Thursday, 28 February 2008

Spineless journalists FTL!

It isn't that I want Prince Harry dead or anything like that, but I have a very, very bitter taste in my mouth right now over how this story, broken - albeit not where anybody noticed - early in January and subsequently seized on by the Drudge Report, has been handled.

Essentially, in conspiring to hold back the story, the entire British media has bent over and allowed themselves to be held in thrall and have their editorial agenda dictated to them by the Royal Family, an institution most of them fall over themselves to persecute to the ends of the earth.

Sure, there's a pretty good case for saying that had we all known that Prince Harry had been on the frontline for ten weeks you the Taliban would have known as well and it would have been great ammunition for them to go after the Prince's unit. They sure as hell know it now, but I noticed that none of the news reports I've yet seen today have been talking about bringing him home before he gets an entire platoon killed.

But the cloak and dagger conspiracy to mislead 61 million people is utterly hypocritical, and that's where I have a problem.

The obvious solution seems to have been to never let him go in the first place. Actually the solution is to have never gone to war in the first place, and the other solution, hiding behind the first two, is to do away with the monarchy altogether, but that's a whole other story for another day.

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

A business case for web 2.0?

So, here I am in Paris. Yesterday evening we had a frightfully trendy media reception at the Museum of Architecture, all champagne fountains and soft dance music in the background. The walls were white and the floors, hot pink. It was all very minimalist and interesting.

Today I have got my story, and it's quite an interesting one; Alcatel-Lucent has fallen on hard times since its merger, but it seems that things are now turning around, which is positive to hear and good news for all concerned.

However, what's caught my attention is how all the company men are busy talking about how very important Web 2.0 is going to be to the enterprise, which I can see on some levels, but overall is something that I've yet to make my mind up on.

So, okay, I can see the value of Facebook, Myspace, Flickr, Twitter and all, and I think they probably have some value to enterprises as a means of employing millennials, people coming up through education and university now who are shortly going to be demanding these capabilities in their workplace. However, there's a difference between letting your shiny new millennial employee check his Facebook pokes during his lunch hour, and less an actual case for using it as a business tool.

In all honesty, I have yet to see convincing case for Facebook as business tool, or see it do anything that could be even remotely useful to me as a business. If it's all about swapping media and documents easily, then there are far better, and infinitely more secure products on the market today that will do it, which I think is pretty obvious. Same goes for Flickr, Youtube, and so on. These are all consumer focused applications.

But then there are some IT and comms firms, Cisco prominent among them, that have beefed up their research and development to launch in-house Web 2.0 apps. One company I know of runs a kind of internal Second Life for its business partners to go check each other out on, and I think this is where the future lies.

So I'm worried that these communications companies are rushing full tilt at what may well turn out to be a windmill. Already we're starting to see reports that Facebook, like Friends Reunited before it, has jumped the shark, with declining pageviews and fewer new recruits. Facebook's value to the consumer is already being challenged by several factors, of which I think the most important are one, it's no longer a student clique so there's no intrinsic cool value to it, and two, the applications are really, really annoying and I hate them, especially the zombie/vampire/ninja pyramid memes.

Unless Mark Zuckerberg can come up with something new and impressive quickly, I fear that Facebook will just become something that you log into once a week to check for new photos of yourself. This is already how I use it. Also, I interact with maybe 10 or 20 out of over 100 friends, and know others in that situation. It has put me in touch with people I was at school with fifteen or twenty years ago, and guess what, none of us have anything in common anymore, and so we're just photos on each other's friends list. We certainly aren't friends.

I fear Alcatel-Lucent et al are running to catch a bus that is pulling out, but others are telling me differently. One of the PRs here says his colleagues are already using Facebook to keep in touch with clients, while others have considered it as a means of distributing press releases. I've not received a press release over Facebook, and I am not sure I would want to, but I suppose it is a case of whatever floats your particular boat. It bring me right back to not seeing any real business benefit, or if you'd rather, no business benefit that isn't also a benefit of just picking up the telephone every now and then.

Monday, 18 February 2008

Journalistic integrity ftw!

Off to Paris first thing tomorrow at the behest of a major French telco that is, to put it politely, on the rocks after a disastrous merger with an American firm. This is a conference for their business partners in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, and my mission is to get a positive story out of it, as my contacts with these guys are very friendly people and I don't like laying into them. Some might say I don't have the heart and soul of a true journalist, but at least I got my job through hard graft and unpaid labour, and not because my daddy does freelancing for the Guardian.

Actually, I have been following the sorry saga of Max Gogarty, the skinny jeaned blogger (and sometime Skins webisode writer) of Muswell Hill and the vitriol he provoked among the Guardianistas on the message boards. The travel editor's response, complete with (possibly fake) whining from the boy's travel hack father, is here. Both are hugely entertaining reads but both have raised my hackles a bit.

Everyone in the blogosphere has weighed in on this one now, but what the hell, I want to join in! Firstly, I agree with the overall sentiment that the Guardian has abandoned its northern-focused, socialist remit and instead writes primarily for middle class liberals like myself. Not necessarily a bad thing or a good thing, but Max's blog is certainly a symptom of this.

Secondly, the blog was terrible, badly written juvenilia that - before it was canned - chronicled the most boring white middle class ritual of all; the boring gap year in Goa and Thailand. I have a Facebook account and I see quite enough self-satisfied accounts of boring trips to tropical beaches to be going on with without having to resort to the national press. Now, if Max had been disabled, or Asian and travelling to Asia for the first time, or travelling with his grandma, it could have been interesting. As it was it was just clearly going to be about full moon parties and drugs. None of this, however, is Max's fault, and you can't really begrudge him the experience, however banal it seems. Fault lies with the Guardian's travel editor for commissioning and publishing such donkey excreta.

As for the trumped up nepotism charges, well, where to start? Saddam Hussein was a nepotist. Max and Paul Gogarty are nothing of the kind. The world is built on contacts and social networks. If I could lean on a contact, family or otherwise, to get me into the Guardian, then I would fucking do it and hang what the cretinous nitwits on the messageboards think. I did in fact use someone else's contact to get my first unpaid work experience in journalism and I do not regret it for an instant. Contacts and networking are why some of us are senior reporters or airline pilots at 25, and some of us spout shit on the interwebs. I do both, by the way*

Anyway, I would gladly buy Max a pint and tell him not to dump his plans to be a journo just because his first commissioning editor fucked up.

Also, I have no problem with Max's tight jeans, skinny or slim cut or otherwise. Although I find that below the knee, the seams tend to twist without any real reason in a way that they never did when I wore bootcut or (ick) flares.

* I don't fly a plane, but I do regularly spout shit online.

Wednesday, 6 February 2008

Feb 6th Infodump

Money disaster averted, not many hurt

After the disastrously lean month that was January, I now have money in my bank account again, and also the news that HR has fucked up and has been paying me too low a salary for the past eight months. This will be rectified in early March, just in time for the April pay settlement. I am told the NUJ is agitating for a decent increase this year.

Alex plots to abuse press card, endorse GOP

Note to self. Join NUJ. Not only do I recover some of my long-lost socialist credentials (I voted for John McCain in my mental primary - Obama won the Democratic one - and need to feel left-wing again), but even better than that; I get a big laminated card with PRESS written on it, which I can flash at police lines, film premieres and club doormen.

Like taking rabbis to Jerusalem...

Outside Cricklewood station there is a big poster on behalf of Kirklees Council. Kirklees is somewhere north of Watford, I understand. It's advertising a holocaust commemorative exhibit that's visiting Brent Cross, our local megamall-cum-chavsoaked-hellhole. I don't know if Kirklees is a hotbed of world Jewry or not, but can't help thinking that if there was one part of the country that could mount its own holocaust memorial, it would probably be northwest London.

I can haz loldog?

I can't find the image anywhere, but the Royal Mail is putting out a series of stamps commemorating working dogs. One of the pictures shows a golden retriever striding purposefully along in its little day-glo yellow jacket, a look of intense concentration on its face, with a letter in its mouth. At the bottom of the picture it says 'Assistance Dog.'

I can't see this stamp without mentally adding 'Iz assisting ur letterz' to it.

Quiche for dinner shock

Quiche for dinner.