Archive for the ‘Media’ Category

Paxman’s Pants

Monday, January 21st, 2008

Jeremy Paxman sends off a private email to Marks and Spencers complaining about the poor quality of their underwear. The someone leaks the email and it’s reply.

Cue silly season in the newspapers.

The real issue isn’t with the state of M&S’s knickers, it’s with privacy.

Someone sent a private email to a company, then someone in the company leaked it to the press. I don’t really think that it counts as ‘public interest’ in the way the whistleblowers are protected.

Instead someone has breached this private communication because they saw a ‘good story’.

I understand (and I’m no lawyer) that email doesn’t have the same protections of written, posted, physical mail. In which case this leak might not be illegal, but it is immoral.

One law that would have been broken is that whoever copied the email to the press would have breached the copyright of Mr. Paxman. By making an unauthorised copy of the email the leaker has made a ‘pirate’ copy of Mr. Paxman’s work.

If I were Sir Stuart Rose (Head of M&S) I’d be wondering who leaked this email, and if this person of dodgy morals has been leaking any business secrets.

On Avoiding Spoilers

Tuesday, January 15th, 2008

Twitter notifications turned off.
Avoid news sites.
Don’t read email.
No TV news (especially the BBC).
Don’t open Bloglines.
Sign up to the Macrumors ‘non-spoiler’ mailing list.
Don’t open iTunes.
Tell my brother not to ring me.

All because in a few hours the world of computer geeks will turn it’s eyes to the Steve Jobs keynote speech. Liveblogging, Twittering, Websites and RSS feeds, all these will be providing minute by minute updates and analysis.

But I don’t want to see it.

I want to see the recorded keynote with my mind in a pristine state, unblemished by spoilers.

Will there be an ultra-portable? Will there be a 3G iPhone? Will there be something completely different?

I don’t want to know until I hear such things spill from Job’s lips.

In the connected world of today it’s getting hard to avoid learning about things that you’d rather not know. Everyone knows what’s going to happen in the latest soaps, and I can’t imagine how that would affect any sense of drama that the writers are trying to create.

So I shall sit in my bubble of non-connectedness waiting for the video to be posted. I shall revel in my lack of knowledge.

And then I’ll probably look at my bank balance and sob that I can’t afford some new toys…

Biographies

Sunday, December 16th, 2007

There was some talk on Twitter the other night about writing a biography that fits the 140 character limit. I’ve also been asked to provide a 150 word biography for a panel I’m on in the new year. The 140 character Twitter bio is an interesting exercise in and of itself. Both of these have come at the same time and with similar numbers, so here goes.

Twitter Bio.

“East Londoner, Atheist. Ex-teacher, ex-A&E nurse, now EMT. Writes blog ‘Random Acts Of Reality’ about LAS. Published author. CC Licensed.”

150 word (slightly more professional) version.

“Tom Reynolds is an Emergency Medical Technician for the London Ambulance Service. Most people call him an ‘ambulance driver’. Based in East London he has been writing the blog Random Acts Of Reality (http://randomreality.blogware.com) about his experiences for the past five years. Previous to working for the ambulance service he trained as a teacher and was also an A&E nurse. Tom had his first book (Blood, Sweat and Tea) published by the Friday Project and a sequel is to be published later this year. Tom’s interests include saving the NHS, Creative commons and copyright reform, and anything involving the internet or the future. He is currently looking for a nice cup of tea.”

I also have to send them a photo…

I’m not sure if they are trying to scare people away…

[tags]Biography, twitter, whoringmyself[/tags]

“You Are A Criminal By Default” Government Suggests

Wednesday, October 24th, 2007

The UK government could legislate to crack down on illegal file-sharers, a senior official has told the BBC’s iPM programme.
Lord Triesman, the parliamentary Under Secretary for Innovation, Universities and Skills, said intellectual property theft would not be tolerated.
“If we can’t get voluntary arrangements we will legislate,” he said.
The comments could prove controversial with privacy advocates and internet service providers.
Lord Triesman called on internet service providers to take a “more activist role” in the problem of illegal file-sharing.

I heard Lord Triesman talk at the Virtual Worlds Forum earlier today – you can hear an MP3 of what he said here.

It would appear that the government has fully implemented some of the aspects of the Gowers report which involve educating and empowering the Trading Standards officers (just look at the recent TV Links takedown). Unfortunately they haven’t been so quick to look at some of the points that make IP more flexible, like the recommendations for format shifting or parody.

It’s something I’d liked to have asked him about but he seemed to disappear quite sharpish. I need to learn to run quicker if I want to get my journalism badge.  Chris must be a faster runner.

(And kudos to Sasha for mentioning after his talk that there are such things as Open Source Software and Creative Commons).

Going back to the idea that ISPs could be forced to deal with illegal content I’d ask why we should stop there? Shouldn’t we make the Post office liable for illegal pictures and documents sent through the mail system? How about making the telephone companies liable for offensive phone calls? Next we could make the roads agency liable for drunk drivers…

I love arguing like this, it’s cheap and easy like me.

This is without getting into the technical problems of determining infringing traffic over the internet without blocking legal traffic.

I have a horrible fear, after hearing Lord Triesman talk about P2P networks ‘often’ being used illegally, that the government will try to bring in a complete ban on all P2P software.

I also find it amusing that in the talk, he calls the default position for users of the internet to be ‘I want stuff for free’. You know – he’s insinuating that we are all criminals.

One for the fearsome Open Rights Group methinks.

[tags]copyright, ISP, Triesman, P2P, infringement, iPM, Gowers, VirtualWorldsForum, VWF, ORG, OpenRightsGroup [/tags]

Fear The Beard

Thursday, September 27th, 2007

For it is soon to go.
Fear The Beard.jpg
You may pay tribute in the comments below.

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Someone Shoot The Marketing Department.

Friday, September 21st, 2007

From the BBC.

TV channel UKTV G2, which shows cult comedy and game shows aimed at young men, is to be rebranded Dave.

UKTV says the new name is based on the idea that “everyone knows a bloke called Dave”.

The head of Dave, Steven North, said: “Changing the channel name to Dave enables us to create a strong and noisy personality for the channel that immediately aligns us with our core 16-34 male audience.”


Because 16-34 year old males are obviously morons.

This is the future we have built, TV channels named ‘Dave’. ‘UKTV Bright Ideas’ obviously being considered too fucking high-brow for the TV viewer of today.

I can easily imagine some spotty media studies marketing moron standing up in a meeting and asking, “UKTV Bright Ideas, doesn’t that sound a bit gay?”.

Suddenly the reasons why I don’t watch much telly become blindingly obvious.

Or maybe I’m being harsh because I’m not in the demographic that would find saying, “Did you see the tits on that woman on Dave last night” brilliantly witty.

[tags]Death of TV, morons,IwanttokillsomeoneyesIdo[/tags]

Tabula Rasa (And The Lie Of The Public Beta)

Thursday, September 20th, 2007

I’ve been playing the Tabula Rasa beta of late, actually it’s called ‘Richard Garriott’s Tabula Rasa’ presumably because his name is so well respected in the MMORPG market.

I should admit that I haven’t progressed very far in the game, coming late to the beta and having… well… a day job (and a night job). If there is anyone reading this who has alternate views, or can fill me in on the things towards the end of the game please leave a comment.

I’m going to explain some of the things that I like about the game, also why MMO’s these days have ‘beta’ periods.

The game sets the remnants of humanity against an evil invading alien army on a variety of planets in a near future setting. Sci-Fi settings have never done as well as fantasy settings for some reason, so it’ll be interesting to see how Tabula Rasa does in a business dominated magic swords and half dressed Elf maidens.

The short version is that it is a fun game and while it won’t replace WoW in my affections, it’s still a game that will take up permanent residence on my hard drive and will be used when I’m fed up of stabbing Orcs with my dagger of +1 disembowelment.

Quests and items

With quests Tabula Rasa doesn’t lead you around by the nose quite as much as World of Warcraft, but it’s not far short. Quests so far have been the standard ‘Deliver package X to Y’ or ‘Go to location X to find crate Y’. There hasn’t been a huge amount of ‘Kill 20 of creature type X’ yet, which is something I’m grateful for.

The ‘Kill 200 sheep’ quests are replaced by earning titles if you slaughter your way through whole populations. This is similar to Everquest 2, although there is, as yet, no in-game effect. But it’s nice to have the ‘Exterminator’ title just for killing forty giant purple flying octopi.

While I haven’t reached that far into the game I can see people on the global chat asking for others to ‘party up’ in order to enter the game’s equivalent of dungeons. What I haven’t seen is the more usual call for ‘healers’ and ‘tanks’. I wonder if the balance of the game is such that the mae-up of a party is less important than for games such as WoW.

There are only three attributes, Body, Mind and Spirit and you can find items in world that increase these statistics – for example I have a laser chaingun that (somehow) gives my Mind statistic an extra five points. Armour comes with bonuses like ‘take 5% less damage from fire’. Pretty standard MMO tropes here, although it is a little strange to see a ‘magic’ flamethrower.

There are recipes for upgrading your equipment and a way for you to dismantle your equipment in order to get the resources for crafting. I’ll admit to not playing around much with crafting – but it seems that you don’t ‘learn’ crafting recipes, instead needing a one-shot item that drops in world. I’m not too sure if this is a good idea and given my quick play I can’t see the economy of the game being as complex as other games out there.

Instances

The server setup is rather interesting and is something that I hope makes it to the final game. Each area in the game is instanced, so there can be multiple ‘versions’ of The Caves Of Ragna zone. Changing between instances is as easy as visiting a teleport pad (the in-game quick travel system) and selecting which instance you would like to enter. Unlike some games every area is instanced, even the town areas.

For example – one of the quests involves going into the caves of Ragna (or somesuch fantasy name – I’m afraid that after a while they all blur into one). The reason why you must enter the cave is so you can destroy six eggs laid by some monster or another. Said monster is guarding the eggs, as all good monsters should do.

On my first run through the cave all the eggs were already smashed – normally this would mean I’d have to wait until the eggs ‘respawned’ that is returned to the game in an unsmashed form. This can take a long time and if there is another player in the cave it can be a frustrating experience as you both chase around after the same eggs.

So what you can do is to head to a teleport pad (and luckily for me there is one just outside the caves) and select a less populated ‘instance’. You can then enter the game and find the eggs all intact.

This idea solves one of the bigger or the MMORPG problems – waiting along with queues of players waiting for items or monster to respawn so they can get on with the questing. It will also go someway to solve the problem of rolling a character on a different server than your friends, therefore being unable to play with them. In Tabula Rasa you just have to agree to meet in a specific instance.

Send in the clones

The other aspect that is new to me is the ‘cloning’ of characters – every few levels (5, 15 and 25) you have to make a career decision with your character – do they become a soldier or a specialist? A ranger or a sniper? In most other games if you make the wrong decision and grow bored with the character you need to start again from scratch. With Tabula Rasa the clones you make before every career decision enable you to explore other careers with much less risk. No more starting from level one as each clone is a copy of your character at the point you make the clone.

Finally an end to killing rats in the starter zone to level each character.

Much more fun for those of us who don’t have the ability to play all day.

The real reason for beta?

Traditionally beta-testing has been to release a piece of software to a group of users in order to bash the code around in real situations and to report bugs to the development team. This is done so that the final product is as bug free as possible.

With MMO games things are a little different. The game comes out, there are server crashes, bugs and rollbacks. There are lots of patches in the early days fixing the bugs and there are normally a number of server side fixes. The incidence of patching is huge during the first few months of a game. It’s one of the things that us early adopters to these sorts of games are used to and unfortunately accept as the price we pay for being the first people to explore the game’s content. I remember the WoW servers being up and down like a whore’s knickers in the first few months of play, of course they are a lot more stable now.

So if the initial few months of a game release are the ‘real’ beta, why have a ‘beta’ phase at all?

Publicity.

In this internet connected world a website isn’t going to cut it. What you really want is lots of bloggers linking to you and giving you good word of mouth. What you need is people who have played the game and can evangelise about it. Monthly magazines are too slow in a market where games websites update daily.

The wise company realises this – so by having a beta period not governed by a Non-Disclosure Agreement (Tabula Rasa’s NDA was lifted on the 6th of September) you can pretty much guarantee that bloggers will post, forums will talk and IMs will flit between people. This creates a nice ‘pre-launch buzz’. People get invested in the game and shout it’s praises by whatever mode of communication is available to them.

And we are happy to do this work for the company, we get early access to the game and we get to bash some bugs (hopefully before the game is released). We also get to feel out some of the game’s content and can therefore level our characters quicker than those coming new to the game.

In return the company gets free publicity from people who have liked the game enough to stick with it from a really buggy stage.

One of those Win/Win situations.

Look at the page for Warhammer Online, there are 432,050 applicants for the beta period. That’s nearly half a million people who are going to be willing to do your publicity for nothing.

Heaven knows I’m desperate to get in that beta programme… Maybe I should e-mail them my pageview count…

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eBay

Tuesday, September 11th, 2007

Just seen my book on eBay.

Strange (But good luck to them).

What *is* unusual is that the ‘stores’ on eBay are selling it for more than Amazon does, or what you would pay in the shops. I wonder how much money they make?

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Text ‘Mate’ To 80333

Friday, July 20th, 2007

I’m watching late night music TV. (Ian Dury on VH1 Classic to be precise). When one of those annoying adverts for ‘text message services’ comes on. Some bored sounding Irish woman is telling me to send off a text message to find out the initial of the man I’m going to marry.

It only costs £1.50

What surprises me is that you can even subscribe to this service so that ‘you can get your latest result every week!’.

Just how daft are people? I mean, it must work or the company would go bankrupt wouldn’t they?

And if it does work then I truly despair at the thought that the people using this service might be the same people looking after me when I’m old and infirm.

Looks like a cyanide capsule might be an essential bit of kit for my future.

[tags]SMS, somepeoplearereallydumb, latenighttelly, stabbyfeelings[/tags]

The Speed Of The Sound Of An Explosion.

Wednesday, July 18th, 2007

I heard and saw a picture of the explosion in New York over at Rachel’s blog far before the BBC have anything.

Make of that what you will.

[tags]NewYork, explosion, blognetwork, propogationofnews, New York, Citizen Journalism[/tags]