Archive for September, 2006

Sep 29 2006

A suggestion for you, Dave …

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Call me predictable, but I like watching Top Gear. And not just because it currently features in the Emirates video-on-demand selection. I like cars – pretty, fast ones.

I’ve watched Top Gear religiously since the days of Chris Goffey and William Woolard. I’ve spent many a student evening discussing the relative merits of VB-H and Kate Humble. I nearly cried when the BBC canned the original version. Fifth Gear, despite securing VB-H, Quentin and Tiff, was never quite the same, and, I rejoiced when Auntie Beeb relented and brought my beloved TG back.

Judging by the spontaneous outpouring we’ve seen across numerous online fora over the past week and a half, I’m not alone in my fondness for TG – and my hope that Richard Hammond undergoes a swift and full recovery.

He’s a kindred spirit, the Hamster. There’s a little bit of each of us in him. We feel like he’s our mate, even if we’ve never met him. Richard and I share a mutual live of classic Porsches – he’s got two 911s and I, a continent and a lifetime away, have a thirty year old 912 that I dearly hope to repatriate soon.

Which brings me to my sweepstake suggestion: How long, folks, before Dave the Chameleon‘s team of spinmeisters pick up on this general blokeish sentiment, and the aspiring PM declares his own solidarity with the Richard Hammond?

Fresh from the caring and sharing success of his India Blog, I’m sure a donation by DC to the PistonHeads / Hamster Air Ambulance fund, combined with a suitably cheesy photo-op, has just got to be a winner.

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Sep 26 2006

What’s wrong with this picture?

Published by under Media,Politics

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My colleague Bruno just sent me this – four editions, four markets, but why does the US edition of this week’s Newsweek have such a dramatically different cover to the other three?

Generally I like to take my Chomskyesque state/media conspiracy theories with a pinch of salt. But in this case I think Newsweek have some explaining to do. Feel free to respond here, chaps, and I’ll publish it.

Hat-tip: Bruno, Foreign Policy, Wonkette, Rising Hegemon.

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Sep 22 2006

So the camera never lies?

Published by under Media,Politics

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With party-conference season well under way, Guido usefully reminds us of the dangers of YouTube. Mike, Cheryl, Bobby and Jay may have taught us that the camera never lies (three weeks at #1 …), but nor does it necessarily tell the whole truth either.

You really need to watch the video in question (and sorry about the apalling sound quality), but it all falls into place when you add (as one of Guido’s astute readers points out) the words “The government and the Tories think that …” in front of the clip.

YouTube is a powerful tool, but also a powerful weapon if misused. You have been warned.

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Sep 15 2006

After citizen journalism, why not citizen legislation?

Published by under Media,Politics

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The BBC News website is one of the most interactive mainstream news portals. It actively encourages ‘citizen journalism’, variously exhorting its readers to email photographs, share their experiences and send in comments. And as is now the norm, each story carries a “email this to a friend” link at the bottom.

From the click-through data, the BBC then cunningly compiles a rolling “Top 5 most emailed” table, which inhabits the bottom right corner of the front page. I think this is rather clever and, mindful of the need to keep up with the news that floats the general public’s boat, I make a point of reading each of the day’s Top 5 before continuing on to the rest of the site.

One particular story has been number one on the ‘most emailed’ list for this entire week, indicating that this is the story to email your friends at the moment. It’s the news equivalent of those awful songs that hit the top of the charts and just won’t go away – , ,

And the title of the news story in question?

Sudan man forced to marry goat’, of course.

What on earth this says about the news preferences of the bald-headed man at the back of the Clapham omnibus I honestly don’t know – do we all really prefer this to actual news?

Bear with me for a moment, because as the next step from citizen journalism, I’d like to suggest … Citizen Legislation.

I know we already have Private Members’ Bills, Early Day motions and the like, which allow our elected representatives to steer the legislative agenda to a certain extent. But how about genuine civic participation in the legislative process?

We need a website where the public can vote (and email their friends) on the law they’d most like to see passed. And, at the beginning of each session, the most popular choice gets tabled.

Our MPs would, of course, be more than free to shoot the proposed legislation down at that point. But what if the resultant Bill did, against all odds, actually propose something sensible? Like serious action on climate change and renewable energy, for example? Or bringing in proportional representation?

After all, in amongst the interminable or number ones, there’s the occasional flash of brilliance. Perhaps Citizen Legislation might just come up with the legislative equvalent of the Scissor Sisters?

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Sep 13 2006

Barbour ‘not running for President’

Published by under Digital,Politics

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Haley Barbour, Governor of Mississippi, is in the news this week, as his “Mississippi Hurricane Recovery Fund” looks to address the housing needs of those affected by Hurricane Katrina.

We’ve more in common than just the name, then – my professional life having brought me into close contact with aftermath and recovery efforts of both the Indian Ocean tsunami and the Kashmir earthquake over the past couple of years.

The Governor and I have never met, of course. Pre-internet we’d probably never have heard of each other, remaining many more degrees separate than Stanley Milgram would once have had us believe.

But now I can quite happily link to the Governor’s web page and read all about him thanks to my favourite news search engine. He can read about me, too, if he likes. So, for those of us suitably connected, Web 2.0 really does appear to be shattering the “six degrees” theory. I link to you, you link to me, and bing!, we all know each other. Julian’s ramble on the subject a month or so ago is well worth a read.

Back to Governor Barbour … According to the Des Moines Register, he declared on 16 August that he’ll not be running for President in 2008. Which is a shame, if only for the opportunity it would have afforded to buy loads of “Vote Barbour” merchandise off eBay.

You never know, it might have come handy in my own future political career.

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Sep 12 2006

An ‘Official Blog’? Whatever next??

Published by under Comms,Digital,Politics

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There’s an interesting storm developing this week in the political bloggers’ latte cup, surrounding the ‘s decision to designate a virtual unknown as it’s ‘Official Party Conference Blogger’. Said official blogger will, according to Recess Monkey, most likely have access to ‘people and events’ not afforded to lesser individuals.

Talk about a red rag to a bull. Or, in this case, a collection of well-established, well-read Labour-blogging bulls.

I look forward to the growing deluge of indignation from the hundreds of loyal, high-profile Labour bloggers who have been reduced to ‘unofficial’ status. …

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Sep 07 2006

Scratching a little deeper (and leaving Tony alone)

Published by under Comms,Digital,Politics

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I’ve now been blogging just over a month.

During that time I’ve amassed a modest number of comments and trackbacks, and am getting consistent if unremarkable hit rates. Simon Collister has flattered me with an entry in his list of ‘essential PR blogs’, while colleagues in the office have taken to passing comments on my latest blog entry in their water cooler conversation.

Does this make me an ‘established blogger’?

Maybe, maybe not. But I can’t help but feel that I’ve barely scratched the surface, that I’m still on the initial slopes of a steep and exciting learning curve.

During the past month I’ve ‘met’ colleagues across Hill & Knowlton’s 80-office network I’d never otherwise have interacted with during the ordinary course of my work. I’ve learned bucketloads about Client Service from Leo, and about Change and Internal Communication from David – although in the latter case I could be slightly less lazy and pop around the corner for a chat – and about digital communications and social media from Brendan. I’ve even dredged up the rudimentary Portuguese I learned in Brazil fourteen years ago to listen to Bruno.

And that’s just within H&K’s Collective Conversations.

More broadly I’ve developed a string of favourite blogs that I now follow on a regular basis, and which will hopefully form the basis of a sidebar once I get out of my hotel room and back to the office.

I’ve started advising clients and potential clients that, if they really want to keep track of their corporate reputation, they’d better listen up and hear what the blogosphere is saying about them. More importantly, other colleagues (to whom, sorry you-know-who, the Blogosphere might as well have been an obscure layer of the upper atmosphere a month ago) have started doing the same, at least in part on the back of my new-found blogevangelism.

For those more forward-thinking than I, this is nothing new. My friend and colleague Jeff Raleigh has been blogging since 2003. So has Stuart Bruce, whose musings I now view as essential reading. Though it may sound like it, it’s not as if I’ve had some sort of Damascene conversion. None of this is rocket science. But I do think I’m developing a clearer picture of the huge role the world of social media is going to play, both in the microcosm of Public Affairs and in the wider PR industry, as it continues to mature and grow.

And I hope I’ll become a better communicator as a result.

Much as I’ve learned about their respective practise areas from the likes of Leo, David, Stuart and many others, I’m not yet sure I’m adequately reciprocating. One of my regular readers (yes, apparently I have them) told me a couple of weeks ago that I was blogging too much about the nature of blogging. She’s absolutely right, although in my defence I simply say that, at the moment, the nature of blogging fascinates me.

Perhaps I’ve unconsciously shied away from political commentary because, with my wussy “sitting on the fence” non-aligned political views, it’s more difficult to define my starting point than for most of the overtly party-political blogs out there. Even some of the more politically neutral commentators can, if they’re not careful, fall into the trap of knocking all political parties equally rathern than coming up with a genuinely constructive contribution.

So here, I hope, is one. People, leave Tony Blair alone. Sorry, but I think the will he, won’t he, when will he furore over the PM’s departure is doing the British political system a tremendous disservice. I can’t speak for the rest of the electorate, but I certainly didn’t cast my vote in 2005 in the hope that my elected representative would spend his time embroiled in battles over the leadership of his party. I’d rather you all got on with the business of running the country, thank you very much.

We elected the Labour government, with Tony Blair at its helm, last year – yes, people, it was only last year – with a mandate to govern for five years. So can we just let them do it?

The level of political grandstanding in Westminster these past few days is achieving nothing but to draw attention away from the real political issues of the day. Issues on which I, for one, would like to hear the ruling party’s considered position, clearly articulated. Issues on which I believe we, the electorate, are entitled to a robust debate from Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition.

There, point made, if a little naively. Less posturing, please, and more discussion. It can’t be that hard.

Oh, and this is the first time I’ve used the word ‘blogosphere’. And I’ve done it repeatedly. If I do it again, please yell at me.

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