Sunday, April 30, 2006

Blogonomics 06 (3)

The organisation had invited Hans Laroes, the news editor-in-chief of the Dutch public broadcast organisation NOS. This was interesting, especially as the NOS News is still the leading news broadcast organisation in the Netherlands. The news operations of the commercial broadcast companies which came into operation from 1989 onwards have been unable to supersede the public broadcast news operation.

NOS News chief Hans Laroes (left) and Ilse CEO Paul Molenaar (right)

The NOS News is a large operation, running daily news broadcasts, news broadcasts for children, a teletex service, internet and SMS service. All these media used to be run by their own department. But over the last two years all these departments have been integrated and networked into one organisation. This means that news is treated integrally using a cascade of media. Laroes claimed to be the first integrated digital television and radio news operation in Europe. You can see NOS News now as a cross-media digital news channel with many sub channels.

Laroes told the audience that NOS News is seen as a kind of authority. It brings news to the older audience, especially with the 8 o’clock evening news. But he also recognises that the audience is becoming fragmented, ranging from seniors to youngsters, who do not look at TV broadcasts. So he realised himself that he has to serve these youngster in their own way. The 8 o'clock news for adults, the internet site NOS Headlines for the youngsters, the uploaders. It is a kind of working place for NOS News for new journalism and a trial place for letting young bloggers in, as long as they talk about something else than cats.

Laroes made an interesting remark, saying that material of the news should be available for bloggers. I asked him later how he saw this happen: creative commons and pricing. I told him the story that I requested from the Image and Sound Institute, the Dutch public audiovisual archive, three minutes of the NOS Journaal of the launch of the videotext service Viditel in 1980. I could get the three minutes and load them onto my weblog series of 25 years Online in the Netherlands, if the editor-in-chief of NOS News would give his permission and I would pay 600 euro for one year. Laroes admitted that the whole organisation, NOS News and Image and Sound Institute, was yet ready for this kind of cooperation between bloggers and NOS News, but he sees this as an ideal.


Blog posting number 365

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Blogonomics 06 (2)

An annual report on blogs in the Netherlands was part of the meeting. The Netherlands is a small country with some 16,5 million people, internet and broadband prone. So what is state of art in the blogging country behind the dikes? The best person in the Netherlands to talk about blogs is Paul Molenaar the CEO of, a search engine company, which also operates

The stats. In 2005 there were in the Netherlands an estimated 250.000 bloggers, of whom 90.000 blogs are published on By now there are 600.000 bloggers, of whom 260.000 publish their log on In 2005 a new blog showed up every 3 minutes; in 2006 that was every 2 minutes. is the largest blog site in the Netherlands. Monthly 100 million pageviews are recorded for the whole site; on average 500 pageviews per month and 10 comments per weblog. But success has also its shadow sides. Every week, the management receives 3 letters from lawyers. Monthly 10 journalists request an interview. There is also intensive contact with police services.

Paul Molenaar also gave his forecast of new trends. Serious bloggers are clustering their blogs; cynically he added that the largest cluster would be a typo cluster. Video is going to be crucial. Traditional media like newspapers, radio and TV use blogs. There is a hunt for extreme blogs; in the coming year the slogan will be: death to mediocrity.

He also predicted that there will be some more revenues in the market, but less than 1 million euro. Of course it is still guessing about revenues as is clear from a Wall Street Journal interview with Alan Meckler of Jupitermedia and Jason Calacanis of Weblogs Inc. Calacanis estimates in the interview that you can make 1.500 to 5.000 US dollars a month with a good blog. Meckler is critical and calculates that you need 500.000 pageviews per month, which is unattainable presently. In another calculation 200 million weblogs share 16,6 million US dollar in revenues; this is 0,10 cents per weblogger. When Paul Molenaar asked the audience who made money with their webs, only two people raised their hands.


Friday, April 28, 2006

Blogonomics 06 (1)

It felt comfortable like a big hot sauna, the Blogonomics 06 at the RAI in Amsterdam yesterday. Not that I knew many of the bloggers, who gathered there, but the presentations were subjects we deal with as (professional and semi-professional) bloggers and podcasters. In total there were no less than 9 presentors in a span of 5 hours, ranging from a blog operators to a priest-podcaster, from an news editor-in-chief of the public broadcast company to a broadcast blogger, from a media entrepreneur to a politician. In the hall there were some 150+ bloggers and podcasters as well as professionally interested people from mediabureaus.

It was interesting to hear from the blogger and the podcasters in this line-up. There were of course also two company presentations, one from Microsoft about MSN and Windows Live! as well as Apple. Both company presentations were about involvement and engagement; the presentations, especially the Apple one from Bram Elderman, was quite different from the usual slick, disengaged sales talks of the box movers.

At the end of the afternoon Loïc Le Meur of SixApart, Mr Blogger Europe, came on stage. He had just been flown in, did not understand the presentations of the other speakers (as his French is great and his English okay, but his Dutch is minimal) in order to find out that almost everything had been said.

In the coming days I will dive into some presentations, as the presentators had some good data or had a good line of thinking. I will take a look at the stats presented by Paul Molenaar, CEO of Ilse Media and I will comment on the presentation of Hans Laroes the editor in chief of the News section of the public broadcast company NOS. Given my background with a theology/philosophy education and a Master of Divinity from Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans, I will treat the presentation of the priest/podcaster Roderick Vonhögen. I will also pay attention to podcasting and politics as presented by Jan Marijnissen, a member of the Dutch parliament. On Monday I will compare the blog attitude of Erwin Blom of the Dutch public broadcast company VPRO and a nestor of the multimedia bloggers in the Netherlands. Monday is Labour Day (which is not celebrated in the Netherlands, but we have our Queens day on Saturday; vive la republique) and it will be a year ago that I started this blog Buziaulane., a Dutch language webblog operator, was one of the sponsors of Blogonomics 06 and claimed unavoidable attention. One blogger had an instantaneous answer to the request.


Thursday, April 27, 2006

Five years Funda, a real estate site

Last Tuesday the site of the real estate agents’ association Funda celebrated its fifth anniversary. The site offers the complete offer and supply in the housing market. The company is a joint venture of the real estate agents’ association NVM and the newspaper publisher Royal Wegener.

Funda started the joint venture in January 2000 and went live beginning of 2001.
The website of the real estate agents’ association has become a market force with its offer of some 60 percent of the houses on the market. It is the starting point for house hunting. It is so popular that rival real estate associations have lodged a complaint, which was rekjected, about the monopolistic position of NVM. Presently two real estate agents are in court for illegally deeplinking. Funda started to expand internationally to Poland and Ireland.

The site started out as a collection of virtual posters. In the meantime the site has changed the way of house hunting, the way real estate agents put their house on the market and the adjoining business such as financing and design. House hunting is now done from behind the computer. No longer people are looking at classified ads in newspapers, window posters and posters on the lawn. They stay on average 17 minutes on the site and look at 30 pages. Also for real estate agents business has changed as people arrive more informed when they start house hunting or even bypass the real estate broker. They usually have a visual impression of the house and have done ball park figures concerning their mortgage.

I recently saw all the effects of Funda. As we were planning to move, we asked a real estate agent to take our house to the market and he did. Two days after taking the assignment the agent had the photographs and description on online on Funda. Within two days there was a line-up of viewers. In less than two weeks it was all over and the house was sold. On the same day we bought an apartment in another city. We had been able to see the interior and the outside view thanks to a VRML photograph series as well as photographs of the neighbourhood; also the mortgage had been calculated. So the visit to the apartment was a confirmation of the information we had seen on the site. Besides we could send e-mails with the URLs of the houses to our friends around the world.

The real estate site can also have a different function. Googling Funda, I saw that the site can also work to demythologise a fairy tale. Blogger Merel had created a pink view of life and the world, and painted herself as a princess. But when she mentioned that she had found the home where she was born, on Funda, readers of her blog were disappointed with the sober dwelling of their princess. I better forget to mention the link to our home (although smart readers will be able to find it easily).


Wednesday, April 26, 2006

X-raying the EU e-Content programmes

I noticed that Rand Corp. is doing an evaluation for the European Commission on the e-Content programme. What part is unclear to me, but they presently survey the projects and consortia for their opinion on the programme.

The e-Content programme ran from 2001 till 2004. On the site its says about its objectives: "eContent is a market oriented programme which aims to support the production, use and distribution of European digital content and to promote linguistic and cultural diversity on the global networks. The programme supports: Innovative and viable content projects involving multinational and cross-sector partnerships; Accompanying measures addressing best practice, concertation, awareness and dissemination; Market studies for visions, insight, challenges and opportunities. Digital content players in Europe of all sizes, i.e. Content creators and owners in private and public sectors; Packagers and designers; Language and customisation players; Publishers and distributors; Net services companies; Rights trading actors; Capital market players; Experts and market enablers".

On 9 March 2005 the European Parliament and the Council approved the eContentplus Programme. This "Community programme over more years to make digital content in Europe more accessible, usable and exploitable. The 4-year programme (2005–08), proposed by the European Commission, will have a budget of € 149 million to tackle organisational barriers and promote take up of leading-edge technical solutions to improve accessibility and usability of digital material in a multilingual environment. The Programme addresses specific market areas where development has been slow: geographic content (as a key constituent of public sector content), educational content, cultural, scientific and scholarly content. The Programme also supports EU-wide co-ordination of collections in libraries, museums and archives and the preservation of digital collections so as to ensure availability of cultural, scholarly and scientific assets for future use".

The institution of the programme has been welcomed from the beginning, but the shaping of the programme has not always been strong. As other programmes, there is no clean break between an old and a new programmes. In the e-Content programme the former multilingualism programme was incorporated. Besides the e-Content programme lacked a clear definition; it was not clear whether the value chain or the value production chain was followed. And strange calls like public procurement were launched. Most of the calls were text-centred. Music was not explicit present in the programme nor was video and film. And games did not figure in the programme at all.

Given the difference in level of digitisation and the fragmentation of languages in Europe, I think that the programme should have established a European wide network of content institutes for analysing e-content issues, analysing the market and export for e-Content products as well as keeping statistics on e-Content and services and organising conferences and workshops. An example of such an institute has been established in Finland (

As to the effect of the funded projects I am sceptical. As far as I can see, there are few that make any impression at all (real estate registration in the public sector). Other projects have not made any impression on me. I can not point to one project which I would consult at present for business or pleasure.

The supporting activity Content Village has been efficient in publicising about the projects. Most appreciated in this site are their country profiles. It is a pity that the profiles can not be compared and analysed, delivering content metrics.

The programme was much inwards orientated. An outbound action, telling European citizens about European e-Content products and services was not undertaken. The programme should have used e.g. a multimedia competition as a means to market European e-Content products and services and stimulate market exchange. Such an action would have led to promotion and marketing as well as keeping an archive of qualified products. (I am biased on this point, as I am involved in the Europrix Top Talent Award and the World Summit Award).

I recommend to the researchers that they read the book e-Content: Technologies and Perspectives for the European Market edited by Peter Bruck e.a. and published by Springer ( (There are two contributions from me in this book; again I confess: I am biased).


Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Domain .nl 20th anniversary

Today it exactly 20 years ago that the first Dutch internet domain name was registered. From April 25, 1986 CWI, a Dutch research institute for Mathematics and Informatics took care of administrating the NL top level domain. This first country domain was registered by the godfather of .nl Piet Beertema (CWI), who played a central role within EUnet - the predecessor of the European Internet. The first domain he registered was of course CWI. Beertema managed the .nl domain register for ten years. Due to the explosive growth of the number of domains, the task became too vast for one person.

In the first years the rules for applying for a .nl domain were strict. Domain names were only given out to organisations, which could only claim one domain per organisation. The fear was that domains would otherwise become scarce.

In 1996, the Stichting Internet Domeinregistratie Nederland (SIDN) was founded, which took over Beertema's registration work in January 1997. After that, Beertema became a board member of the foundation. SIDN was one of the first official organisations certified to handle the domain names. These days, SIDN has 2000 participants, who are brokering between applicants and SIDN. These participants are companies delivering internet access and hosting, multimenationals, trade mark bureaus and ad agencies.

Presently no less than 1,9 million domain names with the suffix .nl have been registered by SIDN; after Germany and the United Kingdom the Netherlands is the third country with this many domain names. The penetration of domain names is highest in the Netherlands: 12 domain names per 100 inhabitants.

As with other domain registrars, SIDN is confronted with illegal moving of domain names. In 2005 only 737 domain names were illegally moved to another host and again undone by SIDN on a total of 125.515 domain moves. That is only 0,6 percent. Also 54.557 domain names moved to a new owner; in 68 cases SIDN had to undo the move. Mid-2006 the registration system will be improved.

In order to celebrate this anniversary, a special website has been designed. SIDN has started a special anniversary action. The first 500 people, who celebrate their 20th anniversary on this day get 20 euro discount upon registering a .nl domain.

I wonder whether the .nl domain registration will slow down due .eu domain registration. We will know in a quarter or so.

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Monday, April 24, 2006

.EU domain rush over

The rush for the .eu domain is over. On April 7, 2006 the frenzy started. The Dutch recorded 9,26 domain names per 1.000 inhabitants. AS such they stood out, beating Sweden with 6,96 domain names per 1.000 inhabitants. Germany was in the third place with 4,78 domain names per 1.000 inhabitants. Great Britain was in the fourth place with 4,47 domain names per 1.000 inhabitants.

It is interesting to observe the political side of this. The Dutch voted against the EU constitution last year, but apply for the most .eu domains. Great Britain was less interested in the .eu domain names; this is not surprising for an island of which half the population still think that it could live in splendid isolation from the rest of the world, let alone from Europe.

More than 1,2 million .eu domain names were handled with the first 24 hours by the registrar EURid (European Registry of Internet Domain Names).

There was criticism on the price for the domain name. Some ISP thought that the price of 15 euro ecl. Of VAT for an .eu name was too high and were subsidising the applications as a marketing stunt. One ISP in the Netherlands started a marketing action with a the Reed-Elsevier’s magazine Bizz to give away .eu domains for free. Many of the .eu domains applied for did not materialise. I wonder what the people think about the ISP and the business magazine.

I myself attempted to get an .eu domain, but it did not work out. Will have to think up a variation on the name and register that with success.


Sunday, April 23, 2006

Games and education (3)

In his after lunch speech Emiel Kanters, accountmanager with the Dutch educational publisher ThiemeMeulenhoff dished up a triviality from Dutch game history. He showed a picture (see above) of the 1980 Pacman world champion, Patrick van Rijbroek.

In the late afternoon of the conference it got more serious and there were break-out groups. One of the sessions was intended for publishers. Some of the national educational publishers were represented. The discussion shed quite some insight on how the (traditional) publishers look at these developments.

And they are very hesitant. They are faced with many questions. Should we make a game as an extra to a learning method or part of it or should we base a method on a game. Another problem is the teacher, who is usually above 35; they might work with a PC, but it is questionable whether they are in games. Next question is of course: who is going to develop it? No bureau has a specialisation in didactics, game theory and design. And as one publisher said: ‘If a bureau claims to be able to produce this, I would be very suspicious’. Last, but not least, certainly with traditional publishers were the development costs. During the presentations some figures like 7 million US dollars had been used as development costs; given the Dutch target groups such a figure would be prohibitive.

(Left) NS game; (right) Pool Paradise

But it was not only hesitation that was expressed. They received also some free consultancy. One piece of advice was to get as publishers’ group into touch with the recently founded Dutch game production association Benelux Game Initiative (BGIN) and start to work together. Of course they should also get in touch with colleges like HKU KMT for the development of prototypes of games, where a game prototype was made for the national Railway Corp NS. Or have a look at companies like RANJ with Pool Paradise. Another piece of advice was to look at institutes like De Waag, which developed Freq 1550, a game to familiarise school children with the history of a city. The publishers should also consider whether they could commission the development of a common rule set on top of which various games can be created. It was also interesting to see that the publishers looked only in the direction of the Dutch ministry of education and did not know anything about the 10 million grant for game development.

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Saturday, April 22, 2006

Games and education (2)

The way pupils learn is changing and it is seductive to offer pupils games as learning tool. But what are games and are games fit to be offered? Jeroen van Mastrigt and Willem-Jan Renger, both college teachers at HKU KMT, offered insights in gaming and the potential for education.

They started out to explain that the present development in serious gaming should go beyond the horse carriage syndrome; the first automobile looked like a horse carriage. So a close look at what a serious game is, will be needed. The basic question with a game is whether a game like Pong is about tennis or something else. With a fine example, it was explained that serious games are about the excitement of discovering the rules. When you play table tennis you need a flat table. When you change the flat table into a table that looks like a wave, the wave-shaped begs for other rules.

Games have three components: at the centre the rule model, covered by a declaration layer and a social layer. In the game Sims the social layer is all about interacting, while the declaration layer is about the décor and presentation. But Sims is all about the rules. If you have not discovered the rules, but are stuck in the declaration phase you only can expand your neighbourhood. Games turn around social rules, but serious games are all about the rule set.

Are games fit for education? That depends how you look at it. Every new medium like slides, video and computers has its dream phase in the development cycle. But this phase is usually followed by disappointment. This was also the case in education with Computer supported learning. This delivered drill and practice games. In order to learn the cities of a country, you could sit in a helicopter and fly and discover the skyline of a city. So the main costs were in producing the contents. However, constructive learning let pupils make rules themselves; a good rule engine for this is Gamemaker by game professor Mark Overmars.

Willem-Jan Renger gave the audience a piece of advice:
- didacticians, designers and game makers should sit together and develop teaching material using the principles of serious gaming;
- publishers should not develop costly content, but middleware and educational rule sets;
- Publishers should not replace educational tools from print to games;
- Produce simple rule sets.

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Friday, April 21, 2006

Games and education (1)

During the last few days I have been working on the new edition of the Content Market Monitor during. It was interesting to produce this edition and send it to 2100 free subscribers in 100 countries. Every week new subscribers still register themselves to receive the monthly newsletter in their mailbox. I hope the articles yield some sparks for new ideas.

After such an intensive job, it good to be among the people again and I got a good chance yesterday. One of the first arts and media colleges in the Netherlands HKU KMT in Hilversum had organised a conference on serious games and education. The programme was divided in four parts:
- the new generation;
- serious games;
- games and e-learning;
- workshops.

The first lecture by Wim Veen, professor at the Technical University in Delft, was entitled Homo Zappiens, the zapping man. It focussed on the new generation of computer users and students. They play games, communicate 24/7, have virtual friends, read never a manual and have rather a subscription on a mobile than on a newspaper. It is the generation that leaves school and straight away takes his/her mobile to continue the talk. And when he/she sms, they have their own language.

This new generation differs from the 35+ generation. The 35+ generation has been educated with books (analogue media) and works in a linear way. But the new generation has other skills: a non-linear approach, iconic skills, multi-tasking and discontinuous information processing. In their multi-tasking they regulate the information streams simultaneously. Through different media (TV, radio, iPOD, internet) they search for the core of the message.

The homo zappiens becomes a creative problem solver, an experienced communicator, a self steering thinker and digital thinker. Yet the present schools are still working in an analogue and linear way. They are basically diploma factories. But for the homo zappiens learning changes to inquisitive learning, network learning, learning by experience, collaborative learning and solving problems. Knowing data by heart is not enough any longer as digital and multimedia data are tools to produce new data. The homo zappiens uses the menu, keywords, search terms and tags. It is not the fun of the game, but the challenge, creativity and self-confidence.

So the question is not whether schools should adopt games as tools for e-learning, but how can we do this with a generation of teachers above 35+ and a generation of users (not pupils) born with a mobile and grown up with games.

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Thursday, April 20, 2006

Iceland to the broadband top

In the past two years broadband ranking lists have been of interest, especially in the Netherlands. And last year the Netherlands was climbing to the top of countries. Korea was the example and by the second half of last year the Netherlands was the top in Europe, given the penetration per 100 inhabitants. But Iceland has made a dash for the world top. It has now beaten the Netherlands and even Korea, according to the OECD report. The figures date back to December 2005 and pertain to xDSL, tv cable and other broadband opportunities such as glass fibre and satellite.

The Netherlands is second to Canada when it comes to tv cablenet. Canada has 10,8 connections per 100 inhabitants, while the Dutch have 9,3 connections per 100 inhabitants. The Netherlands does score with wireless connections and glass fibre. Wireless connections and glass fibre is still small. The question will be of course whether wireless connections and glass fibre will be the bootstrap for the second generation of broadband. If Dutch people remain happy with their present connection, the Dutch broadband world will become the first country on gaz, but the last one on electricity.

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Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Blog postings from VNU shareholders’ meeting

Yesterday it was an important afternoon meeting for VNU in Amsterdam. There was a lot of commotion around the meeting as VNU is defending the public offer made by six private equity companies. First an AGM was scheduled, but this was postponed till 13 June, 2006. So the meeting was degraded to an information meeting on the offer of 28,75 euro per share. It was expected, that it would be a hot debate between the CEO Rob van den Bergh and the chairman of the supervisory board Aad Jacobs and dissident shareholders.

And a hot afternoon it was. During the meeting, I joined the Dutch language blog Frontrunner of Bert van Dijk, a journalist of Het Financieele Dagblad, the Dutch financial daily. Bert van Dijk reported from the floor. His blog started at 16:15h Dutch time in a factual fashion. It continued to report that there were 111 shareholders present, representing 33 per cent of the shares and making it a legal meeting.

The chairman Aad Jacobs started off the meeting explaining why shareholders should accept the offer of the private equity companies, united in Valcon. Initially there were 13 companies interested, but 6 companies eventually made an offer. Jacobs concluded, that this must be a good offer as 7 companies could not follow the financial offer of 28,75 euro per share. Between the lines of the blog you can read that the shareholders could think up other reasons why they left the pack. But Jacobs continued to say that the price was 30 times the netto profit or 13,5 times the ebita.

Vinke, partner in an opposing private equity company Vinke Asset Management, was given time to explain his opposition to the offer and illustrate how he would solve the crisis. Another player on behalf of the shareholders was Peter-Paul de Vries on behalf of the Dutch shareholders’ organisation VEB. Also private shareholders asked questions.

The emotions ran high with Peter-Paul de Vries indicating that the share price of VNU was twice as high in 200, when Van den Bergh took office. VNU’s CEO responded that were different times, besides VNU was the proud owner at that time of the ITT Yellow pages; Van den Bergh’s grand acquisition. (VNU bought the company for 1,9 billion euro and sold it after six years for a disappointing 2.08 billion euro. Not much of a value maker for the shareholder). Also the no-sale premium of 30 million euro is infuriating shareholders; if not 95 percent of the share are deposited in favour of this Valcon offer, VNU will have to pay this unusual penalty.

At 22:28h Bert van Dijk reports from the floor that the meeting has been closed after more than four hours. His conclusion is that VNU and the shareholders have haggled about the form and not so much about the offer. Shareholders will have to decide before 5 May, 2006, whether they will offer their shares.

As a journalistic exercise, it was interesting to follow the ten postings from the floor. It resembled the radio flashes of a soccer game; the program is interrupted for an update on the game, when there is a dangerous situation or as a team scores.

(As I remarked before in this blog, I have no shares in VNU, but I have worked for VNU during the period when Rob van den Bergh started his VNU career. The turn-around from a publishing company to an information company has been admirable, but the end game with IMS was too early. Now VNU is ripe for a break-up into publishing and exhibition divisions as well as data divisions).


Tuesday, April 18, 2006

The most creative European e-talent 2006

I was reminded of the new edition of the EUROPRIX Top Talent Award (TTA) by a newsletter of the Instructors' Network and by a mail of my Finnish friend Cai. He and his colleague Sohvi had a week of full of activities in Hämeenlinna featuring TTA Road Show.

The TTA is starting a new award edition. It will be the fourth edition of the TTA contest for students and young professionals in the field of e-content and design. These four editions were preceded by five edition in which only students in the field of e-content and design , but as the competition was limited to students only in the first five editions from 1998 till 2002, it is in fact the ninth edition.

The TTA solicits innovative projects in the field of e-contents and design - using whatever multimedia channel or platform. Projects can be submitted in 8 categories. And there are also other awards such as Content Fusion Award, Thesis Award and the new ATI Special Award.

The TTA is a truly European contest. In 2004 there were 414 entries from 29 European countries and in 2005 no less than 411 entries from 32 countries.

It is a real contest as there is also prize money involved. At the next Top Talent Festival in Vienna from November 23 till 26, 2006, prizes worth a total value of 80.000 Euros will be waiting for nominees and winners.

Creative multimedia projects can be submitted from April 1 to June 30, 2006. For more info have a look at the site. Click here for registration.

Of the past editions various catalogues have been produced. Printed catalogues have been published, which are real art books. But there are also DVDs and there is a website available, presenting past winners and nominees. This should be obligatory study material for content specialists and designers. For the printed catalogues and the DVDs you can contact

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Monday, April 17, 2006

A virtual jubilee

Today there is a virtual celebration yesterday of the founders and collaborators of the Dutch language site Ouders Online (Parents Online), in this blog abbreviated to OO. It was on April 17th, 1996 that the site was launched. The site has grown to be an authority on rearing kids. Every month 230.000 unique visitors pass by and consult some 7 million pages, with 30.000 messages monthly on their Forum.

The start of the site was in the early days of Dutch internet. The year 1994 can be seen as launching year for Dutch consumer internet with the digital city project (De Digitale Stad). One year on, ISPs like Euronet*Internet and Planet Internet started to compete for consumers. Contrary to the trend of portals, OO became one of the first online communities. They meet each other in the Forum and the chatroom, make theme pages and have private contacts. Besides this community of natural parents, the site is frequented by professionals such as general practioners, pedagogues, midwifes and nurses.

OO was not exactly the natural party to start up this site. At that time VNU Magazines – these days Sanoma Magazines – had an authoritative printed magazine on bringing up kids, called Ouders van Nu (Contemporary Parents). But at that time VNU Magazines were still toying with the idea of bringing magazines online. So when OO got online, VNU Magazines took defensive, legal action, claimed domain hijacking and asked the court to prohibit the use of the name. But as there was no resemblance with the name and VNU Magazines were not active online, the domain name did not have to be transferred to VNU Magazines. Also the second case brought by VNU Magazines failed. The court case was the best advertisement OO could get, but lawyers do not come cheap.

The site is rather independent. The forum is principally not moderated. As such OO can not be bought for an opinion by a government institute or by a company. This does not make the life of the founders easy, but so far they are still a force in the market and have success. And rightly so. Congratulations Henk Boeke and Justine Pardoen.


Sunday, April 16, 2006

Dutch internet traffic peaks on Sunday

In the Netherlands it is Easter Sunday. Having chased the bunnies and searched the Easter eggs, everyone is back behind the computer. At least, that is the trend since the beginning of 2006, according to a press release of the Amsterdam Internet Exchange (AMS-IX).

In 2005 the Monday was the day with the most internet traffic of the week days, while during the Sundays 50 to 60 Gbps were processed. But since the beginning the peak of the traffic has shifted to the Sunday with a peak of 140 Gbps.

Also the pattern of the traffic has changed. Was there a sharp peak on Monday morning, on Sunday the traffic is spread over the whole day. On Sunday there is a steady growth of internet users from 8:00h till 14.00h and from 21:00h the number of interactive internet users start to decrease. Job Witteman, CEO of AMS-IX speculates that this change in internet traffic has come about due to the broadband penetration.

On Sundays the Dutch were used to go to church, have their Sunday dinner in the early afternoon and go walking or visit a soccer game, now they game online, download, chat and phone via internet. Times change.

If you want to see whether Easter Sunday is going to be different, have a look at

This was the graph on Easter monday morning. Click on the illustration to enlarge it and look at the right hump. It is clear that more people stayed on internet last night in the Netherlands, as Easter monday is a free day.


Saturday, April 15, 2006

The Belgium digital paper trial has started

The Belgian financial newspaper De Tijd has started its digital paper trial with 200 subscribers for the next three months. The trial will be followed closely and double checked with twenty other newspapers.

The Belgian financial newspaper will be published on the Iliad screen, developed by the Philips spin-off iRex Technologies. The basic technology differs from the earlier eBook screens as the iLiad sports a black/white screen and the screen only consumes electricity upon the turning of the page.

The trial concentrates on three points: news production, usage and advertisement. Fresh new pages will be beamed to the iLiad by wi-fi. Despite the possibility to refresh the stock quotes in real time, De Tijd will only be refreshed a few times a day.

The publishing company could make a selection of users from the five hundred expressions of interest. The newspaper company sees this as a signal of market readiness. The trial will study the usage of the newspapers by the users. How do they use consume the news; how do they react to advertisements. The user friendliness of the interface will be most important.

The trial is not only directed towards the news consumption of the users, but also at the advertisements. In principal De Tijd will have three kinds of advertisement: a banner, an interstitial and a click advertisement, offering information in the mailbox. Location based advertisements may be offered during the trial.

The results of the trial will be ready by September. De Tijd hopes to launch the iLiad edition next year, so that redaers can download the most recent eduiton of the newspaper on their iLiad through blue tooth, wireless or by hotspots.

The Belgian trial will not be an isolated trial. In the Dutch language area De Dutch Telegraaf will participate. Both trials will be part of the international eNews trial of the IFRA, the international association of newspaper and media publishers. In this project twenty publishers, among which the New York Times and El Pais, will participate.

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Friday, April 14, 2006

Hack this movie

Cinema-goers often grumble that they themselves could have made a better film. They may soon get the chance, thanks to film-maker and Internet pioneer, Michela Ledwidge. In 2004 Michela received a £125,000 Invention and Innovation investment from NESTA (the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts) - the organisation that backs UK innovators - to explore new ways for audiences to ‘fiddle with film’ as though it were a musical instrument. Her aim is to enable viewers to use a games console or desktop computer to modify the film as they watch it.

In Wired Jason Silverman wrote: "Michela wants her film to be more than watchable. She wants it to be remixable. She is now posting all of th raw material for Sanctuary, het 10 minutes sci-fi about a girl, her computer and a mysterious murder. She has nine hours of production footage, 90 minutes of sound effects and dialog, plus hundreds of storyboards, concept drawings and still photographs. Eventually viewers will be able to manipulate the cinematic elements with downloadable software called Switch".

This week she send around a mail to inform interested people about MOD Films' first production, Sanctuary. She writes:

We locked the picture a few weeks back and we're heading now into the final stages of post-production. Steve Parkinson has done a great job on the fine cut and HD conform. Huw Bowen has signed on to help me co-ordinate the VFX work that needs to get done.

For all of you who have expressed an interest in volunteering to get this finished, now is the time to re-confirm your availability. We'll be breaking the work up into manageable chunks so that people can help out as much or as little as you'd like. What we need to know is what you are willing to contribute, and of course what areas you are most familiar with.

We've got three virtual environments and two virtual characters to create, and plenty of user interface graphics, particles, treated images and miscellaneous other effects to bring to life. If you've got the time and are keen, drop me a line, we'd be very grateful!

We need (wait for it..)

* blue screen keyers

* user interface designers
* 3D environment artists
* character animators
* compositors
* sound designers
* music composers
* sound mixers
* web interns (LAMP experience ideal)
* colourists

As you may recall *groan* that this is an experiment in re-mixability, so we intend to make as many of the original project files available for re-use. If you want to contribute elements but would be using material that you are not comfortable about sharing, proprietary shaders for example, then let us know so we can work out an arrangement.

All in all, I'm REALLY chuffed that the film, a third of the overall pilot, has got this far on so little funding. I'm taking it (her?) to the Cannes Film Festival next month after an unexpected and unsolicited expression of interest from the International Critics Week. We haven't been able to pull the VFX together in time for the festival competition cut-off but at least we've locked the picture. Thanks to the Sydney production crew, we ended up switching to shooting on 35mm at the last minute and the resulting plates look lovely.

Finally, a couple of links to whet your appetite

My new showreel with a sneak peak at the film

'The Deal' for contributors

The pre-viz comic version (requires Quicktime 7)

The Sanctuary 'beta band' (requires a free subscription to Multiply)


Thursday, April 13, 2006

HDTV trial on academic network

Often I am grateful that I have seen all the developments in online and new media pass by since the seventies. But sometimes I just can be a little bit jealous on the young generation. This happened when I received a press release this week announcing that the Dutch academic network SURFnet will offer HDTV to 7.000 students in Eindhoven, Groningen and Nijmegen.

Some fifty student apartment buildings will be equipped with network infrastructure ready for HDTV. These HDTV test environments will demonstrate that the local networks do not have any limitations for the most advanced internet services. The students will be able to see public broadcasts in high resolution, but also educational broadcasts.

Every student in the assigned apartment buildings will get access to the network at a speed of 20 Mbps. The networks in the student apartment building will be ready for multicast technology, using the bandwidth optimally. In all the three cities, special HDTV demonstration areas will be set up completely equipped with settopboxes and screens for students to watch broadcasts together.

The HDTV trial links to the First Mover TV project, which intended to close the HDTV chain and bring HD content to the consumer. First Mover TV is a project of the NOB, the Telematics Institute and SURFnet.

The infrastructure should be ready before the beginning of June. So from that time they have internet at a speed of 20 times ADSL and HDTV. And what the press release does not say, that beginning of June the Soccer World Championship start in Germany. Can you imagine students watching the soccer games in HDTV (drinking a lot of beer), while I am looking at a 1988 television set (drinking plain water, of course).


Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Netherlands Australia Broadband Roundtable

This year it 400 years ago that Abel Tasman set foot in what is now Australia. At this occasion several events are held. One of them is the Netherlands Australia Broadband Roundtable with Australian and Dutch participants., among which Fred Kappetijn, one of the directors of Mobillion. The Roundtable was organised by Paul Budde of, a Dutch immigrant and telecom consultant. He wrote the following report:

The Netherlands Australia Broadband Roundtable was a great success. This can be measured in several ways …….

First of all, the enthusiasm was obvious from the delegates’ feedback, not only during the day but also via a number of follow-up emails. I have sent these through to the organisers on the Dutch side (Ministry of Economic Affairs – this portfolio encompasses telecoms – the Minister for Social Welfare, the sponsors of the Trade Mission and the Dutch Embassy, with whom I had organised the event) so that they can share in this positive feedback as well.

Secondly, on the following day very positive and extensive reports were published in CommsDay and Computer Daily. There may have been others but these two really stood out.

And finally, the success of the event was evident from the support and enthusiasm of the Australian Government. Both sides took part in some very productive intergovernmental discussions on policies and strategies - more on that below.

But perhaps the most important outcome, and the best indication of success, is that both governments have agreed to an Australian Trade Mission to the Netherlands later this year. I was able to promote this activity at the Roundtable, thanks to the support I received from Austrade. Their support gave the initiative further credibility.

Obviously a recurring theme was the leading role the Netherlands plays in broadband, and this was looked at from various perspectives.

One angle focused on the government policies and strategies that supported this development. The Dutch delegates were honest in admitting that there had been a bit of luck involved. As they have had a separate infrastructure for cable TV since the 70s and 80s, this infrastructure, in the late 90s, became the catalyst for broadband growth. The cable companies led the broadband charge and the telco (KPN) was forced to follow.

With a more forceful regulator (OPTA) the country has also been more successful in enforcing ULL, but this was clearly seen as far less significant than the facilities-based competition between telcos and cable companies.

The Dutch also, quite vocally, debunked the myth that there might not be the level of demand for broadband speeds and services, as was suggested by Telstra. What they did agree on was that the future for new business models is more uncertain and riskier, but that only by moving into this market will companies learn to work with this and find out where the new opportunities exist.

The result of all these rapidly evolving broadband developments is a range of mind-boggling services. The homecare application from Sensire was perhaps the favorite. Via their television, aged people have a very simple and direct video link (two-way) with carers and specialists, as well as with family and friends.

The Australian Department of Health and Ageing showed great interest in this application.

Equally, applications such as ‘Sugababes’ and Bibop TV demonstrated the potential of video-based communication services, all wrapped around IPTV.

Several follow-up discussions subsequently took place between companies and organisations on both sides regarding these new developments, which will hopefully lead to some bilateral business as well.

It was also good to see support from the Australian Minister for Communications for a hands-off approach regarding the regulation of new IPTV developments, as has been ruled by the European Commission and supported by the Dutch Government. She also indicated that there had been some misreporting on this in Australia, as she definitely is not in favour of new regulations here.

Returning to the subject of infrastructure-based competition, the FttH project in Amsterdam was another topic that popped up in various discussions. Also of interest to the Australian delegates were the Private Public Partnerships (PPPs) that are used for such infrastructure projects.

After the Sydney tunnel fiasco a rethink is taking place in Australia about PPP projects, but we shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Perhaps DCITA could have a follow-up discussion with the City of Amsterdam to study the possibilities of such models in telecoms.

This, of course, is becoming more urgent and relevant here, as the Minister has clearly indicated that, under the Connect Australia project, she is interested in working with the industry on an alternative wholesale access network for regional Australia. Today (11 April) I am organising the second industry meeting on this topic.

At the Netherlands Australia Roundtable the Minister very publicly supported my industry initiative, which, of course, provided an additional stimulus for the industry to move further and faster in this direction.

During the event the connection was also made between the Dutch success in broadband and the Minister’s new infrastructure initiative. This was picked up by the press, and was highlighted in their reporting as one of the most significant outcomes of the day.

I am now about to start a special interest group (by email) in relation to the Australian Trade Mission to the Netherlands. The 120 delegates from last week’s Roundtable are all on this list. Please let me know if anyone else is interested and they will be sent follow-up information as well. The proposed Mission will also be open to delegates from New Zealand and others in our region.

Paul Budde


Tuesday, April 11, 2006

A book on cross-media... in Italian

Last Saturday I received the book Fare cross-media, written by Max Giovagnoli in Italian. It is a book on the theory and technology of integrated communication and media, published by Dino Audiono Editore.

Max and I got in touch by accident. Max reacted to the general e-mail for information on the ACTeN project, which has been completed since September 2004. He indicated that ACTeN papers had been of importance to him as a professor at the University of Malta in Rome, where he is teaching at the LINK campus. It was a surprise for him to get into contact with me as he knew me from my ACTeN paper on cross-media.

Max had another life before his academic career. He was the editor-in-chief (caporedattore) of Grande Fratello (Big Brother). He is looking back at the project with some humour as he characterises the Italian version of Big Brother as the modern Decamerone, after the tales of Giovanni Boccacio. In these tales seven young man and three ladies have to leave the city due to the pest. They sit together and tell each other 100 stories about love in 10 days.

Once he had started his academic career, he started to delve into cross-media as a topic. He started to document himself and wrote a book on cross-media. The titles of his chapters are interesting:
- Thinking about cross-media;
- Structuring cross-media;
- Imagining with cross-media;
- Arousing emotions with cross-media;
- Telling stories with cross-media;
- Audience and cross-media.
- Essence of cross-media.
The book contains 160 pages, illustrations and many footnotes. It is remarkable how many references are made to ACTeN papers. Max closes the book with thanks to people that have inspired him. Besides Italian people he mentions Derrick Kerckhove of Toronto University and Monique de Haas of the Dutch company Dondersteen Media. There is also a line of thanks with my name (misspelled as usual) thanking me “per il contributo ai primi passi di questo lavoro”, which I freely translate to “his contribution to the initial passion to work on this question.”

It is interesting to see that Max Giovagnoli worked on this book and used all the ACTeN documentation, while we in the project had no idea who was benefiting from the papers.

Presently I am concerning myself with the question of Cross-media: what’s Next. There are many workshops and conferences concerning themselves with cross-media from one of various points of vision: print, broadcast, (mobile) telephony internet or as multiple media, multi modal, multi channel. It is rather funny to see that everyone is now getting excited about cross-media. But you can also see it from a historic point of view. Online and particularly internet has been coming for years. All the attention was on the online aspect of it. It is only now that internet is embedded into the existing media and that a message is carried across various media.

Talking about cross-media: my friend Damien Marchi and the Streampower team have won the iEmmy Award in Cannes for their interactive, participatory, daily, live CULT tv-show on the French TV station France5. Congratulations


Monday, April 10, 2006

Only for noble people

Recently there was an announcement of the National Library of the Netherlands, that one of the first Dutch manuscripts had been digitised and would be available in the virtual library. It concerned the manuscript containing one of the oldest Dutch poems Beatrijs.

Beatrijs in one of the top jewels of the National Library. It is a poem I (had) read at school. It is a medieval legend of a nun, named Beatrijs, who takes care of the chapel in the cloister. But overcome by love, she leaves the cloister and follows her lover. Seven happy years she has with him and gets two children. But when the money is gone, her lover leaves her, leaving her with the care of the two children and the needs of daily life. She works as a prostitute for seven years in order to feed her children. Daily she prays to Mary. Full of remorse she goes back to the area of the cloister. There she hears that a nun is still taking care of the chapel. Eventually she takes her place again and discovers that Mary has replaced her all this time.

It is an old legend, probably of the thirteenth century and has been translated into several languages. The manuscript in the National Library is the only text available. It is not an original manuscript, but a later copy of 1374.

Now the manuscript is available online and for everyone to inspect and read (if you can read medieval Dutch). It is now one of the web exhibitions, which the National Library has online, often with an English translation.

The thought is interesting, that a manuscript which was intended for a king or a duke, so for only one person, now can be seen by the whole world. Being a fan of medieval manuscripts and miniatures, I used to collect the facsimile prayer books especially made for the noble people such as Les Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry and Les Belles Heures. Of the manuscript Les Très Riches Heures, painted by the three brothers of Limbourg, there is only one book. It is now in a box and never leaves the museum. The prayer book has now been digitised. I personally do not like the presentation on the site, but at least many more people in the world can get acquainted with the beautiful paintings. And once they get the taste of it, they can consult more European digital library treasures.


Sunday, April 09, 2006

Burning the midnight candle for the EPpy Awards

I have been burning the midnight candle. I had to beat the deadline for the EPpy Awards Judging period, which closes at 10 pm ET on Monday. Given the time difference there is still enough time, but assessing 33 sites might take more time than expected.

The EPpy Award is an prize instituted by the US magazine Editor & Publisher. The EPpy Awards competition is expressly designed to honour Internet sites that are affiliated with the media industry, and especially newspapers, television networks and affiliates, radio networks, syndicated shows, local radio stations, and magazines.

The EPpy Awards were in fact the first cross-media awards in the world as the entries were always a combination of newspapers, magazines and television and radio stations together with internet sites. In the first years, the late nineties, the newspapers showed their electronic versions of the newspapers with articles and photographs. Only later movies, animations, audio- and slideshows as well as interactive shows were added.

The EPpy Awards started as a mainly US centered competition, but over the years it has become international. But the majority of the entries are still coming from the US. It is interesting to see that Editor & Publisher, now part of VNU, has never initiated a European and Asian version of the competition.

To be an EPpy Awards juror is interesting as you review a number of sites which currently are in fashion. The entries show you what the preferred lay-out of sites is and what the innovations are. So these days you see quite an imbalance between the original media (newspaper, magazine, television and/or radio shows) and the multimedia attributes. Remarkably info-graphics are not abundantly present The site owners still have not found a format integrating the multimedia attributes. But there are several experiments ranging from home pages with the start of a documentary movie to a simple column with boxes for audio interviews and graphics.

Last year I saw a beginning of an internet format for newspapers. The Spanish newspaper El Pais had produced a special about the bombing in Madrid in 2004. It was a worthy monument to the bombing victims and subdued rendering in multimedia of the happenings.

This year I saw an interesting site in the section classified. It was an obituary site. This site was intriguing to me as a Dutchman. In the Netherlands printed obituaries are still very, very sober in size and expression. Large obituaries are for important and rich people. You will hardly see a photograph or an ornament. Go to Belgium and you will find large advertisement, embellished with photographs and drawings. So far the Dutch newspapers have not used the internet opportunities so far like, which has slick multimedia tributes to the deceased.


Saturday, April 08, 2006

MECOM buys a foothold in the Dutch newspaper market

The fight for the newspapers in the Southern part of the Netherlands is over. The British company MECOM has won the bid. Of the other bidders, Wagener had already stepped out. And the Belgian –Dutch combination Concentra and NDC lost the bid.

The Media Groep Limburg B.V., Grafisch Bedrijf Media Groep Limburg B.V. and De Trompetter B.V. (freesheets) will cost MECOM 200 million euro. Earlier 140 to 160 million euro was seen as a fair price, but 200 million euro is definitely over the top. So the conclusion is that it is a strategic investment.

MECOM is the newspaper company of David Montgomery, the former ceo of the UK Mirror Group. The company has already some newspapers in Germany and is now getting a foothold in the South of the Netherlands. It will not be a surprise that the company will expand to Belgian, in Concentra’s territory, and into Germany. But that is not the reason, why MECOM paid so much.

Although the investment company Apax is the owner of PCM, MECOM is the first foreign newspaper company entering the Dutch newspaper market. MECOM will not just buy three titles and be satisfied as long as there is some profit. The company will use the position in the Southern part of the Netherlands to smoke out the regional newspapers. Presently the majority of these newspapers are in the hands of Wegener, NDC and De Telegraaf. De Telegraaf is selling up the regional newspapers and started with the Southern newspapers. So now de Telegraaf regional newspapers are a prey to NDC and MECOM. But there is a larger fish to be caught. De Telegraaf holds a 20 percent shares in Wegener. Given the present course of De Telegraaf, it is speculated that the company will sell the shares. So Wegener will an acquisition target. Wegener will not survive on its own; so it will need a financial partner or will have to be bought. NDC can not buy it as it is far smaller. MECOM looks to have the best cards for that scenario.

The investment of MECOM is not for the short term. MECOM has bought a foothold in the Dutch newspaper market.


Friday, April 07, 2006

Public jury day interactive marketing awards

Yesterday was the public jury day of the Spin Awards, the Dutch interactive marketing awards. It is one of the oldest multimedia competitions in the Netherlands. On the public jury day the nominated entries are presented. The companies get 5 minutes to present their product and are grilled for five minutes by jury members. For the first time the public jury day was held in Amsterdam at a college for interactive media; a fine idea to involve students and companies.
The whole session lasted from 9.30h in the morning till 17.30h in the evening. Of course after 32 cases everyone, a drink is most welcome.

The interactive marketing scene in the Netherlands is dominated by Heineken. Three of the nominated entries came from the beer brewer, which has a tradition in advertisement and these days in interactive marketing in the Netherlands. Last summer – no World soccer championship, no European soccer championship, no Olympic Summer Games – Heineken centered a campaign around the weather and created a honcho, a bath towel and poncho in one. Another campaign was centered around a small barrel of beer; by soliciting consumers movies the campaign people received movies of what you could do with an empty barrel. The third campaign was a game, in which the consumer had to photograph spot codes.

There were some trends I noticed in the presentations.
a. Interactive marketing is starting to use MSN Messenger a lot. One of the (paid) games is Eccky. With Eccky you and a friend can produce a virtual baby and let it grow in six days. With 5 million MSN Messenger users in the Netherlands there is great market for this. The game aims at young people from 14 to 15 years old. It looks like the game plays on vicarious love as girls love horses around that age.
b. Viral campaigns were abundant. Many companies spend money on the creation of a campaign, but do not want to pay for media placements in newspapers and television.
c. Viral campaigns aim at free publicity.

One of the campaigns was done for the Red Cross Pakistan earth quake action. The bureau Publicis developed an effective banner campaign and collected a quarter of a million euro; the production costs of the banner were 9.500 euro. If the campaign had been developed as a Direct marketing campaign the production costs would have been 300.000 to 400.000 euro with a 1 million euro in revenues. Besides the internet campaign went all across the border.

What I missed in this year's edition of the Spin Awards was a category Narrowcasting and In-store. Having seen several samples in the past months, I had expected a separate category. Projects oin these areas will be more difficult to judge, but basically they are an extension of interactive marketing.

There was one project which did not fit in the competition, IMHO. It was a report of an experiment with a Sony Aibo. Students had tested the Aibo with senior citizens and made video reports of the meeting. It was interesting to see how fast senior citizens attach to such a robot. It was a first exploration of the opportunities. Although a sympathetic entry, it was strange to see this project as an entry. Even more now Sony is stopping the production of Aibo.

Next week on April 13th, 2006 during a dinner the prizes will be awarded.

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Thursday, April 06, 2006

10 mln euro for game research

Games are a hot subject around Utrecht. So I found myself yesterday in the company of people close to games. And they were very happy. Of course. It does not happen too often that a sector gets 10 million euro from the government to spend on game research. It is even more interesting as the majority of this grant will go into setting up a research institute at Utrecht University.

The 10 million has been dedicated to the GATE research programme (Games research for Training and Entertainment). Besides research money will be devoted to the execution of pilots of serious gaming. GATE will be executed under the umbrella of the Center for Advanced Gaming and Simulation (AGS) of the University of Utrecht, the research institute TNO and the HKU college and is supported by ICTregie.

The gaming sector is seen as part of the digital creative industry. Gaming is seen as a wide concept, ranging from the traditional arcade, drill and shoot-them-up games to interactive marketing games, serious games, social games (for kids and seniors) and simulation. Part of the research will be to see how games and simulation can be applied in the health sector, education, mobility, safety and public service. I heard yesterday someone speak about the combination of news and games, not a memory game, but a game explaining to people a news story. In fact, we are talking here about the combination of digital storytelling and games principles. It is an exciting perspective.

Interesting is the fact that the money is devoted to the GATE programme, which will be executed by the AGS in Utrecht. It looks like government is telling that Utrecht will be the Dutch game city. In the past year several cities have put a claim to fame in this area. It looked like it was becoming part of the city marketing programmes of Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Breda. With this grant Utrecht will have fortified its claim to game city NL.

In the city itself the university, the colleges, knowledge institutes, games companies, consulancies and innovation agencies are really working together. The games sector is seen as part of the larger content industry. It looks like the next areas to be focused on are e-learning and eventually content.


Wednesday, April 05, 2006

A super catalogue in the library

For the libraries it has been a long way of computing and digitisation. In the Netherlands it took more than 10 years before the academic libraries finally started up the computer service PICA in 1979. The libraries have been digitising their indexes. In the eighties they made an excursion, thinking that they should be the main community information network competing with local newspapers and other services. By the nineties they came into the position to offer services on internet.

The Amsterdam Public Library has now produced a super catalogue. By linking their database to some 20 databases of other institutions it is interesting to see what a search delivers. When you are hunting for a book about the Dutch painter Rembrandt, you will get a series books, but you will get also information on the exhibitions and you even can buy a ticket to go to the exhibition.

The super catalogue is powered by the Aquabrowser, a search engine which does not work on the Boolean operators AND, OR, NOT, but on the word recognition with synonyms and antonyms. The search tool has been developed by the Dutch company Media Solutions and is a favourite search program in the library environment as well with media companies (newspapers, broadcast companies). The browser gives hints and associations, which for example Google can not produce in a search. Just have a look at the site (even if you can not read Dutch.) in order to get a feel for the search engine and type in a word of interest.

The super catalogue is an interesting marketing instrument for the Public Library. When you have received the results of your search, you get a long list of references. When you want to see the results, you will need a Public Library membership card. I looked up what the super catalogue produced with my own name. It produced one link to an article, but some 27 links in another database to articles, books and translations. Some articles I even did not recognised anymore. So I will have to get a membership card in order to access these links!


Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Streaming Media: call for papers

A few weeks ago I received an e-mail from an old acquaintance, Ms Nancy Garman. I got into contact with her through the US publishing company Online in the eighties. She was an editor of one of the magazines (Online or Database). As online became more common I lost contact with the company and Nancy. In the meantime, the company Online has been acquired by Information Today in New York. And Nancy moved along to the new company.

Through Buziaulane, Nancy and her Dutch born colleague Sjoerd Vogt, found me again and she told me about all her new projects. One of her projects is setting up a European counter part to the US conference Streaming Media. The team is now getting out with details and is launching a call for papers. The conference is called Streaming Media Europe and will be held in London on 12 and 13 October 2006. It is modelled after the conference Streaming Media USA, which was the brain child of Dan Rayburn. I received a first announcement and I am eager to see their final program.

The conference has quite a broad scope. Papers can be submitted in the following fields:
· Content creation and encoding
· Podcasting technologies and strategies
· Online video advertising
· IPTV and video-on-demand services
· IP-based collaborative applications
· Selecting the right hardware and software for webcasting
· Streaming for distance learning
· Digital rights and asset management
· Searchable audio and video
· Creating content for portable video
· Proving the ROI for corporate streaming
· Streaming for corporate communications, or human resources, or other departmental applications
· Distribution and delivery of digital media
· Streaming formats and encoding tools
· Using Flash, tips and best practices
· Streaming for education applications
· Practical tips, technologies, or strategies for applying streaming and digital media technologies

All this in two days.


Monday, April 03, 2006

Piping internet to the TV tube (4)

Reflecting on the subject of internet to the television, I was left with many questions and observations.

1. IP television is not just about distributing television over the telephone line. It is also about video signals, which can be picked up from internet. So the sources will be internet, the broadcast industry worldwide, healthcare and retail.
2. Who is going to buy all these boxes, including the remote controls. UPC is giving them away free. Lamabox and P2Pod are interesting for video addicts. Sitecom is interesting if you want to have internet piped onto your TV screen as it is part of the home network. But who wants all these boxes? Not the consumer. Presently we see the phase of early adaptors, while the rest of Dutch consumers are oblivious to the phenomenon. Two million Dutch households will receive a settop box from UPC, whether they like it or not, and see this as a converter for the television signal from analogue to digital. Whoever does not get a UPC settop box, will sit back and wait the war of boxes and operators is over.
3. Do the consumers (now mainly cable subscribers) want to have internet video to their television? I am wondering. They will worry that they will not get BBC1; they might like Video-on- demand; a few could worry about not getting the internet video offer of (legal and illegal) movies and most likely could not care less about the other internet video streams.
4. Who is going to bring all these video streams together, sort them out in legal and illegal streams, produce an Electronic Programming Guide for them and make an offer to ISPs, telcos and cable operators. Will there be a trusted party coordinating all this?
5. Will the consumer accept a content offer around which the operators have placed a walled garden: no BBC, no Tell sell home shopping, no porn video-on-demand, etc? The consumer might have theoretically access to all the video streams in the world, but will he be limited by the operator?
6. Should public and commercial broadcast companies make alliances. Yes, they should in order to test the concepts and the distribution. But they should be careful in choosing their partners.

Looking back at the iMMovator Café, it was a very interesting event. It demonstrated that television will never be the same again, regardless all the efforts of the broadcast stations to keep their audiences. It also made clear that what is happening will take some years to crystallise. The war of boxes will have to be fought, the content offer will have to be organised and last but not least, the operators/ISPs will have to get their marketing strategy right.

My guess is that for the time being people will sit back and listen to all the promises. So far they could not get the streams of the Olympic Games on their computer, so why believe all the promises. Versatel is still struggling with getting soccer into the home. And do people have the time to watch all video streams available through internet on PC as well as TV and never mind mobile.

It would be interesting to revisit this subject with the same parties and new parties next year: same place, same time.


Sunday, April 02, 2006

Piping internet to the TV tube (3)

After the overview, individual talks followed. The inventors of the Lamabox recognised that their media player is playing a lawsuit in a box. They claimed that downloading from internet is always legal, but uploading is illegal. Besides the rights owners should shield their copyrighted material. Is content out on the market or internet than it is free. The guys recognised that they might have a lawsuit coming and have reserved some funds for it.

PCzapper's representative was onto an aggressive sales talk. The company has a software package which can be downloaded in order to pick up video from the internet. A hardware device, which can be bought, will transfer the signals to the TV. However the enthusiasm for buying the hardware is not overwhelming yet. Vincent Everts, one of the owners of PCzapper, made the claim that his company was going to be the syndicator of video for PC, TV and mobile. Regardless whether he can be the technical syndicator and make a profit on it (a syndicator is always the middleman who is squeezed), it is a question whether the broadcast parties and the internet parties will see the company as the trusted third party. Of course, someone will have to put an EPG of videostreams together, which is for sure. But will it be him?

Avinity used the slogan Beyond Broadcast. The company uses a wi-fi device of Sitecom to connect TV with internet. In fact it sets up a home network with TV equipment in the network. But the company also realises that it will need to deliver content. So it works on the interface and on a program offer. The company uses standards like DLNA (Digital Living Network Alliance) and Intels’ VIIV, the PC media mainframe for the home. Avinity realises that it is a small fish in the pool of Philips, Nokia, Microsoft, Intel and Cisco, but hopes that it will be bought up before the consolidation in the IPTV market. Until that time it is working on putting an open content package together, which can be many-to-many, but also personalised. When videoblogs use metadata, tag their content and publish their RSS links, Avinity can pick up the links and bundle them for selection.

Listening to box salesmen, who praise the facilities ranging from streaming video on internet to broadcast video, but also health care and retail, people will not make a choice yet. They will wait till they get offered one for free like UPC doing or they will wait till Philips or Thompson, having acquired companies like Avinity, come to the market with a clear proposition of a media center with HD video recorder or with a solution in the framework of a domestic network.


Saturday, April 01, 2006

Piping internet to the TV tube (2)

After the disappointing boxes preview, it was time to start the presentations. Erik-Jan Gelink, director Marketing Video UPC Netherlands, was asked to sketch the big lines of the developments. He started with the statement that since the start of television in 1951 hardly any innovation had taken place in television technology.

Presently intelligence is added with hardware and software. Settop boxes are coming up as media centers and HD recorders. Microsoft Xbox is in fact a media center in disguise, Gelink said. Now PC is connected with TV. The boxes come in various types: boxes with leads and wi-fi transmitters between the PC and TV.

Software is moving in different directions. Windows Vista is intended to make the PC into a settop box. Google Video and Yahoo Video is coming up. Blog television is coming up. Also interesting is the discussion about the distribution: centrally or by peer-to-peer. Also the recently launched P2P software Tribler was promoted as a cheaper distribution method for broadcast programs and video.

The TV world is not eager on digitalisation. Three industries are taking potshots at it. Hardware companies are flogging boxes. The software industry is aiming at distribution either through boxes and peer-to-peer networks, video-on-demand and at gimmicks like private channels. And on the skirts of the TV world people are looking at positions in Electronic Programming Guide and syndication.

The presenters were a perfect mirror of the confusing market with the UPC settop box for cable users, the Lamabox for bringing internet to the television set and P2Pod, a box for bringing the result of p2p networks to the television set. The software engineers are experimenting and do not have a fixed goal. Both hard- and software manufacturers eventually are confronted with content. Who will bring this together and will make it accessible? Will it be someone from the hardware or software world; will it be someone with knowledge from the television world or will it be a newcomer?