My 2013 in Pictures

I’m about to ask you to step into your Tardis and pop back to 2004. A mobile phone with a camera was not exactly rare but also not very common either. It was at the very beginning of an era when cameras would always be with us. I discovered that the camera on the phone provided a unique perspective on the year. Almost every year since then, at the end of the year, I have curated some pictures that summed up the previous twelve months. Of course they are both very personal and also reflective of the year as a whole; if you materialise in 2012, for example, you’ll see images from the London 2012 Olympic games.

Equally fascinating is the technology that drives this yearly retrospective. In 2004 it was a Palm Treo (the first real attempt at a smartphone) that took the pictures that I manually filtered; the 36 of 2006 became a collection shared on Flickr while the technology had moved on and by 2009 the view was automatically created by dopiaza’s set generator, again on Flickr. In recent years, while I still create the automated selection (2013’s most interesting can still be seen on Flickr), I’ve stepped back to the personal curation. Sometimes, the machine is not always best.

The 2013 retrospective is, again, a uniquely personal memory of the last twelve months – a year when I spent more time than I could have imagined in airport lounges and on the other side of the world. Many of the moments in the collection are from Melbourne which was a fascinating place to explore.

This year the technology behind the images took another leap. 2013’s set was taken and compiled entirely on a smartphone using the Flipagram app. Fewer than ten years ago the phone images were poor quality pictures; now they are high quality images that can be manipulated quickly through the apps provided by the likes of Flickr and Instagram. No traditional camera and, really, no PC involved. Back in 2004 I think you’d have expected to set your Tardis 3004 to find that kind of technology.

This year I learned much about the community of YouTube which will, no doubt, the the subject of another blog post at some point. Flipagram allows the video it creates from the pictures to be uploaded as a video to YouTube. It marks another leap in the review of the images of the year.

So, here are my moments of 2013 – compressed into 15 seconds of video set to my favourite dance track of the year, Nabiha’s ‘Never Played The Bass‘.

And if you’re on a device that can’t see the video, try it over on YouTube.

I Don’t Want A Useless Paper Receipt

I have spent a reasonable amount of this year travelling for work. Every business traveller has their horror stories or their personal list of frustrations when ‘on the road’. But I think there’s one unifying annoyance: almost everybody who travels on behalf of somebody else hates compiling their expenses upon their return. Unless, of course, you are in the fortunate position of having a company that provides a corporate credit card that they settle via some hands-off automated means or have a corporate expense system that works with some kind of smartphone app that allows you to scan as you go. I have neither. It’s another system in need of serious attention and will be the subject of another post no doubt.

If you do have to complete some kind of expense system it is certain that you will spend a disproportionate amount of your precious time looking at tiny bits of paper trying to remember where they are from, why you needed to spend that much money and who was with you. At least, I do. Never mind trying to determine what to do if one item is not a permitted expense. Oh help me now.

And this is an aspect of our daily life that’s ready for a wholesale overhaul. Please tell me somebody, somewhere is working on making them customer-friendly because the receipt industry needs a healthy does of usability training. Wow, there’s a receipt industry. Who knew?

Now, many receipts are passable as they contain some useful information. I bought 8 items in a supermarket earlier today. The receipt is 30cm long: that’s as long as the rulers they used to make you use at school. Seriously, try folding that and keeping it in your wallet. And all for 8 items. I guess it does list my carrots, amongst other things, but over half the receipt is full of information that’s either redundant or repeated (the total value is shown 4 times); it contains two phone numbers (one to call to tell them about my experience, perhaps I’ll mention the receipt); the date and time is shown twice – never in an obvious place like at the top – and there are strings of meaningless numbers. Why, pray tell, do I care what an AID is or what the 19 digit cryptogram is. Shouldn’t something called a cryptogram really be secret? It might mean something to somebody on the other end but not to me as the person walking out of the shop. I love the fact it contains the phrase ‘please retain this copy for your records’. Does anybody do that these days?

Do I need to know the App Seq is 00?
Do I need to know the App Seq is 00?

However, the paper on the left is the subject of this post and the plea to people who make tills and their associated receipts. Please make them useful or don’t bother wasting the paper.

This receipt was handed to me in a burrito shop. The burrito was delicious and much was made of the freshness of the produce. I guess they spent so much time looking for a fresh avocado that nobody bothered to program printer with even the name of the fabulous burrito place. Really, I could tell you the name of the store but only because I checked on on Foursquare (there was no special and I am not mayor). If I’d left my wallet full of 30cm supermarket receipts I wouldn’t be able to pull this one from my pocket and call up the shop to ask if they’d found it because they don’t bother to print their name or number.

I do know it was £14.40 (I bought lunch for two) because they tell me – twice. I also know it was a contactless CP. I hope it was a ‘CP’ because I have no idea what that means. I can’t complain to them if it wasn’t because they didn’t bother to put any contact information on it. Did I mention that? I know the transaction ID was 952 which doesn’t reassure me about anything, except to suggest that they might have only served 952 people in their store. Which doesn’t seem very many. There’s an AID on this one too. What, somebody tell me, is an AID? I also know the value of P, T and M. Given I gave up any pretence on mathematics when I was 16 these are meaningless to me.

Really, how hard is it to either give me something useful or not bother? Remind me what I ate and where you are, tell me how much I spent on which card. I don’t need much else. If you want to do something helpful why not tell me the nutritional values of the food I bought? If you want to offer me a reward to comeback or a helpful customer care line then, I guess, pop that on there. But please – most importantly of all – I do not need to be reminded to keep this Worthless Piece Of Paper For My Records (why the capitalisation?).

I could go on about the really helpful receipts I get from Kabbee or the great service at an Apple Store where they email you the receipt and do away with paper completely but I don’t have time, I have some carrots on the stove that I ought to go and eat.

Elsewhere: Wish I was at home for Christmas

We are past the moment when we all start to discuss if mince pies should be in the shops and are slightly panicked when we meet somebody who says that they have already purchased and wrapped their Christmas presents for the year.  We’ve moved beyond the point when we ask if shops really should be playing Christmas songs to wondering when they’re going to play Slade on the radio.  But, year after year, we never get past the point when it’s OK to ask if Jona Lewie’s ‘Stop The Cavalry” is really a Christmas song or not even though it’s been played continually at this time of year for almost 23 years.

To help – or not – with this debate MyFizzyPop has a Top 10 list of non-Christmas Christmas songs featuring the likes of Living In A Box, East 17 and Steps. Not a sign of Jona Lewie on that list, but given it’s featured on almost every Christmas musical compilation there is I think we can allow the omission.

It is in this post that I have, at last, found somebody who likes an obscure song by a duet that I probably should not admit to liking. So I just had to have my say:

I’ve never found anybody else who appreciates the pure pop perfection of Jason & Kylie’s “All I Wanna Do” which, in my very humble opinion, was much better than the other side but rarely – if ever – played on the radio. “All I wanna do is make you so, so happy”. Indeed.

You’ve missed The Flying Pickets ‘Only You’ from your list and it would certainly be in my top non-Christmas Christmas songs list (although it was a Christmas hit it doesn’t even mention the season). Using that instantly recognisable Vince Clarke tune as a base, which might also feature on your list itself, the a cappella version makes it a cosy Christmas number suitable for parties attended by Great Aunts. For some reason it brings to mind a roaring fire and Val Doonican in a Christmas scarf: wrapped-up, warm and – somewhere – there’s mulled wine.

See other comments and suggestions on the original post.

 

Geo-targeting Dilemmas

Here’s a digital advertising dilemma. It’s about geo-targeting and first party data which, admittedly, isn’t a ‘thing’ for many people.

Anyway, here’s the scenario.

This week I have been working in Australia. It’s lovely to be here, even if it is one of those weeks when it’s warmer in the UK. I have been making use of the hotel’s over-priced wifi because I do have work to do during the UK day. As a result, I’ve spent sometime surfing the web.

As you would imagine, I am seeing lots of digital ads for Australian things, including a campaign for ING Direct featuring West Yorkshire’s very own magician, Dynamo. The magic’s quite clever and you can see it on YouTube . It’s this campaign that got me thinking.

This bank account isn’t much use to me. I don’t live here. I’m sure it’s a very fine account and they have noble aims to make Australians take a better lunch break. But I am not going to open one. Sorry.

Or there’s this video for the ‘Australia Works’ campaign. I think it’s a very well made video but it’s party political and I’m a visitor not a citizen.

Now, I’ve also seen a reasonable amount of this Nivea campaign. This may, or may not, be a local campaign (it’s certainly a local voice-over on the video and a local landing page) but at least most of the products, in some form, would be available to me at home. The sites in question probably used the data I provided them to tell them I am male so that I get the version of the product that tries to reassure me it’s very butch to moisturise.

If I’d seen all of these advertisements on a local Australian site that would be fine1 but I didn’t. I saw them all on sites where I am a known, registered and logged-in user. I’ve given all the sites in question some information – partly because they promise to better target ads to me – and they probably collect a lot more data about me. All of which would tell them I do not live in Melbourne; a fact from which they could infer I am probably visiting. Why show me advertisements that are lovely to look at but, ultimately, wasted on me?

It’s not just the sites at fault. Some advertisers specify that ads should be geo-locked within a specific county, which will limit the pool of available creative. That’s enormously short-sighted if you’re placing them on sites that understand I am probably travelling. And that explicitly know I am British.

I know the technology exists to solve this problem so why, in 2013, when we’re all talking about understanding users better to show only relevant advertising, are we getting this so horribly wrong?

Notes

1Actually it probably wouldn’t be fine; there are plenty of audience data sources that could work this out for them, but for the purposes of this argument we’ll let it go.

Note To Self: Configuring TuneIn for JemmOne

>> OK, Jon, skip the ramble and give me the instructions

Neil and Debbie at Breakfast

Breakfast radio is an odd thing. Presenters, competitions, cheesy gags and music become part of your daily routine and when something changes your day doesn’t seem to start quite right. I would wager psychologists have plenty to say about humans and their routines but I don’t know one to ask.

There was sadness back in January when Neil and Debbie, aka N-Debz, left the airwaves with just a day’s notice as QSoft, the folks behind the Gaydar dating site, closed their digital radio station – Gaydar Radio – to go, well, dating. There’s been an online following – mainly on Twitter and Facebook – waiting to see where this duo, as well as the other presenters, would return so that mornings would be restored. Today, after a couple of weeks notice they reappeared on an internet-only station, Jemmone.

Putting together a radio station in such a short period of time can’t be easy and, sure, there were a few teething troubles this morning – the stream was a little unreliable and possibly overloaded – but I’m certain they will be gone in a few days. Of course the most important thing was that morning’s just got better.

I imagine internet-only radio is just as complex a beast as broadcast radio to build and run but listening to it, especially in the mornings when you’re used to your alram-radio waking you, is actually pretty complex too (and much more complex than a broadcast equivalent). That’ll be the subject of another post, I’m sure.

Part of the shaky start for JemmOne this morning was due to the fact the audience appeared to only have one way to listen: via player in a browser. But that player – although reputedly HTML5-based – wouldn’t play on iOS devices, amongst others. A web-based player is difficult to set-up as a alarm clock so people figured out the stream details that could be used in iOS apps like TuneIn Radio (which features an alarm) or on internet radios. I’m using it successfully on my Pure Evoke Flow so my radio’s still coming out of that little box by my bed.

For some reason Jemmone didn’t actively publish the details of that feed – I could speculate why but let’s not. During the day the Android app was released and we’re told the iOS app is on the way. I don’t really understand why they haven’t provided instructions on how to listen via other apps until theirs is produced. So, for all those on Twitter asking here’s how to set it up on two common devices.


TuneIn Radio

In Favourites, select "Custom Stream"
In Favourites, select “Custom Stream”
  1. Install the TuneIn Radio app if you do not have it
  2. Don’t bother browsing for Jemmone: at the time of writing it’s not there
  3. Navigate to the ‘Favourites’ section (hint, it’s the heart at the bottom of the screen)
  4. Click ‘Add new custom URL’
  5. Add the stream address http://radio.jemmone.com/ (the http bit seems to be important here)
  6. You may find, after typing the address, it appears to find the stream and can be selected
  7. Select ‘Custom Stream’ and, after a few seconds, you’ll be connected
  8. Once it’s playing, you’ll probably want to save it as a favourite so you can get back to it

 

iTunes

You need File > Open Stream
You need File > Open Stream
  1. Open iTunes
  2. Go to ‘File’ in the menu bar and select ‘Open Stream’
  3. Add the stream address http://radio.jemmone.com/
  4. To find it again, you’ll need to look under ‘music’; I’ve never been quite sure why streams don’t appear to be saved under ‘radio’

A More Personalised Radio Experience Is Getting Closer

One of the most infuriating things about modern smartphones (and, more specifically, the apps that you download to them) is their constant need for love and attention by way of an endless stream of updates. It’s not really a problem the G20 leaders are keeping themselves awake at night thinking about but those little icons drive me insane (and I am fully aware some phones allow apps to automatically update but I refuse to engage in that whole ‘best smartphone platform’ nonsense).

So, yesterday I went through another round of updates. Rarely do I pay attention to the ‘release notes’ given that the usual excuse for consuming the bandwidth is ‘bug fixes’ but, for some reason, I did when it came to Apple’s Podcast app.

Apple more-or-less created mass market demand for podcasts in 2005 by including them in iTunes but, in recent years, the format has appeared to have lacked much attention from them; on i-devices they were spun out of iTunes into their own app a little while ago.

I suspect it’s that lack of love that spurred me into reading the release notes. And, in those notes, the first item read,

“Create custom stations of your favourite podcasts that update automatically with new episodes” [source]

Podcast App on the iPhone
Screenshot from my phone

which is accompanied by a lovely image of the ‘My Stations’ screen in the app showing ‘stations’ named ‘Morning Commute’, ‘Kids Shows’ and ‘News’ amongst others (the image here is of my phone, with three customised stations).

Six-or-so months ago I wrote a piece called “It’s My Radio Station” which suggested that, at some future point, I would become my own programme controller by setting some basic rules in an app that mixed music and speech to create a customised radio station (which is wholly different from a customised music stream). I genuinely didn’t think it fanciful then and I think it’s even less so now. Imagine the next iteration of Apple’s app where I can mix an iTunes playlist (from my machine or their rumoured streaming service) with this functionality.

In my earlier piece I suggested the people best placed to develop this are today’s radio stations because they have experience generating the bits between the music (rather than the Spotify-type music-focussed services of this world). So, it’s sort-of encouraging to read that American broadcast giant Clear Channel is trying something along those very lines (of course, I can only report this second-hand not being able to use the iHeartRadio app in the UK). Fool.com reports,

The beauty of Add-Ins is that it’s not just about the local perspective. Add-Ins can be customized. Someone that isn’t hitting the open road may not care about traffic. Someone staying in may not care about the weather. Not everyone cares about local news headlines. [source]

I believe that any radio station with ‘talent’ that is not getting that content out in alternative ways, including some form of regularly updated podcasts (long and short versions), is missing out on a market. More importantly, they’re missing out on an opportunity to learn about how radio will be consumed in the future.

Personalised radio is coming (just as personalised news is already here). I don’t think Apple’s use of the word ‘stations’ can be dismissed but it remains to be seen if it indicates a direction they’re prepared to take. Nonetheless, it could be either new players in the radio space – or an existing broadcaster – who will get there first.

Three things fascinate me about how this plays out. Firstly, will a broadcaster be prepared to take a risk on this kind of development or will it need to come from outside broadcast groups to truly allow people to mix-and-match the content they want? Secondly, given it’s proven people like to time-shift television, is radio content sufficiently compelling and/or useful to put the time-shift effort in? And, thirdly, can audio producers generate a revenue from such personalisation?

Time will tell. But we’re going to rapidly see innovation on this space. I wonder who’ll get left behind?

Elsewhere: The News Bulletin Is Now Mine And I Determine The Running Order

I opened a dictionary today (by which I mean a paper book). I haven’t done that in a while (no sarcastic comments about spelling, please). I wanted to see what the definition of ‘news’ was and if it was substantially different from that currently published online by Oxford Dictionaries1. It’s not. I think it was pretty similar 20+ years ago when I was a student (and probably the same when the term was first used in late Middle English).

“newly received or noteworthy information, especially about recent events” [source]

Nothing more. Nothing less.

Of course it’s got a bunch of modern associations taken from the world around us: we’re all used to it being presented as ‘today’s top stories’. Is it what Alastair Hetherington determined it was when he edited The Guradian or William Rees-Mogg when he did the same at The Times? Is it what Tom Bradby or Laura Kuenssberg think is news at ITV? Or what Nick Sutton thinks is news on Radio 4’s The World At One? Of course. But it’s much, much more. There’s a lot of information that’s newly received or noteworthy about recent events that doesn’t cross James Stephenson’s (editor, BBC TV News at 6 and 10) desk.

By this definition there’s more ‘news’ than can fit into any existing bulletin, so for the most of the last 311 years (since 1702 when The Daily Courant launched as Britain’s first regular daily newspaper)2 we’ve relied on news editors to determine a priority and pass this information to us via the press, radio or television (yes, I am leaving the town crier out of this discussion).

Today, I came across an interesting blog by John Myers where, when talking about visiting media students he says,

“I always start my sessions by asking students to tell me about the big national news stories of the day” [source]

and is surprised by the silence he is met with. I too was surprised, not by the silence, but the fact that most of the commenters on the piece tend to agree with him and think it’s pretty bad students are not interested in ‘the news’.

Of course they are interested in ‘the news’. Just not ‘the news’ if it’s narrowly defined as the list of stories on the radio, on television or in the press.

So, to me, the silence is not surprising at all because most of the time there are no ‘big national news stories of the day’ that are common to us all (of course, I will concede, there might be exceptions). This is because most of the students he’s addressing have grown up in a world where you create your own news agenda. News no longer needs to be the prioritised list of events from an unknown (except by byline) editor at my local newspaper or radio station nor what Radios 1-6 think nor anything broadcast by a rolling-news television station. Today, across the world, we create our own news running order from Twitter or Facebook or a million other online tools. It’s continuous stream of stories that mixes the global with the hyper-local and the personal.

So I wrote a reply about it (copied below). One subsequent commenter claims he was

“left thinking that Jon believes no-one should be aware of the news in their local area or in current affairs” [source]

which is, of course, not what I am saying at all. But I am saying no-one needs to be beholden to a far off editor to prioritise what’s important news to them. It may be a breaking world story, an interesting piece about the industry I work in or news of a new birth in the family. I think asking journalism students to name recent stories might show they can read/watch/listen but means we’re training (and hiring) people for a way of working that’s stuck in a 300-year-old history of doing things that’s not fit for presenting the news in the future.

The news bulletin is now mine and I determine the running order.

Here’s what I wrote and you can read it in context at News – who cares?

For more-or-less twenty years almost all digital news outlets have offered some kind of news personalisation services whereby I can opt to see news that interests me. There’s a whole generation who have grown up with the ability to determine their own news agendas and not a prioritised list of items from an editor in another city. On most days, do ‘the big national news stories of the day’ really still exist? Isn’t it ‘my big stories of the day’ from a wide range of sources? Twitter is just the latest incarnation of news. Certainly there are lots of issues with the bias of self-selection but they’re only a new take on age-old editorial bias concerns.

Far from making us ‘dumber’ aren’t Twitter and Facebook The News for some people? If I’ve opted to prioritise Formula 1 news or tech stories from Silicon Valley over today’s political posturing over the ECHR (which is front page on the newspaper next to me)3 then I’ve made a decision that’s no different from the editor that decided to pop that story in the paper. Isn’t Facebook’s timeline just news from my ‘community’ (which is what the news was for most people prior to rise of the mass national press in the late 1700s)?

I think if a copy of Metro on the campus of University of Central Lancashire was leading with the Boris/Ken story for the race to be London Mayor then you have your answer as to why students go elsewhere for more relevant news.

Perhaps better questions for your students or job candidates might be what are their news agendas for the day? I bet you’ll find articulate people fully aware of news (just different from your definition of news) and thoughts on alternative ways to package that news to make it relevant. If they can’t name Tim Farron (he’s on page 4 of my paper)4 then the internet exists if it becomes necessary. I see a bleak future for newsrooms that persist with the one-size fits all agenda whereby one person’s idea of the top stories should be the same as mine.

 

Notes

1.My dictionary (the paper one) is twenty years old. I was checking to see if the definition had changed in any way.
2. It’s a somewhat arbitrary date to pick as the point where news agendas are set by remote people/editors. But I felt the first regular daily paper wasn’t a bad point in time to use as a marker. I took the date from here.
3. I’m looking at i (or do we call it ipaper?). It was free this morning from Starbucks. This is the front cover.
4. According to the newspaper sat next to me he’s President of the Liberal Democrats. I wouldn’t have known that had I been tested (even after reading the paper). I just picked it as a random name ‘in the news’.

Update

The very next day, as if to help prove that nobody wants a one size fits all news bulletin, I read this (and it made me laugh):

What’s Your Moment of 2012?

At the end of the year it’s customary to look back: and this year it’s easier than ever. Have you reviewed your Year On Twitter or Biggest Moments on Facebook yet? Last month I posted my 12 of 2012: one photo taken each month in my phone’s Photo Stream. It’s one way to review the year. That came from a conversation where I asked “what moment will you remember from 2012” and I ended up looking at pictures from the year.

Of course those 12 photographs don’t answer my own question. Normally, I would find answering that difficult but this year it’s easy. There’s one moment that really sticks in my mind from 2012: unlike most years I do not have to think or delve into my memory banks: it’s just there. One moment in – as the cast of Rent might say – “Five hundred twenty-five thousand Six hundred minutes”.

Opening Ceremony RehersalIt’s Monday 23rd July 2012 and I was lucky enough to get a ticket to the Olympic Stadium rehearsal for the London 2012 Opening Ceremony. It was all very last minute but it was a glorious evening in London and I made my way across the city to Stratford and the Olympic Stadium. Entering the Olympic Park and seeing everything ready was a special moment but the best was still to come.

Sitting in the Olympic stadium awaiting the rehearsal we were all urged to #savethesurprise (and that was perhaps the cleverest Twitter hashtag of the year, allowing the audience to use social media and share the moment by using a reminder not to over share). The centre of the stadium had been converted into England’s green and pleasant land (there were 40 sheep, 12 horses, 3 cows, 2 goats, 10 chickens, 10 ducks, 9 geese and 3 sheep dogs are involved). Fluffy clouds were being walked around what, underneath the greenery, was the athletics track. It was tranquil, a little odd and most intriguing.

Scenes of the Olympic Stadium
Rehearsal For The opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games

There was a real sense of anticipation as the excited crowd both wondered what was about to happen and, most of all, if we were going to be able to do something that would live up to a nation’s expectations. We knew that most of the 7,500 taking part were volunteers and they’d been rehearsing for months but we’d no idea if London could pull off something memorable. The pastoral scenes in front of us, while fascinating and – perhaps – uniquely British, were not quite a spectacle.

Then about 10 minutes into the event Isambard Kingdom Brunel ushered in a celebration of the Industrial Revolution in a section entitled Pandemonium which lead to the casting of the Olympic rings and one of the iconic images of the games.

At the start of Pandemonium 965 drummers accompanied the non-stop beat on The Underworld soundtrack. Sitting in the audience, the drums began behind you as the musicians marched into the stadium. The television soundtrack doesn’t do the noise justice: the beat reverberated around the stadium and right through you; I’ve never experienced anything like it. It was the moment; an amazing moment – the crowd erupted and it was the point when we realised that London could and would deliver. It was the second the crowd knew that it would be an incredible year.

And it was.