Saturday, 29 December 2007

RIP Navigator 1994-2007

10 years ago newspapers wrote about "browser war": Internet Explorer goes on (the power of an operating system, isn't it?) and Navigator has just died. We can't forget that now we can use (and we do use them) Firefox, Opera and Safari.
Above you can see an image showing the rise and the fall of Navigator during the years; people decide the success/unsuccess of a browser.

From NYT:

Published: December 29, 2007

Netscape Navigator, the world’s first commercial Web browser and the starting point of the Internet boom, will be pulled off life support Feb. 1 after a 13-year run.

Its current caretakers, Time Warner’s AOL, decided to end further development and technical support to focus on developing the company as an advertising business. Netscape’s use dwindled with Microsoft’s entry into the browser business in the 1990s, and Netscape all but faded away after the birth of its open-source cousin, Firefox.

“While internal groups within AOL have invested a great deal of time and energy in attempting to revive Netscape Navigator, these efforts have not been successful in gaining market share from Microsoft’s Internet Explorer,” the director of Netscape, Tom Drapeau, wrote in a blog entry on Friday.

In recent years, Netscape has been little more than a repackaged version of Firefox, which commands about 10 percent of the Web browser market, with almost all of the rest going to Internet Explorer.

People will still be able to download and use the Netscape browser indefinitely, but AOL will stop releasing security and other updates on Feb. 1. Mr. Drapeau recommended that the small pool of Netscape users download Firefox instead.

The first version of Netscape came out in late 1994, and the company fed the gold-rush atmosphere with a landmark initial public offering of stock in August 1995.

But Netscape’s success also drew the attention of Microsoft, which quickly won market share by giving away its Internet Explorer browser with its flagship Windows operating system. The bundling prompted a Justice Department antitrust lawsuit and later a settlement with Microsoft.

Netscape eventually dropped fees for the software, but it was too late. Netscape sold itself to AOL in a $10 billion deal completed in early 1999.

Wednesday, 26 December 2007

Lesson of journalism from Amira Hass

On sunday 2nd December 2007 Amira Hass gave a lesson of journalism in Rome.
Amira Hass is an israeli journalist, she writes for Haaretz and she's the
only israeli journalist to live among palestinians.
At the beginning they showed a 5 minute video where Amira Hass was
interviewed near the israeli barrier. During the interview, an israeli
soldier fires at somebody and Amira gets rather scared.
After the video Amira Hass went to the stage and started (speaking english)
her lesson of journalism. The first thing she said was "Don't believe in
cliché", don't believe the officiale version of things.
I think that the most important lesson is: if you want to be a good reporter you need to be there, to see things.

You can see the audio and the video of this lesson, the lesson is in english language

Monday, 24 December 2007

Royal communication

It's interesting to see how a very old thing (a monarchy) can deal with a very new thing (Internet).
The british monarchy decided to open a channel in Youtube: the royal channel ,"the official channel of the british monarchy".
In that channel they uploaded 18 videos, including 6 videos of Prince Charles.
As soon as you see the royal youtube channel one video starts: the first televised Christmas message in 1957. After 50 years, tomorrow they are going to upload the latest Christmas Queen's speech (you can see it tomorrow on Bbc world, 17:20 Italy time; 11:20 NYC time).
In February 1952 the throne shifted from King George VI to his daughter Elizabeth II; we can't see official footage from BBC but we can see a three part documentary made by Lord Wakehurst (1895-1970) a Conservative MP and an amateur film maker. On 6 February 1952 King George VI died in his sleep (GeorgeVI's funeral took place on 15 February 1952), the same instant Elizabeth became Queen because british law states that the throne is not left vacant. The strange thing was that Elizabeth (and her husband) were abroad; therefore she became Queen when she wasn't in the United Kingdom, but in Kenya; another strange thing: Canada (not United Kingdom) was the first country that issued the first proclamation of the Queen's accession.
The last step is the coronation: it usually takes place several months after the death of the previous monarch, as it is considered a joyous occasion that would be inappropriate when mourning still continues.
Elizabeth II's coronation took place on 2 June 1953 (over a year after the death of the King).
The film of Lord Wakehurst is about this event: the first part is dedicated to the death of King George VI, the second part to the Queen's accession and the last one to the coronation.
The modern media can reveal "backstage details" inaccesible in the past: in the video "The Queen and her Prime Ministers" (not "the" Prime Ministers but "her" Prime Ministers: she owns the country) we can see the Head of State (Elizabeth II) talking to the Head of Government (Tony Blair) during the weekly audience. Obviously we can see only the beginning of the audience, we see Elizabeth sitting down on a chair and starting to scratch a leg, the cameraman starts to zoom the upper part of the body in order to avoid the viewers to see the Queen scratching the leg: Kings and Queens must not scratch their legs in a public space!
Unlike other channels, the royal channel isn't interactive: comments have been disabled. I don't see anything wrong about that, insulting comments would damage the seriousness and the "holiness" of a monarchy, there are other places where you can comment them. Who said that everything must be interactive?

Tv and Internet can be many things, british monarchy tries to use them as a storyteller of tradition and national identity.

Saturday, 22 December 2007

Italy 2007: living without privacy

Use your imagination.

Can you imagine british newspapers and tv reporting the transcript and the audio of a private phone call made by David Cameron (leader of Conservative party, opposition party now) or by Nick Clegg (new leader of Liberal Democrats, opposition party now)?
Can you imagine french newspapers and tv reporting the transcipt and the audio of a private phone call made by François Hollande or Segolénè Royal (leaders of socialist party, opposition party now)?
Can you imagine US newspapers and tv reporting the transcript and the audio of a private phone call made by Hillary Rodham Clinton or by Barack Obama (members of the democratic party running for the presidential primaries, opposition party now)?

Italy is such an interesting country because it's far beyond imagination.
What can you do when the reality goes beyond imagination?

Basically, in Italy there is (or should i write "there should be"?) 2 levels of privacy.
The normal level applies to every citizen, article 15 of italian constitution says that the freedom and the privacy of the mail and any other way of communication are inviolable. Only the law can decide theese limitations (about communication).
There is a higher level of privacy for member of parliament and is totally understandable. Article 68 of italian constitution says the a MP (member of parliament) can not be recorded or listened without the majority vote of Senate or House of commons.

An italian newspaper printed the transcript (and the site the audio) of a phone call between Silvio Berlusconi (leader of one of the opposition parties) and a man working for Rai (italian state tv).
Tv news of rai1 talked about the phone call and they made the audience listening to part of the audio.

A lot of bloggers are talking about the content of the phone talk but i want to talk about the origin, how is it possible that in Italy there's no privacy?
Printing the transcipt and releasing the audio of a private phone call is a HUGE violation of privacy.
Violation of "basic" privacy and violation of privacy of a MP.

Berlusconi is upset and he, while he was talking to journalists and explaining the content of the phone call, said a bizzarre sentence (like a sociologist of communication) "sometimes the telephone is an oneiric zone".

Most people like this kind of things because most people like spying powerfull and famous people through the keyhole.

This kind of thing put the other newspapers and tv in a difficult situation, i would say a no-win situation.
If they cover the news and they talk about the content of the phone talk, people can blame them for violation of privacy.
If they don't cover the news, people can blame them for hiding the news.

Contradiction is part of modern mass media communication.

Friday, 21 December 2007

Definition of social network sites

Danah Boyd is a PhD student at the School of Information (iSchool) at the University of California - Berkeley and a Fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at the Harvard Law School. Her research focuses on identity, context, social network sites, youth culture, social media, performance, Friendster, MySpace, Facebook.
She has a very interesting blog (i'm going to read it carefully as soon as i have time) and i chose this old post because she tried a definition of social network sites:

November 10, 2006

Social network sites: my definition

I would like to offer my working definition of "social network sites" per confusion over my request for a timeline.

A "social network site" is a category of websites with profiles, semi-persistent public commentary on the profile, and a traversable publicly articulated social network displayed in relation to the profile.

To clarify:

  1. Profile. A profile includes an identifiable handle (either the person's name or nick), information about that person (e.g. age, sex, location, interests, etc.). Most profiles also include a photograph and information about last login. Profiles have unique URLs that can be visited directly.
  2. Traversable, publicly articulated social network. Participants have the ability to list other profiles as "friends" or "contacts" or some equivalent. This generates a social network graph which may be directed ("attention network" type of social network where friendship does not have to be confirmed) or undirected (where the other person must accept friendship). This articulated social network is displayed on an individual's profile for all other users to view. Each node contains a link to the profile of the other person so that individuals can traverse the network through friends of friends of friends....
  3. Semi-persistent public comments. Participants can leave comments (or testimonials, guestbook messages, etc.) on others' profiles for everyone to see. These comments are semi-persistent in that they are not ephemeral but they may disappear over some period of time or upon removal. These comments are typically reverse-chronological in display. Because of these comments, profiles are a combination of an individuals' self-expression and what others say about that individual.

This definition includes all of the obvious sites that i talk about as social network sites: MySpace, Facebook, Friendster, Cyworld, Mixi, Orkut, etc. Some of the obvious players like LinkedIn are barely social network sites because of their efforts to privatize the articulated social network but, given that it's possible, I count them (just like i count MySpace even when the users turn their profiles private).

There are sites that primarily fit into other categories but contain all of the features of social network sites. This is particularly common with sites that were once a different type of community site but have added new features. BlackPlanet, AsianAvenue, MiGente, QQ, and Xanga all fit into this bucket. I typically include LiveJournal as a social network site but it is sorta an edge-cases because they do not allow you to comment on people's profiles. They do however allow you to publicly comment on the blog entries. For this reason, Dodgeball is also a problem - there are no comments whatsoever. In many ways, i do not consider Dodgeball a social network site, but i do consider it a mobile social network tool which is why i often lump it into this cluster of things.

Of course, things are getting trickier every day. I'm half-inclined to qualify the definition to say that the profile and articulated social network are the centralizing feature of these sites because there are tons of sites that have profiles and social network site features as a peripheral components of their service but where the primary focus is elsewhere. Examples of this include: YouTube, Flickr, Last.FM, 43Things, Meetup, Vox, Crushspot, etc. (Dating sites are probably the most tricky because they are very profile-centric but the social network is peripheral.) But, on the other hand, most of these sites grew out of this phenomenon. So, for the sake of argument, i leave room to include them but also consider them edge cases.

At the same time, it's critical to point out what social network sites are most definitely NOT. They are NOT the same as all sites that support social networks or all sites that allow people to engage in social networking. Your mobile phone, your email, your instant message client... these all support the articulation of social networks (addressbooks) but they do not let you publicly display them in relation to a profile for others to traverse. MUDs/MOOs, BBSes, chatrooms, bulletin boards, mailing lists, MMORPGS... these all allow you to meet new people and make friends but they are not social network sites.

This is part of why i get really antsy when people talk about this category as "social networks" or "social networking" or "social networking sites." I think that this is leading to all sorts of confusion about what is and what is not in the category. These alternative categories are far far far too broad and all too often i hear people talking about everything that allows you to talk to anyone in any way as one of these sites (this is the mistake that DOPA makes for example).

While it's great to talk about all of these things as part of a broader "social software" or "social media" phenomenon, there are also good reasons to have a label to address a subset of these sites that are permitting very particular practices. This allows academics, politicians, technologists, educators, and others discuss how structural shifts are prompting different kinds of behaviors. (What happens when people publicly articulate their relationships? How do these systems change the rules of virality because the network is visible? Etc.) Because of this, i don't want the slippage to be too great because people are using terrible terms or because people want their site to fit into the category of what's currently cool.

Of course, like most categories, there are huge issues around the edges and there's never a clean way to construct boundaries. (To understand the challenges, read Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things.) Just think of the category "game" and try to come up with a comfortable definition and boundary for that. Still, there are things that are most definitely not games. An apple is not a game. Sure, it can be used in a game but it is not inherently a game. Not all sites that allow people to engage in social activity are social network sites and it is ridiculous to try to shove them all there simply because there's a lot of marketing money to be made (yet i realize that this is often the reason why people do try). For this reason, i really want to stake out "social network sites" as a category that has meaningful properties even if the edges are a little fuzzy. There is still meaningful family resemblance and more central prototypes than others. I really want to focus on making sense of what's happening with this category by focusing primarily on the prototypes and less on the edge cases.

Anyhow, this is a work in progress but i wanted to write some of this down since i seem to be getting into lots of fights via email about this.

Thursday, 20 December 2007

What is Second Life?

What is Second Life?
Is it just a game?
Is an escape from reality?
Is it our future life?
Capitalism has found the final solution to delete any opposition: why fighting against the capitalism when the most important thing is in a virtual world?
It doesn't matter if you have a shit job, if you live in a very tiny room: the most important thing is that you switch off your computer and get in your real environment, Second Life!
Capitalism tells you: "Why should you waste your time fighting for more rights? You're fighting in the wrong world! Get in Second Life and be who you want to be!"
In 1967 Guy Debord was explaining that it's impossible fighting against the system because the system turned everything into a spectacle. If he was alive now, maybe he would say that the fight is impossible because they turned everything into a virtual world.

In famous Freakonomics blog you can read an interview with Second Life creator Philip Rosedale.

Q: Do you have macroeconomists regulating the supply of Linden dollars? [Some virtual worlds do.] Are they Keynesians? Monetarists? Does the economy experience inflation?

A: We don’t have an economist on staff yet, but we’d love to hire a great one. That said, we do take macroeconomic analysis and the management of the economy very seriously. We have a dedicated team that monitors financial transactions in-world, as well as some automated circuit-breakers that help to keep the Linden dollar stable, at around L$270 to US$1. The GDP of Second Life is growing rapidly relative to the “outside” world, meaning that we have to aggressively increase the money supply to match velocity or we would see a rapid increase in the value of the Linden dollar. We do this transparently; you can see the changes made to the money supply and how they match economic growth here.

Q: What security measures do you take to prevent fraud and abuse? Do you have a dedicated security team?

A: Yes, we have a large team dedicated entirely to dealing with fraud and abuse. It is an important competence for us to build — any platform offering the capabilities of Second Life must necessarily also afford some ability to break the rules, and tracking and managing those cases is important to our success. However, much of the overall “security” of Second Life is provided by those using the platform, such as communities in-world that set their own “zoning” guidelines around content use.

Q: What is your position on “Rule of Law” in Second Life for promoting a stable economy? What role should the Lindens play in assuring that SL is a fair and just place to do business? I left SL a while ago because running a business eventually became too frustrating.

A: We need to create tools as a platform that allow people to self-govern. Though that process may be a bit rockier at the start, it is ultimately the only one that will scale. The Web, for example, felt similarly unregulated at the start. As time went by, people created their own customs and rules.

Q: What steps have you taken to prevent collusive or otherwise anticompetitive activity in Second Life? Do you have personnel dedicated to regulating that aspect of the economy? Do you ever wonder if we are simply characters in a Second Life in some other world?

A: Second Life as a platform is inherently less supportive of anticompetitive or monopolistic activities, which I think is one of the things that makes it so appealing. For example, there are really no “natural resources,” meaning that no one can corner the market on them. Genuine appeal and intellectual value tends to drive Second Life pricing more than distribution muscle and brand.

Q: How do you feel about accusations that by providing a literal “second life,” you’re contributing to a trend of physical isolation that’s damaging the social abilities of an increasing number of teens and adults?

A: Whether sitting in front of a computer is bad for you is a function of whether what you are doing there is more or less challenging than real life. If you are mindlessly shooting monsters, the environment has the risk of making you oversimplify the real world. If, on the other hand, you are confronted with a complex human environment with people from all over the world who are demanding of you in your interactions with them, you could actually be better off in front of the computer. Second Life can teach people new skills and connect them with new cultures in a way that the real-world environments of many places cannot.

Q: Linden Lab has talked before about the future possibilities (and challenges) of connecting to or communicating with other grids and virtual worlds. Do you feel that this is an actual possibility? What impact do you think this connection would have on Second Life’s economy?

A: We believe that virtual worlds with the kind of power and features that Second Life has will be a big benefit to human society, and also that we can continue to run a great business in a very open world. The Second Life economy will hopefully continue its strong growth regardless of our openness and interconnection with other worlds, because there is a tremendous “network effect” that will make people seek out the world with the largest economic opportunities. This is similar to the way eBay, as an auction site, enjoyed network effects that kept it largest in the face of strong competition.

Q: Have you ever read Snow Crash [it's a 1992 cyberpunk book] by Neal Stephenson? I don’t know much about Second Life but it sounds similar to the Metaverse in the fiction novel.

A: When Snow Crash came out, I was already really intent on the idea of creating a virtual world like Second Life — I had been thinking about it and doing what small experiments I could since I was in college. But Snow Crash certainly painted a compelling picture of what such a virtual world could look like in the near future, and I found that inspiring.

Q: What plans does Linden Lab have for educators who want to use second life as a virtual classroom?

A: There’s actually a vibrant community of educators already in Second Life, and we’re happy to see it continuing to grow. We’ve seen a range of academic and educational uses of the platform, from research to modeling to distance learning to real-time collaboration, and we offer a program called Campus: Second Life, which provides semester-long virtual land grants to educators that want to try teaching in the virtual world. Additionally, we have a very active e-mail list dedicated to education, on which Residents discuss best practices for in-world educators.

Q: How do people find the time for a Second Life? It seems like most people are too busy working multiple jobs and trying to keep up the payments on their credit cards and upwardly-adjusting mortgage payments.

A: Quit your real job and get one in Second Life! It isn’t possible for everyone, but there are more than 40,000 people who make money in Second Life every month.

Q: Are there any virtual goods which actually cost more than their real world counterparts (at Linden dollar/USD conversion rates)?

A: What a great question! Well, not too many yet, but unique items like virtual clothing from top designers have been sold at in-world charity events for thousands of real dollars.

Q: What has your experience led you to believe about the value, or lack thereof, of having a game-like goal orientation? Would you agree that most activity in SL involves games that people have created out of the materials available (i.e., running a business, speculating on real estate, trading custom content)?

A: People in Second Life have created over 1 billion in-world “objects” occupying total storage space of about 100 terabytes. I wouldn’t agree that these are mostly game-like; most derive their value from their intellectual, utility, or artistic appeal. If anything, Second Life is more diverse than the real world in terms of types of activities, not less.

Q: Why not open up Second Life and allow it to run on game consoles?

A: It is a great idea! We’ve open-sourced the Second Life client software in part with the hope that we can get it onto things like game consoles faster.

Q: If you do open-source, how will you make money? I’m sure there are a lot of developers waiting in the wings for this to happen, but can it be a win-win situation? Is an option like finding a middle ground between open API’s on one end and completely open-sourcing the code on the other a more realistic probability?

A: Because of the network effects that will tend to cause most people to prefer spending their time and doing their business in one virtual world, we think we can have a great business, even in a very open source/standards environment.

Q: Second Life is a fantastic place, and one of the reasons is the freedom residents enjoy to create their own environments. On the other hand, for those who are not yet experienced in Second Life, the learning curve is steep and a lot of first-time visitors seem to get lost. Do you consider it a task for your company to make Second Life a more welcoming place for newcomers, or should this issue be tackled by the residents themselves?

A: A little bit of both. We need to design the software to be friendlier, easier, and more pleasurable to use. The open-sourcing of the viewer code will definitely help with this as well – we’ve already seen a full alternative Second Life viewer created by a third party. But people are already making the content experience in-world better and better, which is exactly the idea behind the Resident-created world.

Q: Do you have a Second Life alterego?

A: Not one that I will tell you about :)

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

Zeitgeist of the year 2007

Zeitgeist is a german word and it could be translated as "spirit of the age" or "spirit of the times", it is best known in relation to Hegel's view of philosophy of history.

What do people look for in Google?

Zeitgeist is the name Google chose in order to show us the most searched words in that search engine

Here you can see the Zeitgeist archives since 2001

Zeitgeist is updated by country every month, very interesting feature to know different trends in different countries.

Theese are the results for 2007:
Google News Most Popular Searches (global)
  1. american idol
  2. youtube
  3. britney spears
  4. 2007 cricket world cup
  5. chris benoit
  6. iphone
  7. anna nicole smith
  8. paris hilton
  9. iran
  10. vanessa hudgens
What would Hegel (1770-1831) think about this list of words?

Monday, 17 December 2007

We don't need no this education

In an italian blog i found a very interesting YouTube video "A visions of students today"

That video was made by mediated (kansas state university), a team of cultural anthropology undergraduates led by Dr. Michael Wesch exploring the impacts of digital technology on human interaction and human interaction on digital technology

Here you can read the interpretation of the professor who made the video

Sunday, 16 December 2007

Get the money for a local news project

In the United States you can get a grant to start a micro-local news project.
I hope it would be the same in Europe (please correct me if i'm wrong).
The deadline is February 20 2008: do not be late!

You can get all the info in New Voices site

J-Lab: The Institute for Interactive Journalism invites United States non-profit groups and education organisations to apply for funding to launch new community news ventures and to cooperate with J-Lab in spotlighting best practices and lessons learned. Funding is available for start-up news initiatives only. Ongoing efforts are not eligible to apply unless they are proposing a new venture. Successful applicants will be ventures that benefit a defined geographic or special-interest community, and foster an open exchange of journalistically sound ideas, information, news and opinion in those communities. New Voices is funded by the John F. and James L. Knight Foundation. Proposals from as many as three of the 26 communities where the Knight brothers once owned newspapers will be given special consideration.

Through 2008, New Voices will help fund the start-up of 10 micro-local news projects with grants of US$12,000; support them with an educational website, and help foster their sustainability through US$5,000 second-year matching grants.

Projects will be selected on:

  • The level of communications innovation.
  • Plans for effectively serving an identified community with fact-based news, information and dialogue.
  • Usefulness as a prototype for others.
  • Specific plans for sustaining the project after New Voices funding has ended.


Eligible to apply for funding under the New Voices project are 501(c)3 organisations and education institutions, including civic groups, community organisations, public broadcasters, schools, colleges and universities.

  • Funding is available for start-up news initiatives only. Ongoing efforts are not eligible to apply unless they are proposing a new venture.
  • Funding may be used only for news and information projects. Advocacy and government projects are not eligible.
  • Funding is available for print or electronic news initiatives, including online, cable, broadcast, narrowcast, satellite and mobile efforts.
  • Collaborative ventures are eligible as long as the funded party is a nonprofit or education institution.
  • Religious organisations may receive grants for non-sectarian purposes only. Proposals to proselytise or to promote the tenets of a particular religious belief will not be considered.
  • Funded applicants must have plans to launch their initiative within 10 months of receiving funding.
  • Applicants must specifically outline a realistic vision for sustaining the project after start-up funding is spent.
  • Only projects based in the United States may apply.
  • Projects using a language other than English will be permitted as long as translated samples of the project are made available monthly for educational purposes and all reports are made in English.

Deadline for applications is February 20 2008.

Panos: using media for development

Today Panos is a network of 8 organizations.
In September 2007 they released a report called Making poverty the story - Time to involve the media in poverty reduction

Brief history of Panos

Panos may officially have been founded in 1986, but our origins go back to the early 1970s when the environmental movement was gathering pace.

In 1974, UK journalist Jon Tinker started Earthscan, a unit of the International Institute for Environment and Development which offered journalists (and later NGOs) objective information on key global issues and on policy options for addressing them.

By 1986 Jon had transformed Earthscan’s Southern media programme into a new independent institution: Panos.

From the outset, as part of its commitment to Southern-led development, Panos aimed to build a network of independent institutes around the world.

During the late 1990s offices opened in Zambia, Haiti, Nepal, Ethiopia and India, among others. In 2000 West Africa became the first autonomous Southern institute, and six years later Eastern Africa completed the transition.

Twenty years after the creation of Panos, the vision of a global network of institutes striving towards a common goal - ensuring that information is effectively used to foster public debate, pluralism and democracy - has become a reality.

Why communication? Panos' approach to development

The capacity to receive information, to debate, and to express one’s own ideas and needs is a right in itself and an essential part of people’s ability to lift themselves out of poverty and participate in the life of their society.

Communication is part of the fabric of societies. By receiving, giving and discussing information and ideas we are able to make decisions and form opinions – parents decide if their child will go to school, an HIV positive person decides whether to declare his or her status, and individuals decide how to vote in an election.

Communication enables health services to ensure the supply of medicines in their clinics, farmers to find out the price of their crops, and diaspora communities to send remittances back home. Communication underpins development.

The opportunities for communicating have increased enormously, especially over the past two decades. A technological revolution has brought us digital communication, satellites, the internet and mobile phones.

And many countries have become more democratic, allowing greater freedom of speech and a more varied and independent media.

So why should development agencies, donor organisations and civil society groups focus on communication? Because there are still many gaps:

1) mass media (newspapers, radio and TV stations, and online news services) may have increased in number, but this is not always matched by the quality, variety, or relevance of their content

2) poor people in rural areas of many developing countries still lack access to telephones, the internet and other forms of media, even if they could afford them

3) the English language continues to dominate the internet, which is primarily geared towards people in rich countries – little content is produced by and for people in developing countries

4) the potential of communication to be “bottom-up” - empowering poor people to speak for themselves and participate in democratic processes, not just to receive information - has not been fully exploited

5) development planners often neglect communication, failing to appreciate how essential it is for sustainable development strategies; fragmented approaches to communication for development have led to confusion, poor decision-making and missed opportunities

How Panos is helping to address these gaps

Panos believes that a communication environment that promotes development is one that enables poor people to make their voices heard, that helps people to participate in decision-making, and that encourages public debate – from the community level all the way to international policy.

We promote and support a broad and integrated view of communication. We have pioneered the use of oral testimony – training local people to conduct interviews that draw out direct personal experience and memory – as a way for ordinary men and women to articulate their perspectives on development and change.

Much of our work supports the media – especially radio, the medium that in many countries reaches poor people most easily - and analyses the role it can play in development.

As the Commission for Africa's 2005 report, Our Common Ground, noted: “The media is an educator and key information source that can help deliver the Millennium Development Goals, promote transparent governance and, through balanced reporting, help prevent conflicts. The wide benefits from plural media means it acts as a public good in development.”

For example, we help radio stations produce programmes on issues of local public concern, and we enhance the skills of journalists to report on development issues. We also endeavour to strengthen the legal and regulatory environments which allow an independent and quality media to flourish – for instance by supporting local organisations to lobby against high taxes on small radio stations.

Making the internet and other telecommunications more accessible and affordable to poor and rural people is key. At the national policy level we host debates between governments, private sector providers and researchers, for example on the pros and cons of allowing greater competition between internet service providers.

Finally, we have built up a solid reputation for our expertise and analysis on the role of communication in development. We collaborate with major international development agencies – such as the World Health Organisation, UNAIDS, the UK’s Department for International Development and the UN Economic Commission for Africa – encouraging them to devote more resources and effort to communication.

By working in a variety of ways with a range of stakeholders we aim to strengthen the voices of poor people and enable them to participate in development.

Making poverty the story - Time to involve the media in poverty reduction

This 68-page report is the culmination of Raising Debate, a three-year pilot project on the media and poverty reduction in six countries, coordinated by Panos London with members of the international Panos network and partners in Africa and South Asia. It focuses on the role of media in poverty reduction, through its ability to raise public awareness and debate, and shift public and political opinion, with the possible result of policy change. It asks for recognition and support of high quality public interest journalism that plays a role in coverage relevant to poverty reduction. According to the report, media has boosted poverty reduction from a cause to a challenge, resulting in public action on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

The report makes a case for stronger media involvement on poverty reduction through citing the introduction of World Bank-approved and -supported Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSPs)as the main instrument for dealing with poverty in low-income countries. The PRSP policy-making process, in principle, engages stakeholder participation and ‘national ownership', requiring communication strategies involving the public, including economically poor people. Because of the need for transparency and participation on issues at stake in the PRSP policy-making process, the document recommends engaging journalists to bring these issues to the public through the media and highlights these media functions:
  1. "communicating with and informing a wide range of audiences on poverty reduction issues;
  2. providing an open forum to reflect different public views, including those of economically poor people;
  3. communicating with and informing a wide range of audiences on poverty reduction issues;
  4. providing an inclusive platform for public debate; and
  5. scrutinising and holding all actors to account for their actions, acting as a force for more transparent and accountable decision-making relevant to poverty reduction."
As stated in the document's second section, the challenges and constraints to media development require cognisance of the needs of the media in many of the economically poorest countries, particularly countries in Africa. Competition in the wake of liberalisation from state controls has brought a struggle for commercial survival to media in a number of regions. Because poverty reduction is not seen as a subject that is attractive to readership and advertisers, it is often not given media attention. This view limits editorial discussion of poverty issues. Also, these issues may cause media to be more subject to political pressures.

Structural problems of media finance often result in precarious employment and lack of sufficient salary and training for journalists. Time and resources for research on poverty reduction are scarce. Possible skill deficits in deciphering the existing range of information and analysis coupled with a tendency to rely on government-produced information sources exclusively, despite degrees of official secrecy and red tape, can lead to problematic professional practices. The report recognises that there are training needs in the area of analysis.

Given this context, the report identifies opportunities, some of which have opened because, as a result of the PRSP process making more information available for public analysis. It highlights the importance of policy actors needing not only to recognise media potential and strengthen engagement with individual journalists, but also needing to support the media more effectively. These policy actors include: civil society organisations (CSOs) and international non-governmental organisations (NGOs), national governments, international donors, and media leaders and media support organisations. The document calls for a structural approach to strengthening the media sector, including comprehensive public policies on the media, and, in its conclusions, lists specific recommendations to these policy actors for structural change.

There is, as stated here, "unrealised potential of better understanding and working relations between civil society and the media." However, both national CSOs and international NGOs must better understand journalists' constraints and strengthen their approach to engaging and working with the media as independent partners. The report argues that media also has much to gain by engaging the public on poverty reduction issues, including sources, insights, and contacts, and greater familiarity with the issues at stake, as seen by those often working closely with or seeking to represent the economically poor. It lists fifteen specific strategies for national CSOs and seven for international NGOs to use to engage and support the media, including, for example, sharpening policy messages with accurate information, proposing story ideas that meet media values of noteworthiness, and organising public meetings to be well run and media friendly, as well as exploring partnerships and launching research initiatives.

Further, the document argues the importance of engaging media owners, managers, and editors in discussions of how to strengthen the level and quality of coverage of issues related to poverty reduction. Their understanding of what will resonate with audiences is an important starting point. Questions are raised on promoting poverty reduction stories through specialist topics such as national development plans or the institutional mechanics of policy development in the PRSPs. Recognising that the media attracts its public through controversy, the report suggests using the pros and cons of contentious decisions, such as state reform or privatisation, especially bringing together local and national politics and their real-life relevance. Also, a focus on a key aspect of policymaking relevant to poverty reduction, with links, inconsistencies, and gaps relevant to the public, may engage media that are searching for topicality, newsworthiness, and audience impact.

The concluding portion lists 17 recommendations for national governments regarding strengthening and enabling the media, particularly on effective reporting of poverty-reduction-related issues and efforts. Among these are:

  • "develop public information and consultation systems, strengthening
    a participatory focus on poverty as governments develop their own homegrown strategies and national development plans;
  • involve the media in helping to communicate the findings of official surveys and research exercises on poverty and poverty reduction ...;
  • engage the media to provide stronger coverage of key moments in official policymaking and decision-making ...; and
  • enable the development of independent media regulation and media support systems ..."

The report stresses the role of alternative media, such as community radio, oral testimonies, community theatre, and other inclusive forms of communication in amplifying the voices of the economically poor and scaling up their impact.

Saturday, 15 December 2007

121 Banks help companies violating human rights

Interesting information that i've got from the blog of Foreign Policy

121 Banks invest in companies violating fundamental human rights
You can download the full report here (39 page pdf file)

You're reading this blog and i have a question for you.
Did you hear this information from tv?
Did you hear this information from radio?
Did you read this information in a newspaper?

It's up to you where you put your money

Bank Secrets Cracked
Tuesday, 11 December 2007

New report reveals alarming investment practices by financial groups

Today, the financial watchdog Netwerk Vlaanderen launches the report ‘Bank Secrets’. The dossier details the investments by 121 financial groups in companies violating fundamental human rights. The investors channel money to 13 companies selling weapons to dictators, denying people access to land and clean water, co-operating with armed rebel groups and being involved in forced relocations and heavy and irreversible pollution.

International banks involved
121 banks from 24 different countries play a role in the financing of these companies, including banks based in Abu Dhabi, Australia, Belgium, Canada, China, DRC, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Kuwait, Malaysia, Mauritius, The Netherlands, Peru, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, Taiwan, the UK, the US and the multilateral World Bank.

Netwerk Vlaanderen reports that for the period 2003 – 2007, loans add up to a total of US$13 billion. Furthermore, during the period 2004-2007 banks have arranged and underwritten bond issues to a total value of US$ 28.4 billion. During the same period, the companies were assisted in issuing shares to a total value of US$ 14.8 billion.

Investors complicit to human right abuses
Although the human rights abuses are well documented, financiers keep on supporting the involved companies. The lack of sustainability standards in their investments policies, allows them to channel money to companies like AviChina, which sells military material to China, Burma and Sudan. Because of violations of human rights in these countries, the European Union decided on an arms embargo. By financing AviChina, investors undermine this embargo.

Other reported investments include the support to mining companies which systematically pollute the environment. The Australian company Emperor Mines, for example, exploits a gold and silver mine in an ecologically and culturally precious area in Papua New Guinea. Emperor Mines dumps monthly 14.000 tuns of toxic waste - containing lead, chromium, arsenic, cadmium, nickel and copper - in the local river. Thousands of people depend on the water for fishery and small scale agriculture. This does not stop several major international financial groups from backing the company financially.

Netwerk Vlaanderen promotes an environmentally and socially responsible approach to money. Netwerk gives advice on sustainable saving and investment products. And Netwerk has been running the campaign "My Money. Clear Conscience?" to show banks where their responsibilities are around human rights abuses.

Thursday, 13 December 2007

What's the purpose of radio?

Some days ago there was a videochat with an italian journalist (Beppe Severgnini) and 2 people who work in radio.
The topic of the videochat was "What's the purpose of radio?" and, during the chat, people could send messages, obviously.
I read and i saved the messages of people, some were useless and some were interesting.
Anyway, my question would be: "What's the purpose of radio, beside making money?"
John Reith (General manager and Chairman of the BBC from 1922 till 1938) was clear: unlike the USA, the mission of (public) radio (and later tv) is "to inform, educate and entertain". Still today that sentence is in BBC website.
But John Reith was a man of his era (like everybody): in 50's he was against the Television Act (1954) that allowed the creation of a private tv. Could you imagine anybody now opposing the existence of private broadcasters?
Even without public broadcasters we can be informed and entertained. I don't honestly think that radio can educate anyone now!
One message (of the videochat) was quite interesting: "Are podcasting now like pirate radio in 70's"? (In Italy pirate radio were broadcasting in 70's, not 60's).
Well, yes, that could be true. My opinion is that we are like in the UK in 60's: pirate radio were pushing and trying to reshape the whole system. The political solution of that time (law in 1967 to switch off pirates and licences in 1973 for private radio) is not possible now: you can't unplug Internet for 6 years or for 6 days! The old system of media is collapsing and mainstream radio (through the air) could be one of the first victims.
What's the purpose of radio? I can't tell but radio must rethink its mission (now the only mission is trying to sell cd of top 40), otherwise radio won't have any purpose very soon.

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

YouTube, we pay

Another step for YouTube: it is starting to pay creators of video

YouTube partners are independent video creators and media companies who are looking for online distribution and who meet our qualifications. Becoming a partner gives you the ability to share in ad revenue from your YouTube videos.

Which percentage will you get? We don't know yet, we know who can partecipate:

1) You create original videos
2) You own the copyrights and distribution rights for the content you upload
3) You regularly upload videos that are viewed by thousands of people
4) You live in USA or Canada

How many people create content?
According to a study (8 months old) only "0.16 percent of visits to Google's top video-sharing site, YouTube, are by users seeking to upload video for others to watch".
Beside the hype of Web 2.0 (or even 3.0) that's the reality now: every user can create content (such as video, article, photo) but only a tiny minority is doing that. Few prosumers (producer and consumer at the same time) and a lot of consumers.

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Luttazzi and the mass media

Daniele Luttazzi is an italian comedian, i would say he's the italian version of David Letterman.

A couple of days ago the private tv channel La7 (the majority of the shares belongs to Telecom Italia) said they cancelled his show because they said he insulted one journalist of the same channel.

Some people are saying "It's a shame, it's censorship!"
Is it really censorship?
I do not think so.
Luttazzi doesn't understand (or maybe he pretends not to understand) that every medium has its limits. Who decides the limits? Easy answer for a private tv channel: the owner does decide the limits. If you don't like those limits, you're free to look for another job in another private tv channel. In this system of society, there's no way we can establish the right to be on tv against the will of the owner, it would be the same for newspapers or radio. A journalist or a comedian should be a valuable asset for a tv channel, not a source of troubles.

Everybody talks about "the right of satire" but not many people talk about "the right of people not to be insulted through mass media". Why?

Monday, 10 December 2007

Stockhausen 1928-2007

Karlheinz Stockhausen, genius of modern music, died few days ago; The Independent writes:

Karlheinz Stockhausen: Composer acclaimed as a genius for his work in electronic music

10 December 2007

Karlheinz Stockhausen, composer and conductor: born Mödrath, Germany 22 August 1928; Artistic Director, Westdeutscher Rundfunk Electronic Music Studio 1963-77, Artistic Consultant 1977-90; Professor of Composition, Cologne State Conservatory 1971-77; married 1951 Doris Andreae (one son, three daughters; marriage dissolved), 1967 Mary Bauermeister (one son, one daughter; marriage dissolved); died Kürten, Germany 5 December 2007.

Karlheinz Stockhausen was one of only a tiny number of composers born and working in the 20th century who transformed the field of music. Like most prominent composers of his time, what brought him to the fore was not so much his musical talent as his overall vision, intellectual brilliance and work-discipline.

As with many artists, his abilities were apparent in his infancy, but the path he would eventually take did not seem the obvious one. Simon, his father, was a primary school teacher. His mother, Gertrud, came from a prosperous farming family. When Karlheinz was born in 1928, in Mödrath – a small mining village near Cologne – Germany was a depressed country in the thick of inter-war turmoil. Simon Stockhausen was shunted from job to job and, each time, the family moved with him. When Karlheinz was scarcely four, his mother suffered a breakdown and was admitted to the local mental hospital.

Karlheinz's first piano studies were with the organist of Altenberg cathedral. He took to the instrument with such speed that within a year he played duets at local functions. After only one hearing, he could play back popular tunes or operatic themes.

The boy was spontaneously religious. Prayers were part of the daily routine at home. When Simon was "encouraged" to join the Nazi party, however, he had to discourage prayer at school, a discrepancy which made a lasting impact on his son.

Simon left for the front as an officer and Karlheinz Stockhausen was himself drafted in autumn 1944. As a stretcher-bearer he tended wounded soldiers from many different countries. "Death became something completely relative for me," he later recalled. He never saw his father again, and his mother – along with other mental patients – had been killed as an act of government policy.

As a post-war orphan he moved to Cologne and lived hand-to-mouth, working as a car park attendant and night-watchman. His first thought for a vocation was literature; he started to write poems and stories, inspired by Hermann Hesse's The Glass Bead Game. Music seemed, improbably, a way to earn money. Stockhausen played the piano in cafés, restaurants and bars and, just after he decided to concentrate on music, he spent a year improvising accompaniments for Adrion the conjuror.

Music in post-war Europe was as much in ferment as society and politics. A quarter-century earlier, Arnold Schoenberg had sown the seeds, revolutionising music by devising (some would say discovering) "composition using 12 tones". He would rework a melodic idea until it used all 12 notes of the octave, then extrapolate the intervals from the sequence. This pattern served as the basis for the cohesion and comprehensibility of the music. While Schoenberg saw the method as a continuation of tradition, the rising generation wanted to break with the past. The young Europeans tried to do so by applying the 12-tone principle with conceptual rigour to other dimensions of the music, such as rhythm and tone-colour.

Stockhausen became a pioneer of this "total serialism". In Kreuzspiel (1951), not only were the pitches organised in a series, but the durations too. Kontra-Punkte (1952-53) uses six different groups of timbre, which drop out one by one, until only the piano is left. Six degrees of volume are gradually reduced to a continuously soft level, and a diversity of note lengths gradually slims down to similar durations.

Total serialism, as practised by Stockhausen and peers such as Pierre Boulez, was soon attacked as "Augenmusik" – music for the eyes, not for the ears. If you wrote this way, it was argued, you took the notes from your intellectual schemes, not from what you heard in your head – and listeners could not follow them.

Certainly, Stockhausen and his followers tended to couch descriptions of their work in terms of "research", and were constantly inventing scientific-sounding terminology such as "group" and "moment" form. When Stockhausen worked in Paris in one of the early electronic music studios, he proposed a study made up of tiny permutations of a single sound. "Don't do that," the studio director, Pierre Schaeffer, advised. "You'll only hear background noise." Stockhausen persevered, and eventually played the result to Schaeffer. "All you heard was 'shuuutt'," Schaeffer remembered. "He was terribly pleased with it."

Characteristically, Stockhausen carried on, taking no account of criticism. He saw total serialism through to its conclusion, in works such as Gruppen, for three orchestras (1955-57) and his piano pieces. Kontakte (1959-60), for piano, percussion, and tape, tackled the compositional problem of relating acoustic and electronic sounds, in a way which remains unsurpassed. Zyklus (1959), his percussion solo, took Stockhausen's electro-acoustic researches and applied them to an instrumental work.

At the end of the Fifties, Stockhausen was undoubtedly the national composer of Germany. Although he was barely 30, he employed a series of compositional assistants, and held a pivotal place in the major music summer schools in Darmstadt and later Cologne.

In 1951 he had married Doris Andreae, daughter of a wealthy Hamburg shipbuilder, and for the next decade she was "the ideal wife", looking after their domestic affairs, leaving him free to work, and keeping open house for visiting composer friends. Early in the Sixties, however, his artistic connections with the painter Mary Bauermeister spilled over into an affair.

Since Stockhausen's music is on the surface highly intellectual, it is easy to overlook his emotional life and its relation to his work. It is, though, there for all to see. He dramatised his conflict of loyalties, for instance, in his lengthy Momente (1961-64), for soprano, four choir groups, and 13 instrumentalists. The material is grouped into K (Klang, timbre), M (melody) and D (duration) moments, which also happen to stand for Karlheinz, Mary and Doris.

Beginning in the mid-Sixties, Stockhausen turned towards a more intuitive type of music-making, providing form but not content for the players. Scores such as Prozession (1967) and Kurzwellen (1968) consist of signs directing the musicians to transform sounds spontaneously in specific ways. He formed his own performance group, and coached its members to play his new pieces in what he felt was the appropriate way – which from time to time led to clashes.

In May 1968 – that time of global crisis – Mary Bauermeister left him. Responding creatively as usual, he went into seclusion and wrote a series of text scores, elusive in their instructions. "Play a vibration in the rhythm of the universe" is the invitation of one text. "What shall I do with that?" asked Group Stockhausen's pianist, Aloys Kontarsky.

Mantra (1970), for two pianos, ring modulators and incidental percussion, marked a return to conventional notation, and a new approachability. Stockhausen later remembered with pride that while touring the work he and the pianists would often hum the motif which forms the basis for the work.

It was around this time that his spiritual leanings, which he had long fulfilled through Catholicism, intensified, latching on to an amalgam of apocalyptic thought and Eastern mysticism. Sirius (1974), for instance, is premissed on Jakob Lorber's pronouncement that the human race was founded thousands of years ago by benign space-travellers from the Dog Star. The piece begins and ends with the depiction of space-ship engines landing and taking off.

The early Seventies marked the zenith of Stockhausen's popularity (his standing among fellow-composers was at its greatest 10 years earlier). By the Eighties, the music establishment took him less and less seriously, and his influence dwindled.

This was partly due to his personality. Charming, albeit opinionated, as a young man, many felt that after his crisis in the Sixties he had become a megalomaniac. Some people were offended by his polygamous relations with his female interpreters (to whom he referred on occasion as his "squaws") and by the apparent nepotism of including family members in his performances. He fell out with his publisher and record company over what they felt were unreasonable demands.

Partly, too, his falling sign was the flip-side of his early success. For Stockhausen, as for many who made their name at an early age (consider Orson Welles), it was hard to satisfy public expectations when he had been acclaimed as a genius while still in his twenties. From 1977 onwards, he subsumed his compositional work in a single project – Licht (Light), a cycle of seven operas, named after the days of the week. Stockhausen declared that he would devote the rest of his working life to its completion, straddling, he planned, the millennium. Commissions which came his way for short works could be the occasion to compose an individual scene. He could build up most of each opera in this piecemeal way, until a major opera house agreed to mount the whole.

It was an audacious ambition, taking his character and his way of working to their natural conclusion. Licht was eventually finished more than a quarter of a century later, in 2003, and Stockhausen embarked upon Klang (Sound), a still unfinished cycle based on the 24 hours of the day.

Permission to listen legally to the radio

From 1922 until 1971 in the United Kingdom you were required to pay for a radio licence in order to legally listen to the radio.

There is a site dedicated to the history of the radio licence in the UK.

"In the new (and at times chaotic) radio service in the United States, stations were allowed to carry advertising. In the United Kingdom, the Government decided that the fledgling British Broadcasting Company would be funded, not by commercials, but by the introduction of a compulsory radio licence. Anyone wanting to listen to radio programmes had to have one ... a situation that lasted until 1971!"

In the site we have all the information we might need.
The first licence fee, for radio, was issued in November 1922, it was 10 shillings (50 pence). The ide of a "licence" was so new that, for the first few months, a personal letter was sent out giving permission to listen.
At the end of 1923 just 200 000 licences had been issued. The combined radio and Tv licence was introduced in 1946 at a cost of two pounds. The radio licence covered all wireless sets in your home, but only in your home. If you had a car with a radio in it, you were required to have a separate licence. Radio only licences were abolished in February 1971.

Friday, 7 December 2007

What do people do online?

What do people do when they are online?

We can know the answer about european people reading this news release from Eurostat

Internet access and e-skills in the EU27 in 2007

More than 40% of households have broadband internet access

More than one individual in two use internet search engines

In the EU27, 54% of households(1) had access to the internet during the first quarter of 2007, compared with 49% during the first quarter of 2006, and 42% had a broadband connection, compared with 30% in 2006.

This data(2) comes from Eurostat, the Statistical Office of the European Communities. This release presents only a small part of the results of a survey from 2007 on Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) usage in households and by individuals in the EU27 Member States, Norway and Iceland. As well as internet use and broadband connections the survey also covers e-shopping, e-government and e-skills.

Household internet access ranged from 19% in Bulgaria to 83% in the Netherlands

In 2007, the highest proportions of households with internet access were recorded in the Netherlands (83%), Sweden (79%) and Denmark (78%). The lowest levels were registered in Bulgaria (19%), Romania (22%) and Greece (25%).

The proportion of households with a broadband connection in 2007 was also highest in the Netherlands (74%), Denmark (70%) and Sweden (67%).

A quarter of individuals chat online, 15% make phone calls over the internet

In the first quarter of 2007 individuals in the EU Member states were asked which internet related activities they had already carried out in order to measure their e-skills. In the EU27, 57% of individuals had used internet search engines. Half of them had sent e-mails with attachments, while 30% said they kept viruses and spyware off their computers. Slightly more than one quarter had downloaded and installed software from the internet. Around one
quarter of individuals had taken part in chatrooms, newsgroups or online discussions, and 15% had used the internet to make phone calls. Peer to peer file sharing for exchange of movies and music had been used by 13%. One tenth had created a web page.

The Member States most often reporting high proportions of individuals performing these different internet activities were Denmark, Estonia, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.
(1) The survey covered households containing at least one person aged 16-74, and individuals aged 16-74. The reference period was the first quarter of 2007. Households were asked about internet access by any member of the household at home. Individuals were asked about internet related activities they had ever carried out, at home or at any other location, in order to measure their skills.

(2) Eurostat, Data in Focus 23/2007 "Internet usage in 2007 Households and individuals". The publication can be downloaded for free in PDF format from the Eurostat website. The full set of data can be found on the Eurostat website and in the dedicated section: Science and Technology / Information society / Data.

Thursday, 6 December 2007

Wrong business about radio

I was reading an italian online magazine about IT and i found a bizzarre comparison between radio and DRM. The article is called "Radio? it was born with DRM" I thought DRM, do you mean Digital Radio Mondiale? It can't be, it's a new standard. He meant the (in)famous Digital rights management. And what does it have to do with the radio?
The article links to a post of a blog called "Learning from the past: how DRM failed in Australia"
I found the site "The history of radio in Australia"

The Sealed Set Scheme

The radio manufacturing industry in Australia, led by George Fisk of AWA, lobbied the Government for the introduction of radio broadcasting in these early years. In May 1923 the Government finally called a conference of the main players. This led to the sealed set regulations where stations could be licensed to broadcast and then sell sets to 'listeners-in'. The receiving device would be set to receive only that station. 2FC in Sydney was the first to be licensed on 1st July 1923 but its opponent 2SB ( later to be called 2BL ) was first to go to air officially starting on 23rd November that year. 3AR and 3LO went to air on 26th January and 13th October 1924 in Melbourne.

However the sealed set scheme wasn't taken to by listeners, only 1400 people took out sealed set licences in the first 6 months of 1924. It was quite easy to avoid the licence fee by building your own set or modifying one you'd bought to receive more than one station.


He thought it was cool comparing that thing with DRM situation today. But do the 2 situations have something in common? One thing for sure: people weren't happy about that idea and aren't happy about DRM now. But a lof of things are very different. First, in 1923 we were at the very beginning of radio industry, therefore it's normal that nobody knew which direction the business could lead. The important difference is that in 1923 manufacturers were pushing for that businell model and now manufacturers aren't lobbying, the labels are.
Maybe the lesson learned was: if manufacturers are greedy about a new device, buyers will not buy. Today the lesson could be: if labels want to make money selling "locked" music, they won't cause people have an easy alternative such as downloading for free.
Instead of pointing out the failure of the first licensing scheme, why don't we think about the very revolutionary idea, i mean allowing private companies broadcasting? In Europe private companies couldn't broadcast legally for decades!

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Coup de theatre from US intelligence

All the newspapers in the world wrote about a NIE report where they wrote that Iran had stopped its nuclear programme in 2003.
First question: why do journalists write about a report and do NOT link to it??
You can see the 9 page report here

National Intelligence Estimate, produced by the National Intelligence Council, express the coordinated judgments of the US Intelligence Community made up of 16 intelligence agencies.

National Intelligence Estimates are classified documents prepared for policy-makers.
Second question: why did they decide to release it?

I think they decided to realese it as a message to Bush administration. The message is clear: if you want to bomb Iraq, do it but do not say that intelligence is on your side; don't even think of dragging us into another disaster.

We can add another question (same question asked in this NYT article): can we trust US intelligence when in 2003 they said Iraq had WMD and in
2005 they said Iran "is determined to develop nuclear weapons"?

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

Broadcasting freedom during Cold War

I found this news in an italian blog about radio.
In October 2004 there was a conference called "Cold war broadcasting impact"
about the role and the importance of western radio (basically Radio Free
Europe and Radio Liberty
) for the eastern european audience.
You can download a 56 page paper about the conference.
Above, you can see the picture of Radio Liberty transmitter at Playa de Pals on the Mediterranean coast north of Barcelona, it was blown up in March 2006.


This publication reports the highlights of a conference on Cold War Broadcasting Impact held at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, on October 13‐15, 2004. The conference was organized by the Hoover Institution and the Cold War International History Project (CWIHP) of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, with assistance from the Center for Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies, Stanford University, and the Open Society Archives, Central European University, Budapest. The Annenberg Foundation Trust at Sunnylands and the Bernard Osher Foundation provided generous financial support. The Honorable George Shultz opened the conference, and former Czech President and communist‐era dissident Vaclav Havel sent video greetings.
Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty were, along with other Western broadcasters, effective instruments of Western policy during the Cold War. Many East European and Russian democrats have seconded the words of Vaclav Havel that “our society owes Radio Free Europe gratitude for the role that it has played.” Western studies have examined the history and organization of RFE/RL and its place in American national security strategy. Major publications include Sig Mickelson, Americaʹs Other Voice: The Story of Radio Free Europe & Radio Liberty (Praeger, 1983), Michael Nelson, War of the Black Heavens: The Battles of Western Broadcasting in the Cold War (Syracuse University Press, 1997), Gene Sosin, Sparks of Liberty: An Insiderʹs Memoir of Radio Liberty (Pennsylvania State University Press, 1999), Arch Puddington, Broadcasting Freedom: The Cold War Triumph of Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty (University of Kentucky Press, 2000), and Alan Heil, The Voice of America; A History (Columbia University Press, 2003). But we have lacked studies of Western broadcasting drawing on archival material from the other side of the former Iron Curtin. We have lacked analyses of broadcasting impact ‐ the effect on both societies and communist regimes.
In preparation for the conference, documents about Western broadcasting impact were collected from Communist‐era East European, Baltic, and Russian archives. These materials include Communist Party Politburo and Central Committee discussions of broadcasting impact and propaganda coutermeasures, secret police assessments and efforts to penetrate the Western broadcasters, directives on jamming, internal secret audience surveys, Party and censorship office press guidance on countering the broadcasts, and assessments of the impact on the 3
Communist armies. Documentation was collected by the CWIHP’s network of archive scholars in the region, with assistance from the Open Society Archives. A Hoover Institution oral history project interviewed key Polish Communist officials about broadcast impact. These materials complement the extensive RFE/RL corporate records and broadcast archives now located at the Hoover Institution (described at
The conference brought together experts from the West and former Communist countries who presented papers based on this archiva documentation. Veteran Western broadcasting officials and leading former Communist officials and dissidents also participated. This combination of new documentation, international expertise, and oral history provides new insights into a major Western instrument of the Cold War.
This publication contains a summary of proceedings, prepared by Gregory Mitrovich, who served as rapporteur. It also contains an analysis based on the conference discussions (“Lessons Learned”) of why Western Cold War broadcasting was effective, prepared by A. Ross Johnson and R. Eugene Parta. Selected conference papers will be published in an edited volume by the Central European Press. Key documents will be made available in the CWIHP’s Virtual Archive ( and published in English in a second volume by the Central European Press.

Factors of success

1) First, a clear sense of purpose congruent with the aspirations and possibilities of the audiences.
2) Second, a capability for sophisticated appraisal of the adversary.
3) Third, differentiated and tailored programs for multiple audiences amand within the target countries.
4) Fourth, programs that were purposeful, credible, responsible, and relevatheir audiences.
5) Fifth, decentralized broadcast organizations.
6) Sixth, multi‐media operations.
7) Seventh, appropriate funding and oversight mechanisms.
8) Eighth, distance from official government polices and journalistic independence.
9) Ninth, receptive audiences that identified with many of the goals of the broadcasters.


Western broadcasts had a remarkable impact in the USSR and Eastern Europe in the circumstances of the Cold War. They reached mass audiences, as documented by traveler surveys at the time and confirmed now by evidence from the formerly closed Communist archives. They reached key elites, both within the Communist regimes and among regime opponents. The keys to the mass and elite audiences were the credibility and relevance of the broadcasts. Government mechanisms were geared to providing public funding and oversight while ensuring management autonomy and journalistic independence.

Monday, 3 December 2007

Internet is changing tv

From NYT:

Lots of Little Screens: TV Is Changing Shape

Published: December 2, 2007

Denise Caruso is executive director of the Hybrid Vigor Institute, which studies collaborative problem-solving

INEXPENSIVE broadband access has done far more for online video than enable the success of services like YouTube and iTunes. By unchaining video watchers from their TV sets, it has opened the floodgates to a generation of TV producers for whom the Internet is their native medium.

And as they shift their focus away from TV to grab us on one of the many other screens in our lives — our computers, cellphones and iPods — the command-and-control economic model of traditional television is being quickly superseded by the market chaos of a freewheeling and open digital network.

According to Move Networks, a company based in Utah that provides online video technologies, more than 100,000 new viewers jump online every 24 hours to watch its clients’ long-form or episodic video. During the first two weeks of November alone, more than twice the number of Americans were watching TV online than in the entire month of August.

The shift is proving quite inspirational to digital media entrepreneurs.

“What absolutely convinced me to start a company in this area was when I realized just how large the disruption was,” said Kip McClanahan, the co-founder and chief executive of ON Networks, an online studio in Austin, Tex. “It touches everything — how video content is created and monetized, how it’s distributed and consumed. And it’s a half-trillion-dollar market, if you include the advertising that supports it and the revenue associated with subscriptions, tickets and so on.”

A market that size provides plenty of room for experimentation. Many flavors of technology and programming are being tested, as are some changes in traditional revenue models.

Vuze, based in Palo Alto, and Joost, based in Leiden in the Netherlands, for example, have both developed proprietary software that must be downloaded to view their video programming. In addition to providing programming from established brands like PBS, Showtime, the BBC and A&E, the start-ups encourage new producers to make deals with them and upload new programs to their sites.

ON does not distribute any traditional TV shows. Instead, it works with professional content creators who develop original programs in HDTV. So far, it has produced hundreds of episodes for 25 programs, all of which are available at the ON Web site, as well as through iTunes and AT&T, its distribution partners. They include a dating show, produced in partnership with NBC, and a home-building show called “Mainstream Green.”

Blip Networks, based in New York, is another company working to create its own established brands, providing thousands of short-form videos from all comers. In addition to one-off documentaries like “Gotham Girls Roller Derby,” Blip’s library includes weekly news satires like “Goodnight Burbank,” which drew favorable notice from several mainstream media outlets, including USA Today and The Los Angeles Times.

Blip syndicates its programming to America Online, Yahoo, Google, iTunes, Facebook and other big Web distributors. Vuze, Joost, Blip and ON all share as much as 50 percent of their revenue with the content producers, regardless of distribution medium. “If that model existed today, writers wouldn’t be on strike,” said Mr. McClanahan.

René Pinnell, the director of “Backpack Picnic,” a popular sketch comedy show that came to ON after the troupe produced two pilots that were never shown by MTV, said the online environment is a “really good deal” for many reasons.

“The biggest one is that it allows us a tremendous amount of creative freedom we wouldn’t get in a more traditional media environment,” he said. “The investment is low for them — nowhere near the $500,000 a network will spend on one episode. They can afford to trust us.”

For its part, Hulu of Los Angeles has turned a traditional TV library into a promotional vehicle for, well, more TV. The joint venture between NBC Universal and the News Corporation offers scores of popular prime-time shows from all the major networks and channels, as well as past hits like “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”

“Because people can watch TV shows when and where they want, they can sample a lot more shows,” said Jason Kilar, chief executive of Hulu.

As a means to that end, Hulu may have persuaded the industry to relax a bit. Hulu’s player allows viewers to create short video clips from the shows they watch and put them in e-mail messages or on Web sites, including blogs, an activity that in the past has drawn nasty letters from copyright lawyers. “This is a key way that we can make sure the content finds the audience,” said Mr. Kilar.

But what happens to the television industry when the traditional way for content to find its audience becomes obsolete?

“There’s a lot of rewriting of the concept of windows in the TV network world today — the timing of when and where shows appear,” said Allen Weiner, the managing vice president for media and consumer technologies for the Gartner Group in Scottsdale, Ariz.

In the old days, after something appeared on TV, its release to other distribution channels was carefully staged — from the timing of reruns to the DVD release to when it would be available on-demand. “We’re seeing all kinds of new windows occurring, and no one knows what the magic formula will be,” he said. “A lot depends on advertiser reaction and on user behavior.”

One closely watched approach is the new online series “Quarterlife,” by Marshall Herskovitz and Edward Zwick, who produced “My So-Called Life.” Episodes first appear on MySpace TV, then are available the next day on, and a week later on YouTube, Facebook and Imeem. There is talk that they may even appear later on network TV — but as the last window, rather than the first.

As far as ON is concerned, Mr. McClanahan intends to put his programs in every single window he can find. Unlike other companies, ON optimizes all its shows for viewing on any video-capable device, a feature he calls “lifestyle distribution.”

That’s why he has deals with partners like iTunes and AT&T’s Television, Broadband and Wireless Services, both of which can deliver video programs to multiple devices, from plasma TVs to computer screens and cellphones.

“You can’t expect to control consumers and force them to come to prime time at 7 p.m. on a Monday night,” said Mr. McClanahan. “If the consumer wants it on their phone at 3 p.m. while they’re on the golf course, then that’s where we have to deliver it.”

Sunday, 2 December 2007

The right to kidnap

In Declaration of Independence (1776) the americans wrote "all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."
Well, apparently the Bush administration thinks that the right not to be kidnapped is not an unalienable right, is not self-evident.
All men might be created equal, but when they grow up they can be put in 3 different groups:
1 US citizens (human beings with human rights)
2 Foreigners (human beings with some human rights, not all of them)
3 Enemy combatants (they are not human beings, obviously they have no rights)

From Sunday Times:

December 2, 2007
US says it has right to kidnap British citizens
David Leppard

AMERICA has told Britain that it can “kidnap” British citizens if they are wanted for crimes in the United States.

A senior lawyer for the American government has told the Court of Appeal in London that kidnapping foreign citizens is permissible under American law because the US Supreme Court has sanctioned it.

The admission will alarm the British business community after the case of the so-called NatWest Three, bankers who were extradited to America on fraud charges. More than a dozen other British executives, including senior managers at British Airways and BAE Systems, are under investigation by the US authorities and could face criminal charges in America.

Until now it was commonly assumed that US law permitted kidnapping only in the “extraordinary rendition” of terrorist suspects.

The American government has for the first time made it clear in a British court that the law applies to anyone, British or otherwise, suspected of a crime by Washington.

Legal experts confirmed this weekend that America viewed extradition as just one way of getting foreign suspects back to face trial. Rendition, or kidnapping, dates back to 19th-century bounty hunting and Washington believes it is still legitimate.

The US government’s view emerged during a hearing involving Stanley Tollman, a former director of Chelsea football club and a friend of Baroness Thatcher, and his wife Beatrice.

The Tollmans, who control the Red Carnation hotel group and are resident in London, are wanted in America for bank fraud and tax evasion. They have been fighting extradition through the British courts.

During a hearing last month Lord Justice Moses, one of the Court of Appeal judges, asked Alun Jones QC, representing the US government, about its treatment of Gavin, Tollman’s nephew. Gavin Tollman was the subject of an attempted abduction during a visit to Canada in 2005.

Jones replied that it was acceptable under American law to kidnap people if they were wanted for offences in America. “The United States does have a view about procuring people to its own shores which is not shared,” he said.

He said that if a person was kidnapped by the US authorities in another country and was brought back to face charges in America, no US court could rule that the abduction was illegal and free him: “If you kidnap a person outside the United States and you bring him there, the court has no jurisdiction to refuse — it goes back to bounty hunting days in the 1860s.”

Mr Justice Ouseley, a second judge, challenged Jones to be “honest about [his] position”.

Jones replied: “That is United States law.”

He cited the case of Humberto Alvarez Machain, a suspect who was abducted by the US government at his medical office in Guadalajara, Mexico, in 1990. He was flown by Drug Enforcement Administration agents to Texas for criminal prosecution.

Although there was an extradition treaty in place between America and Mexico at the time — as there currently is between the United States and Britain — the Supreme Court ruled in 1992 that the Mexican had no legal remedy because of his abduction.

In 2005, Gavin Tollman, the head of Trafalgar Tours, a holiday company, had arrived in Toronto by plane when he was arrested by Canadian immigration authorities.

An American prosecutor, who had tried and failed to extradite him from Britain, persuaded Canadian officials to detain him. He wanted the Canadians to drive Tollman to the border to be handed over. Tollman was escorted in handcuffs from the aircraft in Toronto, taken to prison and held for 10 days.

A Canadian judge ordered his release, ruling that the US Justice Department had set a “sinister trap” and wrongly bypassed extradition rules. Tollman returned to Britain.

Legal sources said that under traditional American justice, rendition meant capturing wanted people abroad and bringing them to the United States. The term “extraordinary rendition” was coined in the 1990s for the kidnapping of terror suspects from one foreign country to another for interrogation.

There was concern this weekend from Patrick Mercer, the Tory MP, who said: “The very idea of kidnapping is repugnant to us and we must handle these cases with extreme caution and a thorough understanding of the implications in American law.”

Shami Chakrabarti, director of the human rights group Liberty, said: “This law may date back to bounty hunting days, but they should sort it out if they claim to be a civilised nation.”

The US Justice Department declined to comment.
- -