Sunday, April 27, 2008

A Mayor for New Media: London's Candidates Compared

Thank the lord I've received my polling card so can now vote in tomorrow's mayoral election. And if who to vote for wasn't bleedin' obvious as far as I'm concerned, here's a highly unscientific round-up of the big 3 and their new media credentials.

Brian Paddick
2,189 Supporters on Facebook
Facebook groups are pretty sparse on the ground, although I was diverted by the best mayoral tribute group "Ken's the best mayor but I fancy Brian Paddick so much I might vote for him".
40 friends on MySpace
Active Twitter user for the past few weeks at least (60 updates) - and has replied to questions directed @brianpaddick
A nice selection of videos on Youtube on the official Libdem channel and rather coolly released his campaigning video on Youtube before it was on TV.

Ken Livingstone
2,277 supporters on Facebook
Facebook groups are all very anti-Ken, a little disturbingly so in some cases ("twat" not the mildest of terms to have passed Facebook's profanity filter)
C0uldn't find a MySpace and Ken's not on Twitter either.
A good selection of videos on Youtube and a great section on his site which highlights all the other "proper" blogs writing good stuff about Ken - a good example of amplifying buzz simply by pointing it out as well as utilizing and publishing work that his team are no doubt doing anyway rather than possibly [whisper it] wasting time updating a MySpace page or Twitter.

Boris Johnson
7,773 supporters on Facebook and a much livelier page than the others with his like and dislikes - you know, like a proper Facebook person would have.
48 subscribers, 1,635 views to his campaign's Youtube channel (chaps above are using their party's channel).
@backboris has tweeted nearly as much as @brianpaddick
but is only following 1 person!
His campaign started ages ago on MySpace of all places although the official BackBoris MySpace friends number 101, but the daft spoof Boris page over 900.

In summary - as in life, web:
  • Brian Paddick ticks all the right boxes but just fails to pull it off (if Jonty from Big Brother's your celebrity supporter, one might conclude you're in trouble... Scarlett Johansson he aint - although a little more articulate).

  • Ken may be fundamentally flawed but outstyles his opponents in a couple of key areas

  • Boris amuses and delights but just lacks credibility where it counts

But, at the end of the day, how do you decide the candidate for you? I suppose you could do worse than the BBC channel on Youtube or alternatively ... FIGHT!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Where is the Black Russell Brand? Or for that matter the Asian Martha Lane Fox?

The questions in the title popped into my head after a speech given to staff at Channel 4 this week by Lenny Henry entitled "The Road To Diversity Is Closed … Please Seek Alternate Route".

Stating that ethnicity was his diversity flag to wave, Lenny gave us an encore of a speech he'd already delivered to the Royal Television Society, highlighting the lack of non-white faces both in front of and behind the camera.

We raced through the industry's past embarrassments such as the excruciating Mind Your Language and unintentionally stereotype-enforcing Alf Garnett, before stopping off to celebrate some of the good work both home and abroad in the 80s and 90s such as Desmonds and The Cosby Show.

Arriving at the 21st century, Lenny then asked the crowd to shout out any comedy and entertainment programmes currently airing in the UK starring black or asian actors, comedians or presenters. Most eyes went down into laps, leaving one lone cry of "Little Miss Jocelyn" which apparently may have been cancelled anyway.

And whilst I heard and agreed somewhat with the view that Lenny's speech wasn't saying much not heard before, what was clear was that it needed to be stated again; at some stage the tv industry took its eye off the ball and positive action is now needed to find non-white writers, actors, directors, gaffers etc.

More shocking personally, however, was when I reflected on if Lenny had asked a question about senior figures within the new media industry from different ethnic backgrounds, what names would I come up with? For an industry that prides itself in being open, cutting edge and forward thinking, look around at any industry event and Greg Dyke's infamous phrase does come to mind.

Believe me, I have nothing against smart white men - I married one for starters. But blimey, when I look at the so-called "digerati" of the UK, it looks distinctly pasty and not a little testosterone heavy. In diversity terms, New Media is positively prehistoric (ironic really) and current networks seem to be perpetuating the make up of the current white, male, middle-class cliques.

If we really do have the future of media in our hands, surely we need to have a workforce that reflects our current society at the very least?

At the end of his speech, Lenny asked the audience to take some positive action - which I'll try to do in my day job - and I hope this post may have made you think a little about the diversity of your workforce or team. I also thought I may as well add the following which might help in some small way to introduce some new talent to our industry:

If you or someone you know might be interested in starting a career in UK new media and don't know where to start then do email me (via my profile above) and I'll see if I can put you in touch with someone or supply some useful information.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Twitter: A Great Big Geeky Curb Your Enthusiasm

All human emotion is to be found on Twitter and quite often the heightened kind. Having recently engaged with the geek communication tool of choice, I've been informed and amused by the public highs and lows of some influential figures on the tech scene.

My personal favourites of the last fortnight have been stars of the twitterati Michael Arrington letting it be known what he thinks of Dave Winer (whose ambiguously pronounced surname lends itself to the poetry of the "tweet") and Techcrunch UK's Mike Butcher raging against the middle classes.

All splendid, honest outpourings from the gut, although both left me wondering whether these tweets are an authentic representation of their personalities or an online manifestation of an inner rage, rather as one imagines nervy teens maraud around World of Warcraft as giant, sexy troll slayers (apologies if there are no giant troll slayers sexy or otherwise, WoW is one party I won't be crashing).

No doubt it's the intimacy, impulse and instant gratification of the medium that leads to fewer inhibitions than one might expect from long-established forms of public communication - an extension of a phenomenon seen in lots of online communication tools and services. But I'm not complaining, the mixture of work and play spiced up with some fervour and a little old fashioned curmudgeonry is really entertaining, like a great big geeky Curb Your Enthusiasm.

Guessing that if you've got this far, you may have some interest in new media, be new to Twitter and it's likely you're based in the UK, here are a few good people to start following: Steve Bowbrick cos he's funny; Downing Street (yes, it really is them) cos it feels nicely weird and it'll be interesting to see how they use it; and The Guardian's Jemima Kiss cos she's charming and useful. The two Mikes above are also great twitterboxes or tweetheads or whatever the word is for one who tweets prolifically (thanks to twitter mates for ideas so far, any better ideas @louby please).

But Larry David on Twitter, now there's a thought. Check out the first paragraph of his bio on The Huffington Post, it's his perfect medium, surely?