Monthly Archives: October 2007

Web2.0 Halloween with Google Inclusion

Ok so I have had to “buy in” to Halloween this year, of course I did, I have a 14 month old daughter and a qualified school teacher for a partner, these type of activities are essential!

So we bought a pumpkin from the local Pumpkin Grotto (lovely sideline a local farm is laying on this year, rammed with the orange orbs and various other spooky delights), and whilst there I grabbed a set of pumpkin carving tools to go with it (great idea).

The carving kit came with a bunch of template which I strapped onto the said fruit ready for daddy to carve! As you can see the tools are comprehensive.

Carving was a piece of cake, well fruit actually, and surprising to me didn’t take that long at all. The conversation between me and Jo then went on to what to use for the candle, she wasn’t keen on a candle as there will be a group of babies, and a gaggle of mums, so she wanted it to be safe!

If you read my blog a fair amount you’ll probably know I like risk to an extent, I enjoy unpredictability and in this case I fancied a flickering candle inside the lovingly carved fruity.

However, pressure won over and cleverly Jo thought that my Google Light/Radio would be a great idea to use inside Peter Pumpkin.

Now this Google Light/Radio is actually my first gift from Google way back in the first year of entering their Adsense program, (yep they supply gifts if you earn well), and well, anyway I’ve always cherished my Google Clock Light Radio device which pulsates changing pastel shades.

In fact it’s so neat it turns on off off depending on how you orient it through 90 degrees.

So there we have it, it turns out that we have a Peter Pumpkin of the Google Web2.0 variety, well the party will be social anyway, and of course have the web connection.

Made me chuckle so thought you might too.

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Student Loan Consolidation Rates

This seems to be a major topic of discussion in many educational circles, not so much in the UK I might add, but I notice this as being a significant industry in the USA.

Student loans here in the UK are generally obtainable if a student is eligible for a degree of some kind from a recognised higher education, (HE), educational provider, such as a University or College.

Mostly student loans, and of course all their associated interest rates and consolidation, are provided by the main banks in the country. A student once having secured a University place is then almost without exception entitled to a loan.

This was not always the case in UK, it used to be the case that a student would be entitled to an educational grant, paid by one’s local educational authority ( LEA, which is county based), whereby effectively higher education was free, the grant was means tested based on a student’s family income etc.

However, education is no longer free, and hasn’t been for some time, and student loans are the norm for people in higher education, and up for grabs for any HE student.

Of course this has opened the market up to other companies providing loans for HE students including the large American student loan company Sallie Mae with quoted rates of 9.3% APR. Naturally this market is probably likely to become fierce as essentially the company/bank is basically looking at investing in a prospect for life!

Bank student bank loans are actually very flexible with a no payment necessary policy until the graduate earns a particular sum per year, and then the required amount is minimal, and on a sliding scale. In fact I personally have heard enrolment officers stating to students, that students could actually view the loan repayments as a very small tax for life, hardly a noticeable deduction from the monthly pay check.

If a student is racking up 30 grand worth of debt over three or 4 years you can clearly see why viewing this as an educational tax is probably about correct.

Maybe you have a big student loan, have you paid this off, are you still in debt, how do you cope with your debt, is it a problem in working life?

I’d love to hear about that.

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How do you choose music, games and other media

We are living in a changing dynamic, probably the rate of change is faster than ever, we can experience and witness mass convergence regularly. We can find ourselves exposed to more and more content from a variety of channels and mediums.

Some of us enjoy being part of a “tight-knit” community defended with furious passion, some of us enjoy only obtaining independent music, some of us only enjoying watching web TV, some of us only enjoy open source software and many of us stick to one vendor with impressive loyalty.

In all of this choice and preference this very weekend we saw Apple release their new operating system Leopard, and I’ve personally seen a frenzy take place, a buzz, a rush to the store.

Now what I find interesting in this (and I’m struggling with the conflict so need your thoughts), is that I’d call Apple a MAINSTREAM provider, nothing independent, and in fact they mostly choose mainstream channels for advertising for their product, nothing particularly social going on, from what I can see, I may be wrong.

But I’m digressing slightly this post is not about Apple it is an attempt to get to the core reasons about why YOU choose your music, where do you hear about new music, what makes you buy it, what makes you purchase a new game, a new download, what media or advertising works for you?

I want total honesty here from you, does the TV work for you, does the weekly magazine work for you, does the X-Factor, do you buy a new single cause you hear it on mainstream radio, do you buy a film because it is in the box office charts, the billboard charts, what penetrates your buying decision?

How do you choose your media?

ACHUB MediaCampBucks07 Summary

Well it has been well over a week and I’ve decided that now some time has passed I’d unload some of my thoughts into my blog, after all remember my blog is the same as you’d get from me in the pub, so join me in a drink while I mention my personal highlights.

The ACHUB MediaCampBucks07 was the first if its kind for Bucks, in fact the first of its kind for many areas in UK, the slant of this event was enabling an interface of sorts between people working in the commercial sector and academia, and you know what, we all certainly achieved that.

On the day we had three broad themes running:

• Education/Web2.0
• Audio & Music
• HR/Policy/Community

Therefore three sessions were running simultaneously in order that a variety of choice was constantly present for all the participants, it was a cracking atmosphere with everyone checking out the schedules posted-up on the session room doors, and deciding if the current topic was for them, or not.

The event started for me on Friday morning by collecting Kris Eliasson from Heathrow who was representing Sony Ericsson. This guy is an ex-student of mine who studied with Audiocourses.com the distance learning school I am CEO of. Kris started as a student and then became a Production Advisor for the school and then since those days we have become good friends, and this was the first time I got to shake his hand in real-life and move onto serious discussion about the future of mobile content distribution, was awesome.

The event also saw another ex-student of Audiocourses.com in Mike O’Hara who has gone on to make audio his main income stream having set up a thriving business around podcasting, again what a buzz to see these connections firing.

On the Friday evening many of us met up in a local venue for a couple of drinks and a chat, this was the first time most of us had met and it was a real buzz seeing the next character walk in and introduce themselves, finally putting a real face to names was amazing. Observing different groups of people with wide ranging backgrounds and jobs getting social together was a thrill.

I met some amazing people on the day too numerous to mention, you know who you are and how we interacted, and let me just say thanks so much for giving and sharing, YOU made the day a success, and I’m excited to see you again soon.

I want to personally thank a few people for making the day happen, firstly Asha Treacy for driving me to the venue first thing Saturday morning, (I had abandoned my car the evening before following 4 pints of beer). CJ for being very organised and “calling time” with 10 mins to go in the sessions, this was awesome and not planned, she just took control of that and I need to thank her for it, we needed that structure. Eaon Pritchard the talented Scott who put together the logo for MediaCampBucks07 and also came up trumps with some direction boards and banners (sponsored by Weapon7) which we placed around the campus, smart man is Eaon, though he did have me worried as he had been out on the pop the night before and was missing in action for a while. Mike for getting a serious Jam scene going on in the Glasshouse on Saturday evening, sadly I missed most of it but checked out the repeat on Ustream.tv.

ACHUB MediaCampBucks07 was a success without a doubt, we had about 60 participants throughout the day all told. I’m humbled by all of this and I feel a sense of something great, we have created a brand which has a sense of expectation attached to it, all the participants now know what to expect from an ACHUB event.

Looking to the future of the ACHUB we plan to have a virtual event take place in SecondLife before xmas, probably music heavy, and also plan to host another real-life event for some time in the new year which may be similar to MediaCamp, or may be something different completely, in fact if YOU have some ideas about that I want to hear from you, I’m keen on using the momentum we have with ACHUB to continue hosting has we have done since 06.

Just to conclude ACHUB exists in two places:

ACHUB Facebook
Wiki

Recently we have secured the domain ACHUB.ORG which will likely become the main portal before too long, and yes, with user accounts so you can participate with the content, after all it is YOURS, this is YOUR group, your brand, your dynamic to embrace and share.

As a closing statement I’d like you to continue the growth of the group by bringing someone in, a stranger someone “outside” of this web2.0, someone who needs it most.

I’m keeping this short but let me know your highlight of the weekend with a cheeky comment.

Corporate words that get on your nerves

A Twitter friend of mine, Bryper was asking the question today about words that annoy us in the corporate world, you know those over used catch phrases and those buzz words which so many people can pick up on in an organisation, and before you know it become engrained in the culture…. Yuck…

I have so many on my list, so many I dislike and not only in corporate speak either, even in the new-media, the social-media, the web2.0 area there are dozens I dislike, such as “rockstar” or various other nonsense terms.

This may be because I am from UK and, well, we simply don’t aspire to such heights, or labels, in fact that’s probably very likely, it’s a cultural thing right?

Anyway back to corporate speak, my current BIG dislike is: SYNERGY, I can tell you I detest the way this is over used, and picked up on by so many people in my circles, it nauseates me immensely, particularly when someone clasps both sets of fingers together in a “bonding” type of gesticulation….

Dear me it is making me angry as I think of it….

But what about you, what are your dislikes used in the corporate world, maybe we can help out Bryper and show him your thoughts… ?

The RIAA are Pissing Into The Wind

This passed week has been an absolute milestone for the music business in a bad way, well actually it’s a milestone for music and musicians in a positive way, once fully embraced. I would also argue that progressive record companies, with appropriate visionaries at the top could do very well also.

A report written by Michael Arrington published on TechCrunch called The Inevitable March of Recorded Music Towards Free basically paints a very gloomy picture for the Record Industry Association of America (RIAA) and indeed many music Industry bodies.

In the article, using the laws of economics, the discussion is how the value of music (in the sense of a physical entity) will drop to a value of zero.

Nada, zero, free…

That is music will cost you nothing…in the sense of getting a version of it.

In the same week we saw RadioHead offering their newly created album for free, well actually that’s not technically correct, they have offered the album to be purchased on YOUR grounds, YOU are able to decide what you wish to donate/pay for an mp3 copy of the album. Incidentally I grabbed a copy myself and paid 5 quid.

Probably the first time in a long time I have personally bought a digital clone of music, and aside from buying it to make a point, it is actually a cracking album, which I’m listening to as I write this.

Digital Clone?

Yes digital clone is exactly what you are buying, possibly stealing, obtaining from a peer to peer (p2p) network, sent from friends, gleaned at a LAN party. However, you are not technically stealing anything nor copying, you are actually cloning information, which is the point in this argument, the clone reproduction costs nothing, hence the drop in the value of music distribution.

Distribution version

The other thing to mention here, and something which some people miss, is that they are giving away the mp3 version of the album. Now I don’t know about you, but I think mp3 sound sucks major ass. Ok so I have audio engineer ears and I work with mp3s every day and continually publish mp3s, but let’s remember the full story here.

The average mp3 has a significant reduction in quality when you compare that to what comes out of the recording studio and onto a 16bit CD. And beyond comparison when discussing DVD audio and other higher sampling and bit rate formats. Yes, mp3 are handy for distributing around the net, and putting on your izunepodriver but they ain’t the “Full Monty”.

Why am I mentioning this?

Well of course Tom York of RadioHead knows full well that he can release his limited edition box-set in a month or two just before xmas, which will contain the “Full Monty”, along with tidy artwork and other bits and piece of merchandise at a whopping 20 quid! – very nice work if you can get it.

Many people still hold dearly the notion of owning something tangible, and of high quality, and people will continue to pay for that. Some people love the tangibility of a signed CD, a limited t-shirt. I have no doubts RadioHead will shift buckets loads of the special box-set, especially during the xmas lead-in, smart marketing indeed.

Of course the other thing that nobody is mentioning is that RadioHead gain LOTS of money for their mp3s which to be honest anyone will be able to get within hours on a p2p network anyway!

RIAA Bastards

Now in the same week, I have been really upset and shocked at the paranoid behaviour of the RIAA who have come down incredibly hard on the single mother caught file-sharing with her mates. Now I know full well that YOU (if I consider a cross section of my readers here and do a rough hands-in-the-air count for an average) have done the same. In fact in this very week I carried out three separate polls each with about 30 students in a room, and guess what? .. around 98% have downloaded music in what possibly could be construed as illegally.

It’s not surprising then that certain formats of music distribution are destined to become free. And it is with this knowledge that the RIAA are fully aware of and carried out a shocking public shaming campaign on one poor woman.

Truth is, the “war is over” as Todd Wachtel mentions. There is no battle anymore, the industry so called “experts” are frankly “pissing into the wind” and getting seriously wet, and the longer they fight against the tide the more mistrust they invoke in us mere mortals, they are not building bridges here in order to embrace the new mechanisms and emerging model.

Days after the RadioHead news Oasis and Nine Inch Nails have also stated their intention to give away their newest work thus fueling the fire to the inevitable. Personally I can see these acts doing well out of enticing more listeners to buy tickets to large concerts, thus in essence not loosing money but gaining a wider audience.

The music as an mp3 is the new banner ad, the new vehicle for viral marketing…..

Embrace and gain

I’ve heard many voices with tones of fear, mainly from musicians about lost revenue, mostly from so called “struggling” artists, but, really? I mean really?

As an artist surely the point is about getting as many people as possible to listen to your music, surely that is exactly what it is about isn’t it? It is about building a fan base and buzz, so isn’t giving your music away for free and encouraging copying/cloning and distribution, actually a good thing?

What are you concerned with then, making money?

As an artist there are countless way to re-coup money, so many I’ll save them for a future blog post, but all that is required is a slightly different mind-set on how you build your audience and what you offer in terms of merchandise.

As my friend Rich Palmer says “Why chain yourself to the old model when there are successful new systems coming into place?”.

Nobody is actually saying they do not value music, they do, I do, I’m a musician! But the voices are saying, share it with us and we’ll tell all our friends and probably come and see you live and probably buy a t-shirt maybe even a box-set with some shwag in to hang on the wall..

And of course I’ve not even mentioned mainstream play-out and royalties, which do not seem to be going away, I can’t see that happening in the short term either. Of course this is exactly why the PRS want a piece of the pie regarding netcasts and internet radio, they see it coming.

Are you pissing into the wind, what do you feel about all this?

A big thanks to the Music Technology Facebook soliders who inspired some of my words here, thanks.

UPDATE: This link just came in: Madonna ditches traditional record label

UPDATE: Month Old, thanks to Ben for sending: What’s the future of the music industry

Loose The Comment Fear

Firstly, thank YOU so much for helping me out with a previous blog entitled “What stops you from making a comment on a blog”.

Having put out a call to action to you I was completely humbled, by the response and thoughtful help that came in. YOU really did help me draw some conclusions and make some important summaries, which I will now share with you.

The deliciousness woven into a lot of the comment thread was from first-time posters, people who had not made a comment before but somehow felt a need to respond and desired to reach-out, (this is the buzz phrase), and make a connection,(again a buzz word).

Reaching Out

I think in this world of social media and instant connectivity “reaching-out” is an apt phrase which does convey a message of action, a premise of holding your arms out, of opening your book to let everyone have a read. Reaching out is exactly what a blog post should do, if you do indeed desire to have feedback and converse with your readers.

Make a Connection

Now this is the key, I have come to the conclusion with your very meaningful posts that making an emotional connection is the door opener. We are emotive beings, we need emotion and feelings continuously and mostly it is important we can connect on an emotional level, blogs are perfect tools for this.

Just Because

Having considered the feedback and mulled it around in my mind for a week or more I am absolutely convinced there is more goodness in making at least a small connection (yes how ever small), regardless of your ability or skills on the actual topic in question.

What I mean here is having read comments such as:

“may not know enough about a topic to offer an insightful reply.”
“Fear that I sound stupid/uninformed.”
“I’m not sure if I have anything of worth to contribute”
“Sounding silly/stupid”

There are numerous others very similar to this… now, a BIG pat on the back to you for making the effort, that’s important to me, and also a big pat on the back for being honest.

BUT…..

Now, this is where I differ… I personally feel it is important to leave your presence felt even if you do not actively contribute to the discussion, even if you do not add what YOU perceive to be of value, even if YOU think you are not progressing the thread. All this is all of little importance, what IS important on a blog is that you converse, just as you would down the pub, it’s important to ME and YOU.

In the pub you may not engage in deep and meaningful debate on all manner of topics, but you would certainly not just ignore and not communicate something, even a nod, a wink, a smile, a hi are very important body language statements of acknowledgement.

I feel a blog is in a similar territory, it is a conversational platform, this is not a thesis for a Phd this is not a corporate document or a medical journal, this is me talking with you about my passions and thoughts, and you talking with me. This blog is an extension of me, this is what you’d get in the pub with me, but in text form minus the body language.

So here is my call to action.

Next time you feel a little of that “fear” (let’s call it comment fear) push it away and jump in, even if it is a “thanks for sharing”… this is exactly what social media is.

So, thanks for sharing.