Friday, January 18, 2008

Cross-channel rights to Dutch soccer premier division

The Dutch soccer world is in a stage of excitement, as the tender to the broadcast rights of the premier division has been closed. For the Dutch soccer team the rights mean revenues, while for the viewer/user it means access to the summaries and games.

The soccer games have become a cross-channel rights circus. Besides the rights to the premier league games of men, the rights are also sold to the games of women. The cross-channel rights concern television and radio over cable, IPTV and mobile. A complicating factor is the formats: previews, live games, summaries and archived games.

The participants in this tender have not been announced, but there were six major candidates for the all over rights. The Dutch public broadcast NOS lost two years ago the summaries to the new broadcast station Talpa/Ten. Versatel, now Tele2 had the rights to the full games and shared the rights amongst others with the telecom incumbent KPN. But after two years the scene has changed dramatically. Talpa/Ten has terminated broadcasting and the rights went to Versatel hoped to pick up 100.000 IPTV/ADSL clients with the premier league soccer, but this did not work out at all.

Now the potential bidders limited themselves to six candidates: NOS, Tele2, KPN, RTL and SBS. RTL and SBS have not tendered, but a novice surprised everyone: Zesko, a combination of cable operators (Casema, @Home and Multikabel). This conglomerate does not cover the entire country with its cable infrastructure, but to fill some gaps they went into a deal with Canal Digitaal, a satellite distributor of movies, sports and digital channels. It is taken for granted that no foreign media party has turned in a bid for the rights.

The rights have been eagerly fought over the years. When the public broadcast company lost the rights to Talpa, Talpa paid 35 million euro for it. Yet the broadcast station lost at least a half million viewers due to the change in format and the commercials during the broadcasts. This round of bids might top the 100 million euro, which novice Zesko is said to be prepared to pay. Just twenty years ago the rights were worth 1,4 million euro.

The Premier League combination, which is selling the rights, will take its time for a decision. They have had two bad experiences in the past years. The telecom company Versatel/Tele2 wanted to use soccer to draw in new clients and when this did not work it started to sell out its rights to the digital channel of KPN. And the Talpa/Ten transfer of the rights to RTL has not brought the premier league more exposure; in fact due to the change of stations people have lost track of the premier league. So the question for the premier league combination is now, whether they will accept the high bid of the cable operators’ consortium or whether they will cut the package up and offer it to separate companies, who in turn can make their own distribution combines.

From the content point of view this bidding is interesting. We are talking about highly appreciated sports content. There was a day that on Sunday night at 7 o’clock no less than 4 million sat ready on the couch for the summaries; now only 3 million find the proper broadcast station. So why should the price go up, when the number of viewers is going down. On the other hand live games will be able to be viewed with a set-top box or by IPTV subscription. So there is certainty about part of the revenues.

So far soccer content has been a cross-channel commodity for the Premier League combination and the bidders. No cross-media potential has been seen yet in soccer content. The stress of soccer content has been on distribution; only the larger clubs have been able to form a community and have their virtual club house.

Blog Posting Number: 981

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Thursday, January 17, 2008

Olympic sports info from Infostrada

Pursuing the Olympic issue, the news was published last week that the Dutch sports content provider Infostrada Sports has been contracted by The Beijing Organizing Committee for the Games of the XXIX Olympiad (BOCOG) to supply all historical data and athlete biographies for use in its INFO2008 system and to use its experience and expertise in helping to organise and run the official Olympic News Service (ONS). Infostrada Sports will fill this role for the third time as far as the Summer games go; it also covered the Torino Olympic Winter Games in 2006.

INFO2008 will follow in the tradition of other Info systems and be the main source of background and reference information for the Olympic Family during the Games, including the 21,600 broadcast and print media people who will cover the sport. National Olympic Committees, International Federations and the Organising Committee itself are expected to also make use of the extensive Information.
More than 10,000 athlete biographies and results of more than 100 years of Olympic Games history, as well as recent results on major competitions can be accessed through INFO2008.

Just as critically, information including athlete quotes, news items and facts & figures from the sports competitions in Beijing will be fed into the INFO2008 system, from reporting teams of the ONS.

This will be the third successive Olympic Summer Games to which Infostrada Sports will supply content. It previously supplied data to Sydney 2000 and data and Biographies to Athens 2004, as well as the Torino Olympic Winter Games in 2006.
.Infostrada Sports has significant experience in running such major sport event news services, having done so at the Rugby World Cup 2007 in France, as well as the 2006 Asian Games in Doha, for which it won an award for Media Services at the recent International Sports Event Management and Security conference in London.

Infostrada started in 1995 to be all round b2b content sports provider, being multimedia, multi-lingual and multi platform. It has 75 employees worldwide, with offices in The Netherlands, Austria, Australia, Denmark and the UK. It has the largest independent sports database with historical content and the largest sports archive with more than 15.000 titles. It works with a growing network of experts. The company covers all global sports, but focuses on soccer, F1, cycling, tennis and Olympics.

Blog Posting Number 980

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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Flash: Court appoints PCM investigators

The Enterprise Chamber of the Amsterdam court has appointed Mr Willem Jan van Andel, solicitor, and Jean de Hoed, former cfo of AKZO Nobel, to investigate the alleged mismanagement of the Dutch newspaper conglomerate PCM.

Virtual Olympic Congress

The International Olympic Congress, which organises the Olympic Games, launched public consultations on This is the first time in the history of Olympic Congresses that the general public can submit their views on the topics under consideration. An analysis of these contributions will be conducted, and the results published by the IOC in 2009.

The information gathered through the virtual Congress will form the basis of discussions at the 13th Olympic Congress held in Copenhagen, Denmark, in October 2009. Members of the public can submit their contributions via the following link: More information on the submission guidelines can also be found at this address. The deadline for submissions is 31 December 2008.

The public consultation process is designed to take the pulse of the general public on the following themes:

Theme 1: The athletes
* Relationship between the athletes, the clubs, federations and the NOCs
* Health protection in training and competition
* The social and professional life of athletes during and after elite competition

Theme 2: The Olympic Games
* How to keep the Games as a premier event
* The Olympic values
* Universality and developing countries

Theme 3: The structure of the Olympic Movement
* The autonomy of the Olympic Movement
* Good governance and ethics
* The relationships between the Olympic Movement and its stakeholders

Theme 4: Olympism and Youth
* Moving towards an active society
* Is competitive sport still appealing?
* Youth sports events

Theme 5: The digital revolution
* A new management of sports rights
* How to increase the size of the sports audience
* Communication with stakeholders in the digital age

It is interesting to see that such an elite body, of which members have been accused of accepting bribes and corruption, opens up for suggestions and criticisms. Of course, the IOC has become a little bit more democratic by accepting sports persons in the council, but it does not have the image of a democratically working organisation with open procedures and records. Did the IOC make known the people and their vote for favouring the Olympic Games to China?

Of course it is easy to be sceptical about this move. Yet how serious is this action. How many e-mails do the governors expect? Why start this process one and a half year before the congress and not after the Olympic Games in China?

Is this repressive tolerance? Of course the governors of the IOC always like to speak about the Olympic family, but this always sounds like the colonial family: we the governors and the sports people; the visitors and television viewers belong to the cold branch of the family. It looks like the IOC has discovered a new breed in their taxonomy. After the governors, the sports officials, athletes, members of the press, there are now members of the public.

Is the use of modern media as e-mail and sites appropriate in opening up a closed organisation like the IOC? In this case, people who like to forward opinions, remarks and criticism can use e-mail and sites, basically a one way process. At best you can expect a thank-you note or an extensive press release after the congress in October 2009. It is not a forum or a blog, where you can compare notes and start discussions.

Yet it must be said that the IOC has put many debatable questions on the table. Looking at the digital issues, for example, the question of managing sports rights is posed. Remember the last winter- and summer games? Sports people were not allowed to have a blog and television companies were restricted in their internet rights. There are still many hard nuts to crack.

It will be interesting to see how successful this experiment will be. But whether it is was a courageous step will become clear from the congress results in October 2009. It should be come clear then, whether people from all over the world have reacted to this call and whether the governors have been sensitive to the opinions, remarks and criticisms.

Blog Posting Number: 979

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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

SBS Netherlands launches video channel

SBS Netherlands, the Dutch subsidiary of the international ProSiebenSat company has started an internet video channel in The Netherlands, Dancing Queen is the first program which will use the video channel as an extension for its activities.

The site has gone online earlier than planned. First it would be launched in the 2Q and then it was moved forwards to February. Now the channel is operational. The first example is the use for the program Dancing Queen, a TV dance program in which the best dancers are selected. People who did not participate in the studio auditions, can film their performance and upload it to the video channel. In this way SBS extends the participation and interest in the program.

The MyVideo format has been developed by ProSiebenSat for the use by its TV stations. In Germany MyVideo is already in use and claims 40 per cent market penetration. In Germany the uploaded movies are hosted in with, a subsidiary of Telefonica.

MyVideo is a mix of SBS TV content and professional video content as well as user generated content. By the end of 2008 the channel will offer a section with TV programs people might have missed. But the TV station will also use the internet channel as an extension for TV programs, offering material not shown in the official program. It will also be used as the conduit for professional video material like material from the Maxdome site, ranging from soccer games to movies. On the other hand videos will be shown of uploaded clips by users.

The video channel is launched at a time that a new measuring system comes into force, which measures not only the audience watching TV programs, but also the internet audience. This integral measuring will deliver a better picture about the audience and long tail of the programs as well as offer a tool for media buyers.

The launch comes at a time that the commercial companies in The Netherlands are in a state of turmoil. The CEO of RTL Netherlands, Fons van Westerloo, has left his job over the weekend, among rumours that he has been dropped due to low viewing figures; a further shake-up is expected. RTL Netherlands does not have a video channel yet.

Blog Posting Number: 978


Monday, January 14, 2008

Dutch newspaper conglomerate PCM investigated

At the request of the trade unions, amongst other the Journalists’ Trade Union (NVJ), an investigation about mismanagement will be started against the Dutch newspaper conglomerate PCM, owner of NRC Handelsblad, Volkskrant, Trouw, NRC Next and DAG as well as house-to-house broadsheets, . In 2004 The Dutch newspaper conglomerate invited the British private equity company Apax to move ahead faster, but the investment company left with 140 million euro in profits in 2007. The judge ordering the investigation did not mince his words criticising Apax.

The newspaper group PCM was owned by separate foundations, of which SDM was the moist influential one. These shareholders invited Apax to reorganise the company and move it to the front. First thing Apax did was reorganising the total financial structure of PCM Publishers. First action was to found a holding company, PCM Holding, capitalised at 1 million euro. Apax transferred 475.000 euro, while the other stakeholders (foundations) paid also 475.000 euro. Management contributed 50.000 euro. As the voting rights were lodged with Apax, the company dominated the board with 52,5 per cent of the votes.

PCM Holding bought PCM Publishers with 300 million euro foreign capital from banks. Also Apax puts in 139 million euro and the foundations offer 200 million euro. All the loans have an interest rate of 12 per cent. In 2006 Apax refinances PCM and asks PCM to return 130 million euro. Apax is then major stakeholder, dominating the votes for 40 million euro, while PCM has debt of 170 euro due to the high interest on the 139 million euro. In 2007 Apax is bought out by the foundations for a profit of 140 million euro. During the Apax management PCM lost more than 240 million euro.

Now the corporate chamber of the court has appointed to investigators. The investigation will cost 150.000 euro and has to be paid by PCM. Depending on the conclusions of the investigators the judge can concluded that PCM has been mismanaged under the Apax regime.

Such a conclusion would be disgrace for Apax, especially as private equity companies have already a bad name as locusts in The Netherlands. Theoretically the conclusion could lead to dismissal of the governors and return of premiums of the governors and managers. Yet these measures would have hardly any effect on PCM. Most of the governors and managers involved have been dismissed and some of the managers have not accepted their premium. Mr Groenewegen, who started as cfo in 2005, is the only manager left from this period, while Strengers is the only governor left from that period.

Yet the judicial conclusion of bad management would mean justice to the PCM employees, who could not prevent that their company was financially drained during an economic upturn.

Blog Posting Number: 977

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Sunday, January 13, 2008

Dutch public libraries in e-books

The Dutch service organisation for libraries NBD/Biblion will offer public libraries a collection of digital and audio books within two months. The members of the public library will be able to download e-books and audio books at home. The new online service is an addition to music download service for members of the public library, which was started late 2005.

The service organisation will produce a portal, which will be launched for trial in the second quarter of the year. There is a curious detail: normally e-books can be rented out to members instantaneously. However, in this case a limited number can rent the e-book copies due to license limitations. In first instance a few hundreds Dutch language e-books will be available, included copyright ones, as well as a few thousand English language books in the public domain.

In The Netherlands activities concerning e-books are fragmented. iRex Technologies is selling the iLiad. There is an online e-book site. The Dutch book chain Selexyz has started to sell the e-book reader Iliad and e-books (the company sold already more than 150 e-book readers). The software development company Edupaper has held a trial in a school environment and is now selling e-book readers like the Iliad, Booken Cybook, Polymer Vision Readius. And a few public libraries, among which the public library of my hometown Almere, bought e-book readers to rent them out. However, there is no united consumer promoting campaign for e-book readers and e-books by manufacturers, publishers, developers, book shops and libraries.

Blog Posting Number: 976

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Saturday, January 12, 2008

Fallacies about cross-media

Yesterday I talked about the inaugural speech and the book of Harry van Vliet on cross-media. The book bears the title Indola of the Crossmedia, a nice mysterious title. Van Vliet poses the thesis that the cross-media domain is dominated by casuistry and the drive for success stories for idols, but sweep reflection and (historical) analysis under the carpet of turbulence as too academic and too difficult. This thesis is like music to my ears. Looking around in the literature and educational institutes, in what context cross-media is used and especially misused, it is clear to me, that the term is often used superficially. Don’t shoot on moving targets, is usually the advice.

It was Francis Bacon who wrote in 1620 about indola: assumptions, fallacies, prejudices, fables and deviations, which have been incorporated in our thinking. These idols are blocking our scientific thinking. Van Vliet offers some examples, which are quite common. Whenever there is talk about the ICT habits of teens, fathers and mothers start the famous sentence: ”when I look at my children …” and start praising the multitasking capabilities of their kids. To Harry van Vliet this is just a lack of concentration. (and IMHO laziness of the parents to get familiar with the new toys like Facebook, Second Life).

A list of indola of cross-media are:
- cross-media is all about distribution;
- cross-media is only about economic vales;
- cross-media is a vague concept;
- there is a media revolution going on;
- consumers are active, know what they want and act accordingly;
- cross-media will pass in time;
- the new generation is cross-media gifted;
- cross-media is not dangerous;
- Web 2.0 is big business.

Van Vliet makes clear that he wants to research cross-media not by creating a horizon, but by taking steps from the position, where we are, into the direction of the horizon with passion and precision.

Blog Posting Number: 975


Friday, January 11, 2008

Crossmedia described

Yesterday the Faculty of Journalism and Communication of HU College in Utrecht officially installed its new lecturer Cross-media Content. As is the habit with an installation, the new lecturer makes his inaugural presentation, basically telling the audience what the new research domain is, its value creation and the plans for research. The spoken text of presentation is usually recorded in print, but in this case Harry van Vliet (also a researcher with the Telematics Institute) produced a book of 104 pages (it is a pity, but the text is in Dutch).

Of course it was interesting to see whether Harry van Vliet would attempt to present a definition of cross-media. His spoken text was a short summary of his chapter on the nature of cross-media. And it was an interesting summary. As could be expected from a lecturer Cross-media Content, he did not get stuck in distribution. He dug deeper and stressed three aspects of the nature of cross-media.

A typical aspect of cross-media is that the content is offered more times over various channels. Having said so, what is the mutual relationship? Harry van Vliet distinguished three types: iconic, indexical and symbolic. The first type, iconic, refers to for example a commercial on television and on internet as a banner. Content, distributed over more than one channel, shows a resemblance. In the second type, indexical, the content distributed over various channels has a reference function: a reference in the newspaper to a TV program or to a website. The third type, symbolic, supersedes the individual expressions and calls for, conveys or creates a value or for example a virtual holiday experience.

The second aspect is the use of various channels for content. And as various channels have various characteristics, the content should fit the characteristics. Content for mobile needs to have a snack character (small portions to fill the stomach), as mobile is only used during the lost ten minutes in the train or bus during transfer. So the content should be analysed on characteristics per channel.

A third aspect is the aspect of interactivity. This aspect is best illustrated with cross-media services originating from the television scene using the interactivity of internet in Interactive TV or vice versa, when a multimedia experience with video gets a TV quality.

It is clear from the presentation that there is no dominance of distribution in cross-media content. The whole value chain is affected from creativity, packaging, distribution, presentation and consumption. And the cross-media value chain is not linear, but becomes a circle or a value network with response mechanism. Content becomes a semi finished product, ready for re-use or enrichment (e.g. by blogs), finding its way to the next consumer.

Harry van Vliet goes beyond a working definition of cross-media content and produces a description: Cross-media content concerns the iconic, indexical and symbolic relationships of content, whereby this content (created, packaged, distributed and presented for and via platforms and channels with specific characteristics) represents a particular value and by the users is (re)used for socio-economic and/or psychological motives. Van Vliet considers that his task exists of researching the mutual relationships of content, the channels, the value chain, values and the experiences of users, the findings of which will be translated into cross-media strategies, products and services for organisations, citizens and consumers.

Blog Posting Number: 974


Thursday, January 10, 2008

Warner Bros. takes Blu-ray stand

The entertainment company Warner Bros. has decided to publish movies exclusively in the Blu-ray DVD format from June 1, 2008 onwards. This is a heavy blow for the Toshiba and Microsoft, who support the HD-DVD format.

Many signs point to the end play of this company power game between industrial camps. It is clear that consumers are not being impressed by technology specs, but want one format and a reasonably priced DVD player. It is the old video recorder lesson, when JVC won from Sony’s Betamax and Philips’ V2000 (they also happen to be technically superior to the JVC recorder).

In the development of the first DVD format a dichotomy was also showing between the CD inventors Sony/Philips and Toshiba. But pressured by IBM and some armwresling by Jan Timmer the companies produced one standard format. And again Toshiba split off when the high definition DVD had to be standardised. The main difference between the two formats is in the storage capability; the Blue-ray format can comprise 25GB on a single layer and HD-DVD can contain 15GB. Of course both camps hold several patents, which they like to use in their players.

Why does it look like an end-play? With Warner Bros. taking sides with Blu-ray all kind of rumours spring up and certainly during the Consumer Electronics Show, which is being held. Toshiba was supposed to hold a press conference at CES, but cancelled, feeding speculations. So, rumour has it that Apple will implement a Blu-ray DVD player in its new computer model. And to top it all even the movie company Paramount is said to return to the Blu-ray DVD club with Philips and Sony.

However the consumer is putting on pressure too. The consumer is not going to buy two high definition DVD recorders, except for the buffs. But presently the economic crisis is not contributing either to the sale of high definition DVD recorders. First the mortgage and then the luxury. With this tight budget – if one still has some room in the budget – people do not want to be confronted with a choice out of two and a lock-in by technology. Consumers look at the camp with the most movies and the most solid commitment; last April Toshiba sold its movie and DVD division. And movie companies look at the market place and ask themselves where they can sell most.

Also regional differences play a role in the DVD format battle. Blu-ray and HD-DVD are in direct battle on the US market and HD-DVD has an edge on Blu-Ray. The companies always introduce their devices at a later point in time in Asia and Europe. In Europe Blu-ray is ahead due to its implementation in Play Station 3; Microsoft delivers to the Xbox an optional HD-DVD player.

So the end-play has started. When will it be over? I guess that HD-DVD will be over and buried by the summer, certainly if more movie companies join Blu-ray and Microsoft starts implementing Blu-ray in its new edition of Xbox.

Blog Posting Number: 973

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Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Wikia not moving Fast

There is some movement in the field of search engines. Jimmy Wales has launched the first prototype of Wiki Search, while Bill Gates is attempting to leave Microsoft with the legacy of a decent search engine by bidding for the Norwegian search engine Fast Search & Transfer.

Wikia or Wiki Search is part of a commercial project, contrary to Wikipedia, and is now in its alpha version and it will take another two years to mature. Wikia is open source and will have to develop with the input of users. Presently mainly English language websites are indexed; the alpha version has some 50 to 100 million web pages of the 18 billion indexed pages by Google or the unofficial estimate of 30 billion pages. Search results will come with mini articles with a small explanation or photograph. Users can write mini articles regarding the subject like in the Wikipedia. User can also rank articles thus providing better results. The site starts out for searches, but in the future images should be searchable as well as news. To protect Wikia from spamming the same methods are being used as with Wikipedia.

I have had a look at the search system and can imagine that it will take at least another two years. Of course with help of the open source community and open content community it should be possible to reach a competitive stage with Google earlier. But this help might be sparse as Wikia is a commercial operation.

The results of the search were very disappointing. I did 3 searches. One calibration was searching for my name, one search action for the blog and one search on cross-media. The search for my name Jak Boumans delivered 11 results, of which 6 were displayed and the series of 7 to 11 was not accessible. The first 6 results were not impressive: 3 results were duplications, 2 were not really important references and one result was okay. For the first 6 results the search engine had picked up references fitting the multiple word criterion; what I did not get to see is whether the other results dealt with Jak and Boumans separately. Searching for this blog’s name, I had 2 hits, both referring to secondary sources and not to the blog itself. Last but not least I searched for cross-media. I did this in order to see how it would handle cross-media, with or without a hyphen and perhaps even a word morph like x-media, with or without a hyphen. The list of its results was overwhelming 1490 hits, again only 10 hits were displayed; there was a reference for the hits from 11 to 20, but again this did not work. Of course, asking for such a fashionable media term is like asking for the word God in the Bible or Allah in the Koran. Clear is that the search engine looked for cross-media and cross media, but not for crossmedia and the search engine did not sidestep to the term xmedia.

On the search engine front there was some encouraging news: Microsoft had made a bid for 837 million euro (1152 million dollar) for Fast Search & Transfer. I have written about this search engine before. I consider it as one of the best one in Europe and a better search engine than Google. So far it has been oriented to the business market. It has dived into the mobile search market and in the advertising sector. When Microsoft has bought this company by the second quarter (it is a friendly acquisition), it most likely will start out to exploit it in the business sector as Fast Search is active there already. I would not be surprised, when Microsoft would start to build up a competitor of Google in the background.

Blog Posting Number: 972


Tuesday, January 08, 2008

The robo shrink has arrived

In Europe the impression exists that every American has a shrink. No action is undertaken without consulting your shrink. When he/she advises you to go on holiday, you go. Of course it is a gross exaggeration, but yet there are many psycho therapists and they cost a lot of money. Two Dutch psychologists have developed the internet solution for this, the Mindmentor, the robocoach.

MindMentor is a robot psychologist. The system was developed by Drs. Jaap Hollander and Drs. Jeffrey Wijnberg, two psychologists from the Netherlands. In 2006 they did research, tested the system and discovered that MindMentor solved people's problems for 47% on average.
MindMentor will work with any type of problem or goal. You can have the system help you with personal problems, but he will help you with business issues as well. (This is quite a claim, worth a test as it is not clear what business the psychologists mean). It tends to make things personal. MindMentor guides you through a series of psychological steps that help you solve problems and achieve goals. In a session of 40 minutes a direction should be given for a problem or an objective.MindMentor works on the basis of five psychological systems.1. Neuro linguistic programming (NLP): a system for personal development that emerged in California in the early eighties and is still popular today. NLP helps people discover and change the structure of their inner experience. This is MindMentor's main approach.2. Projective testing. This is a technique widely used by psychologists. The most famous example is the Rorschach test (the one with the ink blots). Projective testing is a way to bring unconscious knowledge into consciousness.3. Provocative therapy: an innovative system of therapy, originally developed by Frank Farrelly of Madison, Wisconsin. Provocative therapy helps people by challenging them.4. Client centered therapy, a very common type of therapy, originally developed by Carl Rogers. Client centered therapy helps people gain clarity by approaching them with a very positive attitude and restating what they have said.5. Pavlovian or 'classical' conditioning. This process connects certain mental and emotional responses to images. This is MindMentor's way of helping people to easily connect or 'anchor' inner resources to the situations where they need them.

Looking at the five psychological systems, I recognise NPL, the Rorschacht test, the Carl Rogers methods and the Pavlovian conditioning. I saw them never brought into one system. But I am not a shrink nor do I have one. But reaching a result of 47 per cent with a compound of five psychological systems sounds good.

It is an interesting development. Earlier I had seen a system for clearing up depressions (not that I need one as I am a born optimist). But I never expected that we would see the day of a robocoach. It looks like a step ahead. I guess that the professional association of the psychotherapists and the one of the psychologists are not happy with this development.

Will the site be used? I am wondering. I personally find the lay-out of the site unprofessional, certainly with the picture of the robocoach. There is neither a demonstration or free tour lacking as a confidence builder. In the promotion texts there is confusion about the tariff (7,95 euro or elsewhere on the site and in the press release 4,95 euro; or is this an introduction tariff). And on the site there is no visible counter to tell whether people are using the system at all. You have to register for a visit to robocoach.

Blog Posting Number: 971


Monday, January 07, 2008

Segmentation in social networks

Social networks are popping up everywhere and for different age groups. Recent the UK consumer group Which? published a survey grading the various social networks. Bebo, Facebook and Saga Zone came out as the best three. The top ten, including MySpace, show segmentation, according to age groups, but also to globalisation.

In the UK segmentation in age can be distinguished. MySpace is aiming at the segment of older teenagers and early twens. Bebo and Facebook and is aiming at a target group from 20 onwards. Now also the age group of silver surfers has its own social network in the Saga Zone, a site still at its infancy.

Of course the global internet has had from the beginning a segmentation in sites with regard to age. The site Habbo Hotel is a typical hangout for teenagers. LinkedIn and Xing have been the social network for professionals. And in several countries, like in the Netherlands, there is a network for seniors. From the beginning they have not been typified as social networks, but functioned like them, even to the point of organising physical meeting like Xing and Seniornet do in the Netherlands.

But the social networks have also another interesting aspect, the globalisation. Social networks like Facebook and My Space as well as LinkedIn and Xing aim at the whole world. Yet Bebo and Saga Zone are typically active in the UK. Also in the Netherlands there is a social network for young professionals, Hyves, which is not limited to the Netherlands, but has most of its subscribers there. Of course language is one of the factors as well as a limited national outlook. I can imagine that Saga Zone will do it better in the UK, as the target group looks for contacts in its own country. Yet Facebook is internationally oriented and has a global target group. I guess it will be very hard to set up a European social network as this geographical region is fragmented by languages.

Recently Ofcom, the UK telecom watchdog, released a study saying the UK social network participants spent more time on social networking than their European counterparts, devoting 5,3 hours a month and visiting them 23 times, roughly 14 minutes per visit. Yet people are getting cautious about participating in social networks. According to a survey by the UK Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) no less than 71 per cent of 14- to 21-year-olds did not want their future employers to see their profiles on social networking sites; only 40 per cent realised that their online activities could be traced indefinitely. Also security of the network such as identity theft is an issue before subscribing.

Blog Posting Number: 670


Sunday, January 06, 2008

R.I.P. Netscape

It is like the end of an era. Bill Gates bows out this year to pay attention to the charities he and his wife have built up. In The Netherlands, the telecom incumbent KPN has dismissed the editorial staff of its Planet Internet after 12,5 years of service. And now the message reaches that AOL stops servicing Netscape, a browser since October 1994. Unbelievable, as there is a coincidence between Netscape and Planet Internet dating back to 1995.

AOL definitely pulls the plug on Netscape on February 1, 2008. After almost 15 years a pioneer bows and takes leave. It started all out with a group of students at the University of Illinois in 1993, who wanted to develop a web browser, named Mosaic; the web browser was supposed to play music and images. Up to that time Internet was no more than a remote text reproducing machine. One of these students, Marc Andreessen, left his study and started with financial strong man Jim Clark the company Netscape in 1994; this company changed internet as Netscape could show pictures, videos and play sound and it was easy to show. From October 1994 Netscpae offered Netscape 0.9 as a commercial version and it was an instant success. The company was listed at the stock exchange and grew into a billion dollar company, much to the chagrin of Microsoft (which had been sleeping with regard to the internet development). So by 1996 Netscape got competition from Microsoft, which coupled Internet Explorer to its operating system. And soon the Netscape lost market share in the browser market. It complained in court and in 1999 Microsoft had to pay 500 million dollar to Netscape, but by that time it was too late for Netscape to make up and eventually had to be sold to AOL. Despite efforts of AOL to convert Netscape into the open source browser Firefox of Mozilla, Microsoft gained a market share of 90 percent.

Netscape caused in 1995 a row in The Netherlands. The ISP Planet Internet, a site run by the telecom incumbent KPN, had started in June. The management was well aware of the fact that Netscape was an attraction in the market as for example competitor Euronet*Internet offered its users a disc for access, which was rather technical, talking about Windows sockets, for example. Planet Internet wanted an easier to install program with more possibilities. But trailing the success of Planet Internet was the ISP World Online, run by Nina Brink. She wanted to have Netscape exclusively for her subscribers and talked with Jim Clark. In late 1995 she in fact invited Jim Clark (who was in the Netherlands to inspect his million dollar yacht) to address a high performance meeting with the minister of Traffic and Waterworks, Ms Jorritsma. In the end Planet Internet won the battle, got the exclusive rights to the Dutch language version of Netscape and put it in their introduction package (see photograph).

Netscape is the end of the Internet pioneers era. Now Microsoft has 90 percent markets hare with Internet Explorer, while Firefox had 10 percent. But, projecting into the future and seeing that open source will get stronger, the market share of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer should diminish.

Blog Posting Number: 970

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Saturday, January 05, 2008

Open source software in 2015 (2)

Yesterday I summarised the first five forecasts concerning open source software in 2015. These forecasts can be classified as:
- totally negative;
- technologically and socially optimistic;
- conditionally depended on political support.
Today five more forecasts.

Maarten Wijnen-Meijer, consultant with the government office OSOSS, is also rather optimistic, as open standards will reduce vendor lock-ins. He signals that more suppliers will support open source software products and that more closed products will be developed in such a way that they can cooperate with open source applications. He also predicts that companies will participate in the development of open source software application. He draws attention to the fact, that open source software and standards have been started out by communities. People take pleasure in developing and using open source software together.

Jeroen Visser, IT specialist Open Source IBM Nederland, makes the situation of open source in 2015 conditional on community based software development, as more forecasters did so far. But he is convinced that the break through of open source also depends on the government and especially municipalities. They will have to organise themselves as they have a common business model in order to develop community model solutions. Condition is that the government looks at open source as a product of a community based development and shared functionality.

Michiel Leenaars, Director of the 10 year old Internet Society Netherlands (ISOC), sees open source as increased entropy. Portable devices running on open source software and wireless connections will have become the standard and no longer the exception. But despite the strong increase of open source software there will be no mono-culture, but also competition, yielding innovation, cross-fertilisation, niche marketing and customisation. Even in 2015 transfer of complex open source CMS functionalities to another platform will not be easy.

Karel De Vriendt, Chief European Commission, Directorate General Informatica European e-government services, gave his personal view on open source software in 2015. The phenomenon will not disappear, but he also stress that it will not just fly. The success of open source software depends on four aspects:
- the rise of a real oss-economy and of business models;
- the end of conditional sales like PC with an operating system (Mac + Mac OS; PC + Windows).
- the permutation of open source software in education;
- the use of open source software by the government.
Use in education and government are essential; besides co-operation pays out.

Duco Dokter, managing director Wyldebeast & Wunderliebe and president of NN-Open, closes the forecasts in style. He simulates a fictional fragment of the State of the Union to the Dutch parliament on September 15, 2015: ICT policy has been oriented towards sustainability, openness and independence, safeguarded by using open standards and where possible open source programs. The effects of this policy is showing now: never did The Netherlands have such a healthy, technological climate. There is room for innovation by healthy competition. “The yoke of closed standards and programs has mostly been thrown off. Let us look ahead in the realisation that freedom is the highest good attainable”.

Blog Posting Number: 969

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Friday, January 04, 2008

Open source software in 2015 (1)

The Dutch language Open Source Yearbook 2007-2008 contains a chapter projecting the situation of open source software in 2015. The editor and a contributor have interrogated people about their view on open source software in 2015; the question was: When you think about the open source software situation in 2015, can you indicate the most important differences with the present situation (of 2007). The year 2015 has not been chosen ad random, but from 2007 it means a span of eight years. (It is a coincidence to note that the UN will hold a review of its WSIS, the World Summit on the Information Society) If the chapter had been about a technological forecast, the span could have been longer, but open source software becomes a social issue with ethical, economic and political consequence besides a technological development. In two instalments, ten people from various walks of life have been asked to give their view or look back to 2007.

Jo LaHaye, managing director of MMBase and chairman of the association HollandOpen, looks back from 2015 to 2007 and reminds the reader of the optimism in 2007, when a vice secretary of state of the Economic Affairs Department defined an Open Source Software policy and the EC Commissioner Neelie Smit Kroes ordered Microsoft to pay a parking fee. Yet two things went wrong after that: it is hard fighting against established monopolies. But what really brought down the open source software community was the software patent jurisdiction, executed by the European Patent Office, despite wide opposition from the European Parliament. Mr Lahaye remarks that predicting is difficult and he can only hope that he is the worst futurist in The Netherlands.

Ms Ada Gerkens, the only woman asked to give her view in this team of forecasters, is a Dutch parliamentarian of the Socialist Party. Ms Gerkens is more optimistic than Mr Lahaye. She notes in 2015, that since open source software now has a better market, there are more developments. Existing software will be improved in its functionality and even surpasses the Microsoft solutions with regard to user friendliness. It will also yield more innovative solutions in ICT. The climax will be, when Neelie Smit Kroes intimates an interviewer in 2015 that her PC and laptop are completely open source software driven. “I stand for my ideals, a free market doest not tolerate a monopolist”, she said in the interview.

Rishab Aiyer Gosh, a senior researcher of the United Nations University and the MERIT institute in Maastricht, has a positive forward looking view on the development of open source software. One of his strong quotes is: “Unless Microsoft changes its business model dramatically, companies will re-direct their investments to open source”. For him the real promise of open source is in the participation of users in the development and control of their information products and –services. Web 2.0 and Wikipedia are the precursors of what will happen in ICT in general due to open source. But the development is dependent on the fact whether children will be educated to be citizens and creators instead of consumers.

Wouters Tebbens is program manager of the Science, education and Learning in Freedom association. He foresees two scenarios: a continuation of the present situation or a paradigma shift. He wishes that in 2015 not only free software is widely spread, but that also the principles behind this software and digital works in general are generally known. It is not only free software, but also free knowledge with free and open content in the cultural sector and open access in science. For education this would mean the use of free teaching tools, in which teachers and students participate in an open production of it.

Aad Koppenhol, Principal IT architect with Sun Microsystems Netherlands, puts the software scene in a larger context. It is not only open source and other IT developments which count. Globalisation, political ideas and even Green IT all influence the future developments. And of course Internet, which has made the user part of the process, which was formerly restricted to code banger. Mr Koppenhol foresees Virtual Power Networks, which are going to be stronger than advertisements and other communications from companies. Other disciplines will have to be involved in the development of open source software. Humanitarian values should also be considered; think of Network Identity. This type of questions requires a multidisciplinary approach within the open source movement.

Blog Posting Number: 968

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Thursday, January 03, 2008

Flash: EC boost to online content

The European Commission has decided to give a new boost to Europe's online content sector. EU citizens should be able to enjoy easier and faster access to a rich variety of music, TV programmes, films or games via the Internet, mobile phones or other devices. The Commission therefore encourages the content industry, telecoms companies and Internet service providers to work closely together to make available more content online, while at the same time ensuring a robust protection of intellectual property rights. The Commission also wants to facilitate copyright licences for online content covering the territory of several or all of the EU Member States.

According to Commission studies, a truly Single Market without borders for Creative Online Content could strengthen considerably the competitiveness of Europe's music, film and games industry and allow retail revenues of the sector to quadruple by 2010 if clear and consumer-friendly measures are taken by industry and public authorities (see IP/07/95).

The European Commission issued a 3 page document on the boost for content

Dutch language Open Source Yearbook

Just before the Christmas holiday, the second edition of the Dutch Language Open Source Yearbook 2007-2008 was published, looking back to the developments in 2007 and looking forward to opportunities of 2008. Two major happenings of 2007 were the Manifesto of Open Municipalities and the publication of the government document The Netherlands open in connection, instigated by the vice–state secretary of the Department of Economic Affairs. Compared to the first edition of the Open Source Yearbook, the second edition breathes more optimism, although not all doubts have disappeared; sweet and sour are included in the Yearbook.

In the first part of the Yearbook is a kind of survey and starts with the complete text of the government document The Netherlands open in connection is reproduced. It is the second political document regarding Open Source; as the first one the motion-Vendrik, a parliamentary motion by the parliamentarian Mr Vendrik, is considered. The text of the government document is followed by an article portraying the problems around the standardisation of OOXML and the developments around the developments of open source in the member states of the European Union. Part One is closed with an inventory of open source company applications.

In the second part of the Yearbook authors look behind the scenes. The ISO standardisation process is described with an analysis of what can go wrong and goes wrong. This is not just n academic problem, but also a political problem as is clear from software patents and copyright problems. There is information on The European Patent Litigation Agreement (EPLA) and about the political movement, which wants to reform copyright in Europe. The economist Marcel Creemers pleads for a new economical theory to explain certain developments in the digital era. The chapter closes with an analysis of three new open licenses, among which GPL version 3.0 and the first version of the European Union Patent License (EUPL).

The third part offers a perspective on open standard and open source software. There is a description of the successful open source software transformation in the Spanish region Extremadura. This story is contrasted with a story about open source software for education. Ten experts offer their view on open source software in 2015 (I will make a posting of it tomorrow).

The last part is an overview of organisation, communities and user groups in The Netherlands, Belgium and further abroad.

For those who read Dutch and would like to order the Yearbook, here are the bibliographic details: Hans Sleurink (editor): Open Source Jaarboek 2007-2008. Media Update Vakjpublicaties, Gorredijk; ISBN: 978 90 78730 02 6. Order from online bookshops such as Gopher and

Blog Posting Number 967

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Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Annual blog analysis

I had a change to look over the blog stats of last year. It was in fact the first full year of stats, as I started to log the stats from June 4, 2006. I have no stats at all over the period of the start from May 1, 2005 till June 4, 2006. It is interesting to see the page view, visit and visitor stats. Extrapolating the 2006 figures, the page views over 2007 have increased with some 20 percent. These pages were viewed in 17.026 sessions by 14.651 unique visitors. It means that in every session roughly 1,5 pages have been consulted.

The correlation between the figures of the visits and visitors also demonstrates that this blog is a blog for consulting and not a blog with a faithful flock of followers. Sure 11.117 visitors come back after one visit, but the figure dwindles to 1.363 visits for more than two visits and 522 after three visits. It indicates that the blog is often consulted rather than regularly visited. This is confirmed by the figures of the referrer. There are roughly 4.000 visits from bookmarks; the rest comes in via Google and other search engines.

The top ten of postings give away some pointers as to the public. Buziaulane was set up within the framework of old and new media and content. This means that it can move from Open Source to Microsoft, from crossmedia to serious games, from entertainment to culture and from the European Commission to the Dutch telecom watchdog OPTA. The framework is somewhat reflected in the Top Ten Postings. In the field of content the postings Serious Games for Seniors and Games for Seniors Needed scored high. And I believe seniors are still not being served. Except for Nintendo with the series Brains and More Brains, there is still a complete battle to be won. And I will get into discussion about it with some experts. Interesting is also to see that summer mini-series about Retro Gadgets scored well, certainly after a mention in the Dutch language e-magazine Bright. But also the 2005 Summer mini-series on the history of new media in The Netherlands is still popular. The publishing market postings about educational publishing and the Dutch newspaper market have drawn regular visits.

As for the international reach, visits came from no less than 141 countries over against 124 countries in 2006. The Clustr Map is impressive with many countries where I have not been yet and would love to go. I notice increases in countries where I have been in the past year such as Croatia and Hungary. Due to the World Summit Award Grand Jury in Croatia and the World Summit Award Gala, I met many people from all over the world, from Oman, Mexico, Venezuela, Argentina, Brazil, Estland, even up to Fiji Islands and I notice that they spread the word about the blog.

As for this new year I am working on a plan. I wrote a few days ago that I see that blog are using more media types such as audio and video and on the other hand are bringing down the time limit from occasionally to regular, weekly and daily, but now to the jittery time limit of twitter. Most likely I will start a new initiative in March 2008. So keep posted.

In my humble opinion it has been worthwhile to run this blog daily and I will keep it up. By now the fizz is out of the champagne so let us get back to work.

Blog Posting Number: 966

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Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Annual blog review

The new year 2008 was exhuberantly welcomed by Almere, be it in deep mist

Monthly stats blog Buziaulane

Blog: Buziaulane is a daily blog in English
Period: 1-12-2007 till 31-12-2007

Stats December
Pageviews: 1839 pages (November: 2446 pages)
Visits: 1312 visits (November 1609 visits)
Unique Visitors: 1146 visitors (November 1.395 visitors)
Countries: 76 countries (November 86 countries)

Top 10 subjects
Rank/URL/Percentage of Pageviews
1. Other 43,11%
2. 16,78%
3. 3,44%
4. 2,08%
5. 1,09%
6. 0,98%
7. .../25-years-online-in-netherlands-compact_20.html 0,82%
8. 0,71%
9. Rest 28,72%

Pageviews from the following countries
1. USA 24,92%
2. The Netherlands 19,84%
3. UK 9,18%
4. Polen 4,48%
5. Canada 3,39%
6. France 3,22%
7. Germany 3,17%
8. Belgium 2,79%
9. Finland 1,86%
10. Israel 1,86%
11. Italy 1,53%
12. Australia 1,53%
13. India 1,42%
14. Lithuania 1,26%
15. Turkey 1,20%

Stats generated by Onestat

Annual report blog Buziaulane
Blog: Buziaulane is a daily blog in English
Period: 1-12-2007 till 31-12-2007

Annual stats 2007
Pageviews: 24.201 pages
Visits: 17.026 visits
Unique Visitors: 14.651 visitors
Countries: 141 countries

Most popular postings
1. Other 26,96%
2. 20,04%
3. 1,62%
4. 1,33%
5. .../2007/01/no-not-again-those-merger-rumours.html 1,04%
6. 1,02%
7. 0,95%
8. ...07/02/educational-publishing-consolidating.html 0,77%
9. 0,74%
10. Rest 45,53%

Pageviews from the following countries
1. Netherlands 30,42%
2. USA 20,23%
3. UK 8,45%
4. Germany 2,60%
5. Canada 2,59%
6. Finland 2,32%
7. Rest 2,26%
8. Italy 2,13%
9. France 1,95%
10. Australia 1,91%
11. Belgium 1,84%
12. India 1,53%
13. Sweden 1,26%
14. Poland 1,15%
15. Spain 1,07%
16. Croatia 0,93%
17. Hungary 0,83%
18. Austria 0,81%
19. Ireland 0,79%
20. Switzerland 0,69%
21. Norway 0,69%
22. Israel 0,68%
23. New Zealand 0,60%
24. China 0,50%
25. Portugal 0,45%
26. Malaysia 0,44%
27. Turkey 0,44%
28. Thailand 0,44%
29. Singapore 0,44%
30. Oman 0,42%
31. Brazil 0,37%
32. South Africa 0,37%
33. Kuwait 0,36%
34. Lithuania 0,35%
35. Denmark 0,33%
36. Philippines 0,33%
37. Slovenia 0,32%
38. Japan 0,32%
39. United Arab Emirates 0,32%
40. South Korea 0,30%
41. Romania 0,29%
42. Uruguay 0,28%
43.Czech Republic 0,28%
44. Bahrain 0,26%
45. Estland 0,23%
46. Hong Kong 0,22%
47. Greece 0,21%
48. Egypt 0,19%
49. Indonesia 0,18%
50. Taiwan 0,17%
51. Russia 0,17%
52. Guatemala 0,17%
53. Guyana 0,16%
54. Qatar 0,16%
55. Argentina 0,15%
56. Mexico 0,15%
57. Saudi Arabia 0,13%
58. Iran 0,13%
59. Senegal 0,13%
60. Serbia Montenegro 0,12%
61. Bulgaria 0,11%
62. Morocco 0,10%
63. Slovakia 0,07%
64. Colombia 0,07%
65. Chile 0,07%
66. Ghana 0,07%
67. Luxembourg 0,07%
68. Latvia 0,07%
69. Mauritius 0,07%
70. Ukraine 0,07%
71. Venezuela 0,06%
72. Mongolia 0,06%
73. Nigeria 0,05%
74. Pakistan 0,05%
75. Macedonia 0,04%
76. Vietnam 0,04%
77. Cuba 0,04%
78. Cyprus 0,04%
79. Dutch Antilles 0,04%
80. Jamaica 0,04%
81. Sri Lanka 0,04%
82. Lebanon 0,03%
83. Jordania 0,03%
84. Iceland 0,03%
85. Dominican Republic 0,03%
86. Uganda 0,03%
87. Malta 0,02%
88. Nepal 0,02%
89. Bangladesh 0,02%
90. Monaco 0,02%
91. Libya 0,02%
92. Peru 0,02%
93. Tanzania 0,02%
94. Surinam 0,02%
95. Zambia 0,02%
96. Kenya 0,02%
97. Kazakhstan 0,02%
98. Cambodia 0,01%
99. Georgia 0,01%
100. Bermuda 0,01%
101. Costa Rica 0,01%
102. Zimbabwe 0,01%
103. Tunisia 0,01%
104. Tonga 0,01%
105. Panama 0,01%
106. Sudan 0,01%
107. Puerto Rico 0,01%
108. Macau 0,01%
109. Trinidad and Tobago 0,01%
110. El Salvador 0,01%
111. Virgin Islands 0,01%
112. Cameroon 0,01%
113. Belarus 0,01%
114. Belize 0,01%
115. Ivory Coast 0,01%
116. Brunei 0,01%
117. Albania 0,01%
118. Fiji Islands 0,01%
119. Ecuador 0,01%
120. Lesotho 0,01%
121. Liechtenstein 0,00%
122. Algeria 0,00%
123. Dominican Republic 0,00%
124. Armenia 0,00%
125. Aruba 0,00%
126. Azerbaijan 0,00%
127. Barbados 0,00%
128. Cook Islands 0,00%
129. Central African Republic 0,00%
130. Bahamas 0,00%
131. Botswana 0,00%
132. Cape Verde 0,00%
133. Virgin Islands (UK) 0,00%
134. St. Vincent 0,00%
135. Maldives 0,00%
136. Mozambique 0,00%
137. New Caledonia 0,00%
138. Moldavia 0,00%
139. Paraguay 0,00%
140. French Polynesia 0,00%
141. Papua New Guinea 0,00%

Stats generated by Onestat

Monday, December 31, 2007

A Happy and Open 2008

Two Dutch parliamentary commissions have approved an action plan to set a soft deadline for the application of open standards and open source software in government environments. Mr Heemskerk, vice-secretary at the department of Economic Affairs and a former software application entrepreneur, has set a hard deadline for January 1, 2009. The action plan should lead to more competition and lower costs for the government.

The action plan, entitled The Netherlands open in connection, is ambitious in its objectives and its time window. The plan has three objectives: increasing interoperability, decreasing dependency on software suppliers and promotion of a level playing field in the software market. All objectives can be reached by defined open standards. The proposal distinguishes between open standards improving the interoperability and the use of open source.

If there is equality between open source software and software of a closed system, the open source should be preferred. When government bodies want to use a closed application rather than a open source application or open standards, they will have to explain the reason why and offer a time scheme, telling when the open standard will be applied; the so called comply or explain/commit principle.

The action plan contains rigid deadlines. Government bodies are obliged to apply the comply-or-explain/commit principle, while other (semi-) state bodies and institutes have December 2008 as a deadline. From January 2009 implementation strategies have to be formulated for tendering, buying and using open source software by all government ministerial departments. One year later these strategies should also be applied for semi-government bodies such as education, health and social care institutes.

The Dutch citizen should notice the first results by January 2009, when the Open Document Format (ODF)or the OASIS Open Document Format for Office Applications should be in use for text files, spreadsheets, graphs and presentation by all ministerial departments.

In the meantime the vice secretary of the Economic Affairs department has asked the Dutch monopoly watchdog to perform a market analysis. The government estimates that it would save no less than 5,6 million euro (8,8 million US dollars).

It is not surprising that the reactions to the action plan were a mixed bag. Microsoft’s CEO in The Netherlands thinks that the Dutch government will burn its fingers, if the action plan will be executed without change. “In fact, innovation will be curbed”, he said (Hear Microsoft!). So far Microsoft’s Open Office XML standard failed to achieve certification by ISO. The Dutch association of ICT entrepreneurs ICT~Office reacted ambiguously, as could be expected. It profiles itself as an association for open and closed software developers, while it has only a few open source software developers among its 450 members. ICT~Office stresses that the focus of tenders should be on facts and not on emotions. The OpenDoc Society is happy with the action plan as far as the support of open standards.

So I wish you a happy and open 2008. One of my first actions will be to order an ASUS EEE with Linux OpenOffice software.

Blog Posting Number: 965

Tags: ,

Sunday, December 30, 2007

2008: Year of the fibre breakthrough

Amsterdam got its Christmas present from the European Commission. The municipality of Amsterdam was cleared from unfair state competition in the matter of the fibre project of the Cityring from the complainants the cable operator UPC and cable operators’ association VECAI (which changed its name to NLkabel recently). Amsterdam had never doubted the positive outcome of the EC investigation.

(c) 2007; Houthoff Buruma Solicitors

The Directorate General of Competition, headed by Ms Neelie Kroes, decided to start an investigation, acting on the complaints of UPC and VECAI. The municipality of Amsterdam had invested 6 million euro as equity with private companies in the passive level the proposed Cityring. Amsterdam did the investment in order keep control on an open fibre network. UPC have been closed out of the bidding process early, lodge a complaint of unfair state funding with the DG Competition. The DG started a voluntary and non obligatory investigation. A lot of documents went back and forth, confidential documents had to be cleaned up due to corporate details and draft documents were held up due to court cases. Even a case before the Court in Luxemburg was under consideration. In May the DG Competition was ready to start the final leg of the investigation, which ended in December with a ruling favourable for the municipality of Amsterdam.

The DG Competition looked at three items:
a. does the municipality act as a market conform investor, in other words does the municipality not support the foundation of a company unfairly with state support;
b. Is fibre to the home a achievable business case;
c. And some specific sub-items.

Already in December 2006 UPC and VECAI had the draft text, clearing the municipality of unfair support. UPC decently kept its mouth shut as the investigation was not yet final. Remained left the business case and the specific sub-items. Helped by the timeframe, the business case was not an item any longer either. In the Netherlands FttH initiatives mushroomed: Nuenen, Hillegom, Geldrop-Mierlo, Deventer, Enschede as well as abroad. Besides the projects various companies competed for these projects; in the Netherlands notably Reggeborgh and KPN. Last October, the Amsterdam municipal project manager Dirk van der Woude has published an updated list on Dutch and foreign FttH projects. The last sub-items have been cleared by the municipality of Amsterdam successfully.

So Amsterdam can continue its project to bring fibre to more than 450.000 Amsterdam homes. In the meantime more initiatives spring up, besides the already mentioned one. As ambitious as the Amsterdam Cityring is the living lab Almere project where 70.000 will be connected to fibre before 2010.

From the updated list it is clear that 2008 will be the year of the fibre breakthrough in The Netherlands. Not in the list is yet the Fibre to the Farm (FttF) project, a project where rural areas will be linked up to urban networks. Difficult areas will be bridged by leading cables through trees in woody areas; besides farmers will dig the ducts with tractors instead of calling in a cable laying contractor with urban experience. Also internationally fibre will break through with large urban areas in 2008. Fibre will no longer be in a pilot phase, but will be in a project phase.

Cable projects will have to prove in 2008 that they can reach the same type of speeds by cable. So far UPC has demonstrated speeds of up to 100Mbps, but has not started marketing it. It looks like UPC and other cable operators will have to stick to lower rates over against fibre operators. I look forward to the battlefield in Almere.

The usage of higher speeds will have consequences for content. We have seen the usage of video grow fast. Also the social networks have grown with movies and twitter-like services. But with higher speeds, services will have more freedom to compose services with live video. This will for example be a challenge for newspapers and broadcast services. But it will also have consequences for bloggers. So far the majority of bloggers have worked with text. But I would not be surprised, when we see more bloggers go into audio or video interview blogs.

Blog Posting Number: 964

Tags: FttH, FttF, Fibre to the Home, Fibre to the Farm, , , ,

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Computer theme park

In the summer of 2007 I wrote a series on the retro-gadgets in my museum at home, ranging from my first portable Zenith Model 100 in 1983 to the first Sony EB reader from 1993 up to my iLiad reader from 2006. The mini-series sparked a discussion on a computer museum in The Netherlands. By lack of real computer news in the summer season, on August 14, 2007 there was a radio discussion on this subject. The question was why in there is no proper computer museum in The Netherlands.

Of course such a discussion has many ramifications. Why should there be a computer museum in the first place. And when such an initiative is entertained, what would such a museum look like. Or should it not be a museum but a theme park or entertainment center.

A museum has traditionally an old-fashioned ring about it. It nicely exhibits all the various models of Apple and of IBM, has some software aboard to show that it works; add some public lectures and educational lessons, and the museum has a mission. Hardware and software companies should be attracted as sponsors and some grants should be acquired to make the institute independent.

Of course it does not have to be a museum, but it can also be a show. In fact EPCOT, the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow, is an example of this. Epcot was built at the Walt Disney World Resort near Orlando, Florida. The park opened on October 1, 1982, and was named EPCOT Center from 1982 to 1993. EPCOT demonstrated the innovations at a time that PCs had just been introduced to the consumer.

I was pleasantly surprised this year to find another solution: Mundo Binario, El parque de atracciones con la computadora más grande del mundo; in English the computer attraction park Binar-e-World. During the WSA Grand Jury in Croatia, Mundo Binario was presented as an entry by Venezuela and it was among the award winners in the category e-Entertainment. It is a theme park completely run by a family. Their reasoning was rather simple: a computer is content. Binar-e-World is an Information Technology theme park that has made it possible for everyone to physically travel inside a computer. The giant Computer is an impressive building located in the city of Valencia in Venezuela. It has a giant 740 inch computer monitor, a qwerty keyboard of 16m length, a CPU of 10m high and a mouse the size of a compact car. It is a one-of-a-kind edutainment destination that combines a walkthrough with rides similar to those at famous amusement parks, full of animatronics and special effects. Binar-e-World explains in a fun way the past, present and applications of information technology thus making it friendlier, attractive and accessible to everyone, no matter which age, sex or economic status.

So when the Dutch theme park Neverland (Land van Ooit) went bankrupt, I saw a concept as Mundo Binario as a fit replacement. Besides I would be able to donate my retro gadgets a proper place to be maintained and demonstrated.

Blog Posting: 963

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Friday, December 28, 2007

Dutch free tabloids

2007 was an interesting year for the Dutch daily newspapers. Almost all of the newspaper kept in line with the world trend of loosing subscriptions. The newspaper conglomerate PCM bought out Apax, not having made any progress and loosing a hell of a lot of money. Royal Wegener was acquired by the media empire Mecom. And the companies did not move an inch on diversification of media to for example and radio and television; in fact PCM sold its radio operation. But against this back-drop of common newspaper happenings, the real new things happened in the sector of free dailies with two new titles on the market. On January 23, 2007 De Pers (The Press) published its first edition, while on May 8, 2007 the PCM fledgling DAG came onto the market.

Both of them have not been on the market for a full year. Yet they had to fight immediately against the two existing free tabloids, Metro and Sp!ts. Metro is well known throughout the world and has developed in the Netherlands to a daily with short bullets and a few spreads; not exactly a daily which presents news, but a perfect advertisement vehicle with a finely distribution network of public transport points. Sp!ts, the Telegraaf competitor of Metro, is also free daily tabloid with much of the same editorial formula; it also functions as an advertisement vehicle. In this setting, which exists since 1999, two new free dailies entered the market; one, which has no ties with a a newspaper publisher and one which come from the PCM nest. To make some impression on the market, both newspapers had to have their unique selling points, if only for the advertisers: an new editorial format, a new distribution network, a new proposition for advertisers and for the users a real attraction.

Both free tabloids have succeeded in that. De Pers is seen as the better intellectual free tabloid; its editor in chief Ben Rogmans received the press award recognising its quality. It was in fact the first time that a free tabloid won a journalistic award. DAG has made some impression with its visually oriented editorial format. It is full of photographs.

De Pers, a venture of multimillionaire Mr Boekhoorn, has fought for its place by quality. A distribution network and advertisements are basically instruments for competition and it does not make the daily stand out. The advertisement is not impressive, but this has to do with the time of launching. When the daily was launched, it still had to show and prove itself, while the advertisement budgets were already earmarked. So as for advertisements De Pers should be able to get a better market share. Also its distribution network is developing differently from the other free dailies as it is also delivered to the door in some zip code areas. The newspaper has built in less than one year a quality image.

Having talked with PCM about launching a free daily together, PCM broke off the talks with Mr Boekhoorn to start their own free daily in cooperation with the telecom incumbent KPN. And again it was the editorial format which should make the difference. The tabloid sports now daily pages full of photographs and highlights some headings in yellow. Compared to De Pers the printed edition of DAG is a rag, paper to wrap the fish in. And as for the distribution network started to use retail food stores for its distribution. Also DAG needs to attract advertisement for the coming year.

But the novice free dailies needed more USPs. Both free dailies have a website and have or are preparing a mobile service. Especially the owners of DAG the newspaper conglomerate PCM and the telecom operator KPN touted the term crossmedia wherever they could. Having an internet site with movies and mobile internet site is not yet enough to brand a product crossmedia. The newspaper has been unable to develop for example to introduce day parting, using various media at various times during the day, when the media fit the environment. A printed newspaper at the breakfast table or in public transport works. But when people arrive at the office they start using internet and should not get just a digital copy of the printed tabloid, but should get other feeds and stories. By midday they should be fed news on their mobile. This type of thinking has not been a principle from the beginning. So crossmedia has been an after thought rather than an integrating philosophy so far. As such PCM has not yet learned anything else but making a printed free daily and KPN has not yet come further than technology in this project and has systematically reduced the combination of its editorial and technical knowledge.

Overlooking the battle field De Pers has won the fight so far on editorial quality. Having set a standard for their content they can quietly build out their digital presence. DAG will have quite a difficult year ahead. The newspaper has costed 12 million so far and so far the management has been able to bring the costs down to 9 million in less than a full year. In order to control the costs, It has been announced that DAG will editorially work together with the PCM morning paper De Volkskrant. This will mean that it will copy or re-edit Volkskrant articles. KPN on the other hand is closing down the editorial operation of its content site Planet Internet and will be concentrating on the internet and mobile technologies.

Blog Posting Number: 962

Tags: newspapers, day parting, crossmedia , ,

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Revising crossmedia

The time of looking back and looking forward has begun again. One starts looking back over the year and the developments. In the coming days I will revisit some of the events I have been in over the last year and reflect on it, but also look forward. The first reflection will be on conference on Crossmedia and Interaction Design (CMID07) in Hemavan (Sweden).

The conference was held in a winter sports village up north. And there was snow (which I hate), but it was not even freezing cold. The timing of the conference was interesting. I had been discussing crossmedia without giving it a name with amongst others Damien Marchi (who is in 2008 starting to work for FremantleMedia), when he presented the lessons from the French Big Brother/Loft Story crossmedia production. In the Spring of 2004 I was wrestling with the definition of crossmedia, which eventually resulted in an ACTeN e-content report. The report was later on one of the contributions to the reader on e-content published by Springer Verlag. So three years later I was up North to discuss crossmedia.

And the conference did deliver some primers, valuable contacts and new insights. First of all Hemavan was the closest I had come to the North Pole. It still was no reason for me to start skiing or snowboarding. I met a group of new people. The organisers from Hemavan and Umea and a group of Nordic delegates from other institutions than I am used to. Two people made a deep impression on me as persons and my thinking about crossmedia: Christy Dena and Monique de Haas.

Christy showed the depth of the ‘discipline’ crossmedia and I am glad to see that she has stopped her blog and devotes her time to finishing her thesis in 2008; for we need a standard work on this ‘discipline’ and not the superficial articles, workshops and MBA courses touting the term crossmedia. So in 2008 I will be following Christy closely.

Monique de Haas, a compatriot, I knew only by name, as I had never met her in The Netherlands or abroad. These days she has a captive motto: Crossmedia is one big flirt. But besides using catchy phrases, she made me think about crossmedia from the user perspective. In the e-content report, I approached crossmedia from the forward production chain, not taking in consideration that in the online age interactivity had become the leading principle. So the theoretical part of sending a message to the user through various media is an element in crossmedia, but not the only one. The user is also challenged to respond through various media, using the various opportunities of the media such as a max. 196 character SMS message or a more elaborate reaction in text or by image to a blog posting.

In January 2008 I have been asked to write a new article on crossmedia for a book, which will be published by mid-2008. I have been asked to take the e-content report for departure and to integrate this with the Hemavan lecture and the conference results. This will be a nice challenge to bring three themes together: crossmedia, production chain, various media response from users and crossmedia as an instrument for regional planning.

Yet I am still convinced that crossmedia is a multi-functional, fashionable term to replace the misconceived term of multimedia, which never got any depth. I also believe that it will disappear as it is now only used for a lack of a better term. And I keep wondering why it is that the term is in use mainly in Europe (and only in some countries such as Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, The Netherlands and Belgium and Italy. There is enough material to think about in the first month of 2008, besides other assignments.

Blog Posting Number: 961


Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Boxing Day

This is just a selection of the cards Mary and I received from all over the world. We like to thank you all for the best wishes and hope that you will have happy days:
Felix Bopp - Club of Amsterdam
Elke Barbara Bachler
Rudi Vansnick - ISOC Belgium
Dr. Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka - CTPH
Christy Dena
Samoila Gheorghe - ITC
Robert Wierzbicki -
Cai Melakoski- TAMK
Pim de Wit
ITC Office
Katri Tammsaar - TLU
Michiel Leenaars - ISOC NEderland
Sona Makulova - ELET
Paul Budde - Budde.Com
Katherine Milton
Giacomo Rambaldi - CTA
Harry Bouwman -TU Delft
Irina Blomqvist
Eve Ross
Eldon C Hylton
Györgyi Rétfalvi
Jan Bieringa
Carina Roels
Herbert Blankesteijn
Matt Moayedi - C-Content
Melissa Lee Price
Hans Sleurink - Media Update

Marketing Department Brill (325 years in publishing in 2008!)
Marcelo Sant Iago