think this appeals to? Where do they think the votes are in playing at 'hardliners'? I have been carefully surveying the comment reaction and those who support Mehdi's deportation are very few and very far between. Someone should do a poll.

Even on the websites of the Daily Express, the Daily Mail and - yes - even The Sun many, many conservative, middle-england 'don't-like-refugees' people find this policy obnoxious. Even on muslim/Pakistani Boards I am reading many people supporting Mehdi. Times readers are overwhelmingly commenting that the Home Office's actions are not-in-their-name. The one Tory blogger I could find supporting deportation of gay Iranians prefaced his comments with 'sorry but ...' He sensed the shame of which Lord Spit has none.

Then there's the damage to us around the world. Never mind the blogosphere, on US Prime Time news shows right-wing people have expressed horror at these actions in our name - and how often does Britain ever get a mention there?

The coalition of opposition is enormous and I'll say it again: Jacqui Smith is complicit in murder and if he doesn't do more to end this appalling stain on Britain, Gordon Brown is too.

The most racist article of the year

Survival - which works tirelessly for ignored indigenous people around the world - has issued a new international award for 'The most racist article of the year’.

The winner will receive a certificate inscribed with a quotation from Lakota Sioux author Luther Standing Bear: ‘All the years of calling the Indian a savage has never made him one.’

The article, published in the Paraguayan newspaper La Nacion, compared Paraguayan Indians to cancer and described them as 'Neolithic', 'out-of-date' and 'filthy'.

The award marks March 21, the UN International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

The award is part of Survival's 'Stamp it Out' campaign which aims to challenge racist descriptions of tribal people in the world's media.

Stamp it Out is supported by prominent journalists such as the BBC's World Affairs correspondent John Simpson, Sandy Gall and George Monbiot.

Survival’s director Stephen Corry said:
Racism often underpins, or is used to justify, abuses of tribal people, whether it’s stealing their land, exploiting them or even killing them. This article makes it clear that in the media such racism continues to exist, even among people who are supposed to ‘know better’. This isn’t about political correctness – it has very real consequences for tribal peoples’ livelihoods, land and, ultimately, their lives.
This isn't just in Paraguay. Here's a Daily Mail article called 'Public School Savage' which refers to tribal peoples as 'Stone Age'.

Postscript: Obama addresses race: hear the whole speech, not the BBC's meme

Fox Attacks, which documents and organises against the lie machine that is Murdoch's US News channel, has produced this video. It links up Fox-originating anti-Obama memes with the rest of the MainStreamMedia.

Jon Stewart had some comments on the Obama speech MSM response as well ...

Huckebee defended Obama
and put Rev. Wright's comments in context: "I may be the only conservative to say this".

The whole speech is #1 viral video:

Viral sharing of this video: Spreading across the interweb like Wildfire!
Discovered 18 Mar 2008
1 duplicate videos
1,351 blog posts

And here's Virtual Vantage Points monitoring of blog reaction:

Text clouds from March 17 for U.S.-based Conservatives and U.S.-based Liberals:

Postscript: More Obama speech reaction - it's positive but you won't read about it

Postscript: BBC video embedding

Oh yey of little faith ... my comments on the BBC Internet blog about embedding video have (had) appeared. I took the '502' error to mean failure but, natch, there's the comment after all as I think 'I wonder if anyone else got through with this point ... ' And there's the response from John O'Donovan to my point, and the same from others:
You will be able to embed video on other sites but we need to work out some issues with how this will work. In particular, you may not be aware that the player has to support advertising when someone is using it outside the UK and also has to restrict some content to UK users only. This causes a few complications, but rest assured, it will be possible to link to and embed video directly. We will take on feedback about how this user journey works to ensure it is as seamless as possible based on your comments.
That's excellent, I had assumed just those sorts of issues as others like Viacom have them, and it's also excellent that the BBC team is responding and - clearly - listening to those of us who want to help/contribute. There is frustration, of course, in some of the feedback you read but that's most people's motive. It's certainly mine.

A bow to the Beeb's web team. And an object lesson for Channel 4/ITV in how to build a better website and user experience, though the bean-counters aren't listening ...

As they roll this out, it's also really good for the BBC internationally, provided that those restrictions to just UK aren't enormous, that their newsclips will enjoy a much wider and easier circulation. Bloggers can already do this but it's really quite difficult to get something from TV to YouTube and most would rely on an intermediary's choices.

I can imagine those clips appearing and being seen by a lot more people in places like Egypt, where blogging is the civil society opposition, for example. A news clip about shantytowns outside LA is currently getting viral attention (more BBC virals). But it will spin out in ways I can only guess at — I think this is a much bigger moment in the Beeb's web development than many may realise.

With the 502 'comment failure' on their blogs, I should note that listening happened here as well. On page, they now have the following:
On occasion, you may experience problems when leaving a comment. We are working on a solution to this - you can find more details here.
What hasn't changed is the actual 502 error message: it's the standard, across site one. Here's why:
The problem is that with the way the system is set up, making changes to the interface across the current platform is a labour-intensive job.
Which I understand. What I would say is to wonder whether another system, more human than technical, might be at fault in why the 502 error became and stays so user-unfriendly ("a server error ..") in the first place.

One last comment on Beeb matters. I absolutely love the new homepage. I can see it's been tested to destruction - the architecture is brilliant. What struck me first was: the end of everything 'above the fold' and the change to mass scrolling behaviour recognised; radio given more prominence, TV less. It marks the complete death of any trace of 'brochure' site design. Hurrah. Now if they could just do something about the site search ...

Wednesday 19 March 2008

Embedding video: why isn't it obvious to the MSM?

I blogged a few days ago about the BBC's new use of Flash video across the news website — my main question was to ask just why they won't allow embedding by others of their content. Or rather, why they will allow it when that content is nicked, republished on YouTube etc. (they aren't policing this with take-down notices) but won't enable it.

As I commented, this makes even less sense when much of that content - yes, news content - would be of interest to exactly the audiences they are desperate to appeal to. Start with teenagers embedding news about climate change on Bebo/MySpace and think on. It's hard to see where the negatives are but presumably they think there are some.

Of course, I tried to comment but actually gave up after re-hitting the button periodically over about eight hours.

So I just don't know but my, I think fair, assumption is we're talking slow-moving, dinosaur like corporations and behomoths who just don't get it - where media consumption is moving to and why they're losing out. The success of video online shows that the web can actually increase your viewership/revenues if you stop trying to fight and control and start responding quicker.

This is an across the 'MSM' (mainstream media) thing and speaks to why they're being so quickly outgunned/flanked on the web, because I just tried to promote an ITV drama and found I couldn't. Free marketing and they don't want it.

I love Jake Arnott's books and they have dramaticised his fourth, 'He Kills Coppers'. Radio Four gave an ITV drama a four star review. But I am so pissed off that I can't embed a preview here that I'm not going to link — and the ITV page for it isn't top in Google results, you'll have to look. And the link must be what they want: all hail traffic to their website. Why? You can get your revenue via ads in the embed!

This is absolutely terrible marketing and completely inexplicable: because I've yet to hear an explanation.

Michael Grade presumably thinks me promoting one of their dramas is about 'not handing control to a third party' (i.e me). He should try talking to Comedy Central instead of the bitter people running the music industry.

It's part of Viacom, run by Barry Diller and they say:
"We definitely feel that [allowing embedding of] video on the Web is a huge tool. It drives word-of-mouth discussion about a show."
NB: I haven't mentioned ITV's use of Silverlight, rather than FlashVideo. That's a deal whose stupidity and short-sightedness should be blindingly obvious.

At present we do not have any plans to make our programmes available for embedding/downloading due to rights issues.

Obama addresses race: hear the whole speech, not the BBC's meme

I'm posting the whole of Obama's truly great speech yesterday addressing race. It has been filtered and cropped, so watch the whole thing (it's 27 minutes).

Mainly the cropping by our media is in terms of how it will affect the election and mainly, it has to be said, by BBC journalists who simply cannot relate to black experience. The BBC's Justin Webb posted the following, which illustrates this:
I can well understand that the black folk memory of America is hugely different to the white version but is this what black people really think? Is that what they were thinking five days after 9/11?
So he knows it's there but doesn't understand why? Which American history did he study? This ignorance is blatant and pathetic from someone paid a lot by our lead broadcaster to cover America.

Matt Frei cherry-picked his media reaction, the GOP's meme about Rev. Wright:
He did not denounce the man, "who has been like family to me". It was an honourable omission. But it may have killed his campaign.
This is 'buying-in' wholesale to that meme and failing to report what Obama actually said. What is the difference between 'denouncing' Wright's views and denouncing 'the man'?

Jamie Coomarasamy continues with what amounts to the BBC's line on the speech:
It may have been too nuanced ... why did he not object to his pastor's comments earlier?
No mention of such things as the New York Times editorial or leading conservative Andrew Sullivan's comments that it was "an epiphany" or other conservative reaction, which has been similarly impressed by Obama. That's 'news'.

These BBC journalists are taking their - frankly - lazy lead from people like these NBC (MSM) journalists:

... who describe Rev. Wright's "hate speech" (an opinion, not a fact) and - pointedly - ignore another religious leader backing a candidate: Rev. John Hagee and John McCain. Hagee is not just violently anti-gay but anti-catholic. Again, just like the US MSM, the BBC has also completely ignored that story.

Their 'take' on Obama's speech is also very different to the broadsheets. The Guardian and the Independent perhaps predictably, but both the Telegraph and the Times have much better reports - the Telegraph actively rejecting the GOP's meme.
It’s a message of reconciliation and a post-racial future that many Americans will want to hear.
Watch Obama's speech (or read the full text). Ignore the BBC's 'reporting'.

Postscript 1
Postscript 2
: More Obama speech reaction - it's positive but you won't read about it

John Oliver on the Primaries

Still on Daily Show spin-offs, UK comedian John Oliver - late of the News Quiz - has been a huge hit with his reports to Jon Stewart. They cheer him like Oprah disciples.

Channel Four News decided to interview him in a little cross promotion (the Daily Show's on More4) and you can see the unedited version on their crappy website (the one with MS Word downloads), which you have to go to to view - no embedding, of course, not even a 'share by email' link on the video, just 'send this article to a friend' at the bottom of the page where no-one will look. I'm watching! Not reading the intro blurb! FCS! How many adviews do they lose by not enabling Daily Show fanatics to share even this (they would)!

The humourless journalist tries to compare US vs. UK and assumes we're plain boring. Oliver: "Doesn't Cameron thinks he's quite entertaining? I wouldn't be surprised to see him do something as despicable as that Tony Blair/Catherine Tate collaboration. Which really made me want to tear my own eyes out". About Hillary's appearance on the show (the journalist asks why she wasn't putting her policies forward): "It's like a dating video".

On Cameron, I wouldn't be at all surprised if Oliver is right. The hilarity - albeit unintentional - is on view in this Observer Food Monthly article where he talks ("I like food. I'm very greedy") about his neglected vegetable patch, amongst other 'eco' things.
'Oops!' says Cameron, closing the front door behind us, and swooping up the three empty wine bottles that are languishing on a kitchen surface. 'Thought I'd recycled the last of those, ha ha!'

Oprah - Root of All Evil?

Lewis Black is a comedian and 'leftie' New Yorker with a regular slot on the Daily Show: one which brings new meaning to 'vituperative'.

Finally he's got his own show, with him as the judge in a format described by the New York Times as a cross between “The People’s Court,” “Politically Incorrect With Bill Maher” and Drew Carey’s improvisational “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” (only funnier)

The premiere had “Oprah v. the Catholic Church.”

Here's part of the argument that Oprah is 'the root of all evil'.

Other episodes pit “Donald Trump v. Viagra.”, Vice President Dick Cheney against Paris Hilton; “American Idol” against high school; and Kim Jong-il against Tila Tequila, the amorous reality star on MTV.

More video here.

Here's an anti-Google rant from the Daily Show.

And a genius rant at 'American Stages of Grief' from 2004.

Here's some of his stand up - NSFW! - about how America is not the #1 country in the world (and why milk is JUST MILK).


Friday 14 March 2008

BBC finally embedding video

As I noted a while back the BBC had started embedding video - on the occasional tech page/blog - and has now decided to use Flash Video embedding everywhere around the news site. The details are announced today on their Internet blog.

Which is all good but the blog post doesn't explain why they aren't providing the embed code for others which other big media players are starting to allow. See clip reuse en masse in the US Primaries.

This is also obvious to me in the Madhi Kazemi campaign, I end up with Sky clips but not CNN when the latter has done a much better job, and seeing that would undoubtedly help their credibility/viewership. Just linking doesn't cut it any more when someone else's clip is right there.

This all seems a bit daft when they evidentially aren't policing the reuse of their clips via YouTube/LiveLeak etc. You could also make the argument that if you want to reach - for example - da youth, then allowing them to reuse your stuff, especially news clips, on their blogs and Bebo pages would be one good way of doing that.

There wouldn't be that many copyright issues either, you'd think, since it's BBC News, not some third party.

On the one hand they don't seem to mind their clips being reused/promoted (two sides of the same coin) but on the other they're not going to make it easy. That sounds like their defacto policy.

I assume the beeb behemoths are behind that decision ....

Simon Dickson (hat-tip) makes some good points on the implementation. Have they sacked all the usability experts?

PS: Still seeing that flat, unhelpful, bad communication '502' error message for failed comments, beeb people ...

Thursday 13 March 2008

'I could not make my peace with the power imbalance'

“Ruth Henderson,” a former booking agent for incredibly high-priced Manhattan 'call girls' explains how it all works for Pajamas Media.
Show me a rich and powerful man between the ages of 35 and 60 who has never paid an escort for sex, and I will show you a man who is a very rare exception.

Why would a rich, powerful and handsome man pay for extra-marital sex? Aren’t there tons of women waiting to throw themselves at him for free? Yes, there are. But those women always want something: they want attention, intimacy and romance. They want to enjoy the high of sleeping with a powerful man. Escorts don’t want or care about any of those things.

The simple act of ordering up an anonymously pretty 22 year-old girl to do your bidding in the salubrious confines of a luxury hotel suite is an act of power.
'Difficult clients'
Take, for example, the CEO of an international airline who was a cocaine freak. Once a month, usually over a weekend, he would check into a suite at the Pierre, call the agency and book a dozen or so girls. He would book the girls for four hours each, staggered over the following two days. According to the girls, all he did was sit half-naked on his bed next to a mountain of cocaine, which he snorted constantly while crying about his divorce and the stress he endured at work. As the hours progressed, he would become increasingly paranoid and irrational.

I did not inquire into the fate of the girls who sort of faded away. I did not want to hear about their loneliness and poverty.

So the value of the escorts declined rapidly as they aged. Meanwhile, the value of the clients increased because they accumulated more money and more power. I could not make my peace with the power imbalance.

I had a really hard time dealing with the dawning understanding that the very men I’d been taught to value — my peers, as it were — were pretty atavistic types. They seemed to prefer whores in the bedroom and ladies in the salon.
Elliott Spitzer's wife
The mask of hypocritical social propriety has been ripped off. Her female friends are all looking at their husbands, knowing that they dodged a bullet. And Mrs. Spitzer must figure out how to maintain her dignity in the face of mainstream America’s hypocritical opprobrium.
Does anyone really think 'that doesn't happen in the UK'? Are these rich men the ones that Harriet Harman has in her sights or just kerb-crawlers?

Her crusade, and it is a crusade, will also inadvertently recriminalise some gay men, which won't be lost on some police. Something Ms. Harman doesn't give a shit about — somewhat of a tradition with some feminists.

As a former HIV prevention frontline worker, I know as well that crusades just drives human activity like prostitution further away from services like needle exchange and sexual health. Again, Harman doesn't seem to give a stuff.

Prostitution is never going to disappear. It should be legalised and regulated. The best way to challenge that 'power imbalance'.

Wow, just ... Wow

This is a '360-degree interactive spherical video' or immersive video— just click on it and you can move around as it plays.

More about who made this.

Here's another one. Try pointing at the sky and imagine you're lying on the back of a truck (I did this once through Sydney, was fun).

An immersive video is basically a video recording of a real world scene, where the view in every direction is recorded at the same time. During playback the viewer has control of the viewing direction, up down & sideways. Generally the only area that can't be viewed is the view toward the camera support. The material is recorded as data which when played back through a software player allows the user control of the viewing direction and playback speed. The player control is typically via a mouse or other sensing device and the playback view is typically 4:3 window on a computer display or projection screen or other presentation device such as a head mounted display.

Blind New Yorker making history

Worth recording that with the demise of Elliot Spitzer, 'client #9' of a rich man's brothel, New York State now has the first blind Govenor in the US.

David Paterson is also the first black Governor of New York.

He is the most senior blind politician in the world, after the demise of David Blunkett (Gordon Brown is blind in one eye).

An infection during infancy left him with no sight in his left eye and severely limited vision in his right. He has optic atrophy.

He is the son of Basil Paterson, who was the first African American Deputy Mayor of New York City.

Wednesday 12 March 2008

Skitting all over Ahmadinejad

Really funny Saturday Night Live skit from last October - with Jake Gyllenhaal, Adam Levine from Marron 5 and Andy Samberg!

Save Madhi Kazemi

A web site has been set up for the campaign here -

Please circulate this if you can.

Donations are urgently required to support Madhi's legal case.
Support via money 360 vouchers available online or at any pay point outlet.

Also O2 credit vouchers are required as we are going though loads at the minute as you can imagine.

Convenient right-wing language

Checking some blog reactions to the Mehdi Kazemi case I've seen a few right-wing bloggers making the usual arguments about 'not imposing our culture', 'he claims to be gay', 'the floodgates will open' and asking Jacqui Smith to 'stand firm'.

Here's what I told one of them:
  1. It’s not a ‘claim’ to be gay - that’s your convenient belief.
  2. “Deporting Mehdi Kazemi back to Iran” - you forget to add “to his death”.

    You guys always forget the last bit, knowingly back to his death. I wish you would actually say this instead of this pretend language.

    Say it. Stop talking ‘uphold the law’ bollocks and say it. ‘ We must be prepared to be tough and send people knowingly back to be hanged’.

    Are you a real Tory or what?
It interests me that they usually preface these opinions with a 'sorry but ...' then somehow forget to name what they're actually asking for. How convenient for their conscience.