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In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.

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Category archive: Media and journalism

Tuesday June 24 2014

Here’s a piece entitled Google Glass:10 reasons Brits won’t buy it.  The basic argument is: it’s creepy, it’s uncool, it has various other more specific disadvantages.

I think that the writer of this piece, Robyn Vinter, makes the very common error of saying that a piece of kit won’t catch on because, in her opinion it is, in a general sort of way, not nice or not good.  I know it’s only a jokey piece, pandering to ignorant prejudice and general technophobia, but it contains a serious and wrong idea about how technology gets established in the wider world.

Technology doesn’t catch on because people like Robyn Vinter think that it’s cool.

Technology or software, or whatever, catches on because it solves a particular problem for a particular group of people, and they start using it.  People like Robyn Vinter then say: ooh, how very uncool you are.  And the people using the thing say: guess what Robyn Vinter, we don’t care what you think, we are finding it extremely useful, to do what we want to do.  If you don’t think we look cool, this is entirely your problem and absolutely not our problem at all.  Gradually other uses for the thing in question accumulate, and quite a few people use it for several different things and get really excited and try to use it for everything, because they now like it so much.  If enough uses are found, then the alleged uncoolness of the thing just gets overwhelmed by people using it, in public, in full view, and to hell with the coolists.  If the coolists still want to write articles about how uncool this thing is, even though thousands of their potential readers are now using it, then they are pushed aside and other writers willing to say that it’s cool after all are told to write that instead.

So the question is: will Google Glass be useful enough?  Basically, it would appear to be a screen that you can use while you are doing something else, to do computer stuff and regular stuff at the same time.  Sounds extremely useful to me, for ... various things that I now know not of.  But I am sure things will turn up that it is very useful for, even essential for.  Work, basically.  Not strutting about in the street.  No.  Getting worthwhile things done, more efficiently, faster.  That kind of thing.  We’ll soon see, anyway.

This guy is much more optimistic.  Better, he understands how Google Glass will or will not catch on.  What can it do?  Not enough, yet, seems to be his answer.  But that may change.  My guess is it will change.

See also, this piece by me from way back, about another sort of coolist with delusions of grandeur.

And see also these pictures of another useful thing being used in an allegedly very uncool way, namely people taking photos with tablets.  This tendency has in no way abated since I took those snaps.  Quite the opposite.

There is also a definite whiff, in Robyn Vinter’s piece, of the status anxiety I wrote about in this recent piece here, if not in Vinter herself then in the readers she is appealing to.  What if this gizmo makes us look and feel stupid?  What if it demotes us in the pecking order?  The answer is: if it does, it does.  That won’t stop it being used.

Thursday May 08 2014

In 2013, on September 5th, 18th, 24th and 29th, I visited the area in and around London Gateway, the new container port they’re building on the north side of the Thames Estuary, first to see if I could photo the cranes, and then to photo them again, and again, and again.  And everything else amusing I saw on my wanderings.  (I would never have remembered these dates if my camera hadn’t.)

I showed a couple of photos here of one of those expeditions at the time, but that was only the tip of the photographic iceberg.

These were undoubtedly among my best photo-expeditions of 2013, right up there with visiting Beckton Sewage Works with Goddaughter One, a superb day which I see that I seem never to have mentioned here at all.

My problem is, when I sit down at my computer and try to pick out a few good snaps from one of these huge photo-perambulations, I just don’t know which to pick.  There are just so many nice ones. I end up picking none at all and write about something else entirely.

So, I now pick another one, from one of my four trips to London Gateway, to show you, which I just found when trawling through them all, again.  One.  Just the one.  It features me, but not looking good.  No, looking appalling, with my appallingly flabby chin all scrunched up as I look downwards at my twiddly camera screen, which is how I actually do look when wandering around doing this kind of thing.

But, showoffy though it is, I think it’s a rather effective photo:

image

See also the first five cranes, of the twenty four that will finally be at London Gateway.  That snap was snapped on September 24th. 

When all those twenty four cranes are up and running and the place really gets into its stride, I will definitely return to check them out, as will all the world and its digital cameras.  Mark my words.  When they open this thing for business, the media, mainstream and irregular, social and anti-social, will be flooded with it.  Flooded I tell you.

But just now, they are busy building it, and the last thing they want is people like me wandering around photoing it.  So, they keep quiet about it.  Seriously, I’d be willing to bet that there are quite a lot of PR persons whose entire job consists of persuading journalists not to mention this thing until it’s finished, but then to mention it big time.  Silence now will be rewarded with access later.

Wednesday April 23 2014

Before I forget to link to it, here, very belatedly, is a link to four pictures of central London in the Guardian, which, if you left-click on them, suddenly become populated with soon-to-be-built new Big Things.

This, for example, …:

image

… turns, when you left-click on it, into this:

image

That’s the changing picture of the south bank of the river, just upstream from me.

My personal opinion is: it looks great!  By which I mean not that the second of these pictures looks great, but that the development it attempts to picture will look great, or at least much better than this picture.

This is a general fact about the new Big Things of London of the last decade and more, I think.  All of them have ended up looking, to my eye, better for real than the models and photos of them beforehand looked, which are just too boxy and bland and unrealistic to capture the feeling of how new Big Things will really look.

In particular, the Walkie Talkie looked, to me, terrible, when it was only a faked up computer image.  Now, I like it more and more.  It’s odd.  It’s not beautiful exactly, but it has character.  Once you see it, you don’t forget it.  In short, it is like London.

These new Big Things will, I predict, be like that also.  You can bet that all the architects involved will be trying desperately to upstage each other, by making at least half of these new Big Things systematically more interesting and oddly shaped than these computer mock-ups now make them look.

It occurs to me also to wonder how much difference the ubiquity of such imagery before Big Things get built affects the chances of such Big Things being built.  Could such widely-viewed-in-advance pictures perhaps make Big Thing building easier, by mobilising the support of those who, like me, would like such new buildings a lot, but don’t see it as a life-and-death struggle, the way many opponents of such Big Things perhaps do.  If that’s right, the opponents keep themselves and each other informed even when that is hard, and fight like hell to stop such Things, either out of aesthetic hatred or because some particular Big Thing will, they reckon, wreck their back yard.  Now, we less rabid supporters can all say Go Ahead Build It, but without busting our guts and doing lots of complicated research and politicking, because finding out and saying GABI is now so much easier.

Tuesday April 15 2014

I love this, from AndrewZ at Samizdata, commenting on this piece by Natalie Solent, which quotes a couple of particularly demented pieces of writing in the Guardian, about cupcake fascism (this phrase should never be forgotten) and about the horrors of tourism.  (Natalie has been agreeably busy at Samizdata of late.)

Says AZ:

The online edition of any newspaper that isn’t behind a paywall relies on advertising to generate income and this depends on maximising the number of page views. The simplest way to do that is to publish outrageous and provocative opinions that will attract links from elsewhere and start a blazing row among the regular commenters. The great liberal newspaper of old is now little more than a group blog that trolls its own readers for advertising revenue.

No link from here to the original pieces, about cupcake fascism or tourism.  Oh no.  BmdotCOM is not falling into that trap.

Now that I have read the rest of them, I can report that all the comments at Samizdata on this posting are pretty good and worth a look.

Friday March 21 2014

Scientific American:

The skeletons of six cats, including four kittens, found in an Egyptian cemetery may push back the date of cat domestication in Egypt by nearly 2,000 years.

The bones come from a cemetery for the wealthy in Hierakonpolis, which served as the capital of Upper Egypt in the era before the pharaohs. The cemetery was the resting place not just for human bones, but also for animals, which perhaps were buried as part of religious rituals or sacrifices. Archaeologists searching the burial grounds have found everything from baboons to leopards to hippopotamuses.

BBC:

Three policemen in Pakistan guarding the prime minister’s home have been suspended for negligence after a cat devoured one of the premier’s peacocks, it seems.

It seems?  Well, did it or did it not?

UPROXX:

This Japanese gum commercial makes me wish I had a super fluffy gigantic cat to help navigate the horrors of public transportation and carry me around, avoiding traffic and other pedestrian suckers who don’t have adorable cat chauffeurs. Then I remember that if a cat that big existed, it would probably just maul me to death, ...

Guardian:

Why are there so many cats on the internet?

The problem is that they are asking the wrong question, which should not be “Why cats?” so much as “Why not dogs?” And the answer is that dogs are trying too hard. When a dog gets in a box or hides under the duvet or wears a funny hat, it is because he is desperately trying to impress you – longing for your validation and approval. When a cat does one of those things, it is because it felt like the right thing to do at the time. And it usually was. It is cool, and effortless, and devoid of any concern about what you might think about it. It is art for art’s sake.

This, at any rate, is one of the theories (of which there are an awful lot) about why content related to cats seems to gain so much traction online.

Maybe.  I guess that’s part of it.

The original reason for my Feline Friday cat chat is that cat chat on the internet, at first only at inconsequential blogs such as this one but now everywhere, illustrates that the number one impact of the internet is that there is now a new way to be amused, and cats are amusing.  The serious political impact of this is that with the internet it is easier to concentrate on what you consider amusing, and to ignore what people who consider themselves to be more important than you consider to be more important.  This really ticks them off.  Which is nice.  The internet puts politicians, for instance, in their proper place, on the sidelines.  Cats may or may not be important, depending on how mad you are, but they are amusing.

The willingness of the big old Mainstream Media to tell frequent cat stories, as they now show and do, illustrates that these organs have now accepted that they no longer control the news agenda.  If the people of the world decide that it is news that an angry 22-pound cat that trapped a family of three and prompted a frantic 911 call has been sent to an animal shelter, then news it is, and the big old media now accept this.

Thursday February 27 2014

imageAnd here is a photo I took yesterday.  I once thought that these Evening Standard headlines would by now be a thing of the quite distant past, but they are still with us, for the time being anyway, along with the Evening Standard itself, which has survived being given away and as of now shows no sign of disappearing.

There is something charmingly antiquated about the word “swoop”, isn’t there?  This swoop took place - when else? - at dawn, yesterday morning.

Yes, welcome to Operation Octopod.  Truly:

Detectives set up a specialist team which worked in secret for months to gather evidence against the gang in an inquiry codenamed Operation Octopod. Most of the 200 officers involved in the raids were not even told of the targets, only given the addresses they were raiding.

This sounds like it might eventually become quite a good story.

Interestingly, this Evening Standard story goes out of its way to say that the family being arrested have not been named.  But the link to the story contains these words:

couple-held-in-north-london-as-two-hundred-met-officers-stage-adams-family-swoop

And later they changed the headline above the story on the website, to include the word “Adams”.  And indeed, it seems that the arrested family really is called Adams.  Expect the phrase Adams Family Values to crop up a lot in the next few days and weeks.

And in a few years, another movie, about London’s own Adams Family and their dastardly deeds.

Tuesday January 21 2014

As I said in the previous post, my talk about digital photography at Christian Michel’s last night went well, in the sense of me feeling it went well, and it seeming to be well received.  I occasionally put my sheets of paper down and extemporised upon some point I was making, but mostly, this was it.  No links, no photos, no extras.  (They may come later, I hope, but I promise nothing.) Just the bare text that I read out, complete with all the errors of grammar and spelling, of fact and interpretation, that may or may not be present:

I have given several talks in this 6/20 series, but until now this has been because I have had both questions and answers to offer to the assembled throng.  I have had theses to present, clutches of facts to pass on.

This time I don’t know the answers.  I merely want to know the answers.  What is the impact of digital photography? What is it doing to us?  Since fixing this subject matter with Christian I have made, I think, some progress in arriving at answers, but only some.  Tonight I expect to make further progress.

Luckily, for my purposes, we have all been alive throughout the period of digital photography’s mass use, and have observed it in action, even if we may not always have wanted to.  Has anyone here not taken a digital photo?  Just as I thought.  (It actually says that here.  And this.)

*****

I will start my remarks by quoting a remark made by an American whom I overheard about fifty years ago, on the Acropolis in Athens, the place where what is left of the Parthenon stands.  I was there trying to do some sketching, a skill I never got any good at but spent a few years attempting.  He was doing pictures with his seriously pre-digital camera.  As soon as he had finished photoing, he wanted to leave, presumably to get to his next photoing place.  But his family were enjoying the Acropolis in the morning sunshine.  Said he to his family: “Come on, come on!  We’ll look at it when we get home!”

This outburst captures a great deal about what people object to about digital photography, but it also reminds us that photography, by Everyman as opposed to by professionals, is nothing new.  Digital photography is partly just the intensification of a process that has been in place in our culture for well over a century.  But it is more than that.

Friday December 27 2013

6000:

Post pictures of cats, they said. Seriously, if you’re not going to be able to write much, and a picture is worth a thousand words, then a picture of a cat is worth, well, Six Thousand. Do it.

So, with that in mind, here’s a picture of a cat, ...

I also found myself referring recently to the notion that a picture is worth a thousand words, but I think that one of the consequences of digital photography is that this is probably no longer true.  Not unless it’s a very good picture.  And to be fair to 6000, it is a pretty good cat picture.  Also, he was not saying that a picture is worth a thousand words, merely referring to the notion, by saying “if” it is, as an excuse for a quota cat.

One of the things that used to make pictures count for so much was that everyone knew what a bother it was to contrive them.  Now, everyone knows that contriving pictures has become very easy.

The reason I can never make myself care about just shoving hundreds of snaps up on the internet using something like Flickr, and why I prefer to put them here (or here), in much smaller numbers, is that I prefer my pictures to be accompanied by words, words that explain what I am trying to say with the pictures, or what I think is interesting about them.

The same principle applied to the old newspaper photographs, where this phrase presumably originated.  A picture may then have been worth a thousand words, but there were usually also plenty of actual words attached.

Often, the pictures here are pictures of words.  If following a link does not appeal, consider only the previous two postings.

Nowadays a picture is no longer worth a thousand words
Friend on telly
Broad thrives properly on getting abuse
Alex on Quentin
Guido in the Spectator (and in Free Life)
The Times of May 24th 1940
Photoing each other - and photoing stuff in the canal
The Alex Singleton blog
A Fleet Street lunch
Bad times for the NHS
Australia v South Africa starts now
American election talk
Pollsters can’t say where things are but they can say which way they’re going
“No one has to know!”
On how being linked to enables you to tell your story as you wish and why long titles are good
Pat Caddell on mainstream media bias
Reasons to think Romney is going to win big
“I just came across this fascinating photo …”
I’m Charia Hebdo!
Jarrod Kimber on biased cricket commentators
Kevin Dowd last night
Alex Singleton has a new blog
More shiny new headquarters buildings
Does Kevin Pietersen have a weakness against bowlers?
Release Ai Weiwei
Out to lunch with Alex Singleton
Why I prefer blogging to writing for a magazine
Leytonstonia
Wagga Wagga has been flooded by the Murrumbidgee River
Obamanomics dod not work
Cats only seem smart and dogs only seem dumb
Scientology enthusiast is now Climate Change Minister
A blog posting linking to a science article
Photoing the World Cup
Sneezing chat
Balls balls up
Three Gorges Dam picture
A demonstration I could join
This is not Mohammed
Alex Singleton on Photoshop CS5
Gordon Brown proves Guido was right about him from the start and Ed Balls not nice either shock
We’ll always have Chelsea
Why David Hepworth is wrong about podcasting
Does Google now rule the world of computing?
Will I ever tire of writing about the relationship between the new media and the old?
BrianMicklethwaitDotCom understatement of the day
Antoine Clarke on the Massachusetts election and the online effect
Talking about The Hockey Stick Illusion with Bishop Hill
The right to photograph
Those angry Americans
Blur
Cricket talk tonight
Three more headlines and how the internet remembers it all
Photographic coup
Yet more ramblings about Guesswhatgate
Old-school media versus (or becoming) new-school media (again)
India looking good against Sri Lanka
ClimateGate roars on and Man(n)-made warming is taking on a whole new meaning
Going global
American video
Antoine Clarke talks about Facebook and Twitter – Guido and … Ian Geldard?
Correction
Rude Ian Morbin should have a blog
Environmental
Was it Sweeney?  And what else were they trying to suppress?
Why I vote against AGW
Quotes dump
Another London lump?
Photo by me in a newspaper!
Edinburgh’s skyline doesn’t suck
What next for Guido Fawkes?
Go Gordon!
Thoughts on the Go Gordon petition
Fantasy budgets
Globalisation Guido – and other Bright Young Things
Two Samizdata comments on the sinking of Brown and on the sinking of the Daily Telegraph
“What did you just say?”
James Tyler’s speech at Policy Exchange
What the previous two postings here have in common
Daniel Hannan and the shape of the media to come
Clay Shirky on newspaper doom
Headlines of the times
It all depends on whether there is anything worth Twittering
Effing newspapers
Photoing the Police
Actually quite a big cat
You don’t wait for it – you go looking for it
Billion Monkeys liked photoing the nastiest poster!
The impossibility of God but the possibility of Michael Flatley’s cure and of super-super-flees
Random links
Evening Standard hand-done billboards go printed shock
P. J. O’Rourke confuses the average with the significant
Why Willem Buiter blogs and why I do
First picture posted to this blog from the wild
Photo-ing the news in Evening Standard headlines
An abstract view of Kings Place
They aren’t complete idiots all the time
Brought?
Not the same thing
Big Pictures
Ken Livingstone was beaten by the billboards!
Gramophone are putting their back catalogue of articles online for free
Even if people fake them the government still likes them
Smog returns to Beijing
It’s blue!
Portable copiers and copying jokes
The writing on the wall
Mainstream media bloggers and the problem of my blogroll
Turmoil
Seven Napiers – three Ansaris - Gilchrist
Voice of God journalism
The new Lowe look
I predict that Germany will win
Brown leapfrogs Cameron with 36 point jump
Permanent Bold Disease strikes Brassneck
Oddities and specialisms
I really should stop buying newspapers and magazines
The absurdly derided excellence of British weather forecasts
News Media Coalition versus Indian Premier League
Travis Perkins of Pimlico Road are not good at delivering timber
A blogger mutates towards being a journalist
A better than average press release
Girls these days flashing their cleavages it’s disgusting don’t know what the world’s coming to …
A soundbite to describe Britain a hundred years ago
Obama a loser?
Paris Hilton and the Something Else First rule
Photo that hits the mark
Blogging – the end of the beginning
Pictures of the year
Treating the internet like the printing press
Billion Monkeys and a Real Photographer at the Golden Umbrellas
When the penny drops
Chanelle and Ziggy - romance in the age of total surveillance
For Skimbleshanks read Tizer
Digital Camera Review error
It’s the decline of old-school advertising that’s really hurting old-school journalism
Three … thirty six … sixty one … a hundred a forty eight …
Blogs are not cacophonous
Facebook
Real Photographers worship the Logo
Richard Dawkins on the Muhammad cartoons affair
Back lit Billion Monkey lady and back lit Saturn!
Left behind?
Tom Wolfe on the only real fun of writing
Assorted London quota photos
Billion Monkeys photo their own demo!
Some plain English
Magic Andy makes magic dragon
The Mainstream Media finally get around to noticing Andy and his sand sculptures
The Great Global Warming Swindle debate now begins
Real world
Will twentieth century aerial warfare be repeated by toys?
Susan Hill on not having to be up-to-the-minute about book blogging
When “it’s” becomes “it is” – plus a picture of some Mac users
Micklethwait’s Four Star Theory of the Internet
Storms rip through London
Screwed by Google – and Google screwed by the kitten-bloggers?
More G&S - and some strange Times errors
Me on 18DSTV
A breezy day in London
Spreading the word for free
Crickinsomnia
Me on the intertelly tonight
Antoine Clarke and I don’t talk about elections
A dangerous development
Editing as falsifying
Me on 18 Doughty Street tonight
29th and 14th
Patrick and Brian talk about the War on Terror - thoughts about podcasting
Treacle
Kristine writes down some of what Adriana said
Jeffrey Archer - blogger
Lords pictures from last Monday
Guido’s narrative
Billion Monkey flash strikes twice! - 7/7 a year later - Office Space on TV even though I own it
Big Media crap and football cock-ups
Dnalgne no emoc! - Billion Monkey snaps mental Maradona!
Latest Brian and Antoine elections around the world mp3
Wisden on the back foot
Billion Monkeys stop cover-ups!
Giving up rouge for Lisbon
Old media
The latest Brian and Antoine Election Watch podcast and some thoughts on democratic nastiness
Lightning strikes twice
The internet is creating new video stars
How links have weakened the mainstream media
Wrong comparison
Quoted but not linked to
Blogging fun and blogging profit
I won’t be doing any television myself in the near future but in the meantime have a watch of this
Fake but true?
“What on earth gives every computer owner the right to exude his opinion, unasked for?”
Those cartoons
The problem of long blog postings
Deep fried eyelids anyone?
“The Internet has also brought a new class of people into politics”
Talking about my generation
The Great Gulf War?
TV.com
Ted told you and I told you Ted told you