Archive for January, 2008

Robert Capa’s Lost Negatives

Robert Capa – Lost Negatives – Art – New York Times

Wow that’s a find. I’ve always admired Capa, not necessarily for his work, but for who he was. For the rogue, for the adventure. And for “If your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough”

The work / blog balance

Workign stuff out...

Nice Pen. The Pig’s Lipstick and Faces in Places work stuff out

OK slightly weird one this… I’ve just checked all my fellow ‘Channel 4 employees who blog’ websites, and none of them have yet written about the session we had this morning about how channel 4 staff handle their blogs. Maybe I’ve too much free time tonight?

Anyway, first a bit of history. Channel 4 has come a little late to the staff-who-blog policy thing. When I was at the BBC two years ago Nick Reynolds ran, in my estimation, a perfect example of how to come up with a staff blogging policy. He started a wiki, threw up some thoughts with a nod to HR and stuff, and asked us, the bloggers, to edit and tweak the guidelines. After a short debate consensus was reached and the whole lot put on a public facing page for the world to see. Nick was it that easy?

So this morning I attended a session about staff blogging for channel 4. There was a previous session which addressed the idea of an official channel 4 blogger attended by Press and Publicity, Marketing, Legal and Compliance and other interested parties. Of Channel 4’s traditional approach to media communications I will say this, and it’s an observation not a critism. Our set up, our DNA, is programmed to deal with the likes of the Liverpool Echo, not Cory Doctrow. There was talk about the channel 4 ‘line’, but the day a company of 900+ souls speak as one voice on a subject is the day we become bees. If my time at channel 4 has taught me anything, it’s that the staff actually care and have a huge range of opinions on our output, it’s just that in the past you had to go to the Barley Mow or the Greencoat Boy to (over)hear those views and that those views were drowned out by ‘the line’. This isn’t the case anymore and there are parts of the organisation that have no frame of reference for this; It could be described as the introduction of rats to a previously perfectly balanced eco-system of flightless tropical birds. Just how does the channel respond to people who blog about our content, and staff who blog about… well as it turns out, all sorts of things.

Some topics that came up from the session, and maybe my fellow workers can fill in the blanks.

Public vs Anonymity: anonymous blogging is ok, it’s often how many of us start. But hiding behind anonymity for the sake of being controversial is not very good. Many of us, myself included, hid behind a nickname or moniker. Which makes us all sound like American truckers “Cowbite this is eyedropper you got your ears on good buddy 10-4?” Let’s face it, we’re not whistleblowers, using annonymity just to be bitchy is.. well it’s a faux pas.

Say it loud: I think there’s loads of brilliant people at channel 4, with knowledge and skills and tips and experience. Everyone should feel they can talk about what they do, not matter what their dept or job title.

Staff safety: Channel 4 has a duty of care to its employees. Jon Gisby talked in he opening gambit that the ‘do right by the company and the company will do right by you’ culture is a good thing. Some of our staff are at the front line of user interaction or work in some very sensitive or controversial areas. They must be careful how they conduct themselves in the digital world because of the implications.

Other things: Channel 4, indeed broadcasting itself, has gone through a crisis in the past year. Our users – not viewers – are having the debate on our output and services. To remain silent is dumb, literally. We should engage with the debate, not in an attempt to win over anybody or fight fires, but to put our point across. People might not agree with what we say, but at least we’ve said it.

Here are some of the points we came up with.

  • Rule 1. Help us write the other rules.
  • It’s the internet, try not to make a tit of yourself.
  • Don’t smoke cigs in your school uniform.
  • Don’t ask managers, ask peers.

It was a really enjoyable session.

BBC Three

Now some of my best friends work on BBC Three, and let me say that I thought Last Man Standing was one of it’s best successes last year.   However this made me laugh today from Cohen’s launch speech.

“At BBC Three we should be known for pioneering risk, and be obsessed with all things new – new talent, new programmes, and a new relationship between television and the internet.”

On the current BBC Three homepage right now? Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps. A show that first went out in 2003 when BBC Three was called BBC Choice and has just started its 7th series. A show who’s own writers explained that the absense of Ralf Little ‘Johnny’ character was due to the fact that he was at a Shark Jumping Event in America!

Can it!

A Stranger’s Childhood in Pictures

About 18 months ago, mooching round a charity shop in Crystal Palace I came across a box of 35mm colour slides. They seemed to depict roughly a year or two in someone’s life. There were summer holidays, Bank holidays, donkey rides, church services, day trips to a zoo and an ornamental garden, family gatherings and finally Christmas dinner. The woman in the shop didn’t know where they’d come from, ‘perhaps a house clearance’ she said.

They’re amazing. This is what photography used to be like for most people. You took the camera out when there was an ‘occasion’ as getting film processed was a bit of a luxury. It’s the sort of photography I grew up with, what is jokingly referred to as ‘Christmas on each end of the film, summer holiday in the middle’. If you grew up in the late 60s/early 70s, you’re childhood probably looked like this too. When you like at images like these, you can squint and almost imagine your family members in the picture.

As this statistic from the National Media Museum says.

‘In 1979 amateurs took an estimated 750 million photographs. By then there were 10 million snap shooters …. Most used between one and three rolls of film a year’

Last November the number of uploaded Flickr images passed the 2 billion mark (in just four years). That’s progress after all, to quote Mat Locke talking about his own kids’ use of technology: ‘What we carved out of rock they take as landscape

We photograph everything these days; we’ve made our whole lives one long ‘occasion’. But when you look at these found images, you see not only the rapid change in how we used photography, but how rapidly we’ve changed as a society and as a Nation too.

Anyway, I was planning to do something clever and creative with them, but I (well actually Lee!) never got round to it. So instead, here they are, released under CC (Attribution-NonCommercial) for what ever you’d like to do with them.

Below are some of my favourites. (Full set here) If you recognise a place (or a face!) in any of them, please at a note/geo-tag in Flickr.

A Stranger's Childhood in Picture - 130People made their own music

A Stranger's Childhood in Picture - 125Spain had just become affordable as a holiday destination

A Stranger's Childhood in Picture - 114

A Stranger's Childhood in Picture - 112People still went to Church

A Stranger's Childhood in Picture - 105Christmas Dinner was still a free for all.

A Stranger's Childhood in Picture - 058 Most people holidayed in the UK

A Stranger's Childhood in Picture - 096HMS Victory ( I think)

A Stranger's Childhood in Picture - 083 Twister was the new crazed

A Stranger's Childhood in Picture - 061The Bugle in Hamble (Still there) and super weirdly I went there the week before I bought these slides.

A Stranger's Childhood in Picture - 138The average family gathering, with tea

A Stranger's Childhood in Picture - 034Anyone recognise the make of car?

A Stranger's Childhood in Picture - 011Look at the dresses, the decor, the hair!

The Crystal Palace college of very high education*

If I’m in of a Monday evening, I am rather partial to playing along with University challenge. So much so that I’ve been keeping score.
The rules are:
You have to say the answer out loud before any on screen contestant.
If you shout out a wrong answer to a starter question you have to loose five points, just like they do.

University Score University Score CP College (me)
Christchurch – Oxford 245 Homerton – Cambridge 65 55
Birmingham 200 Magdalen – Oxford 210 60
Birmingham 145 St Andrews 200 110
Worcester – Oxford no record Pembroke – Cambridge No record 115
Edinburgh 130 Bangor 105 85
Uni central Lanc 90 Sheffield 265 135
Durham 120 St Edmonds Hall – Oxford 255 155
Exeter 215 Jesus College 140 110
Manchester 260 Newcastle 105 85
Nottingham 180 Christchurch 305 135

As you can see I’ve come second twice, and not done too shabby on other occasions, and there’s one of me and four of them. What’s more my Alma Mater was St Martins college of Art where I did sculpture! Pah, kids today. I wonder if you could make a red button or online version of Uni challenge? At the moment there isn’t even a holding page for it on the BBC.

*As in it’s the highest point in London.. not high as in a 60skind of a way – man. Though this blurb say thatWesterham heights is the highest point, but look at the map, that’s not really in London is it, that’s Kent!

iPlayer goes to 11… and why BBC Four beats More4

this webvideo player goes to 11

Since they made it web based I’ve been watching more and more of the iPlayer on my Mac powerbook so much so that the ‘other flat screen monitor‘ in my house has barely been on. The other day I noted that who ever designed the interface made the volume control go to 11 in a Spinal Tap homage stylee, well it made me laugh. And I read somewhere that you don’t need a licence fee to use the iPlayer, so anyone want to buy a telly?

Talking of music I’ve been particularly enjoying the recent repeats of the BBC Four sessions, Ryan Adams, Ray LaMontagne etc. If they could dig up Jeff Buckley and get Tom Waits in, I’d be truly happy. Back in late 2005 when I was at the BBC I remember speaking to the BBC Four editorial team when More4 launched, and there was a feeling that More4 was what BBC Four could and should have been, after all it had all the intellectual aces and big guns – West Wing etc.

Three years later and I have to say the tables have turned. BBC Four has soooo got it’s shit together and worked out who it is. It has in effect quietly slipped into the space left by bits of BBC Two as it went after BBC One, a media version of Maynard Smith’s ‘sneaky fucker theory‘. The *.Britannia series’ have been fantastic, furthermore it’s exactly the sort of long shelf life content that lends itself to VOD. More4 on the other hand seems to have ran out of commissioning and financial steam, having said that it’s still put up ‘Iraq – the Bloody Circus‘, ‘Death of a President‘, ‘Ghosts’ and the China Rising season. However it’s still had to resort to showing the like of Jamie at home, Father Ted and Grand Designs. Come on mo’ fo’… sort it out! I want the UK’s intellectual channels to have a queensbury rules style scrap… for the good of the viewers obviously.

New year, new me, new plan, new blog!

As some of you may know, I’m planning to pack in the London media high life and spend six months working on organic farms around the UK.  What you mean I didn’t tell you?!

Anyway, the project has begun… it’s called (for now) Eating Albion and it’s me doing foodie, natural and probably muddy things around the British Isles starting in April.  And here’s a link to it, check it out.

If you’re interesting in why I’m doing this, have a look at this post, here’s how it came about, and here’s my about page. Consequently most of my food blogging will be done over there from now on.

What does this mean for Well, this blog probably won’t update as much, but it may return to being about media, the BBC, Channel 4, news, photography and web design – which is what it was before my love of food took over a few years ago.

We’ll see…

This blog is no longer being updated

I've left it here for historical purposes. Please visit my new blog at


These are my personal views and not those of Channel 4 or the BBC
January 2008