Posts tagged ‘culture’

old school

So why don’t you meet me, down behind the old school
We’ll waste away the weekend, with perfect regard for how
Cavalier we used to be, that beautiful insanity
The apathy’s surrounding me
Don’t close your eyes or we’ll fade away

A funny thing about the digital age — the more information we have access to, the more misinformation we embrace into our zeitgeist. In the not-so-long ago days when the Internet was mainly for e-mail, and facebooks were made of paper, items were mostly advertised in newspaper ads or classifieds.

It turns out that there was a well-known shorthand language in the newspapers. While we didn’t read OMG or ROFL, we did understand that TLC meant you needed to be handyman and that “efficient layout” meant you’d better like living in small spaces.

I once read an article about how we’ll inevitably catalog our lives with documents, audio, chat logs, blogs and video. Then along came MySpace, Facebook and Twitter.  The thesis was, that, taken to the extreme, there would be more hours of content created per person than we lived. Add in video surveillance from several angles etc. Clearly, we need to summarize, else the person reviewing our lives in gruesome detail would require too much time and possibly waste their own lives trawling through the mass of digital data that we elect to store on cloud storage farms. But what do you leave out, and what do you keep for posterity?

Does this mean that we all need to develop some editing skills, and apply them to our new way of living, else we’ll forever be hoarding irrelevant digital fodder?

Coincidentally, this theme recently emerged in President Obama’s commencement speech at Hampton University where he relayed,

“You’re coming of age in a 24/7 media environment that bombards us with all kinds of content and exposes us to all kinds of arguments, some of which don’t always rank that high on the truth meter. And with iPods and iPads, and Xboxes and PlayStations — none of which I know how to work — information becomes a distraction, a diversion, a form of entertainment, rather than a tool of empowerment, rather than the means of emancipation. So all of this is not only putting pressure on you; it’s putting new pressure on our country and on our democracy.”

When is too much of something irrelevant? And, by what measure?

I agree with the President.

My digital colleagues smile at my usage of an old school gold fountain pen complete with blue Sheaffer Script ink and my Moleskine notebook. Want to really interact with your thoughts in the most intimate way possible? You don’t need an iPad and a finger. Here’s a thought, focus on what takes real effort to craft before committing it in writing. It provides clarity of thought. The distractions of digital immediacy and it’s associated ADHD vanish into deep thoughtful consideration.

Yes my friends smile and joke about my retro-technology quirks, but when I lend them my pen, and give them a precious piece of acid free paper, they just love the smooth feel of the nib and watch the ink flow…

I just sit back, watch and think that some of the old school stuff makes sense, at least to me.

Tell me it isn’t so… I’m listening.

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May 13, 2010 at 10:00 am Leave a comment

changing behaviors

We’ll make a movie, you’ll play the staring role
and I’ll direct you on where to go
We’ll make a movie, up & down and roun’ & roun’
baby just you follow I’ll show you what to do

Before the advent of digital content production, files were limited to dog-eared manila folders filled with copious production notes. And long before videotape, everything was about film, and many of the same workflows remained in place.

Enter digital workflows.

Actually, digitizing the content value chain has started at different points, depending upon the media type. Print was a direct function of the desktop capabilities resulting from the mac platform and the Apple Laserwriter. It was not until later that print facilities moved from film to ‘direct to plate’, or on-demand printing. Radio focused on automating the play out facility, leveraging digital audio files to files integrated with playlist management. Studios digitized their raw film footage, and enhanced the available digital video desktop technologies for editing, and edited the content before mastering back to film. Today, they have moved to capturing digitally, and now distributing to digitally enabled cinemas. What a good colleague of mine calls “Glass to Glass. Forever”. More on that in a subsequent blog.

But the behaviors of content creation have really changed beyond just folks working out how to manage digital content files and integrate them into their current business workflows.

Consider the following.

The economics of a film shoot was centered originally on the cost of the film (the celluloid) itself. In the early days, cameras, film and subsequent processing were more expensive than actors’ time – at least when actors were owned by the studios. At that time, the practice of a clapboard was instantiated, as was the stereotypical “action”. The emphasis was on minimizing the wastage of film. The camera was already a sunk cost. Consumers demanded more interesting perspectives, and eventually cameras and film became more affordable, and so multi-camera shoots prevailed.

When Videotape came along, the clapper’s role was less focused on saving film (or videotape), but more on ensuring the documentation of scenes for subsequent editing. Tape was cheap, make more shots, keep doing it again and again because ‘video’ actors were generally paid less than ‘film’ actors. Film still held premium production qualities that audiences craved but by the 80’s video was ‘best’ for TV.

Then a funny thing happened on the way to digital cameras… with the introduction of 2K/4K cameras that rivaled film quality, finally the clapper truly became a mechanism for scene/take separation. In fact, anecdotally, I have heard that due to the relative low-cost of digital compared to actors and production, the camera in many instances was just left running. This practice captures ‘behind the scenes’ content, notes, exchanges between actors, directors, writers and bloopers etc. This content used to end up on the cutting room floor, now it can be valuable extra content on a DVD or a Blue-ray.

Economics driven by technology has changed the behavior of how stuff is made. Apart from the time used to plan content and shoots, the time to turn around rushes has shrunk along with the behaviors, which have become the typical unintended consequences.

Now managing that digital content from glass (at the camera) to glass (at the consumer device) faces another problem… how do we handle, tag and forever secure this content? Not very well I’d say.

Tell me it isn’t so… I’m listening.

May 6, 2010 at 10:00 am Leave a comment

nab 2010

It’s the same old story
Same old song and dance, my friend
It’s the same old story
Same old song and dance, my friend

I love NAB, it is a great place to catch up with colleagues, see the new developments and occasionally stumble upon a seismic shift… but where is the really cool new stuff that is going to drive the industry back into high growth?

Is it 3D?

I don’t know, the jury is out, but the marketing folks and just about every booth rendered the 3D story in some respect. What I do know, is that there is only one company that I saw, that actually converted 2D to 3D – and it was good. It was in real-time, and it provides a really interesting path to monetizing ‘old, really long tail content’ and making it a new experience. I don’t promote companies or technologies in this blog, not my style, but if anyone is interested, drop me a line…

Is it ATSC M/H?

On April 9, the Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC) threw its hat into the mobile TV broadcast ring with word that it has begun developing ATSC-M/H, an ATSC-backwards-compatible transmission system to reach mobile viewers via broadcast DTV transmissions. With ATSC-M/H, broadcasters can use their excess DTV broadcast bandwidth to provide new services directly to small hand-held receivers, laptop computers and moving vehicles. It all sounds great, and it will be – if a couple of things happen:

  1. Where are the handsets to drag a compelling business model? Can I get them at my local cell-phone store?
  2. Where is the content to drag the manufacturers to make the handsets to drag a compelling business model? Will the consumer really care about “yet another video service”…?
  3. How do you hand off from one broadcaster to another (like a mega cell)? Well, this problem has been solved technically and that is a seismic shift… problem, who gets the money in this multicast model?
  4. Will the telco’s have enough incentive to let this happen i.e. support a multi-protocol handset, with the vision that this will save precious unicast bandwidth from multicast-affinity content e.g. real-time news/sports?

It’s the economy?

Personally I perceived attendance was down. Floor-space was certainly down, with large curtained-off sections, and the registration are moved to fill hall space in a veiled attempt to prevent booths from rattling around in otherwise less than occupied halls. However, business activity was up… my friends and colleagues told me of a more qualified attendee, with a higher likelihood of decision-making authority, and there was certainly many discussions covering pent-up demand and a perceived relaxation of previously frozen budgetary constraints.

It was a good show. Tiring as usual, but as is so often the case, the same stuff re-packaged differently.

Tell me it isn’t so… I’m listening.

April 15, 2010 at 1:00 am Leave a comment

computing gets consumerized

Oh, oh, oh
Spending all my time buying stuff
When I’ve more than enough
More than enough
Cough, cough
Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh-oh
Neo consumer
Neo consumer
Consumer

Consumerized – sounds like a badly made up word, reminiscent of a presidential past.

The wordplay is only for effect, the idea is real…

Previously, in computing utilities cometh I discussed the inevitable move to utility-focused computing. A large, simple, ubiquitous and all encompassing information utility.

Well, what use is a ‘grid’ or ‘network’ without appliances? You may well argue that the PC, smartphone, small business datacentre of today are ‘appliances’ for just such a utility. Its job is to provide a common information infrastructure for sharing, backup and transfer – instead of moving current, it moves bits. Probably not far from the truth.

But.

When I was growing up, washing machines, although they had an electric motor, were beastly devices. They agitated the clothes, but to ‘wring’ those newly washed clothes, you swung the rollers into action, disengaged the agitator motor, and fed the clothes ‘through the wringer’. These appliances did the job, but they required skill on the part of the operator. The process was manually integrated. This skill was eventually replaced with mechanical, then electrical, and subsequently computer-controlled timers. Not to mention, pre-defined wash cycles (or workflows). How many of us cherish those halcyon wash days, where you intimately got involved in the process of making clothes clean?

Today’s washers do all manner of things, even steam clean clothes. What they don’t really allow is for dad or his friend to get a wrench and start into fixin’ the darn thing when it breaks, like they used to.

And so it is with the iPad.

I have been observing the pre-launch rumors, launch critiques and release reviews, along with a whole array of comments across that same time continuum. Interestingly, this is a highly polarizing device, even more so than its Apple product brethren. And I think I know why…

Every commenter who hates the iPad is religiously attached to:

  1. It is an Apple product and therefore is sex without substance
  2. Has no screws, heck, cannot even change the battery, and therefore as a technical person, this is bad engineering
  3. Lacks features – e.g. flash, usb, not e-ink etc. Therefore it is technically inept.

Most interestingly, these observations have been made in the absence of ‘actual product’, and are highly reminiscent of those strange people in NYC who bear tacky, grammatically challenged signs implying that the ‘end is near’. Seemingly warning us of the impending doom about to befall modern computerdom.

Those that gush over the product are equally religious (particularly those who believe without having seen!), wanting stuff that ‘just works’… and prepared to wait in line for hours to do just that.

Funny how we’d expect consumers not wanting stuff that ‘just works’. Vertically integrated appliances enable consumers of all ages to focus on what they want to do, without fear that they may get their hand stuck in the ‘clothes wringer’. For those that want to tinker with technology, there are plenty of things to play with… I for one, one who works in this business, am not threatened by the impending ‘lack of technical sophistication’.

I think that the iPad is really the consumer marketplace bellweather for the information appliance of the future. Yes, computing is getting consumerized – at both ends of the spectrum, the utility and the appliance.

Tell me it isn’t so… I’m listening.

April 8, 2010 at 1:00 am 1 comment

every house needs a san

I know the fear you hold inside
I know what’s weighing on your mind
There’s nothing you can do
So stand up, get up, back up.

Ever notice how much digital stuff you accumulate? Notice how you have copies of copies floating around in different directories, on different machines? How much of it is important?

I’m not going to preach about backups… we all know what we need to do.

I can honestly say that I do it, and it has been a part of my life for many years. It saved me about two years ago when my laptop got stolen. Simply bought a replacement a I was fully operational within hours. It is just like insurance. You hate paying the price, but when the promise is made good, you feel it has all been worthwhile.

What would you do if you lost a movie? These days most people would kiss their DVD goodbye and use the misfortune to upgrade to a Blue-ray version. What if you lost an entire digital library? Maybe a little hard to imagine just yet, after all, how many people have digital movie libraries on their home network?

But what if the same thing applied to all of those great digital photos? Your MP3 library?

Is this why I’ve started to see SANs and Mirror drives starting to become a consumer category? Not too many at your local big box electronics store just yet, but certainly a whole range on-line for the serious hobbyist consumer.

Will it ever hit the mainstream? Or will the general digital consuming populace opt for consuming ‘long-form content’ on-line? Pipes into the home are now sufficiently affordable to support streaming, and those Blue-ray players, Xboxes, PS2s, Wiis, TVs and PCs etc. support some type of commercial streaming service (like a Netflix, Blockbuster etc.)

I have seen my children lose files. Having grown up with computers, they accept it as a normal thing and source another copy from the web immediately – even though they can get the backup quite easily. So it leads me to a conclusion that the consumer of tomorrow is more likely to see the ‘cloud in the web’ as their information/data/content repository and not really be bothered with a SAN in the basement. I, on the other hand, will continue to indulge myself and keep a copy… just in case.

Tell me it isn’t so… I’m listening.

April 1, 2010 at 7:14 am Leave a comment

taking a break

Somebody’s after me, I can’t pretend to be
Something I know I’m not
And when they come for me – I’ll just let them be
‘Cause all that I need today, I need today

In the linearly scheduled TV world, in addition to pitching products and services, commercial breaks provided viewers time for a nature break, or other quick activities.

Recently, at a partner conference in Paris, it became painfully clear to me that mobile phones are the next really big target for advertising. Yes, I had intellectualized the acquisitions of AdMob etc. but what I heard, really internalized for me the importance of this very substantial media transition.

Media research has shown that though more new media platforms are created, there seems to be more time devoted to all of them. In fact, at this conference several things clicked:

  1. Integrated backoffice applications are evolving to integrate the distribution infrastructure with the revenue generating and management  aspects of the business.
  2. These applications have a very IT-centric approach, agnostic to medium underpinning, and they treat both content and transactional metadata as – data. All measurable, scalable and manageable over an IP network.
  3. The mobile device is a very personal, and personalizable appliance. It is with the user on average about 14 hours per day. A very captive, targetable audience.

So, do we need scheduled breaks from media? Or, are we destined to be personally targeted for interruption whenever nature, or the advertiser calls.

Tell me it isn’t so… I’m listening.

March 18, 2010 at 1:00 am Leave a comment

the user

No praise or crowd
No sound of thunder
No hero’s tale
No sign or wonder
With all I’ve known
And left behind
I find my place
In serving You

Remember the IT user? Those people who the IT department initially served? Those subject matter experts within the business. Those people who usually know best what is needed to make their daily job, business functions and therefore, by extension, the business?

Whatever happened to them? Does anyone actually listen to them anymore?

Remember the constant tussle between in-house development and packaged software? I have no intention of re-litigating that debate, but I do think, that of late, the industry has increasingly paid more attention to ‘new trends’ and ‘new products’ than on the fundamentals.

We’ve gone top down. Big picture will ultimately solve the business problems? The focus is now on the company and shareholders, rather than the stakeholders whose knowledge and effort is the driving engine of the company. Is not a balanced approach far more sensible?

This is dangerously similar to the transformation of the accounting profession. Their constant focus on moving up the corporate food chain and becoming Financial Advisors, instead of Accountants. On telling the business how to grow beans, instead of counting the beans of the business.

And so it is with IT professionals. As we look across the business landscape with our ‘Technology Focus’ we are starting to move beyond advising the CEO how to leverage technology for better business, but have promoted the notion that good technology = good business. This might be true in a technology-centric business like media, or the technology business itself, but not in general.

The ‘Financial Advisors’ ran wild with growing beans and precipitated the global economic disaster… will our love affair with all things technical, promoting technology above business interests result in tears? I think it is time to get back to serving the business…

Tell me it isn’t so… I’m listening.

PS. How many IT shops out there are cost-centers vs the profit centers to which you would seem to aspire?

February 12, 2010 at 6:58 am Leave a comment

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