Tuesday, 30 March 2010

2 Interviews about presidential debates

Sheila Blackford is library specialist for Miller Center of Public Affairs.
I asked her few questions.

1) How many people watch the presidential speeches in Miller site?

The Presidential Speech Archive at the Miller Center of Public Affairs gets almost 10 percent of the Center’s total web traffic. In raw numbers that means that the detail pages for the speeches plus the main page were viewed more than 81,500 times in the last month (from February 21 to March 24, 2010).

2) For Miller institute, is it very hard to get in possess with old video of former presidents?

To obtain a copy of the presidential speeches, the Miller Center partners with the National Archives presidential libraries (for example, the Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library and Museum--http://www.lbjlib.utexas.edu/ or the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library-- http://www.reaganlibrary.com/). These libraries exist for presidents from Herbert Hoover forward. From John F. Kennedy forward, it is relatively easy to obtain video copies of the speeches from these libraries. However, it is much more complicated to obtain videos for earlier presidents (Eisenhower, Truman, Roosevelt, Hoover) because the footage is not in the public domain but is protected by copyright and owned by television news networks.

3) Who owns the copyright of speeches of former presidents?

We post the videos on our site under the assumption that they are in the public domain. However, we recommend that anyone wishing to use or copy the video speeches, contact the relevant presidential library to get a definitive statement about the copyright before proceeding because we are not the official custodians of the records and cannot make a definitive statement about the copyright status.

4) Do you think that the presidential debates are decisive or, most of the times, is it a just a show for the media industry?

There have been moments in presidential election history where the presidential debates have made a difference in the election. Most famously are the Nixon/Kennedy debates of 1960, which historians argue helped tip the balance toward Kennedy. However, generally they are not a decisive event but help people learn more about the candidates and their positions, and reaffirm for the voters the candidate that they already preferred.

Alan Schroeder is an associate professor at Northeastern University (Boston) and he wrote a book called Presidential Debates: 40 Years of High-Risk TV (Columbia University Press, 2000)
I asked him few questions.

1) Do you think that the presidential debates are decisive or, most of the times, is it a just a show for the media industry?

In some cases they have been very influential, such as 1960 with Kennedy and Nixon and also 1980 with Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan. Decisive is probably too strong a word, because it's impossible to separate debates from all the other factors that influence voting decisions.

2) This year, for first time in history, there will be a general election debate in UK (with 3 candidates). What do you think about foreign "adaptations" of US presidential debates? Do you think it will work among 3 speakers or will lose "duel-like" style?

More than 70 countries around the world have held live televised debates among candidates for president or prime minister. Last year both Iran and Afghanistan joined the list of countries that have experimented with TV debates. Debates have proven to be very popular in all parts of the world. Voters like them because they are both entertaining and educational. The element of being live and unscripted also heightens public and media interest.

Three debaters on the stage does change the dynamic, though it's impossible to predict how the format will work in the UK prime minister debates. In the US we had one round of three-way debates in 1992 that included the first President Bush, Bill Clinton, and Ross Perot. Perot more or less won the first debate, Clinton won the second, and Bush performed well in the third. So who knows?

3) On 1968 Nixon ran again for White House, on 1972 he sought a second term and both times refused to challenge in presidential debates (i would say he could do that because there was not an established tradition of having presidential debates). I think that today a candidate for the White House can not refuse a debate (like Nixon did on 1968 and 1972). Since when, can't a candidate say "No, i won't go in a presidential debate" without seeming weak?

At this point in the US it would be just about impossible for a presidential candidate to avoid a debate. The tradition in this country is too well established. In other countries, candidates still manage to refuse -- just this year in the Ukraine, to name one example. In the US it would take an extreme national emergency for an incumbent president to get out of debating.

4) Who had the idea of a televised (and radio broadcast too) presidential debate in 1960?

Many people were involved in the beginning, but essentially the Kennedy-Nixon debates were a creation of the three major television networks: ABC, CBS, and NBC.

5) Using Internet, do you think it's possible to make innovations to presidential debates?

Yes, we see this already. The YouTube format, with citizens submitting questions on video, has been used successfully in both the US and New Zealand. Interactive online debates are now common as well. Nonetheless, debates remain primarily a television exercise that plays out secondarily on the internet.

6) Who owns the copyright of presidential debates? Broadcasters or speakers?

In America the debates are produced by the Commission on Presidential Debates, a non-profit organization in Washington DC, which I assume holds the copyright. I'm not an expert on the legal aspect of this, but it seems to me that video clips from all the debates are available to anyone who wants to use them. So the material may exist in the public domain, or perhaps there's some kind of common creative license that applies -- I'm just not sure.

7) We know that presidential candidates prepare for the debates: How can they prepare? Which advice would you give to a candidate?

Candidates prepare for debates in a variety of ways. In US presidential debates it is typical for the candidates to undergo full-scale rehearsals involving mock opponents, using the exact format of the actual debate. Candidates also do extensive reading about the issues and about their opponents' positions in order to prepare for debates. Typically the practice sessions are videotaped and critiqued by the candidates' advisors.

As for advice, I would remind candidates that debates are a different form of political performance than other campaign appearances such as press conferences, speeches, and interviews. Candidates need to have a thorough understanding of the format and also of their specific objectives for each debate. Finally, I would say that in spite of the pressure, candidates should try to enjoy the debate, because voters want to see a leader who is self-confident and in command of the situation.

Saturday, 27 March 2010

Nobel to Internet? and an interview with Jodi Dean

Some months ago, italian version of Wired started campaigning saying "Nobel Peace Prize should go to Internet". Gandhi never won the Nobel Peace Prize but Internet (=an item, not a person) might win the Nobel Peace Prize!! Why not give the Nobel Peace Prize to telephone cables or the air (that carries radiowaves)? (I would give the Nobel Peace Prize to BBC World Service for providing reliable information to people - living under dictatorships and not - for decades; but this is a different topic).

Jodi Dean (1962) is an american professor, she teaches political theory. I asked her about the idea of giving Internet the Nobel Peace Prize and other things. (Jodi Dean blogs here)

1) Italian version of Wired started lobbying for "Nobel Peace Prize should go to Internet" (http://www.internetforpeace.it/manifesto.cfm). What do you think about it? Do you think it's technological fetishism?

Of course it is techno fetishism, a ludicrous extension of the cult of the amateur and the fantasy that because crowd sourcing works for some things it works for everything; there is a middle ground between the false, romantic idea of the single genius and everyone

2) You wrote "In the US today there is a significant disconnect between politics circulating as content and official politics". Do you think that the election of Obama (probably impossible without Internet) changed this view? Can't it be seen like the come back of democracy?

No. Obama didn't need the internet to win (or, the internet wasn't the difference that made a difference although it is now an additional media field on which the game must be played). There were only 2 candidates; one was the least popular president ever in the midst of an economic debacle. Also, Obama raised more money--the candidate who raises the most wins. The shocking thing is that Obama didn't win by a larger margin. 'Come back of democracy'? I don't even know what that means--George W. Bush won his second term; the hideous Republicans in Congress were elected. All sorts of right-wing nut jobs are out there organizing, protesting, participating. The problem is not at all that democracy went away. The problem is that the left hasn't been able to use the democratic process to advance. Corporations love democracy--they give millions and millions to campaigns, candidates; they pay fortunes to lobbyists. Democracy is great for capitalism--just not for people.

3) Do you think that the economic crisis of 2008 (or better 2008-ongoing) is an event that makes to rethink theories of economic globalization?

If by 'rethink' you mean that fans of globalized neoliberalism can no longer deny the destructive force of capitalism, then I guess so. But how is this being done? The IMF is pressuring European countries to lower their debts--this means
cutting social services, which remains in keeping with neoliberalism. In the US, the big banks are once again saying screw you to the US government and giving massive bonuses; there has been no significant effort to bring them under control--derivatives (what Warren Buffet called financial weapons of mass destruction) remain unregulated. So, the real question is who is rethinking and what are the re-thoughts?

4) What is your point of view about theories like Manuel Castells'one, when an author seems so enthusiastic about internet, to talk about a network society?

Castells remains massively significant as the provider of one of the first comprehensive maps/over views/ of the shape of networked society. Is everything he said still correct? no. Did he leave stuff out? sure.
One way I look at it--Castells did the first map of the global; Hardt and Negri did the political equivalent of a Mercator projection. Using this as some kind of space of flows basis, I think Albert Laszlo-Barabasi is indispensable--
his account of the emergence of powerlaws and hubs in complex networks characterized by growth and preferential attachment make is absolutely clear why the division between multitude/empire can in no way be understood ontologically but only politically; network ontologies are characterized by extremes of inequality

Friday, 19 March 2010

Interview with Pure

PURE: "the idea of analogue radio in a digital world is a nonsense."

PURE (former name was PURE DIGITAL) is a british manufacturer that makes digital tuners. Colin Crawford (PURE's director of marketing) answered some questions.

1) When was Pure founded? and by whom?

PURE was founded in 2002 and is a division of Imagination Technologies, founded in 1986.

2) Beside the "propaganda" of engineers and lobbysts, what's your view of digital radio? Do you think it will be able to replace FM (in near future) or will it be always work-in-progress situation?

We believe strongly that the idea of analogue radio in a digital world is a nonsense. For radio to remain relevant, it must go digital and visionary markets such as the UK, Switzerland, Denmark, Germany, Italy, France and Australia are making that happen already.

3) Pure doesn't sell products with DRM (Digital Radio Mondiale). Why?

Because there is no consumer demand.

4) Might DRM+ change this choice?

We remain to be convinced but we will keep monitoring any opportunities in this area.

5) Do you think that a unique european standard (like DVB-T for television) will help strongly the manufacturers?

The DAB family of standards is already a unique European standard and the standardisation of profiles by WorldDMB, EBU and DIGITALEUROPE brought the digital radio market together for the first time and has already revitalised the industry for manufacturers.

6) Are you sure that there is future for "radio on radio spectrum" or is it just a waste of time because internet-radio will rule above any other alternative systems?

PURE is a strong believer in hybrid radio systems that combine broadcast radio content with internet connectivity. This provides a perfect solution whereby mainstream listening happens efficiently by broadcast and niche content and interactivity can be delivered over the internet. The idea that the internet could cope with the hundred of millions of hours of radio listening is preposterous.

7) Which radio station do you listen to, during your spare time?

I am a profligate radio listener spending nearly all my time on broadcast radio with a good mix of BBC and national UK commercial stations.


On march 2010 PURE announced that it will launch, for the first time, their products in Italy in summer 2010

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Interview with Revo - part 2 of 2

After the first part of the interview
(interview with Revo - part 1 of 2; 4 march 2010)
we have the second part.

6) What does Revo think about DRM (Digital Radio Mondiale)?

For a while, it seemed like the next big thing. But as time has gone on, i think it has little chance of success.

7) Do you think we will ever see Revo tuner with DRM?

If there is demand, or a good chance of success ... we'll produce radios.

8) The transition towards digital radio is very difficult, even in UK: from your point of view, what are the mistakes made?

All parties need to work together. Government, broadcasters (public and commercial), the infrastructure guys ... everyone. If they don't, it fails.

9) There is much debate in UK about possible future switch off of FM band. What do you think about it? If u had the chance to write the rules of future spectrum for UK radio, which rules would you make?

In order to aid and accelerate the uptake of DAB (or DAB+ as it may eventually be) in the UK, an FM switch off date is essential, even if only to focus the minds of all the parties concerned. As for the rules of future spectrum use ... I'm a humble radio manufacturer, i'll leave that to other more qualified people.

10) Are you sure that there is future for "radio on radio spectrum" or is it just a waste of time because internet-radio will win above any other alternative systems?

I'm certain, i have no doubts. As a business, we actually sell more internet radios than DAB digital radios, but i am convinced that a radio spectrum based service is necessary, and that it will be the dominant platform. Internet radio devices have their places, but they will not prevail.


P.S. Mike Hughes submitted a petition asking the Prime Minister (of UK) to "Halt the proposed Analog Radio Switch-off" (Deadline to sign up: 19 December 2009; Signatures: 4,582)

The proposed analog radio switch off disadvantages everyone. It forces you to scrap all your existing radios - and buy DAB sets instead. Car radios, kitchen radios, bedside radios, stereo tuners, all become scrap. And the liberated bandwidth is used for extra services no-one wants - witness the DAB station failures - polluted with advertising, and never again the chance to hear a foreign station by accident. This is not a future I want.

3 March 2010 - The Government's response: "No, we won't halt it"

The Digital Britain White Paper set out the Government’s vision for a radio industry in a digital world and the mechanisms needed to deliver it. To date over 10 million digital radio receivers have been sold and around 20% of all radio listening is via a digital platform. Listeners are clearly being attracted by digital-only services, including the BBC’s digital-only stations. We believe there is already significant momentum towards digital radio take-up and the decision for Government is not whether digital radio will replace analogue, but to ensure that any transition to digital is delivered in a coordinated way which best reflects the needs and expectations of listeners. However, we have been clear that this process will be market-led and will only consider setting a date for digital radio switchover once 50% or more of all radio listening is to digital.

The Government recognises that we must ensure the environmental impact of any significant analogue radio disposal is minimised through a responsible disposal and recycling strategy. Any waste electrical equipment produced as a result of Digital Radio Upgrade will be disposed of subject to the requirements of the EU Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive. The Government is working with manufacturers to consider the implementation of a ‘set-top box’ solution for analogue radio which would allow existing analogue radios sets to receive DAB.

We acknowledge that some parts of the UK currently have access to overseas analogue radio services. Digital radio, via the internet, will in fact increase the opportunity for listeners to access overseas radio stations not just from neighbouring countries, but from around the world.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Discovering startups 2: Hyperwords

Hyperwords is a plug-in that lets people right-click for interactive searches. The company's advisory board include geniuses like Douglas Engelbart, Vint Cerf, Ted Nelson.

I asked Frode Hegland (founding director of Hyperwords company) few questions.

1) When was Hyperwords created? and by whom?

By me, Frode Hegland. In the early 2000's.

2) How many people work at Hyperwords?

Two full time, two part time and two development teams, one full time team in Russia and one part time in Germany.

3) I see a Techcrunch article about you in 2005 and i see that you were in Le Web 2009: why didn't you go to Le Web earlier?

We realized quite quickly that people were not interested in the idea of concept, but only in a very smooth and effective user experience so we've been working hard to improve the system since then more than promoting it.

4) In your site you say: "The Hyperword project is based on the work of Doug Engelbart", what does he think about it?

Doug is very happy with the progress of Hyperwords as a step in the evolution of what he calls "symbol manipulation".

5) What is the business model for Hyperwords?

Client installs (Firefox, Chrome and soon Windows, so yes, it will work in Internet Explorer) are affiliate driven (AdSense & Amazon primarily). Server is licensed.

6) Who and how much financed Hyperwords?

Personal finance.

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Interview with Revo - part 1 of 2

Revo is a new radio manufacturer based in Scotland; in Revo official site they describe themselves saying "Revo Technologies Ltd is a privately owned designer and manufacturer of award-winning digital radio products for the DAB, DAB+, HD and internet radio platforms".

David Baxter is the CEO and agreed about an interview about digital radio (DAB, DRM), switch off of FM and similar topics.

1) When was Revo created and by whom?

I founded Revo Technologies Ltd in the summer of 2006.

2) How many people work at Revo?

Revo has a staff of 12 people based in Lanark, Scotland.

3) How many radio did you sell in a year?

We are a relatevely small (but growing) manufacturer, in 2009 we sold just over 50,000 radios.

4) I see that you don't have a distributor for USA: why? Do you have any plan to make radio for USA for the future?

Generally speaking, the USA is a difficult market for a small European brand to penetrate. It's geographically large, and the selling "culture" is more different than you would imagine. There have also been other barriers such as the economic situation in the USA over the last 18 months. This made U.S. retailers nervous about trying new things. Also, there hasn't been as much of an appetite for digital radio/internet radio in the USA as you would expect. We have only very recently appointed a small independent distributor to handle Revo in the USA. We believe that this is the best approach for the moment.

5) Some people blame the manufacturers for the failure of digital radio: what do you think about it?

I think that it's difficult to blame the manufacturers. In markets where a transmitter infrastructure has been put in place, and unique programming exists, digital radio has been a success. Without these things, there is little that a manufacturer can do.

(to be continued)

UPDATE: 11 march 2010 - second part of interview

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Discovering startups 1: Stribe

Stribe is a social network for any site, provided as Software as a Service.

Founders Kamel Zeroual, Gael Delalleau and Demba Diallo created the company in March 2008 and released the service in September 2009 during TechCrunch50.

Stribe allows blogs, casual gaming or even an e-commerce sites to create their own social network in theirs sites. It deeply engages the visitors and allows social interactions after an easy 5-minute plug & play installation, which can be fully customized and freely branded.

Stribe won the first place at Le Web 2009 (december, Paris).

Interview with Stribe

1) How many people work in Stribe?

We are 8 engineers working in Stribe

2) When do you plan to reach break-even?

It’s up to the viral effect of our service. We still working in designing the best business model to reach the break even as fast as we can.

3) right now, how many people use Stribe?

We’ve send more than thousand invitation to website and there is around 15000 users registered beta testing our product.

4) what's the business model of Stribe?

It’s Freemium business model: there is a free version for small websites/blogs and we provide premium features.

5) Stribe was and techcrunch50 2009 in september and at Le web 2009 in december (i know u won at le web): would you describe the differences between the 2 events?

TC50 is dedicated about startup launching. It’s the core event and everyone come for that and expect to discover the next “Google or Facebook”.

LeWeb is a conference about a topic with many web gurus and next to this event there is an European competition startup. People, media, bloggers and journalist are very careful about this because it’s a competition and all the web ecosystem are in Paris to meet them up.

Kamel Zeroual at Techcrunch 50, 15th september 2009:

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