Now posts ↓

Sunday 31 August 2008

Music: James Brown & Pavarotti

Doing It's a man's world.

It works!

HT: The Observer - The 50 greatest arts videos on YouTube

The West Wing analogy still holds

The West Wing 2006 Presidential election remains eerily comparable to the 2008 one, albeit with a slight kink.

Matt Santos = Obama
Leo McGarry = Joe Biden
Arnold Vinick = John McCain

Vinick wanted to pick Reverand Don Butler to shore up the anti-abortion GOP base but went instead for Gov. Ray Sullivan, as an 'attack dog'. Unlike Vinick Sullivan was 'pro-life' like Butler but less nutty.

After Vinick's loss, Sullivan was seen as the frontrunner for the next nomination.

Mudflats is an Alaskan blog which has all the background on evangelical right-wing hypocrite from nowhere Sarah Palin. Literally, here's the main street of the nowhere town she was mayor of eighteen months ago:-

In particular Mudflats details the "trashy novel" corruption inquiry she's at the centre of involving her sister's police husband, messy divorce and hubbie standing in for Palin to pressure for the set-up and firing of said police husband.

Jane Smiley in HuffPost outlines questions to ask Palin in a post titled "make her whine":
What is her religion and who is her pastor? Is she a Christian Dominionist and how does she feel about the separation of church and state? How does she square her roles as mother and politican? Who is taking care of the kids while she is away, including the baby?

Do the disabled children of rich people get special treatments that their parents can afford, while the disabled children of poor people get nothing? Who is the boss in her family? If it's her, then I want to know how that squares with Christian notions of patriarchy. If it's the husband, then I want to know his values and beliefs.

If she's a family values right winger, I would expect her to back those values up by breastfeeding for six months to a year, at least. If she's not breastfeeding, frankly, and she doesn't believe in birth control, then she's a hypocrite. She has to run as a right wing family values soccer mom or she has to run as a woman who has gained freedoms through the efforts of other women. She can't do both.

Is she really a gun-toting moose-killer, or is this a pose? What are her ties to the oil and gas industries -- and I don't mean her beliefs. I want to know who paid her and when and how much. She says she doesn't know what the vice president does, so I want to know what she thinks about Dick Cheney and the unitary executive. I want to know if she understands the Constitution and what the limits of the executive branch are. I want to know if she's ever been abroad, if she has ever written anything about the Iraq war, or if she's just a follower with a pretty smile, who goes along with the big boys in order to get a little something for herself.
Here's something which gets zero MSM play: Vietnam Veterans Against John McCain. As will this, concerning Palin's hypocrisy. Though this, potentially worse and completely OTT, is bound to whizz around the interwebs (already has 2300 diggs).

But here's something which also gets little play. The electoral vote (not the same as the headline polls or the actual vote, as many found out in 2000) has been for Obama for months - I just added the widget.

Click for

These numbers are why McCain has done something this desperate. He's losing.

Friday 29 August 2008

Obama has two daddies

Obama speech sets internet on fire

That was a great speech. Even Pat Buchanan loved it.
“It was a genuinely outstanding speech. It was magnificent. It is the finest – and I saw Cuomo’s speech, I saw Kennedy in ‘80, I even saw Douglas MacArthur, I saw Martin Luther King – this is the greatest convention speech, and probably the most important because unlike Cuomo and the others this is an acceptance speech. This came out of the heart of America and he went right at the heart of America…”
Andrew Sullivan:
"What he didn't do was give an airy, abstract, dreamy confection of rhetoric. If the Rove Republicans thought they were playing with a patsy, they just got a reality check."
Wired followed the online reaction:
More than 6,500 tweets on the subject poured in in about 20 minutes Thursday evening.

"Obama nailed it tonight for me," writes swhitley, "I may not agree with all of his policies, but I think his message of hope for our country means more."
See more online reaction on Memeorandum.

Danny Finkelstein has a good pundit summary.

Thursday 28 August 2008

Zim: unresolved

The all-powerful Joint Operations Command (JOC), comprising military and secret service chiefs, which advises Mugabe on national issues, has taken the hard-line stance that Mugabe should abandon the talks and form a Zanu-PF government, possibly with some ministers drawn from Arthur Mutambara's smaller MDC faction.
"JOC has always been against the talks which could result in Tsvangirai getting some executive powers. Remember, JOC is made up of military commanders who have in the past made it public that they will not allow Tsvangirai to be the leader of the country," one source said.

Tsvangirai has rejected a power-sharing deal in which he would become prime minister and Mugabe remain president, as he says it gives him no real executive powers.

Mbeki's strategy is falling apart. Good.


Democrat convention, all the speeches are here.

The Grauniad also had a great take on the rather historic blogger presence in Denver.

I have got teary several times this week, from some of these speeches (guess which) and from Matthew Mitcham.

I've also been ring-a-ting-tinging with a gay-0-gasp BUSH supporter ... (beyond parody)

This queen inspired me to transpire transcribe something huffpost did a while back which was to list all the stuff Bush has done in single words and put it on a poster and a t-shirt. Here [events list] t'is:
Abu Gharib, Halliburton, climate change, Blackwater, executive power, body armor, Katrina, Guantanamo, green zone, waterboarding, duct tape, the surge, undisclosed location, Fallujah, military tribunals, no-bid contracts, Kellogg, Brown & Root, triple canopy, vote caging, Kyoto, threat level orange, faith-based initiatives, recount, redeployment, 5 million missing emails, preemptive war, warrantless wiretapping, Tora Bora, quail hunting, fired US attorneys, secret enrgy taskforce, Pat Tillman, wide stance, clear skies, habeus corpus, mobile weapons lab, IEDs, Walter Reed, the pet goat, extended tours, signing statements, Downing Street memo, Jessica Lynch, hanging chads, rendition, patriot act, FEMA trailers, gas prices, Texas Air National Guard, Plamegate, budget deficit, plummeting dollar, rolling blackouts, recess appointments, unilateralism, Terri Shiavo, Swiftboat, aluminum tubes, war profiteering, deficit spending, Putin's soul, Carlyle Group, red states, Diebold Corp, rubber stamp Congress, yellowcake, curveball.
As I told said 'queen': there's a reason he's one of the lowest rated President's and a joke around the word - and it's not just the word mangling. D'oh!

As Kerry said at the convention and as Arianna has been underlining - there is a difference between McCain then and now, McCain the candidate is proposing to reverse roe vs wade, had voted for torture, supports tax cuts for the rich and 90% voted in favour of Bush's agenda.

Answering said queen, Obama=Muslim - here's the sole real research on the actual source

+ on 'what's good for the gays'? Obama put out PR on Del Martin's death today, opposes prop 8. which would overturn Californian marriage equality and has a hard record (I have blogged the detail) of speaking to straight audiences in red states about gay equality. McCain? Seriously. McCain?

Ayers is already something a repug billionaire is attempting to swiftboat Barry with. Unlike Kerry though, Barry's people are coming out swinging. etc. (and Jon Stewart) have already nailed this nonsense.

Barry's people not letting it lie (like the Muslim stuff, the 'not a natural born citizen' stuff etc. etc.) is going to push him over the top (we can but hope).

I have no illusions mon ding-donger, Barrack is not the messiah, he's just a politican. But the alternative?

Harriett vs Hillary

Here's a benchmark Harriett. That's the intro, here's the speech. Top that.

It's not like toff £100k holiday Cameroon should offer much of a problem? What's he done for women?

Imagine Labour ever introducing Harriet Harman, let alone any other woman, like this.

Imagine Labour ever capturing millions of women as Hillary has.

Look on Labour on YouTube and weep.

“Women hold up half the sky”

Wednesday 27 August 2008

Dems 101

US politics? Watch this twice. It's a 101

Comedy genius from Robert Klein on Olbermann. And the "if this was a parliamentary democracy, they would have been voted out a long time ago" line? HA!

Let's run with that. Here's the Cameron on his £100,000 holiday paparazzi shot, again. Because it's 'worth it'.


PUMAs meet child psychologists

Oh god y'gotta laugh.

The alternative? He might lose ;{{{{

Watching from a distance, no vote and comment actually being a big, bad thing (they don't like us Brits, shutting up might help) but stuff like global warming action, ending the war depending on it ... er, LAUGH!

The meme about the convention is 'where's the teeth?' and - absolutely - they have to get dirty, but the word I've read is they're saving it up, literally, along with all the money for ads (raised online). Stuff like Muhammed Ali will be @ Thursday's acceptance speech ....

They've learnt something from Kerry's swiftboating. McCain is full of gaffes - the 'seven kitchens' is a start on a rich vein. "Let them eat cake! Whiners!"

From 'Countdown: McCain's homes

I still think theyll' win:
  1. don't forget the base organisation for O'bama - because of the web. This was Karl Rove's real genius, turning out the base for Bush. + There's record numbers registering Dem.
  2. no guarantee the anti-choice evangelists will turn out - McCain's in a bind with them, as the vicepres choice is showing.
  3. Bush is a lead weight, Dems need to hang it on McCain, which shouldn't be difficult.
The real counterweights are:
  1. racism not showing up in polls
  2. Repubs are evil, they will do anything to retain power (Iran invasion? not just a scenario)
  3. the media are pro-McCain (aka "the maverick") - none of the gaffes are getting play
It is bound to be nail bitingly close - just as it was in the West Wing when Jimmy Smits won.

So laughing is a good option.

HT: Marbury

Postscript: What maketh 'virality'?

Matt Wardman reminded me that not all virals rely on the web.

This one from some BBC/MSM petrolhead program relied on 'old media':

2m + views. All from old media promo.

The 'response' videos' (there are 20) sent me into a haze. But it's a 'demographic'.

I clicked around a wee bit and this vid on Hammond's subject is the real deal, far more interesting than their efforts. Didn't go viral, though.

Neither did this.


Tuesday 26 August 2008

Jon's message to Republican delegates

Hitting the spot

McCain campaign spokesman Tucker Bounds angrily condemned the segment of Madonna's concert in Cardiff on Saturday that appeared to draw a comparison between McCain, Hitler and Zimbabwean strongman Robert Mugabe.

"The comparisons are outrageous, unacceptable and crudely divisive all at the same time," Bounds said in a statement reported by Fox News.

Madonna's apparent swipe at McCain came during a performance of the song "Get Stupid", when the Republican contender's image was flashed up alongside images of destruction and global warming as well as Hitler and Mugabe.

For some bizarre reason the Beeb missed all this ... funny, that ..

McCain Spokesman Taylor Griffin bitchily said, “Celebrities stick together.”

That the actual campaign feels they have to respond to, er, Madonna shows, er, something other than strength, McCain ain't Hitler (doh) but then .. this was just a pop song.

And now the ADL is weighing in ..


Monday 25 August 2008

Begging for it

David Cameron on his £100,000+ hols.

I feel a caption competition coming on.

What maketh 'virality'?

Mate Matt Ward asks if this cute Paul Daniels vid (for Tesco) will go viral.

I think not.

It's simple. You can't obviously embed it. Yes you actually can but it's an adjunct rather than a 'key selling point'. Something hidden in the final screen and the 'share this' link (which thanks to the likes of the BBC doesn't obviously mean 'embed this').

This doesn't help virality.

Nothing which can't be obviously embedded and, frankly, anything which isn't on YouTube will EVER go viral. I couldn't quickly find this vid on YouTube. What's its name?

When Paris Hilton did her number on McCain even that didn't go really viral simply because it was excised by funny or die fromYouTube.

Bad move. YouTube is pretty much all when it comes to virality.

And Brit vids need some sort of internationality locused via YouTube to go really, really viral. Sorry, this Daniel's ad is far too localised and pretty obviously an ad.

[n.b here's the actual vid BTW, in case you're mistaking it for another screencapture - natch)

Obvious ads rarely go viral + we Brits like Paul Daniels as we like Ant'n'Dec - doesn't mean anyone else will 'get' it. (This is the most viewed Paul Daniels vid, which is a bit more classy and about him being a magician).

The only Brit virals to go big around the world that spring to mind recently are the great Facebook in real life vid and the BBC's Beijing monkey - the latter being a really strong example of virality despite everything, as the Beeb doesn't police those that repost its work on YouTube.

Unruly Media, the company who produced this one for Tesco, have done some great work - they pushed the flying penguins for the Beeb from a few months ago. 3m+ views and counting.

Viral vid is somewhat under-rated as a UK new industry, check out this chart for showing how strong we are.

Matt's pick isn't the best example but building on all the cultural strengths we have (like our comic depth) we Brits have an economic, global winner here.

Provoked? That's art for you

You could cut'n'paste comments about the supposed 'fury' surrounding the split-second inclusion of Marcus Harvey's 'Myra' painting in a Visit Britain promo shown in Beijing with those received at the time by surrealists, cubism, pop-art and impressionism. Such is art.
The Salon des Refusés, French for “exhibition of rejects”, is generally an exhibition of works rejected by the jury of the official Paris Salon, but the term is most famously used to refer to the Salon des Refusés of 1863. As early as the 1830’s, Paris art galleries had mounted small-scale, private exhibitions of works rejected by the Salon jurors. The clamorous event of 1863 was actually sponsored by the French government. In that year, artists protested the Salon jury’s rejection of more than 3,000 works, far more than usual. "Wishing to let the public judge the legitimacy of these complaints," said an official notice, Emperor Napoléon III decreed that the rejected artists could exhibit their works in an annex to the regular Salon. Many critics and the public ridiculed the refusés, which included such famous paintings as Édouard Manet's Luncheon on the Grass (Le déjeuner sur l’herbe) and James McNeill Whistler's Girl in White. But the critical attention also legitimized the emerging avant-garde in painting. Encouraged by Manet, the Impressionists successfully exhibited their works outside the Salon beginning in 1874. Subsequent Salons des Refusés were mounted in Paris in 1874, 1875, and 1886, by which time the prestige and influence of the Paris Salon had waned.
"Although he's grouped together with the YBAs (Young British artists) who are well known for their shock tactics and love of publicity, Marcus couldn't be less like that. When he did the painting he felt he was making a serious art work that would provoke discussion about a difficult subject, not outrage."
From FirstPost.

Maybe once Marcus is dead it might actually 'provoke discussion'. Right now we seem to prefer ritualised stoning.
A 'senior government source' (Jowell?) told Sky News: "whoever was responsible must be found and fired immediately."
And if the irony wasn't already several layers thick:
A spokesman for Boris Johnson said the Mayor was "deeply disturbed".


Barry in Hawaii.

When Barry visited London, Cameron gave him a box of CDs including albums by the Smiths, Radiohead and Lily Allen. Er, this is not Obama's taste. (Head. Hands ... )

Interesting ... The BBC's crap US election coverage last week had Hillary Clinton atop its list of possible 'Obama running mates'. Now it's flipped to Joe Biden atop and Hillary a-bottom.


As you may have noticed I'm a bit interested in the US election. So the coming week in Denver at the Democrat national convention has especially drawn my interest, in particular what Hillary and her fans will do. Maureen Dowd thinks she'll shit stir and I think she may be right - given that she's yet to slap down her more rabid supporters, aka PUMAs ('party unity, my ass'), and despite them being very few in number and turning into a Roveite Republican black-op.

The reason she lost has been analysed and the internal memos leaked: it was an incredibly badly run campaign.

Dowd's killer quote:
“A woman who wildly mismanages and bankrupts a quarter-of-a-billion-dollar campaign operation, and then blames sexism in society, will dampen the dreams of our daughters.”
Biden has a mouth on him. See Huffpost's video highlights.

According to this article in Africa Confidential, most of the Mugabe regime's ill-gotten gains are being ferreted out of Zimbabwe via UK and South African banks, ending up in either Malaysia or China.
It is this outflow of capital that is more than anything else destroying Zimbabwe's economy. Zimbabwe's capital exporters have intensified their operations as political and economic conditions have deteriorated, promoting a cycle of decline.
Regarding the talks, Zimbabweans have just 'a small measure of weariness and a massive dose of wariness'

Meanwhile, Mugabe's supporters latest tactic is poisoning.

In Haiti people are eating mud cakes.

Israeli civic organisation B'tselem has been giving out camcorders to people in the West Bank to record attacks by settlers and the IDF. Says more than a thousand words and some have already had play on Israeli TV with subsequent slaps on the wrist to soldiers shooting people in the foot and the like.

Here's one. 'Settlers attack shepherds in Southern Hebron Hills'.

Salon's Glenn Greenwald has been the best source on the really odd story about the so-called anthrax attacker. This is ongoing.
UPDATE: Nature, the preeminent journal of science, has an Editorial today (headlined: "Case Not Closed") echoing Sen. Grassley's demand for "a full congressional or independent enquiry into this case"; arguing that "the absence of such a full disclosure can only feed suspicions that the FBI has again targeted an innocent man in this case";
How much public money is a gold medal worth?
In Beijing, each gold medal has cost Australia at least $50 million, says Kevin Norton, a professor of exercise science at the University of South Australia. Or, to put it another way, $12 million came out of the public purse for each medal of any colour. Now we're told these sums are a pittance compared with what is needed to maintain our ranking in London.
What is it with Liverpool? The only big UK city not to host a gay pride and, says, one councillor "homophobia is endemic". This comes in the wake of a underreported killing of a gay teen where the killers got bail.

This story perked me up. I'm out of touch with the state of HIV drugs but according to The Indie cocktails are such now that takers can expect something approaching a normal life expectancy. This isn't everyone and like many of my generation who lived through the worst I fear for the young who are seroconverting in record numbers. But this is progress.

Aw yeah. We can destroy the world and we can be funky whilst doing it!

Quote of the moment:
'It is one thing, and a good thing, to arrest the man, Karadzic,' [Fikret Alic] says. 'He was the big war criminal, the man with the idea for all that happened. But it is another thing to arrest the idea. Karadzic's ideas live on in the existence of Republika Srpska, and if this is all about joining the European Union, for the Republika Srpska to join the EU would be like Europe admitting a part of Germany that still agreed with Hitler, just because it is in Europe. I have rebuilt the house you are staying in now, but in 1992 it was burned while my grandmother was inside - she is one of the 3,205 people still missing - and I was taken to Omarska. No one has ever said sorry for what they did, no one has ever helped us to return and the authorities oppose outright any monument in Omarska to what they did.'
And on a much lighter note when asked 'How do you relax?' sez Dizee Rascal 'A blow job relaxes me'.

Scrapbook clips catch up

Chinwag looks (back?) at 'Black Hat marketing: the dark side of search':
I can’t definitely claim a connection between a willingness to embrace black hat SEO and a willingness to cut corners in other areas of business but it’s testament to the ease with which black hat rules can be applied.
Millennial Marketing and the Obama campaign:
Design guru Michael Bierut[says] that the stand-alone logo, consistent use of the Gotham typeface ("very American ... conversational and pleasant") and his online look and feel make Mr. Obama the first candidate with a "coherent, top-to-bottom, 360-degree system at work. ... There's an absolute level of control that I have trouble achieving with my corporate clients."
Another lesson from the campaign: Integrating Social Networking Tools into Political Campaigns
Profile pages, badges, buttons and even widgets are easy to build (believe me, if e.politics can have a widget, anyone can). In other words, campaigns don't have to dive right into the deep end — sometimes a dipping a toe or two into the pool of Facebook and MySpace fans will be enough.
Mail report on the world's oldest Facebooker, Ivy Bean. Alleged I'd have to say. Post media coverage she now has '4823 friends'. It's all seemingly facilitated and I can't see anything saying she's actually using the web herself. Unlike many another so-called 'silver surfer'.

Blogging’s Glass Ceiling. NYT on just why women bloggers are a distinct minority.

All about the cyber attacks which preceded the war in Georgia. More from Wired.
"Another interesting aspect is seeing how certain countries are what I call 'cyberlocked,'" cybersecurity veteran Richard Bejtlich tells Danger Room. "We know a land-locked country has no access to the sea. Countries like .ge [Georgia] might rely too heavily on one or a handful of connections, potentially through hostile countries (eg, .ru [Russia]), for their physical connectivity. As a result, an adversary can control their network access to the outside world. A diagram from the Packet Clearing House, shows Georgia's network dilemma.
Who exactly is supporting the Great Firewall of China: XSGuard Management System, who are Dutch; Cisco, American; Radware, Israeli.

Also on board are Lucent, Sun Microsystems, Nokia, Ericsson, Acsys Biometrics and Nortel Networks.

Cisco are the main offender, it seems.

Somehow missed from the who-ha headlines about the plan for refunds if your council isn't 'performing' (arf! arf!) is that the central 'new idea' from Whitehall is something called a 'Place Survey'. This will drop through your letter box and ask you to fill in a form containing no less than 174 questions!

PSF estimates that this will cost up to £50k per council. None of which is funded by Whitehall.

But neither is the cost of the concessionary bus fares scheme, which is carving huge holes in selscted council's budgets around the country.
Pressures on councils to reduce headcounts to meet efficiency targets and the shared services agenda are exacerbating a looming skills shortage of experienced staff in London local authorities, it has been claimed.
No shit Sherlock. This is according to "a report to Capital Ambition, London's regional Improvement and Efficiency Partnership body, disclosed in minutes of a meeting of its Programme Board", and reported by PSF. This comes as a poll from local government IT supplier Civica showed that the majority of council managers surveyed say their local authority lacks the necessary in-house skills for transformation programmes and that 'transformation' is actually leading to a workforce skewed to the over 50s and a 'talent drought'.

If 'transformation' is to a big extent about the web and 'online services', which it is, then some 'talent' injected from the real world and released from the usual strictures is needed.

How to get them? Neither Hazel, Tom or the opposition have the vaguest clue ...

The Electoral Commission can be added to the list of those concerned about the use of electronic counting systems in the London Mayoral count.

Very cool rip on gmaps from XKCD

Coming to a ditzy red-top near you soon? 'Binaural beats' aka 'digital drugs'. Despite being actually 169 years old.

Very bizarre first 'interactive' YouTube video, from Mexico.

Here's another tool to add to those silly wordmaps of your blog and undoubtedly others, this one 'maps' Twitter.

And another expansion on Google Trends, which I likee.

Wired carried a great analysis of Twitter's, um' 'business model' ...

Cuil? I think not.

This made me laugh out laugh when it popped in my inbox.

The Association of Online Publishers (AOP)'s 'Digital Publishing Summit's keynote is to be delivered by (drum roll) ... Trinity Mirror CEO, Sly Bailey:
on the expanding role of digital publishing, and the future of local news. Sly runs a portfolio of more than 350 local and national brands - can you afford to miss this rare appearance from the former IPC Media CEO, who led the sale of the magazine group to AOL Time Warner?
And also the loss of circa £35m @ IPC in one of the biggest f*ups during the f*up heavy dotcom crash and whose failure to improve the amateur-hour Mirror Online has amused us all for many years?

I think not.

Following another business character who I love to lampoon, Michael Grade attempted to blame ITV's failure to make money online to:
"Non-UK companies like Google and Apple [who] are free to build market-dominating positions online in the UK without so much as a regulatory murmur".
Bah, humbug. has introduced a new section called 'The best of the web - digested' which, when it started at least, was dominated by The Independent and The Guardian.

More when I catch up ;]

Sunday 24 August 2008

Excessive brand protection

I was forced this week to consult the 2012 brand guidelines. Don't ask. They've created the right degree of paranoia at ground level, so I'm forced to read through pages of this nonsense for fear of their lawyers.

Reading through, it's all about protecting those Big Corps putting at least £50m in. Not one word encouraging support. And given the curtailment of government funding, 2012 is going to be thoroughly 'branded' by these Big Corps like the handover event was, with VISA everywhere.

So much for support of small business. And look out for yet more stories over the next four years of some piddling community event or even novel being sued for daring to use the word 'Olympics'.

Tucked away in those 2012 brand guidelines (and this is the ones for 'non-commercial' use!) is the following hilarity, something I'd thought ditched long ago due to its plain ridiculousness:
"Linking to the London 2012 website
If you wish to link to our website, you can do so using our special 'link to us' buttons."
Just to repeat (sigh, I'm having flashbacks), no you don't need anyone's permission to link.

And those buttons themselves? Terrible. No logo whatsoever. And surrounded by stifling legalese, which is as far away from true net marketing as you can get.

It is precisely at this micro-level where 2012 fails online. According to them, it's all about poor schmucks taking some shine from them rather than adding your support or encouragement. That's the basis on which they engage. Add to this their blogs which aren't part of the blogosphere, the ongoing accessibility fiasco and - online - 2012 seems tokenistic and way over controlled.

Not 'webbie' IOW. But maybe that's their aim.

It's all about 'protecting the brand' rather than encouraging engagement and - frankly - gives more than a wiff of 2012 being all about Big Corps and control and not about the sort of democratic engagement which the ideals claim.

Surprising? No. One of the stifled stories of the Beijing Games is how Nike, a £50m investor, has set the Chinese 'security' hounds on some poor f**k who dared to post about one of their 'investments':
An anonymous internet user, claiming to be close to Nike, had written a web post in which they suggested Nike had forced Liu [the great Chinese athletic hope] to pull out because he wasn't going to win, and that would compromise the firm's investment in him. Your basic internet conspiracy, but the corporation's response was as swift as it was staggering. They announced: "We have immediately asked relevant government departments to investigate those that started the rumour."
This is how Big Corps behave. Plus can you imagine them asking exactly the same of UK 'government departments' - and getting what they want? I can.

And that logo in the top right of this post? So sue me. I've read the guidelines. I think it says I'm allowed. But even if it didn't. How very dare you!

Both Gordon and the Olympics fail disabled web users

HT: Ian Cuddy.

Downing Street's move towards a more 2.0 version of its website has left behind part of its audience - disabled web users.

More4 News hired Ability Net to run tests and it appears that little attempt has been made to cater for this slice of the electorate, it was obviously not part of the site-build plan otherwise at least something would be there in the new site.

More4 says they were told that "they actually spent more on researching that [accessibility] than building the site". Er, apparently not. But other errors are truly basic usability mistakes.

Says Ability Net:
  • Some links open in a new window with no warning which can confuse the inexperienced user or those with a cognitive difficulty.
  • The No. 10 TV page includes multiple videos, none of which have text transcripts or captions (subtitles) for the hearing impaired. Moreover, they aren't able to be used from the keyboard (In internet Explorer at least) which is a major flaw for those unable to use a mouse.
  • The site is almost unusable for those with a vision impairment when text is set to the 'Largest' setting (in Internet Explorer) - with text in both the navigation and page content becoming overlapped and difficult to read.
  • No pages checked had valid HTML code which can cause problems with a range of access technologies - such as screen readers (used by blind visitors) and voice recognition software.
  • A 'skip to content' link is available, but as it is permanently hidden, keyboard users are not aware it is there and hence still end up pressing the Tab key numerous times to get through the navigation to select a link in the main part of the page.
  • The virtual tour of No. 10 is an embedded interactive 'Flash movie' which has not been coded correctly. With unlabelled buttons, and minimal descriptions of what is being viewed, blind users have no access to this feature.
Very galling for other egov workers when the government has threatened to remove domains from sites which fail basic accessibility checks.

Here's Ben Cohen's report:

Ability Net has also found the Beijing Olympics website lacking. Recommended reading for explaining exactly what the frustrations are for end users.

I wonder if they'll (both of them) be sued?

Gold, out, gay

Here's the whole thing, all the dives and the ceremony and the moment he rushes the crowd as he spots his partner.

This is a first. The first time an out gay man has won an Olympic gold medal.

The man is Matthew Mitcham and he's an Australian diver.

He is the first person to come out before the games, be supported by the local Olympic committee and go on to win gold.

A role model.

A few weeks ago I watched as the British army said they would defend and support gay soldiers. It was hard to take it all in. The amount of change within my lifetime has been astonishing but the fact that Mitcham is a first (and that in 85 competing nations his fellow gay atheletes would be criminals) shows how far we've yet to go.

Some more video of his astonishing ability:

Friday 15 August 2008

An anthropological introduction to YouTube

Library of Congress presentation. Jul 29th, 2008 by Prof Mike Wesch.

Really, really good.

Send Mugabe a Red card

Reading this? Hate Mugabe?

Click and do something.

The organisers of a march on the SADC conference this weekend in South Africa (which Tsvangirai was blocked from attending) have appealed to Avaaz for international support, and will carry signs at the march representing the "red cards" sent by Avaaz members.

So join and send a red card.
We, the undersigned, issue a red card for Mugabe — and urge Southern African leaders not to recognise Mugabe as President; to acknowledge that the Mbeki-brokered talks have failed — and to urgently devise a new negotiating process to bring a just and democratic resolution to Zimbabwe’s crisis.
Don't just read this! Click and do something! It all helps!

Notes on a Dirty Island

Bill posing with Wombles

Notes on a Dirty Island was a really good Panorama fronted by Bill Bryson about litter.

Yeah, I can't link to a persistent video and - of course - I can't embed.

[Shakes fist] C'mon BBC!

You will find it on iplayer and a google video search, but not for long. Otherwise, here's the sole YouTube clip.

In an otherwise excellent report there was one aspect very noticeable by its absence - the responsibility of business. The sole aspect which covered this was about bottles and cans and how a deposit scheme is opposed by industry because it's "not profitable". And seeing someone like Joan Ruddock parroting this industry line summed up nu labor's creepiness like nothing else.

The issue isn't just lazy, chavvy Brits. It's also the producers of products taking some - any - responsibility for what happens after they're sold. Think rubbish around fast-food outlets and you can see the area Bill chose to ignore.

This was the only thing which marred an otherwise excellent. rare raising of this usually ignored agenda.

BBC US election coverage - and another thing ...

The BBC's US Election correspondent Justin Webb's blog tells you all you need to know about the framing of the BBC's election coverage.

Practically every link is to the MSM (or the MSM's blogs). There aren't even links to sites like politico or Ben Smith or Matthew Iglesias or even Huffpost or others who you'll see driving the real news agenda through one glance at Memeorandum.

The news agenda in this election is web-driven in a way which Webb is clearly out of touch with.

Just a glance at the BBC's current headlines shows nothing but spin, which reflects MSM's angle.

US election takes a negative turn
attempts to claim that the Obama campaign is just like the McCain campaign. It's not. McCain went negative and largely because he had no alternative. But this piece doesn't explain why McCain went negative.

Candidates' possible running mates

has Hillary at the top. Why? UK name recognition? No other reason I think. She has been long written out as a possibility in serious political coverage. Next is John Edwards, is this a joke? Bill Richardson? Whoever wrote this should be fired.

Michelle: Barack's bitter or better half?
this says that:
She weathered a storm of criticism following a comment she made about her husband's candidacy, saying that "for the first time in my adult lifetime, I'm really proud of my country, and not just because Barack has done well, but because I think people are hungry for change".
Noticably, this was by Molly Levinson rather than Mr Bouffant Webb and she nailed this 'criticism ' to 'conservatives' and Fox. It's not brilliant but it's a darn sight better than Mr Webb. Give her his job.

My take? The Beeb's top correspondents are far too 'beltway' and consequently the whole operation is selling us, the license-paying UK public, a lemon in US election coverage. It often appears to a casual observer like me that they could just slob around with a family pack of Doritos and get their their leads from watching cable news and then feed that back to us. 'Job done'.

That is not journalism. That's lazy. Maybe the problem is further up the food chain in WhiteCity but, really, the final nail in any damnation of their election analysis is, again, shown up by Memeorandum - find me one blog post by Webb which any US political blogger has commented on. In terms of fresh thinking, he - and so goes the mighty BBC - are nowhere.

Thursday 14 August 2008

Another UK blogger censored

Sensing a theme?

Matt Wardman has alerted me to the story of Phil Groom, who is yet another blogger being censored for free speech in the UK (where's that Bill of Rights?)

Phil used to work for the SPCK chain of Christian bookshops, which is owned by people not some benevolent, holy authority, and they appear to be behaving as many 'owners' do - i.e. like pigs towards the staff.
The Brewers then started screwing people’s contracts around, trying to impose new terms of employment that didn’t comply with UK employment law. They also started to narrow down the range of stock and stopped paying their suppliers.
Phil has been blogging about this and, like with Arsenal's suitor, The Brewers then started throwing the legal letters around.

Always a giveaway when there's something to hide.
Dave Walker and myself had each been independently reporting on the story on our websites and this year I set up a separate, dedicated blog to allow for more focused reporting and discussions. Unfortunately the Brewers didn’t like people talking about the way they were running things etc so they decided to try and nail us down by sending out ‘Cease and Desist’ (C&D) messages threatening legal action if we didn’t take down our websites.
Now there's a very obvious irony in me defending Christian bookshop workers right to whinge but ... what's that Voltaire line again? (Or was it actually Evelyn Beatrice Hall).

China and smog

Here's Manchester's Oxford Road in 1910

Pierre Adolphe Valet
'Oxford Road, Manchester'
Manchester Art Gallery

Here's Linfen, China: 'the most polluted place on earth'.

Embedding: another reason

The Guardian carried an interesting story earlier today about Channel Four News' Alex Thompson's interrogation of an IOC spokesperson at a Beijing press conference. Thompson is a very impressive journalist and his subsequent report is far better and more illustrative of the context than the Guardian's edit.

Here is his report.

I can show you what I'm talking about and, maybe, help this go viral and therefore aid Channel Four News, because they have turned on embedding in their Brightcove subscription. Unlike The Guardian's Brightcove subscription. They urge you, as does the BBC, to 'link to this video'. C4 News do this despite the C4 News video carrying no advertising.

Presumably The Guardian's business model is that they repay the investment with pageviews and ads, their reported deal suggests this. C4 I would imagine make business assumptions around building brand (their quality journalism), loyalty and a future where they can deliver advertising via embeds. Infact the C4 wide Brightcove deal, focussed on monetisation, strongly suggests branding is all for news.

Although the Guardian has retained #1 online UK newspaper site (where I think its long term and early investment is paying off because they've built more experience), I can't help thinking that not switching on embedding doesn't help, long term. Apart from Brightcove, other providers could provide in-video advertising, therefore losing you no revenue. They have a very strong, very granulated video library now which could be achingly viral. I can't imagine it's getting the views it deserves.

Wednesday 13 August 2008

The Condoms Of Champions

A Chinese rubber maker called Elasun 'feels the spirit':

Great idea, but good for the gays?

Big org goes guerilla

At # 7 in my 'ten point plan' is cheaper usability methods. This means so-called guerilla usability, as championed by Jakob et al — and resisted by the 'experts'.

Just to elaborate, this doesn't mean the expert have no role, Shit, no. Just that we (egov) can't always afford them. So applying 'usability' in practice has to mean systematic engagement with audience and specific engagement with experts rather than handing over everyrthing to experts. And the only way to do that is to use guerrilla methods. My (debated at length) bone with Nomensa.

So let's just say I was 'most pleased' to read that my favourite 'internet radio station' used self-described 'guerilla' methods to interrogate their new designs. did it. Worth shitloads to US MSM did this. Guerilla HCI is mainstream, proven methodology.
Grabbing a seat at the nearest café with wifi, I arranged to meet a few people in the area (long-time users who’ve been with us for years; new users still discovering what we do; friends and relatives; random people off the street; anyone with a spare twenty minutes, really) to show them and watch them having a play with it. Loose, informal user testing — or, to use its technical term, ‘chatting to and watching people try out our new ideas over some free coffee and cake’ — is fascinating, great fun to do, and, combined with our other feedback-recording methods, as I believe Mr. Matthew Ogle, Esq. will discuss, reveals fantastically rich layers of information that really help us improve the experience.
Doh! Yeah, this has 'value'. Doh! Yeah, you need basic people skills to conduct. Doh! Yeah, it yields "fantastically rich layers of information". Doh! Yeah, it's not as easy as it looks but you can learn how to do it. Basically, PEOPLE engagement is the key. Geeks locked away from audience ain't good. Guerrilla usability is but one tool to get over the barriers, force people to truly engage, and break the cycle. It's all good. It'd not complicated and doesn't require complication.

And this has no relevance to egov?

Tuesday 12 August 2008

Transference in egov

Here's one tale you'd have a hard time novelising, but it's true.

Top government mandarins are paying £480 to be lectured, amongst other things on poker strategies by someone called Caspar Berry, who used to work alongside Ant & Dec. PSF has the story.

Last week (or, possibly the week before) leading Departmental representatives were asked to attend a 'special one-day conference' on 'transformation, innovation and delivery' chaired by David Bell, DCSF Permanent Secretary and 'designed primarily for senior civil servants and equivalent levels across the public sector.'

As a recipient of the missive put it:

'… at a bargain price of £480 senior staff can pay to hear their Ministers and colleagues speak about what they’d like to see their Department doing; listen to examples of how this has been done and also apply professional poker strategies to their work.'

There's form on this gravytrain. Emma Mulqueeny didn't exactly rave about him in May.

The agenda for this session introduces Poker Master Berry thus:
'A dawn of new professionalism needs to emerge where sufficient incentives are in place to ensure appropriate levels of risk are taking place across the public sector. In this session, leading poker player Caspar Berry will illustrate how the public sector can become less risk averse. In particular, how do we manage risk in a sensible and proportionate way by bringing about a change in approach to risk? How do we reduce the cost of risk management and do more with less?'
Berry describes himself as:
A highly distinctive speaker within the corporate world with a unique and challenging message that forces people to question many of the things they took for granted.
Why they're not going to the source and hiring gurus/'motivational speakers' from either India or California I don't know ...

By the by, here's an interesting quote from Rob Preece's book 'The noble imperfection', that warns about the naiveté amongst Westerners as to the nature of the guru/devotee relationship:
When we transfer an inner quality onto another person, we may be giving that person a power over us as a consequence of the projection, carrying the potential for great insight and inspiration, but also the potential for great danger. In giving this power over to someone else they have a certain hold and influence over us it is hard to resist, while we become enthralled or spellbound by the power of the archetype.
Now I know I've mentioned breaking down egov's walled garden and inviting 'industry' expertise ... this wasn't exactly what I meant ... Jakob Nielsen would be a tad more apt.

Monday 11 August 2008

Gay rap

Yeah? S'exists.


Eminem, filtered.

a/screeching funny.
b/ geez. catchy like f***k.
Much better than my namesake from some band called Ryes.

"He will make Cheney look like Ghandi"

This is the most powerful anti-McCain viral I've yet seen. I hope it really builds an audience.

Titled 'Republicans and military men on John McCain' it's produced by Aaron Hodgins Davis. Help the virality by digging it here.
SCOTT RITTER: The Bush Administration has built a new generation of nuclear weapons that we call "usable" nukes. [TEXT: Cochran statement.] And they have a nuclear, you know, posture now which permits the pre-emptive use of nuclear weapons in a non-nuclear environment if the Commander-in-Chief deems US forces to be at significant risk.

If we start bombing Iran, I'm telling you right now it's not gonna work

McCAIN: Bomb Iran? Heh-heh. [singing, to tune of Beach Boys' "Barbara Ann"] Bomb, bomb, bomb, anyway, heh-heh.

RITTER: My concern is that we will use nuclear weapons to break the backbone of Iranian resistance, and it may not work. But what it will do is this: it will unleash the nuclear genie. So to all those Americans out there tonight who say, "You know what? Taking on Iran's a good thing,"

McCAIN: My friends, I know how to handle the Iranians, and I'll handle them.

RITTER: And if we use nuclear weapons, the genie ain't going back in the bottle until an American city is taken out by an Islamic weapon in retaliation. So tell me, you want to go to war with Iran: Pick your city. Pick your city. Tell me which one you want gone. Seattle? LA? Boston? New York, Miami? Pick one! Because at least one's going.

And that's something we should all think about before we march down this path of insanity [repeating "insanity" as pictures flash on screen.]

We [may] use nuclear weapons to brake the backbone of Iranian resistance and it may not work, but what it will do is this: it will unleash the nuclear genie, and so for all those Americans out there that say taking on Iran is a good thing…if we take on Iran we’re going to use nuclear weapons, and if we use nuclear weapons the genie ain’t going back in the bottle until an American city is taken out by an Islamic weapon in retaliation, so…pick your city!”


'W' trailer. "Who do you think you are, a Kennedy?"

Sunday 10 August 2008

Scrapbook clips catch up

Make your own at

lastfm has a new design which I'm slowly getting used to. It appears to have a couple - that's all - new features, but they're useful. Techcrunch thinks it's buggy. The Times nails the business model, which is rather good, boasting the "'smartest' ads on the web".
An example of the new "smart" adverts displays an image of a mobile phone handset which changes according to what the user is doing. For instance, if someone is listening to Bon Jovi, the phone would appear to start playing a Bon Jovi track, showing off its MP3 player.

Hotel chains will be able to tap into a user's list of favourite artists and display adverts for hotels in cities where those artists have upcoming gigs. Train companies, similarly, will be able to advertise services running to other music-based events that may be of interest to the user.
iphonic madness? Behold: "I Am Rich," a $999.99 app from Armin Heinrich, which just displays a red gem on the phone's screen — nothing else.

directgov is soon to launch a tellmeonce tool, which has some designs leaking out here. PSF has the story noting that it's the much-anticipated 'Citizens Account'.
Here we see the Citizen's Account is split into two sections, the first showing an inbox of messages from government departments, and a second listing the user's relationships with given individuals.

A further page shows how the user manages these relationships. An explanatory states: 'Please note that most relationships need to be created by having a face-to-face interview with an officer at the Department for Work and Pensions'.
North East Connects, a consortium of local councils, has raised urgent and serious concerns about councils' readiness for NI 14 (measuring avoidable contact). It says:
Avoidable contact' figure which councils need to report to CLG [Whitehall], and which will be published nationally, is 'relatively meaningless', despite it underpinning one of the Government's two key progress measures for service transformation.
When parliament wanted "improved design and navigation" and "simpler presentation" of bills and a "greatly improved" search engine it cost £3,644,000. But to show us our MPs speaking in the house cost virtually nothing, because MySociety volunteers did it. Sheesh.

The Tiananmen Massacre Map (PDF)

Smart of China to parade an earthquake victim in the opening ceremony. In Schezuan, parents whose kids died in collapsed, shoddily built government schools (where schools for kids of officials didn't collape) are being repressed from protesting.

Yu Tingyun, left, lost his daughter, Yang, in the May earthquake in southwest China, and Huang Lianfen, right, lost a nephew. Ms. Huang holds an agreement that Chinese officials want parents to sign, saying they will not hold protests about collapsed schools.'s latest campaign is the Olympic Handshake.
The handshake began with the Dalai Lama, passing through the streets of London, now it's gone online where all of us can join in -- help the handshake travel toward Beijing, where our message will be delivered through a big Olympic media campaign before the closing ceremonies. Join the handshake, and see yourself and others as it goes around the globe! has a set of stunning exhibits. Here's one, a kinetic sculpture, which seems terribly early 80s to me ...

Anyone using a filter, created by US technology company SonicWall, which gives employers the option to block access to websites simply because they “promote or cater to gay and lesbian lifestyles” could be breaking the law. Here's one UK school using them.
SonicWall’s Anna Wright declined to say if the company would warn its UK customers they could be unwittingly breaking the law by using the gay-blocking setting.
Wired's great take on those photoshopped Iranian missiles.

Matthew Inman's great take on the 'state of the web, summer 2008'.

Quote of the week:
"These brainstorming meetings at Guantanamo produced animated discussion," writes Sands. "'Who has the glassy eyes?" Beaver asked herself as she surveyed the men around the room, thirty or more of them. She was invariably the only woman in the room, keeping control of the boys. The younger men would get excited, agitated, even: "You could almost see their dicks getting hard as they got new ideas" [reported Beaver]. A wan smile crossed Beaver's face: "And I said to myself, you know what, I don't have a dick to get hard, I can stay detached."' [Sands, p 63]
From Naomi Wolf, Sex Crimes in the White House.