Thursday, January 31, 2008

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BPN 994 Digital paper was tested in school

Last year I posted a blog on digital paper being tested in a school. The posting was one of the many publications in the news media. And after the publicity clouds had settled, it grew silent. Was this an ominous sign? I recently had the opportunity to discuss the trial with Frits Hoff, the managing director of Mr Hoff stressed from the beginning of the interview that there has been no official evaluation and that the conclusions were only indicative. Yet they are very interesting.

The testers were the pupils and educational staff of the Bonnefanten College in Maastricht, in the South of The Netherlands. The eReader was the iLiad of iRex Technologies. Publishers had promised support. was the organiser of the trial.

I learned more details about the trial. The trial was held with one class of 30 pupils in secondary school; to be precise, class 3 of the Gymnasium of the Bonnefanten College. Also the teaching staff has been heavily involved. The subject area was the Dutch language. The trial lasted six weeks. Three publishers, Malmberg, EPN and Thieme supported the trial by offering digital schoolbooks; especially Thieme put a lot effort in it.

The trial proved that the eReader works like a book, but can do more than a book. The interesting part of the eReader is that the theory book, the work book as well as the exercise book are in one device. One of the non tested situations was the home work. As the eReaders could not be insured under the trial, they had to stay in the classroom; so the use for homework could only be tested in a limited situation at school.

The pupils and the teachers were very enthusiastic about the trial, if only as a solution for the daily heavy schoolbag with books. Also parents were happy as they saw the difference between 450 grams and on average 7 kilograms of books. And the pupils themselves were cyber heroes for while as they were involved in the trial.

Technologically the trial also showed some technical difficulties. The iLiad is difficult to use in combination with a web browser: the iLiad can not browse the internet. Also, the iLiad software needed improvement to cope with the content float. The A5 size of the eReader is not optimal. Much printed content will have to be converted from A4 into A5. This can not be done automatically; so it is expensive. (That was the mean reason for not going on with the trial with other subjects). And organisationally it is needed to involve everyone, pupils and staff, in the introduction on the eReader. got much publicity with the trial, not only from inside education, but also from outside and from abroad. Educational publishers sought contact. Authors offered their content for courses. The company learned much from the trial. The conclusion is that the iLiad is a step in the right direction of a proper educational tool, certainly as far the weight of the eReader goes. But the A5 of the iLiad is too small and too costly and cumbersome for converting educating material. is now developing an A4 eReader according to its own specifications, software and with colour.

Blog Posting Number: 994

Tags: , ,

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

BPN 993 Map manufacturers angry with Dutch government

The manufacturers of digital maps are unhappy with the Dutch government. The state secretary for traffic has announced that the government traffic board will release the national digital road database for commercial use. The digital map manufacturers consider this as unfair competition.

Flakplan Andes, Navteq (to be acquired by telecom manufacturer Nokia) and TeleAtlas (to be acquired by the navigation systems manufacturer TomTom), object to this procedure as they have collected their data for the databases at their own risk, while the government is just to hand out for free. The companies threaten even with legal procedures, as they fear damages and revenue losses. The manufacturers fear that other companies can start more easily, at less cost and in a shorter time.

All roads with a name and a number are stored and maintained in a national road database. This database has been available since 1998 and has so far been working with exclusive contracts. According to an EU directive of 2003 exclusive contracts on governmental content should be forbidden by January 1, 2009. However the whole affair around the map database has been an issue since 2000. Now the question has been posed whether civil servants should keep up a national map database or commercial digital map manufacturers. Offering the same basic information to anyone is an argument to have it maintained by the government. The state secretary has requested the opinion of an expert on governmental content to research the potential damage and costs to the digital map industry.

The Netherlands have a long history of digital maps. Philips automotive was already busy in the late seventies to look at navigation systems seriously. It developed a system by the name of Carin (Car Information and Navigation System), a system which used satellite positioning and stored the maps on optical media. The system was sold to VDO-Siemens before navigation systems took off. TeleAtlas was in fact started in 1986 in the Netherlands. By 1988 there was an experiment in Rotterdam whereby streets were filmed by travelling cars; the movies were digitalised and the maps were embellished with movies; it was a technical experiment using new media like ISDN (new at that time!) and CD-ROMs. The Rotterdam firm AND started to specialise in digital map manufacturing, calculating times for trips and transfers. As the map industry grew global, the companies had trouble to become profitable. In the meantime there is already an Open Street Map project in The Netherlands, in which users can refine the maps. The project uses digital maps, which were a gift by AND.

The issue of digital map information at technical costs for everyone is interesting question in as far as government content is concerned. Should government be a content producer in the first place or have commercial industries do the work by contract. Another question is of course the copyright: who is the copyright owner, when the content has been composed and maintained by government and paid for by tax payers. In the Netherlands we have a famous case of our national law database. Kluwer Legal in the Netherlands had started early in the race to record all the laws systematically, finding mistakes, duplications and omissions. When internet was on the rise in the late nineties, the government wanted to offer the law database to the citizens. But the content was in the database of Kluwer Legal. So a long, extended process of negotiations was started. In the end the Dutch State had to pay to have its own laws back in a database, which is available to citizens now.

Blog Posting Number 993

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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

BPN 992 Dutch newspaper archives for free again

Following the example of the New York Times, Dutch online newspaper archives will be for free again within one or two years. That is the opinion of Rutger van der Wall, the managing director of LexisNexis Benelux in an interview with De Nieuwe Reporter. He vents his opinion as the newspaper conglomerate PCM intends to break open its agreement with LexisNexis. It is remarkable that a manager of a commercial archive operation makes such a statement, while the companies are still negotiating.

Newspaper archives are a difficult business. Should a newspaper offer its increasing treasure for free or should payment be asked for usage. The argument that a consumer has to pay for the storage is not relevant any longer; storage costs have decreased exponentially over the years. Should users pay for the value of the content?

When I was in London in the beginning of the eighties, the formation of news archives was the latest fashion in online in town. Ten years earlier the New York Times started to build up it news archive. In the eighties the Financial Times (FT) and BBC World radio started to collect and store all their stories. Due to the graphical unions the newspapers had to have the newspapers retyped; also BBC World radio had to have their stories transcribed. In 1990 FT announced that its online newspaper archive was paying for itself.

The Dutch newspapers were late in changing over to digital typesetting. Het Financieele Dagblad was the first newspaper to start a news archive with BRS software. The archive was accessible: users had to pay for it and subscribers got a reduction. When internet was introduced Eindhovens Dagblad was the first newspaper company to go on internet with its archive under Rosetta software for free.

Dutch national consumer newspapers with online archives:
de Volkskrant (PCM) online archive since 01-04-1994;
NRC Handelsblad (PCM) online archive since 01-01-1990;
Trouw (PCM) online archive since 01-01-1992;
Het Parool online archive since 01-07-1992;
Algemeen Dagblad (PCM/Wegener) online archive since 01-11-1991;
Telegraaf online archive since 01-07-2001.

By 1995 the Belgian newspaper publishers took a remarkable initiative, called Central Station. They pooled all their content together at night and started a personal news service based on their profile for subscribers. The service had troubles in starting up as journalists claimed excessive copyrights, but eventually the service returned as Mediargus. In the Netherlands a working party was formed to study the introduction of such a service. However this service never came off the ground.

In 1988 an initiative was taken to start a central press archive in The Netherlands. In the framework of a promotion program for the Hague as a telecom city, the Nederlandse PersDatabank was founded with the help of the Chambers of Commerce, Bull and Cap Gemeni. None of the shareholders had any idea of the newspaper business and of the legal rights, while the management consisted of a civil servant of the municipality of the Hague.

By 1996 PCM bought de Nederlandse PersDatabank, changed its name into Factlane by 2001, but sold the service to LexisNexis in 2002. The agreement was to run for ten years and PCM stipulated that its subscribers to the printed version could get access. Now it looks like PCM will offer the online news archive for free. Is this sane management? You might expect that in 7 to 10 years time PCM will offer the service again through a news aggregator.

I think that it is smart for PCM to keep the online news archive itself. It has an internal function for documentation, but also a public one for retrieval. But an online news archive deserves a better managerial policy. Just offering an online archive for free to the public is not smart. An online archive can be a profit centre with a proper policy. One of the policy measures is to offer no more than one year of archive for free and let people pay for the rest. Money can also be made by offering people a paid personal profile service preferably every morning. Of course it would be even smarter when all the Dutch newspaper and magazine publishers would offer a common personal profile service. This service could produce for business, consumers and special interest.

Blog Posting Number: 992

Tags: newspapers, online archive

Monday, January 28, 2008

BPN 991: Here the Readius comes again

Last week Polymer Vision, the inventor of rollable displays and a spin out from Philips, announced the commercial launch of the Readius device by mid 2008. The exclusive device exploits the versatility of rollable displays to merge the ‘reading friendly’ strengths of e-readers with the ‘high mobility’ features of mobile phones. Together with the Readius internet portal, designed for personalisation and content selection, the company offers a whole new mobile phone category.

The Readius is designed around ease of use and mobility. The device can last for 30 hours of continuous reading without battery charge. The 3G HSDPA tri-band phone allows worldwide calls and high speed instant updates from personally selected news sources, email and other services. Standard POP3 and IMAP is supported for ISP e-mail and others such as Yahoo!Mail, Google Gmail and Microsoft Exchange. The Micro SD High Capacity storage ensures quick and easy access to e-books and valuable information. Readius also features audio capabilities, including MP3, for podcasts, audio books and music.

The Readius internet portal allows users to quickly and simply configure their Readius User Interface as well as select content and services to individual style and needs. With zero clicks, personal data and information is then ‘pushed’ whenever and wherever it is needed.

The portal presents content providers with a commercially attractive channel to offer their content and services to the high growth mobile consumer market. Polymer Vision is in discussion with numerous such providers to populate the portal and make a broad choice of content and services available to Readius owners.

So what is new after last years’ press announcement for the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona? Last year the announcement indicated that Telecom Italia would exclusively market the Readius. In one of the press releases even the deadline of one week after the Barcelona Congress was mentioned. Did Telecom Italia pilot the Readius or even market the device officially. The site of Telecom Italia only mentions one press release: Telecom Italia through TIM will co-develop and market in Italy the world’s first rollable display enabled personal device for digital content distribution while Polymer Vision will market the device in the rest of the world. Nowhere on the Telecom Italia site is an indication of a pilot or the availability of the Readius. Now one year later the manufacturer tells the mobile world that the Readius will be available for commercial launch mid 2008. IN the press release there is no mention of the Telecom Italia exclusive launch.

Rushing press releases to the market before finished devices is a bad policy. The following question will pop up: What went wrong between Telecom Italia and Polymer Vision; Was the device not ready yet; Will the device be ready for commercial launch mid 2008 (roughly July till October 2008)? Or is there a technical or production problem. From a person who has seen the Readius, I heard that there is a fault in the design. When you are called, you will have to open the mobile to take the call; there is no screen, receiver and speaker on the outside. This will be experineced by a user as very awkward and looks like a cardinal sin in mobile usability design.

Blog Posting Number: 991


Sunday, January 27, 2008

Flash: Countdown to Blog Posting Number 1000

The countdown to blog posting number 1000 of the daily blog Buziaulane
has started from number 990 today to number 1000 on February 6, 2008.

On 1000 consecutive days since May 1, 2005 a blog posting has been
published on Buziaulane with items, reports and minis-series.

You will find logs on events such as WSA, Europrix, Mindtrek and iMMovator.

Just have a look you might find your name mentioned in one of the 1000

Or you might look into subjects such as crossmedia, digital paper,
serious games, games for seniors and content. And do not forget to look
at the mini-series of Dutch New Media History, Electronic Books and
Retro gadgets.

In short, check the blog, have a look and celebrate this milestone with us.
We will have special postings on the most consulted subjects.

Dutch parliamentary hearings into copyright (5)

The prospect of parliamentary hearings into copyright caused already some excitement. But, according to Henk Willem Smits in the Dutch Financial Daily, now the department of Justice is also working on an arbitration board for copyright, an institute which should obligatory be followed in conflicts about tariffs. The Institute for Information Law has developed the proposal for an arbitration board. It is now on the desk of the state secretary of Justice and will eventually be sent to the parliament. It is expected that once such an arbitration board is in place, its decisions will be followed; at least this is what the secretaries of state of Justice, Economic Affairs and Culture expect, according to a letter to the parliament.

The collecting societies for musicians, actors, movie producers, authors, performing artists and other artists have become more aggressive towards entrepreneurs and consumers. These societies have collected 232 million euro last year, about 30 million more than the year before. But not only the revenues increased, also complaints have poured in. Recently the state secretary received 11.000 signatures of complaining entrepreneurs.

The question is whether such an arbitration board will work. Presently the fixing of the tariffs is not transparent; besides the rules are complex and the number of collecting societies is numerous. So an arbitration board could bring transparency. Yet a representative of BUMA/STEMRA, the collecting society for music, is not convinced as music is complex. Besides arbitration board can delay a decision just as much as a court case can.

Especially the tariffs are a problem. Recently in a presentation (in Dutch) one of the investors in Fabchannel, Foreman Capital, illustrated that the tariffs in the Netherlands are extremely high for streaming audio and video. He took the example of three persons who want to listen to the new album of Keane. All persons listen to the album 10 times in the first month, 10 times in the second month 2 and 8 times in the third month.
- Person 1 downloads the new album online (10 tracks) and pays in total 0,90 euro.
- Person 2 does not want to listen to studio version, but selects the special acoustic release performance in paradise and listen and watches those 10 tracks on Fabchannel. Person 2 pays over three months 10,50 euro.
- Person 3 has a subscription with a streaming service and listen to the album on that service. He pays over three months 3,00 euro.
The conclusion is that streaming audio and video services like Fabchannel are not in line with the download service and the audio streaming service. The difference is even more extreme, when the tariffs are compared with tariffs in Belgium, UK, USA. After three months a user of the video and audio streaming service Fabchannel pays 0,84 euro in Belgium, 0,70 euro in the UK, 0,16 euro in the USA and no less than 10,50 euro in the Netherlands.

It is clear that an arbitration board can start immediately as there will be no lack of cases.

Blog Posting Numbers: 990

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Saturday, January 26, 2008

Dutch parliamentary hearings in copyright (4)

4. Publishers unfairly claim copyright (copyfraud)
It is not uncommon that works in the public domain are offered, provided with a copyright claim by a publishers. Due to the complexity of the Copyright Act, citizens can waive their rights to use their rights. Typical examples are reprints of classic books or reproductions of art works. It is neither uncommon that publishers attempt to stretch the reach of copyright. With digital products publishers disregard the depletion doctrine and even state that resale is forbidden.
Proposal: make the right of public domain works a positive right and make unfair claiming of copyright on public domain works liable to punishment in the same manner as infringement on copyright is. Let every member of the public have the right to request termination of infringement on public domain works.

5. Levies are unworkable and injust
The present practice of collecting levies by the various societies is a disaster and the business should immediately be transferred to an independent state institution under control of the parliament and be inline with public administration rules. The Internal revenue service could be such an institution.
Besides the practice of execution, the system of levies is principally intolerable.
a. There is no just distribution code. Especially the small rights holders, who are not affiliated with the collecting society, suffer as they receive such a small remuneration, that the administration costs will exceed the proceeds. Collectively this group is most probably the largest group and this group should be supported in the framework of cultural diversity. Due to this system the group of small rights holders pays the largest costs. A systematic distribution of the revenues from the levies is hardly possible as the copyright framework is very large; copyright does not only cover pieces of art, but also utterances of minimal originality.
b. It is impossible to conclude to a reasonable criterion for levies. The number of bytes for storage of a work does not say anything about the costs associated with the realisation of the work. Classical music probably costs a manifold of a pop music production and one hour of a TV-quiz will hardly costs compare to the costs of a Hollywood blockbuster, not to mention the costs of a software program. The differences are so great that a reasonable average can not be set.
c. Costs of media are reduced exponentially. Every year the costs of a gigabyte of storage halves. This trend is going on for some thirthy years and will not stop. Would a levy on blank media be introduced on the basis of storage, the Dutch economy would be outclassed by an economy not charging levies. An example is the writable DVD, of which the levy is higher than the production price; so people buy them in countries not charging a levy or illegal imports.
d. Levies are extremely impopular. In fact levies are seen as legal theft by many. Under the present outdated system artists would have a right to a remuneration on every new copy. Especially music companies like to use criminal law to persecute every illegal copy.
e. Levies are arbitrarily determined and maintained. There is a levy on CDs and DVDs, but not on harddiscs and mp3-players. There is no technical reason to put a lower levy on DVD+R media than on DVD-media (the developer of DVD+R, Philips, is part of the organisation setting the levies in the Netherlands). Dutch consumer order DVD without a levy in Germany.
f. Levy systems are erroneously defended as less bad solution. DRM systems have been seen as means for enforcement of copyright. Yet DRM systems have been cancelled for many reasons. This should not lead to the conclusion that levies should be introduced on a large scale. There are other opportunities (like merchandising).
Conclusion: Levies cover only a very small part of the copyright market and are extremely unjust. Such a blunt means for rights holders can not be justified.
Proposal: abolish the whole system of levies immediately.

Blog Post Number: 989

Tags: copyright, blank media levy

Friday, January 25, 2008

Dutch parliamentary hearings into copyright (3)

The open letter contains six points of interest and for discussion:

1. The duration of copyright is too long
After many changes in the law copyright now till seventy years after the death of the author. This has many consequences.
a. Requests for re-use are not honoured, while re-use stimulates a strong and pluriform cultural development;
b. Most of the copyrighted works are not available, as it is not of interest economically;
c. No permission will be given for copying unique, vulnerable works;
d. Works are no longer available as the rights holders are no longer traceable;
e. Works are no longer available, even in the public domain, as the data about the death of the authors are not traceable.
The last round of prolongations from fifty to seventy years after the death of an author, has not yielded any extra culture; only extra costs for the readers.
Proposal: shorten copyright to twenty years after publication and create a transition period by twenty years. This will provide breathing space to change international treaties or cancel them.

2. The reach of copyright is too wide
For every minimal re-use permission is required. This puts a brake on creative re-use and causes an enormous administrative overhead. Dutch law knows a closed system of limitations. The US system on the other hand is one of fair use, which allows re-use within boundaries. It is remarkable that the European market with a database directive is seven times smaller than the US market.
Proposal: introduce fair use.

3. Copyright is extremely complex
The Copyright Act has become complex over the years. And when it is only the right of a small Group of specialists, this can be accepted. But with the introduction of internet citizens have become potential publishers. So copyright should be clear for large groups of people. So exceptions and exceptions upon exceptions should be excluded. No special treatment for specific categories; no distinction between copyright and neighbouring rights. The Act should fit on one A-4 and understandable for the average citizen. In order to establish whether there is copyright on a specific work, a public register should be set up.
A reformed copyright act should exclusively be aimed at the audience. The traditional, exclusive right of copying should be abolished and replaced with the already existing exclusive right of communication with the audience. Copyright should limit itself to publication; reproduction dates back to the time when technology was limited.
Proposal: make only communication to the audience an exclusive right.

Blog Posting Number: 988

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Tags: copyright, neighbouring rights, fair use

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Dutch parliamentary hearings into copyright (2)

The problems in copyright are many and they are complex. The Dutch Copyright Act (in Dutch: the Authors’ law) dates back to 1912 and has been amended several times, most recently in order to extend the duration of the copyright period. But the present copyright laws, regardless of the countries in Western Europe, have not dealt with peer-to-peer networks, filesharing or format shifting.

On an incidental basis measures are proposed for putting levies on mp3 players. And those measures are likened to the draconian measures proposed in the US, breaching especially privacy. And all this for the financial interests of the movie world or the software industry, led by Microsoft. These measures will have contrary effects.

But the open letter warns that the problems are not just in the maintenance of copyright. With internet the publishing and distribution of culture is democratised and gives everyone the opportunity to become a publisher. So in principle everyone will have to deal with copyright problems. Yet the present law mainly serves the interests of distributors such as publishers, music and movie companies; besides copyright has been brought into the sphere of criminal law. However internet has affected the activities of the distribution companies.

The copyright law was originally modest in penetration and duration, but has expanded due to amendments and jurisdiction to the extent that social support for it starts to crumble. Pirate parties in many European countries are signs on the wall. Groups of voters will support these one issue parties.

Copyright law should be re-directed to its original starting point: invest protection, promotion of cultural, scientific and political artefacts, recognition of the efforts and the personality rights of the creator and, last but not least, enrichment of our cultural heritage. The contemporary Copyright Act has become an obstacle for the creators as they are more often confronted with institutes clearing the rights of other creators who figure in their works; think only of the movie maker using the song Happy Birthday in movie.

The law maker should start to balance the interests. The prolongation of copyright mans some more years of revenues from royalty. In reality it also means hidden cultural damage for not created works or not enjoyed artefacts. Reform of the Copyright Act will lead to a cultural enrichment and growth in supply and demand.

The author of the open letter, Jeroen Hellingman, member of the board of Vrijschrift, notices that a dichotomy starts to show between innovative distributors, who are moving with the times and are grabbing the new opportunities, and , on the other hand, the conservative forces, which keep milking their successes and are using conservative politician to protect their business. This development has been predicted by economists like Dr Wilfried Dolfsma.

Blog Posting Number: 987


Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Dutch parliamentary hearings into copyright (1)

A Dutch parliamentary working party is going to investigate the bottlenecks which have arisen due to the introduction of internet. The working party will be part of the commission for justice. The state secretary of justice has announced a vision document on copyright in the past, but the parliamentarians do not want to wait for this. The working party will investigate what scenarios there are in order to come to remuneration models. The working party wants have results in a few months and have a discussion in the House of Parliament before the summer.

The discussion on copyrights and levies has never been away in the last few years. Recently at a seminar several suggestions were discussed. The collecting society NORMA suggested a new system of measures, enforcing levies on media, but tolerating non-commercial uploads (presently uploading copyrighted material is illegal in the Netherlands).

Sample-artist and vj Eboman said that the present copyright law is dated and can not respond to the new ways with images in which people communicate. Remixing and sampling is impossible by the legal squabbles of an industry which is only attempting to protect its revenues.

And the first written reaction, an open letter (only in Dutch), is already in sent by the Vrijschrift organisation (translated Free writing). This organisation promotes the awareness of the economic and social importance of free knowledge and culture for society. Internationally co-operates with the Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure, the Free Software Foundation Europe, the Project Gutenberg en many others.

In the open letter (copyrighted under creative commons) to the state secretary of Justice and the parliamentary commission of justice the organisation expresses that it is happy with the parliamentary investigation into copyright.

In the open letter Vrijschrift points to bottlenecks, which are caused by the abundence of copyright regulations. These bottlenecks can be summarised as:
- the length of copyright is too long;
- the reach of copyright is too wide;
- the copyright law is excessively complex;
- publishers claim copyright improperly (copy fraud);
- Levies are unworkable and unjust.

In the extensive open letter the organisation treats all these points. In the next instalments I will produce a digest of the open letter.

Blog Posting Number 986

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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

EC: 1 million sentences in 22 languages

The European Commission’s collection of about 1 million sentences and their high quality translations in 22 of the 23 official EU languages — including those of the new Member States — is the biggest ever collection in so many languages and is now freely available. The data can help the development of other linguistic software tools such as grammar and spell checkers, online dictionaries and multilingual text classification systems. By offering free and open access to this JRC-Acquis collection of sentences, the EU hopes to foster multilingualism.

The EU institutions have more multilingual texts than any other organisation in the world because of the requirements that EU law exist in each of its 23 official languages. Their translation services work with 253 possible language pair combinations and produce around 1.5 million translated pages a year.

Whereas large amounts of translations of English or French texts can be found on the Internet, such resources are scarce for languages such as Latvian, Romanian or Dutch, and they are practically nonexistent for the combination of two languages for which few resources exist.

Through co-operation between its translators and its in-house scientists, The EC is releasing large collections of sentences from legal documents covering technical, political and social issues which are available in 22 languages (Bulgarian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Estonian, German, Greek, Finnish, French, Hungarian, Italian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Maltese, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Slovak, Slovene, Spanish and Swedish). In this translation repository it is possible to find sentences with their equivalent in all other official languages . Only Irish translations are not yet available. This release of language data is a good example of the Commission's open policy of re-use of its information resources and follows the opening of the EU's documentary and terminological databases Eur-Lex and IATE.

The EC has extensive experience with the development of multilingual text processing tools and is at the forefront of multilingualism, offering publicly accessible news search sites covering up to 35 languages via its European Media Monitoring tool. The 7th Framework programme for research and development – in its Information and Communication Technologies strand – supports research on machine translation and other language related technologies.

Blog Posting Number: 985

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Monday, January 21, 2008

Dutch glass fibre networks

It has taken a while, but now glass fibre is breaking through in the Netherlands. Some five years ago the general opinion was that glass fibre was too expensive and that we would need grants and subsidies. Now glass fibre projects pop up like mushrooms. Glass fibre networks are now available for consumers, munipalities and business.

For consumers there are many projects. After the first private glass fibre project in Nuenen near Eindhoven, a march of projects developed. Around Nuenen various towns are now deciding to get glass fibre. Amsterdam has started its project of 400.000 households to be provided with glass fibre. My hometown Almere has started a glass fibre project for 70.000 houses. But also Enschede and Deventer have set up projects. And the projects are no longer restricted to urban areas, but also start in rural areas like the region between Haarlem and Lisse. And in the east of The Netherlands the FttF project ( Fibre to the Farm) is being organised; ducts for fibre will be dug by the farmers themselves.

But glass fibre is already in use in the institutional world. Especially municipalities are heavily involved as they see opportunities to get a better infrastructure between municipal departments, schools and hospitals. In my home town Almere there is a fibre network between the school, not just for transport, but also for central control. The fibre network can be paid as it saves already 5 million euro for system maintenance which was done in every school. Now also Amsterdam starts a super fast network for 245 schools. The municipality has devoted 900.000 euro to the project. The advantages are numerous. The link to Knowledgenet, the school network in the Netherlands, is faster now. Material for the lessons can be shared. There can be videoconferencing now. Besides the schools 26 cultural institutions and public libraries will be linked to the network. Amsterdam has already a Cityring, which is used by institutes for performing arts and cultural sites like Fabchannel. Also in Den Bosch a schoolnet will be started up. For the start some 30 schools will linked to Boschnet, a municipal network which had already 140 connections..

Besides consumer and municipal projects, also business projects start to take off. In Eindhoven six industrial areas, comprising some 100 businesses, have started an open glass fibre project. The network is organised by BBned, a Telecom Italia subsidiary. It is the first private business network. In cities like The Hague, Amsterdam and Rotterdam, glass fibre networks for industrial areas have been organised, but not as private business networks. The network in Eindhoven will be linked to Brabantnet which connects with businesses in Den Bosch, Vught, Heusden and Boxtel. To the North Brabantnet is linked with the glass fibre net of Nijmegen.

Blog Posting Number: 984


Sunday, January 20, 2008

Levy on format shifting

Dutch collecting societies and musicians will go to court again to claim remuneration for music copied on a hard disc or a flash memory.

The organisation for neighbouring rights Norma and the Dutch musicians’ unions will start up the court case. The collecting societies and the musicians’ associations had requested a temporary injunction to oblige the Dutch government to pay out remuneration for music being copied on the grounds of the Dutch copyright act. This clearly stipulates that for a copy a levy must be paid. The judge, however, ruled negatively for the collecting societies and associations and referred the parties to a case which is presently under the judge and in which a judge will rule shortly.

The claimants are being supported by two Dutch small political parties which want to have a levy on copying Music on devices like mp3 players. The political parties have asked the state secretary of arts to regulate the levy for the artists. But the state secretary of justice has two aasociations of electronics manufacturers on his side. They are of the opinion that an one-sided levy on electronic products is disturbing in the market.

The legal action is a solo action by a collecting society. Last year the state secretary of justice put a stop to collecting the levy on mp3 players and demanded that the collecting societies should work together. The levy system should be transparent and where possible the collecting societies should deliver one bill. The colelcting societies are now working on one billing system for the industry.

The problem is not just a Dutch problem. In December 2005 Gordon Brown commissioned him to lead an independent review of intellectual property rights in the UK, known as the Gowers Review of Intellectual Property. The UK Intellectual Property Office (UKIPO), a body responsible for granting intellectual property (IP) rights, formerly known as the UK Patent Office, is now proposing to open a two-month consultation on six of the 54 recommendations from Andrew Gowers' review of IP, published in December 2006 (mind you, one year later!). All six recommendations are related to the flexibility and balance of the IP system. The UKIPO plans to suggest the introduction of a limited private copying exception for format shifting, e.g. to allow consumers to put content from a purchased CD onto a portable music player.

Blog Posting Number: 983

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Saturday, January 19, 2008

The Future of Ideas is Now Free

In 2001 the book The Future of Ideas: the fate of the commons in a connected world by Lawrence Lessig was published, just two weeks after 9/11. In the book Lessig warns that a strict copyright for too long a period of time can destroy innovation. The book was published by Random House; now seven years later the largest publisher in the world has agreed for the book to be licensed under Creative Commons. The book can now be freely downloaded as pdf.

Lawrence Lessig was a professor of law at Stanford Law School and is well known for his critique on copyright. He is the founder of and the present CEO of Creative Commons International. In The Future of Ideas he is pursuing the copyright theme which he described in Code and Other laws of Cyberspace(2000).

The theme of Lessig is to demonstrate that copyright restricts ideas and innovation. In Code and Other laws of Cyberspace he argues that computer programs can restrict ideas in cyberspace. In The Future of Ideas he warns that a strict copyright regime with long period of validity will destroy innovation. He demonstrates that intellectual property can be restricted on three layers: the code layer (IP addresses), the content layer (file sharing), and the physical layer (wired or wireless).

In the printed and pdf book Free Culture (2004) he took a step further and argued that it is strange that companies like Westlaw (Thomson) and LexisNexis (Reed Elsevier) ask subscribers to pay for materials that are essentially in the public domain. The book has started a free culture movement with a manifesto: The mission of the Free Culture movement is to build a bottom-up, participatory structure to society and culture, rather than a top-down, closed, proprietary structure. Through the democratizing power of digital technology and the Internet, we can place the tools of creation and distribution, communication and collaboration, teaching and learning into the hands of the common person — and with a truly active, connected, informed citizenry, injustice and oppression will slowly but surely vanish from the earth.

It is interesting to see that the largest publishing house in the world Random House, a subsidiary of Bertelsmann, is allowing the books Free Culture and The Future of Ideas to be brought under creative commons licenses. Are the publishers moving from a strict copyright regime to a more relaxed regime. But it turns out to be an experiment, which should deliver some useful data to report about its effect. The publisher will still be marketing and distributing the printed editions and look after special licenses. It is not an earth quake, but a closed door is opened to let in a ray of sun.

Blog Posting Number: 982

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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