Monthly Archives: July, 2008

The weekly Antony Gormley homage

Photo: Mark Barkaway. Used under licence.

Antony Gormley’s Sounds II.

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Requiem For A Day Off

Genius.

Just Genius.

How the BBC should provide a digital public service.

Nick Reynolds has asked some questions – directly and indirectly – in a post entitled: Freedom? Open Source? Show me how!.

Indirectly, he refers to a myCBBC post on the BBC Internet blog which asks:

– should broadcasters like the BBC allow users to collate other material alongside BBC assets?
– and if so, how do we technically guarantee that content is appropriate for younger users and doesn’t cross the line with third party rights agreements?

which I addressed previously with this idea:

Ultimately though, in my opinion, the BBC should be seeking to get content from the public and then act as a “store and forward” publisher, along with contributing some of its own content into a Digital Commons. Imagine if the BBC gave you the tools to publish your data/content wherever you wanted to from a central location. You could upload your images/video/text/audio to a space the BBC provided for you as part of your “digital licence” fee and once there you could have a suite of tools available which would allow you to publish that content to any other platform. Part of the job of the tool would be to pass the content through a BBC stamping procedure – which would allow for the content to be tracked across the Internet. This would let the BBC maintain quality control and manage any legal issues. Maintaining an area as a Digital Commons would mean that anyone wishing to play with BBC content could do so quite easily with the full knowledge that any content the BBC placed in a Digital Commons was public domain – a digital public service!

Directly, in his post he asks two questions deriving from two meetings he had. I’ve posted a comment on his site answering these:

“Why should the BBC let anyone use its brands or assets for nothing?”
Once content goes digital then people using your assets for “nothing” is an issue you have to confront. Your content is beyond your control when it is in a digital state – but if the purpose of broadcasting that content, in the first place, is to build a relationship with your audience and provide a public service, then these functions are still within your control – you just have to see people using your assets as being a good thing and a way of building relationships with your audience and a public service. The key thing to focus on is that this is about your content going digital. It’s not about being on the Internet – the Internet is just another distribution channel. On the brand issue – anyone using your brand without permission is seeking to subvert your efforts to build relationships and is “poisoning the well” – your brand is important and to be defended.

“He wants people to be able to come to the BBC and know instantly what assets they can take away and how they can play with them.”
It’s digital content – that’s how it works. The Internet is just the part of the broadcast chain with the lowest barrier to entry for production and distribution i.e. very few teenagers have their own broadcast studio with editing suite and terrestrial/satellite transmitter but quite a lot have a PC with a webcam and an Internet connection. Now if your content is being distributed digitally then it becomes part of the lingua franca of the Internet. The questions now are 1) How you maintain a link between the content and its source as it flows around this global network and 2) How do you build a relationship with this global audience?

Which leads us to your questions.

How are you going to do it?
The key is to maintain a link with the digital content and through that link build a relationship with the audience. Which is exactly the opportunity GlobalDMX.com seeks to exploit. I left the BBC to start up this company as there is a win-win scenario here for content producer and distributor if they can be facilitated in working together. The alternative is the music industry!

And how are you going to persuade the people with the power that it should be done?
This concept is something UK plc must adopt – strategically it’s the digital equivalent of the Silk Road and the nation state that adapts by taking over the trade from the pirates and legalising (taxing) the goods that flow along the distribution chain reaps the reward.

Ps Andy Burnham’s pronouncements are to be seen in the same light as French governments in terms of a three-strike policy. No one believes such a localised law would survive a European Court challenge – but it makes for good headlines!

So there you go – get out there and build relationships by digitizing your content with a view to maintaining a link with it as it travels across the network – and where you are building a community around this content put tools and processes in place which allow the provenance of it to be traceable.

My work is done here!

The weekly Antony Gormley homage

Photo: dots and spaces. Used under licence.

Antony Gormley’s Bollards.

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The New Electric Ballroom

My sister Catherine is in a new Enda Walsh play in Galway.

The play is being put on by the Druid Theatre Company in Druid’s theatre in Galway as part of the Galway Arts Festival 08.

There is a review in the Irish Times of The New Electric Ballroom review

Although one ferociously funny set-piece leaves the quiet poetry of its finale looking wan, the strength of Druid’s English language premiere is in its ambiguity, allowing Walsh’s ideas to percolate through layers of arresting surrealism. That it takes a while for the mind to disentangle them is no bad thing. For all Walsh’s wayward imagination, his words and images snag on the unconscious for a reason. These warped fictions of identity and routine tap into something darkly universal: in short, the story of our lives.

It’s sold out for it’s two week run in Galway but it also goes to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in August. If you can get a ticket, go see it. It’s a very powerful play, brilliantly written and beautifully performed.

The weekly Antony Gormley homage

Inside Australia

Photo: cicadas. Used under licence.

Antony Gormley’s Inside Australia.

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The BBC – a Digital Commons redux

I posted a long comment, which expands on the Digital Commons idea I was proposing, on Steve Bowbrick’s post discussing freeing content at the BBC. I’ve copied it below as it’s something I think I will expand on further and this is not a bad start:

Steve,

This is along the lines of the issue I was raising at the BBC/TechCrunch debate – but you’re looking at it from the perspective of freeing the content they have broadcast, whereas I was approaching it from an angle of new content which would automatically be ingested into the BBC free of the existing restrictive rights model.

If you wish to use the current content for which they have rights agreements in place or the archive content – then the BBC has no chance of being a rights innovator or a copyright activist – which automatically has the knock on effect of giving them no leeway in freeing the content. Tom Loosemore, one of the panel at the BBC/TechCrunch debate, has the scars to prove how difficult this is and Tony Ageh, another of the panel, is currently mired in the joys of finding a solution for the archive.

See the snippets of a much longer – but currently untraceable on the BBC site – interview with Simon Hayward-Tapp on the BBC Archive website for a glimpse into the world of archives and rights.

The BBC has the will to do the right thing but it would be sued out of existence by the rights holders if it tried to be too radical. One of my suggestions to Tony Ageh is to mimic the accepted practice of the BBC News webpages and simply use some of the archive material they have available in a low quality format and have a link to the high quality download on the website of the rights holder. News does a story on a company and has a link to the company’s website in the right hand navigation bar – accepted practice. So, it’s nothing new. It’s just applying accepted practice to another digital medium. Where you can find agreement with rights holders, who have high quality content available, post low quality versions on the archive site and have links to the high quality versions – a win-win scenario. The BBC gets content cleared from the archive and the rights holder gets traffic from the BBC. Now you probably will find that this is a tiny percentage of the archive – but it’s a start and it would also be a signpost for other rights holders with content in the archive that they could now consider worth clearing it to drive traffic to their online offerings. The BBC trades traffic for content clearance.

Ultimately though, in my opinion, the BBC should be seeking to get content from the public and then act as a “store and forward” publisher, along with contributing some of its own content into a Digital Commons. Imagine if the BBC gave you the tools to publish your data/content wherever you wanted to from a central location. You could upload your images/video/text/audio to a space the BBC provided for you as part of your “digital licence” fee and once there you could have a suite of tools available which would allow you to publish that content to any other platform. Part of the job of the tool would be to pass the content through a BBC stamping procedure – which would allow for the content to be tracked across the Internet. This would let the BBC maintain quality control and manage any legal issues. Maintaining an area as a Digital Commons would mean that anyone wishing to play with BBC content could do so quite easily with the full knowledge that any content the BBC placed in a Digital Commons was public domain – a digital public service!

If the tools of production and publishing for digital content have been decentralised then what the BBC can do is act as a centralised clearing house for the content. This is a way it can innovate and act as a activist on content rights and as a consequence free the content!

Riverdance – who did the TV direction?

Moya Doherty and John McColgan produced and directed the show – but did they do the television direction as well? They were both television veterans at the time – so they clearly understood the importance of great direction. They must have got someone special, if they didn’t do it themselves, because if you watch the performance and focus on how the shot changes are so integral to the visuals and the music in creating a sense of epic performance and relentless, urgent energy that it has to come close to being one of the best piece of television direction ever. Simply brilliant!

The weekly Antony Gormley homage

Domain Field

Photo: Jon Eland. Used under licence.

Antony Gormley’s Domain Field.

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