PUBLIC BROADCASTING IN THE 21ST CENTURY, FAIR TRADE COFFEE, TURIN, MTV.CA AND WIRED

Greetings,

This week featured a really exciting new development from the BBC. Basically, the Beeb is going to radically overhaul its web site, www.bbc.co.uk, to become more in line with the participatory model of journalism – more user-driven content, more downloads, more Web 2.0 principles of online interaction.

I think this a great move on part of the BBC. The regular commitment to very high quality, wide-reaching journalism will stay in place, no doubt, but this will give ordinary users of the BBC – a public service, first and foremost – chances to interact with technology and content.

Ever better: the CBC’s podcasts are coming very soon, and a new CBC Video section with on-demand video feeds (including rebroadcasts of The National from the night before) are available to watch.

This is a very exciting time for public interest journalism. The public sector is showing many private broadcasters the real benefits of fully embracing the digital age and the myriad of benefits to spreading content online organically.

FAIR TRADE COFFEE: I’m currently hunting around for some good fair trade coffee. I’m thinking of taking a trip to Kensington Market to find something good. Ideas?

TURIN: In my final word on Turin 2006, I got the DVD retrospective of the Turin Winter Olympics this week. Yes, I know. I’m a nerd. But it was a memorable thing for me and many others, so I don’t care.

MTV.CA: Normally I wouldn’t really watch MTV Canada, but I’ve just been blown away by MTV.ca’s web site and the amazing Overdrive technology. I’m even watching Laguna Beach (again, a show I’d never, ever watch on regular TV) just to see the video streaming quality. It’s in the 600 kbps range, which is a real strain on a DSL line but it’s still spectacular quality. You’ll need broadband – ideally, a T1 connection, to be honest – and a decent computer for this.

WIRED: The new issue of Wired features Al Gore – the former President-elect of the United States of America, *cough* – in his role as an environmental crusader. Mr. Gore has the chops for it: he wrote a book back before he was Vice-President called Earth in the Balance and he’s been very pro-environment for years, so this isn’t just him taking on a cause just because. He’s got a movie coming out (!) in May called An Inconvenient Truth and he’s really speaking to a new audience of environmentalists. I really respect Al Gore for not letting the 2000 election destroy him personally. He’s picked himself up and going after what he believes is right without directly getting involved in the sorry state of the Bush administration’s sheer awfulness.

NEW OFFICE SLANG AND HARPER’S MEDIA BAN

Greetings,

Because I’ve got a strange sense of humour and my own sense of comedic wit rests on having trust, confidence and a six-pack of Samuel Adams nearby (ignore that – it’s more like Jackson Triggs and I ain’t touching six bottles of that in one sitting, no sir), I’m going to present my current personal mental state in the New Emerging Business Speak.

I don’t pretend this will be easy, but here’s a trusty way to decode the wrinkly gibberish I’m about to churn out.

I’ve been called the Alpha Geek once in awhile, although I worry my digital life is turning into a sea of chip jewelry and personal cobweb sites. I try to avoid spending yuppie food coupons frivolously, as the cultural onset of Dorito Syndrome, Irritainment, Keyboard Plaque and Siliwood is distracting my idea hamster-like tendencies and forcing me to become engaged with square-headed spouses and learning as many Vulcan Nerve Pinch techniques as possible. It makes most people like myself into stress puppies and, sometimes, a 404. Square-headed spouses take away from stimulating idea hamster-like tendencies and makes the meatspace boring sometimes. I mean, the meatspace is way more interesting than the World Wide Wait, and you’re bound to find your efforts online betamaxed over time anyway or spend your time online egosurfing. This isn’t to say the World Wide Wait isn’t worth it, but if you spend too much time online, you’re stuck in the zone between Graybar Land and Batmobiling.

There, wasn’t so hard?

HARPER’S MEDIA BAN: Yikes. This smacks of President George W. Bush more than words can say. I’m really starting to dislike Harper’s way of doing things more and more. Worse are the arrogant apologists for Stephen “I Kiss You When I Lose, I Slap You When I Win” Harper’s treatment of the media as a whole. Who’s willing to bet his strategy will backfire in the end? I’ll bet, oh, I dunno, $125.

I’m all about cryptic messages today.

TRAVELING, CANCON DOWNLOADS AND WEBCAMS

Greetings,

After a great week of sun and perfect weather (19 degrees in April with no humidity is so awesome), the rain’s coming down something fierce right now.

TRAVELING: The next few weeks are going to feature some traveling on my part. I’ve got to go to a conference to speak at and maybe for a story up north. My holidays come up on May 12th, which is only three weeks away. Nice.

CANCON DOWNLOADS: The Sunday Star had a great article today about how Canadians are being shut out of various digital services south of the border, namely iTunes (Americans get downloads of many TV shows the day after conventional broadcast; Canadians get only music video downloads on iTunes, at least for the moment) and ABC’s experiment to place episodes of Desperate Housewives, Lost, Commander-in-Chief and Alias (no, not quite dead yet) online after broadcast.

Canadians don’t get access to these services, at least not yet. The biggest reason has to do with CTV, Global and CHUM holding broadcast rights here in Canada. Still, when will CanCon shows be available for download on iTunes? Personally, even if downloads become the norm for Canadians on iTunes, I’d be inclined to see a lot less of this show available for download…

(No offense ladies, but your show is preening and inching closer to unwatchable)

and a lot more of these shows…

(The Hour, arguably one of the CBC’s best shows and has one of the smartest hosts, George Stroumboulopoulos – incidently, they’ve got a killer web site)

And this show…

(Who knew Corner Gas was actually pretty good!)

WEBCAM: I finally got myself a decent webcam. I used to have a really crappy one but I’m starting to see the wisdom of having one, what with video conferencing online and my voice headset. Makes a lot more sense.

MORE HUMBER AND THE BOSS

Greetings,

Remember when I mentioned this time last year (man, so much has happened since Halifax) when I said that King’s would likely be my last foray into academia? Nope. That was wrong. Again. Humber College is seducing me, what with their practical skills training and evening and weekend classes. So wrong but so right.

Today I decided to go full-speed ahead on the web design certificate. I enrolled in another two courses, bringing me up, by the end of May, to a whopping four courses out of a possible eight before earning the certificate. I know, I know, this may be a little nuts. It’s out in the West End of the city, it’s an outlay of funds, but the investment is worth it. A full-fledged web designer by the end? Can’t beat that.

THE BOSS: As I was riding on a very stinky TTC bus last night after class, I put on Bruce Springsteen’s Greatest Hits. It’s amazing how good the guy really is – even after years, his music still seems to transcend the decades of competing tastes.

I listened to the songs Born to Run, Jungleland, Nebraska (still my favourite), Born in the U.S.A., Tunnel of Love, Human Touch, Streets of Philadelphia, The Ghost of Tom Joad, The Rising and Devils & Dust. Yeah, sorta predictable choices. But still, it’s good to know Springsteen’s still got cultural resonance these days, especially in a time of corporate stardom.

MYSPACE MONITORING, LARA CROFT, NEW YORKER PIECE AND SOMETHING WEIRD

Greetings,

Been offline a bit to recharge. Gotta do it once in awhile. Day off work today.

COPS WALK CYBERBEAT: Here’s a really interesting article on how cops in the U.S. are using their collective street smarts alongside technology to catch criminals on MySpace.com – a great resource that, unfortunately, some bad apples are taking advantage of to prey on people.

I’m kind of torn on MySpace (as I am on Google, more on that in a minute) these days. Part of the problem with MySpace is while it is a great concept for the social networking aspect of the web, it is predicated on social responsibility for users; in effect, like most of the web, it is an app that assumes rationality and respect for individuals online before considering what some people are really like. A lot of these issues will likely be dealt with more and more as the web continues to evolve, but hopefully fears over MySpace’s security issues will be resolved over the next little while, what with a new security czar in place and a concerted effort on part of administrators to make the place safer.

CREEPY: Speaking of MySpace, my brother showed me a site today that’s just plain creepy. It’s called MyDeathSpace. It features a list of MySpace users who have recently died, some of whom have died rather horribly. The worst part? They’re almost entirely young people. I think the suicides are particularly terrible.

LARA CROFT: I got sent a review copy of Lara Croft’s new title, Legend. Strangely, I had never played a Lara Croft title before. It’s actually quite a bit of fun (if incredibly hard in some places).

NEW YORKER PIECE: This is kind of old news now but I’ll post the link anyway: Seymour Hersh, one of the great American journalists, has just written an amazing piece in last week’s New Yorker about the willingness of the Bush administration using nuclear strikes against Iran. Terrifying stuff.

GOOGLE: As I mentioned earlier, I’m feeling a bit torn these days over Google. They keep releasing great products like Google Calendar, but the flap over Google.cn got the full court press treatment in the new Adbusters, which uses the clever “Googlag” riff on Google’s brand name. Under the consideration of how ethical it really is for a company that is supposed to be acting as an agent of information freedom censoring search results in order to comply with laws in China, I feel kind of conflicted over Google.

SOMETHING WEIRD: This is just plain crazy – the Bikini Babe PC. Thanks to BoingBoing.net for the link.

THE BEAUTY OF SKYPE

Greetings,

I’ve written before on why I think Skype is so awesome. To be honest, me waxing about it is about a year and a half too late. But last night, I finally got the chance to really try out Skype’s real potential: SkypeOut.

SkypeOut is a service that allows you to call internationally for a flat fee to regular landline phones and cell phones. It’s absolutely amazing, I love it. I called my pal Fraser online to his mobile in England – there was a time delay, but it was crystal-clear sound and it was, well, surreal. Plus, it was cheaper than using international dialing.

One of the great features of Skype is the fact you can use virtually perfect sound to record interviews, provided the other person has a Skype client and a headset to speak into. I’m planning to do several interviews this way over the next little while; record the digital file and save it as an MP3. Sweet.