Summer Heat and the Google UK Big Tent Event 2012

Firstly I must say I enjoyed this event… This is the 2nd year Google UK has run this event and it really is a place where great conversations can happen and awkward topics broached. It can also help people in the industry realise where everyday people are with tech in their lives – because that really is the information the industry seeks without assumption. The event itself was also accompanied by the Channel 4 news team and a posse of people from the Guardian newspaper that showed some interesting things later on, not to mention various journalists from a wide range of other publications.

First up Peter Barron from Google welcomed everyone as usual and kicked off the proceeding with – Porn: how do we keep our children safe online? Well this is an age old discussion, but one that is always sidelined through complete and total ignorance…  This is either because of the prudish nature of one or more of the participants, or simple discomfort.

Porn for all its sins is different in the eyes of each individual person, in cultures where people are generally covered up; the simple act of showing a bare arm can be enough to create a response, so while in western society we’re used to seeing semi naked bodies it often comes down to why should someone else’s beliefs impact you and how you should or should not dress and so on.  For this very reason there is no defined definition of what porn truly is. But the main question was raised by Daily Mail journalist Amanda Platell. Her point was that as a responsible parent wanting to make sure that her child doesn’t come across anything they should not online – what does she do? Especially as she’s not computer savvy and doesn’t know how to do things like block sites etc. She went on to say that government or the ISP’s should offer a service to make sure things are blocked. She then continued saying that the night before she’d gone to the site “pornhub.com” and described the sexual acts she watched being carried out… She did this in great detail. So before I finish this, on her recommendation we tried to find the said video… Nope, couldn’t find it anywhere!! Something similar, but not the one she described (so it was probably a good job I refrained from heckling “How many times did you have to watch it before you got off?”). Infact the subject covered was seriously “niche”, so we’ll leave you to your own thoughts to why she had to stand on a stage and describe all this in such detail. So, in response to what should a responsible parent who isn’t computer savvy do…. the answer is simple – LEARN!!

On to the totally awesome Dr. Aleks Krotoski  who showed off her Serendipity Engine which was interesting, insightful and frankly if the results of what could end up being a lifetime of research bear fruit – the very same system/algorithm etc will very probably prove the key to Chaos Theory.

The Minister of State for Science and Universities came on and proclaimed new things at universities yet missed the points completely. Even Eric Schmidt mentioned the UK has disregarded what made it good – leadership with flair and our skills. It almost seems to me that every country wants to have its own Silicon Valley – but they shouldn’t and can’t… We should do what we’re good at and in the global age it makes us stand out. The UK is the hands on engineering country… that’s it, pure and simple. However, we’re seriously lacking in training and education in schools, not just in Computer Science, but the far bigger and more vast areas that make up the rest that knowledgeable people talk about and the “App crowd” (there is a phrase I just invented and is now copyright TWBrit lol) don’t even know about – embarrassing stuff in front of engineers and people who build the infrastructure for the “App-Crowd” to use their toys on.

The next session was “Copyright in the Digital Age “This is one of the biggest subjects on and about the internet now. Some fascinating things were talked about here. Firstly the media industries as a whole need to re-address how they work out their losses and stop being so blinkered in their overall approach. Bottom line is that it created a rod for its own back, we’ve been recording music etc ever since it was possible to do so, whether music off the radio in the 70’s and of course hooking video machines together at home in the 80’s.

After lunch Eric Schmidt gave a fascinating talk about Globalisation and mentioned a few things like how in some schools in Africa they don’t have textbooks – they simply use Google and YouTube to teach from these. And then there was the obvious yet simple observation as to why educational and help software or information doesn’t come pre-installed on mobile phones; pointing out it’d cost very little or nothing to do so. He talked about the next billion users of Google and then got the whole thing kyboshed when some journalist kept pushing questions about stuff regarding Google and the EU Govt. which he answered that they’re waiting to hear exactly what the complaint is about so they can take a proper look at it. Yet the journo kept pushing… That’s not called great journalism – it’s called f’king everyones day up inside a tent with a room temp of around 130f (thanks moron!!) The result was that we didn’t get to hear good questions and become informed more. After all, we really wanted to hear what Eric had to so say – not listen questions on conjecture. But because of the nature of these questions Eric had to answer them clearly and properly.

Someone from the Guardian Newspaper then came on and did a bit about how they tracked the London Riots last year. They showed how little information the Police gave them, so they went to get court documents of who had been charged etc. Then they turned to Twitter and gained information of who tweeted what, the terminology used, the “#-tag” information and suddenly came up with some frankly amazing information, statistics and a mountain of other things. This simply and finally proved that our want and need for tech, apps and the latest thing – is the very thing that is creating a 100% guaranteed “Big Brother” future for all of us… remember : put any info out there – and it’s there forever!!

With the breaks becoming more and more needed due to the heat inside the main tented hall, it was refreshing to see and have a sit down with Dr Sue Black: not to be confused with the Curry Queen of Camden Town (I also just made that up). As soon as myself, Sue and this blogs editor Gabsatrucker sat down – the ladies went straight to geek mode in their phones and reminiscing of their road-trip between Little Rock and Austin, Texas a few weeks ago.  After briefly meeting Sue’s son, [hold it, I gotta add something] Sue Black has the most amazing kids, most of whom are grown up. But one has to wonder just what an amazing mom she is because every time I meet one of them – they are truly the nicest of energetic, confident and charismatic individuals. This of course doesn’t stop me yanking Sue’s chain a little, but as I’ve said before; Sue gives as good as she gets and is a straight arrow. If you ever get chance to meet Sue, your life will be better for it.

Anyway… Back into the sweat box for the final session mediated by the awesome Sarah Smith. This final session covered something that is becoming what I believe is a serious blight of the web; the true “Big Brother” issues surrounding the Web 2.0 and social media.

Ever since the dawn of the ability to write a letter, social media has grown and grown. Now that information is for sale, that information is all about you, me and everyone. Privacy is getting seriously trampled on, so in light of this two authors “Andrew Keen” and “Nick Harkaway” who have differing opinions on this subject took to the stage. In my own personal view, I feel both of them were 75% correct, but were offering no middle ground; they seemed to be at one extreme or the other.  Thankfully signed copies of their books were given out at the end of the day, so I’ll be sure to take my time and read both.

Typically I have been a little scathing at some things. While it was hot, we can’t blame Google for weather Gabsatrucker brought from the US, but in all things these were discussions. Insightful and highly educational – but simply discussions… who knows what they will amount to. I thoroughly enjoyed the day, enjoyed meeting the people I did, enjoyed Aleks Krotoski’s work and left in fear of what the surface media will make of it all.

Running for Joplin

It was year ago next Tuesday the 22nd May, that the small town of Joplin, Missouri hit TV screens around the world, and almost instantly the un-edited videos appeared on YouTube displaying the true nature of what had occurred as fights for survival were still happening.

It wasn’t a case of the magnitude of what happened in Japan or in many other places. But for the most part it was proportionately the same. A town was almost wiped from the map with over 160 dead and over 900 seriously injured. Identification was sometimes near impossible due the frankly horrific nature of what happened that day. This was of course a mile wide Tornado with winds in excess of 200 mph – a rare EL5… Stories of heroism abounded, stories of survival against all the odds and videos of both still litter YouTube.

It’s times like these that only selfless acts can or will save lives and those whose job it is to help, have to risk their own lives in order to save others – if you want to know what life is about, what true success is, then you just read it. Here is a video by CBS News that says it all – Joplin; a year on…

This Saturday I’m proud to say that Gabby, better known as Gabsatrucker is running in and for Joplin. Yes it’s a Half Marathon that raises money for the town – but it also tells a people that others still care deeply enough to help and to be there to help rebuild lives in whatever small way they can.

Published in: on 18 May, 2012 at 15:50  Comments (1)  
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Where is the TV you’ve been waiting for?

As many know, back in the early to mid 2000’s I worked on the development of 4G. Back then the basic requirement was for a 20Mb download and 20Mb upload to any base unit or moreover – a handheld device. We increased this to 25Mb and at a time when there was a lull in the computer industry, we were working on some pretty cool and what was often called “over the edge” technology. Since then the benchmark has gone literally through the roof.

But the problems regarding bandwidth, power, mobile, fixed line accounts and billing aside – the real problem was that there wasn’t an end user device that could handle this in the mobile field. This gave birth to the requirement of advanced PC levels of power in a handheld device which (and this is still an issue) wouldn’t melt the head of the user. But more over, this system for the most part wouldn’t require video compression, that’s right – complete real-time video! In this, I looked to the future and realised very quickly that this would probably be the end of terrestrial/cable/satellite TV.  The future of TV would be simply Web-based and cut the massive costs of powering and building the millions of transmitters that exist today.

A few years later I was observing a discussion on Joseph Mallozzi’s blog; who was then the executive producer of the MGM Stargate Atlantis franchise about the stunning number of DVD sales worldwide for their show, yet cable and channel subscriptions appeared low. In a conversation I mentioned that most people I knew around the world who watched the show – watched it the following day on the web and that it was highly likely that it was these people buying the DVD’s. As it turned out, MGM sold the show badly around the world to expensive pay channels or in some cases – highly obscure channels. This, coupled with highly inaccurate method of gathering viewing figures proved that the industry as a whole is not in step in any way with the technology to hand and were grossly over concerned with “Piracy/copyright” than acknowledging that this system (because of the show’s popularity) was actually making them more money… The bottom line is people want to watch shows when THEY want to watch them and if a company can’t see the alternative method of generating revenue then there is a real problem with that company.

But you must also remember that Piracy is not theft! Theft is when something tangible is “taken” from you, but copyright infringement is the actual problem. Also what about all of us who come across things on the web (think YouTube as an example) and end up watching things you didn’t search for? For most they wouldn’t have gone out of their way to buy, pay for or even consider watching or listening ordinarily – and here lays many problems and issues of which there are too many to list here, but the promotional attributes are limitless. Yet this again shows a complete initial lack of awareness by the mainstream entertainment industry of the technology they’re prepared to use for profit in a totally unsecure manner. In effect, a rod for their own back. In turn, while they cry foul, a few years ago these modern formats allowing them to make billions more in profits simply didn’t exist.

At the same time true innovators of web media and web shows like Andrew Baron owner and creator of Rocketboom and frankly an authority on the subject, has understood the direction of web TV for a very long time. There are several web based shows; Robert Llewellyn’s “Carpool” and “Fully Charged” and a great many more now exist – so where is mainstream web TV? Strange things happen, take for instance Amanda Tapping’s “Sanctuary”. This show was always designed to be web based. They used little more than green/blue screens in order to put any and every location background they liked to the show. The initial run of “Webisodes” was put together at minimal cost and used many of Amanda’s close acting and directing friends to see if it would be popular. It was, and strange as it might be – the show got picked up for mainstream TV. So the power of TV designed for the web is powerful enough to make the TV Studios sit up and appropriately beg.

The problems are several fold but it basically comes down to the TV companies and cash… I can go to the BBC’s iPlayer to watch their shows, CBS website (if I’m in the States) and watch their shows – along with Fox and everyone else’s websites. But you have to bounce from site to site all the time and then wonder if the “Geolock” will prevent you from watching what you want – this really does have to stop… it’s not good for business, it thwarts overall growth and is a shockingly bad business model!

The future of Global TV will rest in the palm of the people, company or person who can achieve what is seemingly impossible; to sit down and work out, negotiate and then generate one of a handful of sites that does it all. A site that will have to decide to pay for itself via advertising, pay per view or all possible methods together. A site where you can watch what you want, when you want. But the reality is that copyright and other royalties are the very things that stand in the way of this happening.

Web TV in the format of YouTube and commercial business sites is an entertainment and subculture all of its own already and has been for years. If you want to know if a product is good rather than get mugged by TV shopping channels – go and see what people who already own the product say about them on YouTube. You’ll soon learn the truth and probably save money – especially if you need to repair something! Lets say you need to fix your laptop, replace the broken screen on your smart phone, anything practical you don’t know how to do – someone somewhere has made a video of how to do it. And what about skill learning? Want to learn Photoshop? go to the simply vast library of videos on the Adobe website to learn just what you need too. The list is endless.

But what of the technology for the home? What are the overall bandwidth and usage requirements which, in reality, have to be limitless. Thankfully newer home entertainment, LCD/LED TV’s all come with web connectivity now. But there are other issues on a global scale which need to be sorted out like; age of the viewer and/or in some more religious cultures; censorship or more edited programmes and movies. But as a technical issue most people will be aware that terrestrial TV (certainly here in the UK) is swapping over from Analogue to Digital. This raised many questions from viewers to why they should go out and buy a set-top-box to place on their old TV to see this new digital medium. Well the answer is quite simple; For a lot of people who may not know, analogue and digital signals are both very different and even look different. A digital signal is basically a signal of “On and Offs” which is basically binary and would look something like this:

Analogue signals are far more complicated and looks sort of like this:

The difference  for the most part is that the digital signal is predictable and can therefore can be repaired by your TV, computer or set-top box with either an On or Off and an Analogue signal simply can’t – because there is no reference to what was damaged. Here are the same two images with sections deleted; you can easily work out the digital repair – but not the analogue.

VS Analogue

So the digital is better, but more importantly – it also means it can be sent across the web with complete and total ease.

The future is Web based, but what about the redundancy of normal TV? Will it just become a persistent “Day Time” schedule mixed with News and Current Affairs? Probably! Or will we use the infrastructure that transmits it as the base for 4, 5 or 6G bandwidths? TV IS destined for the web, it’s been there for years – just no one has organised it yet, can you imagine the accuracy of the viewing figures? I strongly doubt Firefly would have been cancelled that’s for sure. In fact one of the reasons the original Stargate franchise was cancelled was simply that they make the same money in advertising revenue from re-runs as they did from a new show/season. Thus what was the point after 10 seasons in spending the money to make more?

It’s a massive subject that needs to be sorted out, the pitfalls and mountains to climb are obvious – but the moment one person lays the road ahead out clearly – all others will follow. So, stop messing about with strange apps, and let’s get on and get this minefield navigated so we can stop the witch hunting across the Web and get to a place where we can all watch and listen to the media we want, when we want it – in a way that everyone is happy with.

As many of you may know, I don’t own a TV and haven’t done since 1998, all my entertainment, news and 99% of my communications comes through the internet medium. If I stay in a hotel I do switch the TV on, but tend to select a 24hr news channel like the BBC, Sky, Al Jazeera or CNN. Irrespective of how scattered the entertainment on the Web is, there is an abundance of it, it just needs work. Until then, you can watch “The” daily internet culture show at www.rocketboom.com and for the Car Pool interview chat show and “fully charged” the complete inside real information on the future of electric cars – go to  www.llewtube.com.  And so much more…

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