Post 21: Cricket and the push/pull of the information age

I’m a cricket fan. I adore the longer form of the game.

Part of me understands that a game which spans thirty hours over five days is anachronistic and I see why some say Test cricket is dieing. It’s easy to see the logic that asserts that condensed forms of cricket tailored to the hectic demands of modern life make more sense than a game invented to prevent Victorian men from feeling bored.

Except they don’t, because Twenty/20 cricket still needs a big slab of one’s time to watch. Matches require at least 150 minutes, a long-ish period to devote to a contest that generally lacks the tension that comes with a tactical game in which thrust and counter-thrust are part of the play. Twenty/20, in my experience of the game, has few moods. Things are either going well, or badly. There are few shades of grey.

For me, Test cricket’s ability to provide a finely graded spectrum of states of play is its strength and the reason I appreciate the game. Appreciate, however, may not quite be the word. I’ve long thought of Test cricket as a not-unpleasant anxiety to be endured. Just knowing there is a match in progress makes me ache for information about it. When I can devote my full attention to it, I will do so. At other times, I seek out the less sensorily intensive  ways of covering the game. For me, the sound of an Australian summer is a slight increase in urgency of the sounds emitted by an AM radio, the increased noise being a sign to devote more of my attention to the goings-on in a  game I cannot stop myself being curious about.

I also adore technology and the way it enables communication. Tools like Twitter allow me to immerse myself in my friends and sources of information I value. Myriad other services let me watch or learn or hear what I want to, when I want to.

Today, those tools are applied to cricket following old models. They insist I pull information, rather than anticipating my needs. Test cricket, it seems to me, can thrive if it inverts the pull and instead embraces the fact that while it is hard to immerse oneself in 30 hours of action, it is possible to deliver a variable drip of information that gives those with interest but little capacity for full attention the essential experience of the game by blending short updates, near-relatime video and other ways of presentingthe game.

If cricket can get this right, I believe it will create an experience more compelling than any two-hour hit and giggle.

And I’ll happily pay for this partial-attention experience,  rather than for subscription television. Especially as the latter is giving away summaries for free! But that’s another story.

P.S. I know I owe you all a third way of funding journalism in the future. I’ve also got a fourth. I’m working on them and you can expect a post … eventually.

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Post 37:08 Hey PRs: let’s collaborate online

I’ve recently changed my mind about online collaboration tools like GoToMeeting.

Long story short, if you have a decent broadband connection, they work.

And it’s time they were used for a lot more PR work.

Here’s why. I’ve argued before that asking people to hurl themselves across our crowded, congested, cities for a meeting is not a good use of time. For a self-employed person like myself, it is doubly dubious.

Online collaboration can deal with this at a stroke. The technology is mature and easy to use, in my experience.

I mention this all in light of one vendor who has today, through their PR agency, repelled my request for a phoner instead of a face to face. Apparently there is something I might be able to “see” in a F2F meeting. But because I have no idea if it is news or vendor fluff, I do not know if it is worth the investment in travel time to attend. Hence my desire for a tele-meeting of some sort.

The PR has said she will ask the vendor if they are amenable to the online meeting. If they are not, I’ll be gobsmacked. This stuff works. We should all be making it a part of the way we work.

The PR comeback may be that F2F meetings are important relationship builders. But don’t forget: journos want stories. It’s nice to get to know you better. But what really matters is the story. That’s what we do for a living!

Post 21:08 Saving my neck by getting unwired for sound

For as long as I have done journalism I have had a sore neck and a sweaty ear, thanks to the need to jam the phone between ear and shoulder during interviews.

I’ve tried all sorts of things to sort that out, but may finally have found a solution: BlueTooth.

I won a DJ style bluetooth headset/microphone the other day. The bluetooth dongle for my PC is in the mail. The softphone (X-lite)  is installed and speaking to my SIP server very nicely and has sucked up all of my Outlook contacts.

So the idea is to have the softphone audio run over the bluetooth headset, which will also bring me music through the day. My neck will not be sore, and my podcasting headphones and their long wire will not be dragged all over the floor any more. I’ll never need to dial a number, which means my desk can be handset free. And I’ll be able to wander as I chat. I’ll also wire my mobile to the headset, so I can stop worrying where I left the mobile and leave it plugged in on my desk.

Whether it is possible to make all of these components speak to each other, I do not know. But I sure intend to try – I’m tired of having a sore neck.

Post 119: (In)Security

What’s the old saying? There are lies, damned lies and statistics?

That’s the way I feel about security statistics at the moment, given that about two or three times a week I receive “news” that research sponsored or conducted by a security vendor finds that things are pretty scary out there.

This research always includes any or all of the following assertions:

  • There is more malware/viruses/adware/generally malicious software out there than ever before
  • Things are not getting better
  • The bad guys want money, not status, which means they have an incentive to do more of it (see the first and second bullet points)
  • You’ve gotta take it seriously
  • Social networks are a risk
  • Email is a risk
  • For chrissake teach your people about phishing

Now the sheer frequency of this stuff at least confirms that everyone’s research is pretty spot on.

But from the point of view of trying to excite media about a security vendor, research is now, IMHO, worse than tired. And how is this research a differentiator? I mean, if everyone is doing the same research and coming up with the same conclusions, why is every security vendor trying to use this as its PR platform?

These questions are why I was very happy to be able to write this story in which one security vendor says there is not much difference between security vendors’ products and that “our marketing and PR people fight in public.” At least now I know one reason there is so much security research going on out there … marketers need to be seen to be busy, after all!

Post Forty Four: The hotel that does not get it

I’mt a big conference today … without free WiFi, which I think is pretty slcak except for the fact I’m the only one of 200+ people here with a laptop! Plenty of smaller wireless devices.

The hotel does have WiFi – at $40 for 12 hours, ugh!

Worst of all, you cannot register for it online. I had to go the check in desk to pay. How dumb is that? Sydney Hilton: shame!

Post Forty Three: On the willingness to surrender control and its role in Web 2.0

I’ve just installed a great piece of software called “Twitbin“that takes twitter.com and basically embeds it in FireFox.

No more visits to the twitter site – I can do everything bar a few functions I do not use just  a coupla hundred pixels to the left of where I am typing now, I presume via some  RSS and web services.

My first reaction to this is that it must be a really brave company that is willing to surrender control of its service in this way.

But after a while I thought to myself that these days it is probably an even braver company that does not surrender control in this way. Content is content. Why not let people access it how they want to? I’m beginning to think this idea is as important to Web 2.0 as anything else. Maybe more important, in fact. User-generated content, after all, has actually been around for yonks. User-generated services are only just beginning.

This means I really must make more of an effort to get Pipes and PopFly working … even though my brain tends to bounce of anything requiring even the most basic coding. Can anyone out there re-wire my brain?

Post Thirty Four: Wow! TwittyTunes is great!

I’ve used FoxyTunes for a while. For those of you who do not know it, the program is a plug-in for Firefox and IE that puts a small control panel for your media player in the browser.

I’ve come to rely on it more than I use iTunes.

Anyway … yesterday FoxyTunes added TwittyTunes which lets you make a Twitter.com post out of whatever you are listening to in two clicks.

Best of all, that post automatically includes a link to the FoxyTunes Planet service that scrapes the Net and finds YouTube clips, lyrics, Last.FM and Pandora recommendations based on the tune you just posted to Twitter. An example of such a page is here. More will pop up over on the right there in the ‘Blog within a Blog’ as I use it more.

Why do I love this? Ease of use! The one-button initiation is so simple that I now feel far more inclined to continue further exploration.

Thank you, TwittyTunes!

UPDATE: Oh man, it gets better. TwittyTunes also picks up the web page you are browsing and puts it in a Twitter post too. Unreal!

Post Twenty-Seven: Wii’s diisappoiintiing miissed browser opportuniity

We have a Wii and it is great.

The setup process is surely a case study in giving the consumer the easiest, most confidence-inducing experience imaginable.

Even the WLAN setup is fantastic. There’s an option to detect Wii’s MAC address and the information I needed to learn than Googled really well.

Only one letdown so far: the web browser.

The problem is that TV resolution cannot cope with the width of web pages, so the smaller version Wii renders is all but illegible.

Zoom in and you lose part of the page and end up in scrolly-scrolly hell.

Which is a real shame and a missed opportunity.

We have long wished for a ‘kitchen PC’ to stream music, check mail … just do the odd bit of browsing in the main family space without the need for a full computer with all its noise and size or dependence on cables and cords and battteries.

We hoped the Wii could fill that gap.

But it won’t with that browser.

Perhaps Nintendo can improve it and make a new download available?

Oh and Wii Cricket too, please!