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Suw Charman-Anderson

Suw Charman-Anderson

Suw Charman-Anderson is a social software consultant and writer who specialises in the use of blogs and wikis behind the firewall. With a background in journalism, publishing and web design, Suw is now one of the UK’s best known bloggers, frequently speaking at conferences and seminars.

Her personal blog is Chocolate and Vodka, and yes, she’s married to Kevin.

Email Suw

Kevin Anderson

Kevin Anderson

Kevin Anderson is a freelance journalist and digital strategist with more than a decade of experience with the BBC and the Guardian. He has been a digital journalist since 1996 with experience in radio, television, print and the web. As a journalist, he uses blogs, social networks, Web 2.0 tools and mobile technology to break news, to engage with audiences and tell the story behind the headlines in multiple media and on multiple platforms.

From 2009-2010, he was the digital research editor at The Guardian where he focused on evaluating and adapting digital innovations to support The Guardian’s world-class journalism. He joined The Guardian in September 2006 as their first blogs editor after 8 years with the BBC working across the web, television and radio. He joined the BBC in 1998 to become their first online journalist outside of the UK, working as the Washington correspondent for

And, yes, he’s married to Suw.

E-mail Kevin.

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Tuesday, June 2nd, 2009

Congratulations to a friend: Bill McKenna

Posted by Kevin Anderson

I just found via Twitter (of course) that a friend and former colleague at the BBC, Bill McKenna, has won White House News Photographers Association ‘Editor of the Year’ award. Bill is more of an artist than an editor, and it’s great to see his skills recognised like this. Watch this piece and you’ll get just a small sense of what an incredible video editor can do. His ability to tell a story in pictures is amazing, and he also breaks the mold of television news editing. Most of the time, news video is simply a disjointed collage of pieces to camera, a couple of poorly framed shots and agency footage. He uses pictures to make you stop and pay attention to something that might otherwise have passed too quickly.
Bill is also a musician, and it shows not only in the way that he uses music in his editing, how he starts, stops and slows the action to the beat of the soundtrack he’s chosen but also how he uses music to bring an emotion to news video that usually isn’t there. He works with the excellent camera men and women at the BBC bureau in Washington and creates stunning pieces that are a joy to watch. He spends hour after hour in the edit suites producing these pieces. I’ll let Bill and this small sample of his work speak for itself. I just wanted to say congratulations to a great friend! Bill, it’s so glad to see your talent and dedication recognised.

Monday, November 17th, 2008

Disrupt or be disrupted

Posted by Kevin Anderson

more about “ Why do people listen to Michael Ros…“, posted with vodpod

Andy Dickinson has a post asking the question: Why do people listen to Michael Rosenblum? Andy thinks that Michael is worth listening to but that his approach doesn’t “work across the board”. At conferences, many in the room may be hearing Michael’s message for the first time, but Andy says:

As suprising as it may be to them, there are people in their organisations who are as knowledgable and passionate about video as he is. They may have more experience of the particular problems in their company and more direct suggestions to help solve them.

They may not give as good a show but they may give as good advice.

Suw sees the same thing in business. She is often called in as a consultant by people who agree with her, often passionately, but don’t have the political capital in their organisation to shake it from its inertia. They need a comrade in arms but have to buy one in.

Returning to Andy’s post, I think another, possibly more important question is: Why do people nod in agreement at conferences and then completely ignore Michael Rosenblum or other digital advocates, especially those in their own organisations? Frankly, Michael, Jeff Jarvis and many of us have been saying the same thing for years now. Digital technology will disrupt the business of journalism, and it presents a clear choice of either adopting and adapting the technology or watching your business crumble. However, we shouldn’t mistake the collapse of some businesses as evidence of lightning fast change. This has been a slow motion train wreck. This is the predictable outcome of the economics of disruptive digital technologies, which is why I’m mystified people continue to ignore this fact, carry on with business as usual and then feign surprise as their businesses implode.

We’ve had decades to watch the digital revolution play out. As Tom Coates wrote in debunking the attack of the snails argument:

So here’s the argument - that perhaps broadcast won’t last forever and that technology is changing faster than ever before. So fast, apparently, that it’s almost dazzlingly confusing for people.

I’m afraid I think this is certifiable bullshit. There’s nothing rapid about this transition at all. It’s been happening in the background for fifteen years. So let me rephrase it in ways that I understand. Shock revelation! A new set of technologies has started to displace older technologies and will continue to do so at a fairly slow rate over the next ten to thirty years!

Tom wrote his post two and a half years ago, and yet journalism and media organisations continue to bemoan the rapid pace of change. In fact, this change is just the logical conclusion of decades-long trends that have been clear to anyone who was actually paying attention.

In some ways, it’s understandable. If you have a wonderfully lucrative business model like television or the de facto monopolies of big metro daily newspapers in the US, the first reaction is to protect the existing business model rather than adapt to meet the challenge of digital insurgents. It’s a perfectly reasonable response.

In other ways, it’s a complete failure of management replicated almost identically across several sectors of the media industry. Newspapers have been suffering declining readership for decades. Television has been facing fragmenting audiences for years under the threat of cable and satellite. This is the failure of vision by media management: They have focused on digital consumption patterns without adopting digital production methods and undercutting their own costs. And as the erosion of audience has accelerated, they have mainly cut costs by cutting staff instead of by adopting digital production and distribution technology.

At this late hour for many media companies the critical question is, when are you going to stop nodding your heads at conferences and get on with it? Not many of us in media will be able to go hat in hand like Northern Rock or General Motors and ask for billions to bail us out. I think that Mindy McAdams raises an important issue in the comments on Andy’s post:

News organizations seem particularly susceptible to “a prophet is without honor in his own land” — people inside the organization who spread Michael’s same message might be completely ignored, but management will hire Michael to come in and do his excellent presentation, and THEN they will ooo and ahh about it, acting as if it is brand-new.

A few things to realise in the age of digital disruption:

  1. Higher costs of production do not necessarily result in higher quality of products.
  2. Quality and brand do not equal media success.
  3. Broadcast=wedding. Anytime you put broadcast near technology in the same sentence, it’s like saying you want something for a wedding. Just triple the cost.
  4. Disrupt or be disrupted. Actively look for ways to disrupt your own business model with digital technologies before someone else does.

Wednesday, January 30th, 2008

Vlogging killed the blogging star

Posted by Kevin Anderson

Actually, I think that wedding planning is killing my blogging, but for the last couple of weeks, vlogging has also cut into my spare blogging time both at home and at the day job. The Guardian has just started a vlogging project with Current TV. It’s been fun, if not a little challenging.

I sit in front of a webcam at work, or sometimes at home, and talk about something for a minute. It’s harder than you think. The first thing is to fight off the feeling that you’re making a complete tit of yourself talking at your computer, especially in an open plan office. Also, no matter how silly and excitable I think I sound, actually, I’m finding my delivery a little flat. It’s a fine balance between being conversational, which I want, and sounding too much like a broadcaster, which I don’t want. I guess I’ll become more comfortable over time.

We’ve just started, and I’m hoping that it generates some conversation. I really want this to be something engaging, rather than just video for the sake of video. I did and still do TV, but I want this to be something more like Seesmic, a video conversation. I’d definitely appreciate ideas from vloggers on how to make this a conversation like blogging rather than broadcasting at people over the internet.

Wednesday, January 30th, 2008

A tangle with gravity

Posted by Suw Charman-Anderson

I wrote this post yesterday afternoon, but technical problems stopped me from being able to post it. Horizon was, by the way, fab.

Whilst Kev and I were at the gym this morning, we caught an interview with Dr Brian Cox on BBC Breakfast, talking to Bill Turnbull and Sian Williams about an episode of Horizon, What on Earth is wrong with gravity. I’m looking forward to seeing the programme tonight, having already seen a number of outtakes on Brian’s partner Gia’s blog. Thankfully, Gia has grabbed the interview and put it up on YouTube:

Now, gravity is tricky. It’s the sort of thing, like mass, that seem pretty obvious. You drop a pencil, as Bill did, and it falls until it hits a surface that stops it falling any further. We all know what gravity does. What’s less clear is what gravity is, how it works, what makes gravity pull things together. It’s actually a pretty difficult subject to tackle in a six minute segment.

Unfortunately, Bill and Sian - and whomever produced and researched the program - didn’t prepare any decent questions. Gravity is one of those subjects where seemingly simple questions have horrendously complex answers, if they have answers at all. Bill and Sian went for the simple questions, but Brian had only a few minutes - if that, given that they showed two clips of the programme - to try to answer.

Now, to my mind, the job of the presenter in these situations is to act as a proxy for the audience and to ask the questions that the audience want answered. The question that I suspect the audience most want answered about an episode of Horizon is: “Why should I watch this programme?” That was a question that Bill and Sian spectacularly failed to address, even indirectly, because they were focused on small but unanswerable questions instead.

Bill concentrated on dropping his pencil and asking querulously, “Why is it so complicated?” and then giggling like a schoolboy, I suspect because he felt a little out of his element. “I thought it was dead simple myself,” he says.

Brian has some great stories to illustrate his point. Most surprisingly, he talks about how if we didn’t correct for the way that time passes differently in orbit to on earth, our satnav systems would drift by 11km per day. But he’s forced to talk about spacetime without being able to fully explain what spacetime is and, frankly, anyone would be forgiven for struggling with that.

Sian then says, “I’m still not sure what causes gravity.” Well, you and the rest of the physics world. That’s not a smart question to ask, because there’s no answer, and the lack of an answer is going to flummox people. The point of this six minute segment is not to solve one of the universe’s greatest riddles, but to spark a little curiosity in people’s minds. And I can pretty much guarantee that no one woke up this morning and asked, “What causes gravity?”

Indeed, I did a straw poll of my friend son Twitter and Seesmic, and asked, “If I was an omniscient being, what scientific question would you like answered?”

From Twitter:

jrnoded: @suw why 42?
michaelocc: @Suw Is faster than light travel possible?
adamamyl: @Suw: why, on taking government office do incumbents forget they have principles/spines? Or, why int a resignation, a resignation, thesedays
zeroinfluencer: @Suw: How to make an affordable Holy Grail (Assorted Colours)
londonfilmgeek: @Suw Can i haz an Aperture Science Portal gun, kthanxbai
The_Shed: @Suw Are we even close to knowing the truth about anything?
johnbreslin: @Suw: Is this like “does anything eat wasps?” :) how about, where does all the time go (inspired by the Time Snails in “Captain Bluebear”)?
aidg: @Suw Science q for the omniscient: How the universe was created or the story of creation from primordial soup to multicellular organisms.
meriwilliams: @Suw Why is life?
tara_kelly: @Suw Dear omniscient being: is time really as linear as we like to think it is?

From Seesmic, my question:

An amazing question from DeekDeekster, that I personally would love the answer to:

Jeff Hinz echoes MichaelOOC, but from the opposite angle:

Christian Payne takes the Prince Charles line:

Dave Shannon asks the hardest question:

You’ll notice that no one, not one single person, asked “What is gravity?”.

Then towards the end of the Breakfast interview, they bring up the entirely spurious issue of the asteroid that missed hitting the Earth by 334,000 miles at 8;33am this morning. Cue the stupidest question of the morning: “If gravity is such a big deal, how come that asteroid that Carol told us about didn’t crash into Earth?” That’s like saying, if the sky is blue, how come grass is green?

To add insult to injury, Sian ends up by saying, “See, that’s why he has a PhD and we haven’t, because he can understand these sorts of things and we’re still bamboozled” and Bill finishes up with, “You’d managed a major achievement this morning, which is that you’ve managed to explain something to all of us and made us both feel really thick.”

Poor Brian didn’t stand a chance. How can you manage to extract even a shred of dignity from that? How can you pull back from that and say something that will encourage people to watch your programme?

If the Breakfast team had thought for a moment and actually talked to Brian before the interview about what questions would make for an entertaining and interesting interview, ruling out questions that no physicist alive can answer, and including ones that perhaps the audience actually want to know the answer to, then I suspect things would have gone much better.

But to me, this is indicative of the attitude of the media towards science and technology: “Oh, look at those weirdos over there with their white coats and strange ways of talking. They’re not like us. They’re Boffins.” It’s an attitude based in ignorance and fear, and nurtured by the unnecessarily divisive split between science/tech and the humanities at school and then university.

Yet at times like this, the “I’m too dumb to understand you boffins” attitude is counterproductive. All Bill and Sian have done is put off people who might otherwise have watched Horizon, and pissed off the people who definitely will. Which is foolish, given that they are working for the very same organisation that commissioned Brian’s programme.

Tuesday, December 11th, 2007

Commissioning for audiences not platforms

Posted by Kevin Anderson

I got a late call on Monday inviting me to the roll out of Channel 4 Education’s new line-up. Hats off to Steve Moore for mentioning me and getting me invited. Steve thought I should be there because Channel 4 was shifting its educational focus from TV to other interactive platforms including social networks, online games and consoles.

The Media Guardian’s Jemima Kiss has the full write up (Yes, the Guardian is my day job):

Channel 4 has unveiled a slate of “high risk and experimental” projects based around social networking sites that it says will tackle the crisis of motivation in education.

The new commissions for 2008 - announced today - are part of the £6m educational budget for 14- to 19-year-olds which involves Channel 4 dropping much of its TV programming in favour of online projects.

What impressed me were a few things that Matt Locke and Alice Taylor - both ex-BBC and now Channel 4 Education - said about the process. Matt said that when they were thinking about the projects, they focused on five characteristics:

  • About being playful. That’s not about being trivial, but about participation. Matt says that this teen audience does things without permission such as creating blogs, podcasts or their own music. They do this without training. “This is about playful exploration.”
  • A social element. Teens go through a lot of change 14-19. They are trying out different selves and normally getting feedback from other teens, their parents and teachers. But now there are so many ways for teens to experiment with themselves and get feedback from a much broader context. Many projects will have social network component, but not just because social networks are the new media fascination de jour, Matt said. Social networks will provide teens with this broader context for social feedback.
  • Exploration. BBC tells you what you need to know. Channel 4 helps you ask the right questions.
  • The projects are built around tools and spaces that teens use - Bebo, MySpace, Flickr or YouTube - instead of creating our own tools
  • They had to be fun.

But the big thing that Matt said was about cross-platform commissioning:

Cross platform commissioning is not about asking: Is it tele or is it web? But where is the audience? We have to commission for our audience wherever they are.

That’s huge. That’s platform-busting, open thinking. That’s the kind of thing that explodes content silos and realises the real revolution in digital content. It gets us past the newspaper versus TV, internet versus newspapers, this versus world of false platform choices. I also think that Matt’s formulation of focussing on the audience translates well to content makers who might otherwise be sceptical of cross-platform commissioning.

Alice did some ground-breaking research for the BBC, and I could tell both from Matt and Alice that they were excited at being able to put their ideas into practice. The Channel 4 Education projects will involve alternate reality games and Alice is keen to consider not only the internet but also consoles and handhelds.

If you’re a journalist and you think that games aren’t something to consider, look at World Without Oil. It was a “collaborative alternate reality simulating an oil shock”. ARGs can be like strategic games used by business, government and the military. They get people to consider scenarios and outcomes.

One of Channel 4’s game will be called Ministry, an online, networked ARG that challenges teens to think about online privacy and identity and how they apply to their lives. How do you develop trust with people you can’t see? Do you think about the information that you are posting online when it “remains persistent and public”? Those are issues that everyone, not just teens, should be thinking about.

They are also considering widgets not as signs of consumption but as a nuanced form of self-expression. Matt, Alice and the rest of the Channel 4 Education team have set themselves and ambitious agenda, and from the questioning, they face some scepticism from traditional educational circles. But they are moving into new areas, and they don’t have established models to use. Not everything will be a raging success, but they have a three to four year plan that will incorporate feedback from the projects and teens uptake and participation.

I also think Janey Walker, Channel 4’s Head of Education, challenged (possibly inadvertently) the idea that to cope with the dizzying array of choice that people have when it comes to information and entertainment that quality is the only solution. She said that Channel 4 Education had been making quality programmes but showing them when teens weren’t at home. TVs were being taken out of schools, and teachers were reluctant to push play on the VCR or DVD player to show a half hour programme. What happens if you make great, quality programming and no one is watching it?

As Matt says, it’s not about tele or the web, or 360 commissioning but about taking your content where the audience is. You can’t do what you’ve always done and hope or think that sooner or later people will consumer your content the way you want them to.

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Monday, August 27th, 2007

TV is from Mars, the Internet is from Venus

Posted by Kevin Anderson

After a day at Un-festival, attendees reported back to the main festival about the discussions and demonstrations. Suw moderated the panel.

Paul Cleghorn: Tape it off the Internet (TIOTI)

Chris Jackson: freelance broadcast tech and strategy consultant,

Rosie Brown: TV producer (didn’t quite catch all that Rosie does)

Hannu Rajaniemi, with ThinkTank Mathematics

Ian Forrester: BBC Backstage

Suw kicked off the discuss by asking Paul about Tape it off the Internet.

Paul Cleghorn: TIOTI uses a traditional EPG feed for core meta-data (from Tribune), but they cross reference this information with places where people can download these shows. They are looking to make this (information about the programmes) extendable by allowing users to edit it. People can add to the limited programme listings.

Suw: You are pulling in a lot of sources of data. This isn’t just licenced data.

Paul: We’re going into various commercial services and TV websites. We connect that up with general information about the TV show. We’re hoping that to structure that into an open data source.

Paul talked yesterday about creating their own micro-format for television data.

Chris Jackson: You can turn it on or you can choose actively to see a show. You had to do quite a lot of searching. Now we have many other opportunities. Who should own the data? The broadcasters? The broadcaster or the content creator should put this out. The BBC has put out some data. It would be good if there was something like a wikipedia.

Suw: What are the benefits to programme makers?

Chris Jackson: Television has always been open.It’s important to keep it open. That is the best chance for them to get an audience. Most broadcasters don’t allow you to use that information unless you pay them or their agents. There are tremendous beneifts about getting people to watch your show.

Suw: What about the social tools around TV scheduling?

Paul: When it comes to broadcasters mixing it up with the community, you have people doing fan sites. People want to do this. Broadcasters might not. But you see the power of communities around programmes.

(He gave the example of Lost.)

Hannu: There is a huge opportunity to create recommendation engines.

Chris: There are people who like the Amazon system of system. But there are also great systems to build to see what your friends are watching. It’s an easy way to watch what your friends are watching.

(Last year at IBC, I saw a mockup by a major set-top box maker that showed a proof of concept allowing people to navigate through related material being broadcast at that moment or in the near future, material recorded on the hard disc of the set top box and also see what their friends are watching. This is an idea that will be part of mainstream technology in the near future.)

Suw: I want to talk about Zattoo. They are rebroadcasting live broadcast streams online. They are broadcasting live streams over the internet. It’s more interesting for what they can’t do than what they do. We are seeing a chilling effect by the licencing machine. Rosie, do you agree?

Rosie:We all know that there are a lot of people out there who are breaking the rules.

Ian: The quesitons to Zattoo were very telling. Can you time shift? No. Well, there are a lot of services that allow you to time shift.

Chris: There are quite a few contradictions with licencing. With a little playing, you could archive all of primetime video broadcast for a month on less than a $1000 worth of hard drive. With the iPlayer, you are limited. When you record over the air, you have a lot fewer restrictions than if you use the broadcasters’ download player.

Suw: You can see it as a threat or an opportunity. How do we communicate from the technology community to the broadcasting community that this is not a threat but an opportunity.

Ian: That’s why we’re sitting here. I would like to sit down for an hour with broadcasters.Her’s the legal way, here’s the illegal way. But how do you communicate the opportunity without talking to people?

Rosie: The broadcast community is a creative opportunities. They are probably not interested in the technology. But there are stories that can be told in new ways that are so exciting. If you aren’t reaching out and grabbing with this both hands, then you are mad.

Suw: In the podcast, people talked about how immersive, but Zattoo said that people want to watch video while they are doing other things. It’s very easy to get caught up that there is one way that people watch TV. There is a broader perspective than that.

Chris: I think that games are in between TV and the computer. You don’t want to come home after a long day at work and play on computer.

Suw: This brings us to the alternate reality games of Licorice Film called Meigeist. There were blogs, videos on YouTube. They branched out from online into SMS. The characters would ring some of the players. There were events where players could meet actors in character.

Rosie: What fascinated me about that was that people didn’t need to get involved but they could. It was designed to work on the internet, video over the internet, and other platforms. It was designed to do all of those things. It was not TV taken onto the internet.

Hannu: We’re bringing new levels of location awareness into mobile games, experiences with lost bring lots of interactivity. It is not just TV repackaged into other forms. If TV does have a future, it about increasing levels of interaction.

They briefly discussed the nature of the shared experience of television and then quickly turned to the reduced costs of experimentation.

Rosie: We don’t have to wait for 6m pounds and see what happens in a year. We can do something by next year. You can take continual feedback. You don’t have to take big risks.

Ian: I recently talked to someone who spent 650,000 pounds 125,000 pounds on a trailer, and put it up on the internet and wondered why no one was watching. That was a huge risk to take. CORRECTION from Ian: It was 125,000 pounds :) 650,000 would just be stupid :) (What do people normally pay for a TV or film trailer?)

Paul: For a long time TV was the most efficient way to deliver an audience to advertisers. Now, you can do it much more efficiently on the internet.

Chris: I think there needs to be a bit of a disclaimer. Great TV content still costs a lot.

Suw: We are used to think about thinking of an audience in terms of quantity, not in terms of quality.

(She talked about the blog Treonaut that focused on the Palm Treo attracted a lot of people interested in the smart phone, and Palm and third party companies developing software, peripherals and accessories for the Treo knew to advertise there to reach Treo users.)

Hannu: To bring the nature of mathematics and social networks, there are key nodes in the community. There are key hubs in any community that drive the whole community forward.

Ian: There is this trend of giving bloggers a product. People who write that blog are the centre of this huge community.

Suw: What was the one highlight?

Ian: Hard. TIOTI. Following TIOTI for a while. To see how far it comes, to see legal and illegal content in the same place is amazing.

Paul: It’s not illegal in some countries.

Paul: The highlight for me was Trusted Places and the amateur videos.

Chris: I was interested in the range of expertise.

Rosie: I was struck by the gulf between the broadcast industry and the technology people. I was hoping that events like it could bridge the chasm. I was excited about the level of engagement. People didn’t just sit there. I think that every project there got moved on. It was so fast and so exciting.

From audience: There are two parallel culture. The higher you up in TV organisations, fewer geeks. People who barely can do email. TV is a lot more competitive. Internet is a lot more collaborative. You’re going to have to go to them. It could lead to a new era of cyber-docs (documentaries) or cyber-dramas. There is an embarrassment about their lack of knowledge.

They are at the heart of 360 degree commissioning. There needs to be a convergence.

Ian: This is the very first time that we ever did this event. It is our first step. Our thoughts about next year.

Deborah Forrest with Studio Scotland: Looking around to see if any channel controllers are her. I hope not. I was Rights Lab in London recently. We had Bebo, Google and AOL, and the very last session, controllers. Didn’t have a Scooby(clue).

If we had a quarter million hits at sites at one time, the hosting, downloading versus streaming. Commercial aspect, we hate to bring it into this. But how do you pay for it? Streaming versus hosting. Some of programmes, some exposes, when exposed to larger audience, there would be a lot of reaction. What is the implication of a whole load of hits at one time?

Paul: This is a hard sell. But once something is broadcast, it is on the intenet. Maybe you should put it up there.

We are keen that people get paid. We’re not a bunch of pirates.

Audience: Once ship the bits. the physics of that work very nicely. Counterintuitive unless you live in that world.

Kojo, design director at ITN: The problems we are facing are culture. There is a technical culture you are coming from. TV coming from creative culture. You guys are trying to get the broadcasters attention. You communicate in a very technical way. It might be frightening. They are not technically minded. You were talking about business models. They are in business of making programmes and in the business of making money.

I have Two things say: 1) Next year, involve the broadcasters. 2) Add a production thing for this. It would be helpful to have demonstrations so that we can see what you are talking about.

Brian Butterworth, I take issue, saying geeks aren’t creative. We are really creative.

Rosie: That’s why we’re changing the world.

Paul Barossa, man in the audience: I run a music production company but have a background in psychology. The meaning of communication is the response you get. You have to look at another angle. You have to look at way that you are communicating the message.

Mike Butcher: I went to the TV Un-festival. Word that dare not speak its name: Facebook. Geeky and trivial but indicative of social networking going mainstream. When my mom asks me what it is about, I know that it is something different in ways that maybe blogging isn’t. Should broadcasters create their own networks or plug into networks?

Chris: Facebook takes things one step more. When you sign up apps, it tells you friends who have signed up before for that app.

The Gulf: Cultural, technical, political

That was about the end of the discussion. But Suw and I have witnessed the cultural chasm that both the Un-festival participants perceived as well as the festival participants at other conferences. We saw it at the Guardian Changing Media when it seemed that the executives were talking about media in a completely different way than we experienced it using a mix of traditional media and the internet. We saw it in how the media executives talked about brand in a way that was completely foreign, alien and alienating to us.

I don’t think that the gap can be put down to the differences in a technical culture versus a creative culture. I do think that there is something in the difference between the ’sit back’ culture of television and the ’sit forward’ culture of the internet.

In the end, I think one of the things that came out of the festival session was the lack of knowledge of the internet at senior levels of television companies, and more than that, I keep going back to something that Steve Yelvington said about newspaper companies that the people with the most internet experience have the least political capital in their organisations. Much of this is cultural, but it is also political both in terms of within the industry but also within the organisations. A friend of mine once said of the major broadcaster that he worked for: “There are managers who don’t want to create the future, they just want to control it.”

It took 30 years of circulation declines for US newspapers before those declines seriously threatened their business. It will take more pain before major broadcasters feel the need for change. As was said during the session, television has been the most efficient way to deliver eyeballs to advertisers, but now the internet is challenging that. It’s best for broadcasters to experiment now - especially with the cost of experimentation decreasing. It is far better to change while you have the resources to manage that change rather than delay and have change forced upon you.

Saturday, August 25th, 2007

TV Un-Festival: Sclipo

Posted by Suw Charman-Anderson

Gregory Gimi

Social network that allows people to share knowledge through video. 600 million people use the internet to find information and to learn. Learning on the internet is a very important one. Why Sclipo? Three phenomena:

- video became efficient, most of the learning you could do before was text based. So can see what you are being taught. Added quality of learning.
- web 2.0, user generated content. Not so much that people generated content, but that people looked at people generated by other people and find that attractive, e.g. Wikiepedia, YouTube. Without being recognised professionals. Adds efficiency to the process.
- social networking effect. very popular, and learning experiences depend on social networking.

Have different ways of browsing the video content, looking at videos that teach skills, through ‘Academies” which are channels, and skills channels which are companies demoing their products.

Everything from cooking to technology. Similarities with other websites, but we use more educational terminology. You can learn through two methods - looking at the video and then by webcam, so if I find someone who’s good at cooking and I have a specific question, the next level of learning is through a webcam, and this is what we call SclipoLive, so can request a class from that person.

[Demo of a live webcam teaching session.]

The webcast is automatically recorded, so can then be watched by other people afterwards.

Three models of academies: if you teach and make money then there’s a commission, if you don’t make money then add ads.

Q: Do you share the ad revenue with the person giving the class?

Not at the moment.

[Long discussion of how payment system could be built.]

Q. what licences, e.g. Creative Commons, can I use?

Publisher owns the content, the person putting the video up.

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Saturday, August 25th, 2007

TV Un-Festival: Jonathan Tweed - BBC iPlayer Facebook app

Posted by Suw Charman-Anderson

Hackday - put iPlayer on Facebook, wanted to show the iPlayer team what they should be doing. People are too busy to watch TV. Times this week reported that usage of social networking site exploding and that this is going to have an impact on TV viewing.

When people aren’t watching TV they are either going out or going onto social networks like Facebook. Answer to this is to put TV on Facebook because that’s where people are - put your content where people can’t miss it. Problem - if they are not watching TV, how do they know which shows to watch. They trust their friends more than anyone else, so have to add social features so people can recommend things. Everything else has social features, but iPlayer doesn’t. So added social features to iPlayer, shows what friends are watching, and what they think of them, also have current pics on iPlayer, and last night’s TV. Provides a click through to iPlayer to download/watch the TV, so can also search iPlayer.

Can also add reviews, which adds to Facebook, and to iPlayer. That’s as far as it’s been taken so far. At the moment you have to seek out what your friends are watching but want to add in a notifier to tell you what your friends are watching. Going to add recommendations. Want to find out what you think, what do we need to add to make it compelling?

Should we be doing this? Other companies are doing similar things? Should the BBC host a site where users are reviewing its programmes? What does it need? What would make it use it? What’s the future for Facebook applications? Is it a fad?, but need to be on the iPlayer beta at the moment. Once iPlayer comes out of beta it can be on the directory.

Q: Have you thought about widgets?

Yes, we are. But this isn’t an official project. Did this for Facebook because we can’t do it on MySpace or Bebo, but will put together widgets for other sites.

Q: Why do recommendations by brand?

We’re going to do it but programmes, or by genre, or whatever you want.

Q: What about the ability to become a critic?

That’s a good idea.

Q: Can you recommend stuff that’s not on iPlayer?

No, because it screen scrapes the iPlayer site. Quit hard to get access to the internal BBC data but because this is hosted externally we can’t. Value in the application. Need to get more stuff on there and use other ways of finding it. Is it reasonable for the BBC to do this?

Q: Is this programmes or just clips.

This is full programmes.

Q: Is it worldwide.

Application is available worldwide but iPlayer is UK-only.

[Lots of discussion about possible functionality which I'm not going to transcribe, because I'm getting tired now.]

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Saturday, August 25th, 2007

TV Un-Festival: Paul Cleghorn - Tape It Off The Internet

Posted by Suw Charman-Anderson

Designer by trade, made some screens of what he thought that a compilation of what TV was available on the web, and took a lot of user feedback and started a build from scratch, starting in March. Live with a new version launching in a week or two. Going to open up to beta users.

Core mission of Tape It Off The Internet (TIOTI) - like Wikipedia, start with licensed TV information, can add all sorts of things to it, video clips or photos or text description, fan fiction, production notes, etc. Indexing all stypes of TV. Started with BT because it was the only stuff out there, now also iTunes, Amazon, as well as Joost,, etc. Taking any format and gluing it all together.

Building a social network around it too, can invite fans, can recommend shows, use your peer groups as a basis for recommendation. Trying to get hte whole world of TV in one place. Still a bit hard for people to find what they are looking for, we are trying to smooth that process.

So look at a show, pull in licenced source, but let people add things, so there’s a photo gallery too, so if you saw these people at an awards show then you can draw in from Flickr. Build up user generated stuff around the show. If you find something related on YouTube, e.g. a spoof, or blooper reel or anything else, can add that too so that you build up a full resource.

Trying to connect it up with other services such as Facebook, using Facebook login and will pull in the ‘TV shows you like’ so you don’t have to repeat yourself.

Using tags such as country, and badges so that people can link through to, say, your Flickr page. Looking to open it up over the next couple of weeks. Has widgets.

Indexing stuff like Virgin so detect you have a Virgin IP and show you what they have available.

Being open as possible with user data so that people can take their stuff with them. Trying to cross-reference different sources to help the recommendation engine. Doesn’t seem to be a definitive TV microformat yet, so might make a new one or hijack one. And RSS feeding a lot of stuff, can get feeds for discussion, downloads, etc.

Q: Tivo patent could be an issue for season passes.

We’re not a recording service, we’re just showing information about TV, so we’re not doing season passes, because we’re just listing as many options as possible (unless that becomes unmanageable). But we’re not a recording service.

Q: Where do you licence the data.

From Tribune Services, mainly it’s EPG content, so weekly update with about 2 weeks of information. they have a 40 year archive which we’re using for our archives. Not doing a schedule-based aproach. Do want to skirt around the Gemstart grid patent. Better way to do it.

Q: What about the licensing of data that people put up?

We need to look at Creative Commons, atm, it’s standard terms and conditions, but not sure that’s the best way to do it. But that’s how our lawyers like it at the moment.

Q: You’re being respectful of other sites, but your competitors aren’t and are indexing more content. Is that a worry? E.g.

So we index them but we don’t index YouTube because there are two many cats. Not uch reason for us to spend a huge amount of time filtering big buckets of video when others are doing that. We want to be the metaindex at the top.

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Saturday, August 25th, 2007

TV Un-Festival: Ian Clarke

Posted by Suw Charman-Anderson

Degree in computer science and AI from Edinburgh, and designed a project to exchange info in countries where there is censorship. This became Freenet. Non-profit corp in USA, since 1999. 2 Million downloads of software. One of the things that happened with Freenet, even though it was designed as freedom of speech idea - was at same time as Napster - it was perceived as indestructible Napster as it was designed so that it couldn’t be shut down.

Has been thinking, how do you enforce copyright onlne, and the answer is that you can’t. Enforcement of c is about preventing people sharing information when they don’t have permission to. So if you can’t enforce copyright, what is the alternative?

Founded Revver in 2005, to help foster an environment of creativity online, want an ecosystem where creators can be paid for their work. Interested in online video, this was at the time when broadband was starting to make this possible, devised a way to attach unobtrusive ads to end of videos, release under CC no-derivs, attrib, licence, and share the revenue on a 50-50 basis with creators, or 40-20-20 if there was an affiliate, so produce financial incentive to share video.

A lot of the people you may have heard of use or have used Revver, e.g. LonelyGirl15 for about a year, ZeFrank. Almost every well known video blog has used Revver, except Rocketboom.

Whilst at Revver, got curious of how to figure out what people are interested in and show it to them. Not a new problem. Started to look at collaborative filters, basically a system which looks at your behaviour, perhaps what you buy on Amazon, and then recommends things to you that you might like. Amazon, NetFlicks. Problem is that they either work or scale - but they don’t do both. if they can recommend stuff well, they don’t scale, or they dumb down the recommendation so it can scale. Built a filter called Daedalus for Revver, and licensed it to Reddit.

Whilst working on this collaborative filter, noticed that collaborative filters need a lot of data before they can figure out what they are interested in. So Reddit needs people to use the website for several hours continuously. Real opportunity in online news space, with n otable exception of Reddit, no one was really doing personalised news, and those that were were using collaborative filters that are problematic, and the quality of user submitted news is extremely low. If you’re familiar by Digg, you’ll know what I’m talking about.

This was the genesis of Thoof. Alternative to collaborative filtering, figures out your interests more quickly, based on your behaviour, your browser, your approx. geographic location. There are generalisations you can make about mac vs PC users, or Firefox vs. IE, or based on geography. Built tech to recommend stuff to you, but if you see something on the website that can be improved, you can change it and fix it, although there is a voting step - you propose a change and if it survives the voting process it can be applied to the story. Raised a million dollars in seed foundation, launched in June, and traffic growing at 25% per week.

Using Freenet is like using a web browser, but slower - learnt that one of the key problems is that even when there is information available, that doesn’t mean that people will find it. It’s not just about accessing information that they know they want, but about finding information that will interest them once they know about it.

Go to URL in web browser, it’s easy to find out who’s hosting what. With Freenet, info is distributed through the network in a decentralised way, so unless an author chooses to reveal their ID, you have no way to know who they are. But threat model with Freenet at the time was that no one would know what people are doing with Freenet, but that’s not enough. What if you can be punished for just using the software, irrespective of what you are doing with it, e.g. China, so set about redesigning Freenet to use a darknet methodology, so that you could just connect to those people you know personally, so no one knows you are connected to Freenet, but through those people you become a part of a global network. Been working on this for two years, but working pretty well so far - lot of people don’t already have friends that are using Freenet so there is a way you can connect to strangers as opposed to friends if you choose to do that.

Q: Are there access points into Freenet, like SMS?

Not an SMS gateway to the best of my knowledge, are web gateways, but using a gateway is … you’re throwing away a lot of the benefit. To get the security, you have to be running Freenet on your computer. It’s not going to run on a typical mobile phone.

Q: You said it was friends of friends, if you try to keep cosiness amongst your contacts, how do you deal with infiltrators?

The only people who can cause problems for you are the people you have immediately connected to. So if your friend is stupid and connects to a government agent, that agent has no way to tell you are part of the network. Many Freenet users don’t care, because they live in the US or UK where they aren’t going to be jailed for this, and will connect to anyone. But we try to place it in the hands of the individual as to how much security they want. There’s a trade off between convenient and connected.

Q: What happens with people abuse the tool.

Any tool can be abused. But the freedom to communicate - if one person wants information and someone else wants to have it, that freedom is essential in a democracy. Our leaders are chosen by us, and in order to make effective decisions we need free information. So totalitarian countries spend a lot of money controlling their people’s ability to communicate. Any tool can be misused but the benefits outweigh the potential abused.

Q: How do people know who to trust?

When people are anonymous how do you know when to trust them? That’s a question that the internet in general gets, blogs etc. But at Freenet we address that problem with the concept of a Nym, an anonymous identity so anything you publish is signed by the nym, so you can link together discussions and content to the same person. Even an anonymous identity can build up trust. Similar to the WWW, a blogger can build up trust. This problem is not completely solved - what might be intersting to experiment with, and we may do it with Thoof in the future, and Thoof’s approach is to fix in a peer reviewed way which works well. What we’re likely to do in the future is to create a ‘web of trust’ so can build up trust based on performance. So if you propose a change and it’s rejected, that decreases your trust level, but if you propose a lot of changes and they all get voted through you’d get more trust. So maybe then stories you right are promoted more quickly, but the mechanisms within the site will get rid of it really quickly.

Q: Where are Thoof stories from?

You can submit anything that has an URL. YouTube, BBC article, anything. What goes on Thoof itself is a title, description and tags. Intention is that the title and description will be impartial and unbiased description of what’s being linked to, but the thing being linked to can be expressing an opinion. Can edit review, title, and even URL.

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