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The story so far ...

Posted November 22nd, 2009 by debritz

When I was a child, I couldn't have dreamt of the wonders of the internet and associated technologies. Back then, even in science-fiction, technology was huge, very limited in its uses and extremely unfriendly. Now it's discreet and powerful. Yet, as the first decade of the 21st century comes to an end, I'm surprised not that at the technology we have but at what we don't have. Actually, it's not the technology itself that's wanting, it's the stoppers being put on it by various corporate interests. Technically it should be possible for me to access every novel, reference book and newspaper ever written, every sound recording ever made, every film and every television show from my laptop. While I can access a lot of information, there's much more that's locked up by issues of copyright and royalities, and licensing agreements. It baffles me why, for example, I can't legally watch new episodes of my favourite BBC programs as they are screened in Britain. It's something I am willing to pay to do, but nobody can provide my service. Instead, I must wait for the Australian rights owner to decide when these shows will be screened. In some cases, such as the news satire program, Have I Got News For You, there appears to be no Australian rights owner, and yet I'm still not legally able to access this program -- for love or for money. Meanwhile, News Corp has been making a lot of noise about charging for news. Again, I'm willing to pay -- but I've yet to see a service that I would pay for. It seems to me that there is a lot of money to be made by content creators and by those who aggregate and on-sell it, but they're creating roadblocks that only encourage piracy. Have they learnt nothing from the music indusry's bitter experience of downloads?

Can't give up that Google habit

Posted November 18th, 2009 by debritz

I keep reading that News Corp is dropping Google. Earlier this week, The Australian even ran an article by independent commentator Tim Burrows explaining why it's not such a bad idea. But obviously the word hasn't trickled down to the troops putting together the News Ltd websites in Australia yet -- and I'm not talking about their already well-documented failure to include the robots.txt code to stop search enginges indexing a page. The headlines on many stories are being written or rewritten to include the key words a search engine would look for, especially names. So instead of he kind of clever headlines you expect from newspapers, we often get very boring ones that include people's full names and other detail, presumably so it increases Google's chance of finding them.

On/ off relationship

Posted November 12th, 2009 by debritz

From the front page of

From the story it points to: "[Meshel] Laurie, who is expecting twins, has started working from home after losing her license for accumulated points loss..."
So is she on the air or off the air? At the time of writing, I'm sure I can hear her voice coming from the radio.
PS: I'm not even going to suggest that Nova bosses are considering Laurie as a replacement for Tim Ross on Nova in Sydney. Oooops ... Mind you, "Merrick and Meshel" does have a ring to it.
Update: At 10am, the heading on the blurb now reads "Second Nova jock in driving ban".

Never again ...

Posted November 6th, 2009 by debritz

Surely, the lack of on-time performance is the problem.
PS:The story goes on to say that average on-time performance is 92.5 per cent. Well, I'd like to know how that is calculated. Every commuter I know has had to endure the cancellation of trains on a regular basis. Now, by my reckoning, that's an on-time performance of 0.0 per cent for those services, making it extremely difficult to get an average in the 90s. I'd certainly like to see separate figures for peak-hour services.

Hotmail scam fools Hotmail

Posted November 6th, 2009 by debritz

This just arrived in my Hotmail inbox:

This Email is from Hotmail Customer Care and we are sending it to every Hotmail Email User Accounts Owner for safety. we are having congestions due to the anonymous registration of Hotmail accounts so we are shutting down some Hotmail accounts and your account was among those to be deleted...

It's a phishing scam, of course -- and a very crude one -- but how come Hotmail can't identify it as such and put it into the junk mail folder? Answer please, Microsoft?

ABC issues social media policy

Posted November 5th, 2009 by debritz

ABC managing director Mark Scott has issued guidelines for the use of social media such as Twitter by ABC staff and contractors. The policy's four enforceable standards are:

1. Do not mix the professional and the personal in ways likely to bring the ABC into disrepute.
2. Do not undermine your effectiveness at work.
3. Do not imply ABC endorsement of your personal views.
4. Do not disclose confidential information obtained through work.

Seems sensible enough to me.
Update: The Australian has a report on Scott's digital strategy, as revealed at the Media140 conference, here.

Cut the confusion, please

Posted November 5th, 2009 by debritz

As I've said on this blog, and on radio, I am open to paying for online news, if what's on offer is appealing to me. However, most of the websites I currently visit have a long way to go before the deliver something I'd pay for. I definitely will not pay to see picture galleries of Jennifer Hawkins or Megan Fox. Apart from the actual content, I hope the people who are presumably creating the paid-for offering for the big publishers have a close look at the navigation systems of their sites. If I'm going to pay for content, I want to be able to find it quickly. Yesterday, I took my virtual protractor and slide rule to, which has one of the most confusing menu systems I've ever encountered. If my counting skills are functioning properly, the menu system offers up 13 main categories, with 12 extras underneath. With the dropdowns, there's a total of 79 options for the confused reader to try to work their way through in an attempt to find the content they want. Now that's just crazy. You'd be lucky to get 79 pages of news in the average daily paper, let alone 79 different categories. One of the things that's great about newspapers is that people know how to navigate their way around them: news up the front, features, opinion and business in the middle, and sport at the back. The website should be just as intuitive, and some streamlining is urgently needed.
PS: By way of comparision, the UK Digital Publisher of the Year winner, has 14 main menu items plus changing "hot topics" links.

Pushing the pay button

Posted November 4th, 2009 by debritz

I've just received an email from the folks behind news aggregator Wotnews inviting me to trial a news service called Team Stream. It promises a "better way for companies to read the news" and says, after the free trial finishes, it will cost "less than $1 / user / day with discounts for larger networks". How much of this will go to the content creators, I wonder.

And the answer is ...

Posted November 4th, 2009 by debritz

My apologies to the folks at Metro. Today, I received this personal reply to my query. regarding the email address on the 60 Seconds column:

Hi Brett,
As strange as it may seem, people do contact us and ask to be interviewed. It is a very popular spot and quite sought after.
Thanks for the query.
Best regards,

Left hand, right hand

Posted November 3rd, 2009 by debritz

One of the Google Ads that occasionally pops up on this page, in the top left-hand corner, exhorts visitors to "Keep up to date with the latest Happenings on Brisbane Radio" and refers them to the following link: If you go there, you'll get this message: "Sorry your page was not found ..." Appreciative as I am that Brisbane Times is placing ads that find their way to my site, I think it'd be in both our interests if the page to which they point actually has some interesting and relevant content. Of course, if they are in the market for a radio writer, I am available.
PS: In case someone from Google is reading this, I don't click on ads on my own site, I cut and pasted the URL displayed on the ad.

V preview

Posted November 1st, 2009 by debritz

Here's some teaser video from America's ABC network of the remake of sci-fi series V:

There's more video here.

From the glass house ...

Posted November 1st, 2009 by debritz

A sub-editorial slip-up on the website today.

Is the phone book old fashioned?

Posted October 28th, 2009 by debritz

Have phone books had their day? Copies of the Yellow Pages are stacking up everywhere, it seems, because people now do their searching on the internet. I discussed this and other burning issue with Spencer Howson and Susan Hetherington on the 612ABC breakfast show. The audio is here.

Has Microsoft lost the plot?

Posted October 27th, 2009 by debritz

Family Guy image from official websiteHow cool is Microsoft? It's going to sponsor a show featuring Family Guy's Seth MacFarlane and Alex Borstein which will run commercial free in the US apart from built-in plugs for Windows 7. Oh, hang on, no it isn't. Apparently Microsoft executives were horrified when they attended a pre-record and the subject matter of Family Guy Presents: Seth and Alex's Almost Live Comedy Show strayed into deaf people, the Holocaust, feminine hygiene and incest. Did these Micromorons never actually watch Family Guy before agreeing to be the show's sponsor. The folks at Apple, who paint themselves as the cool computing atlernative, must be laughing their heads off.

Paper chase

Posted October 27th, 2009 by debritz

“If they come up with a model that works, I’ll pinch it.”

So says West Australian Newspapers CEO Chris Wharton about whether he'd follow News Ltd in charging for online content. Interestingly, Wharton also says he thinks former WAN editor Paul Armstrong got it wrong and "it wasn’t the kind of paper that I enjoyed". Here he touches on an interesting media topic: everybody's talking about their online strategy, but few in newspapers are talking about their strategy to prolong the life of the print product. It seems to me that many newspapers are losing readers at a greater rate than they should because they are creating products for people who don't read papers, never have and/or never will, rather than for those who do, always have and always will (as long as the papers are targetted at their interests).

Go phish?

Posted October 26th, 2009 by debritz

A friend writes:

Why would Westpac, which constantly warns people about spurious websites, undertake major design changes to its own site? For customers, there is comfort in familiarity.

I concur. I thought I was on a phishing site when I logged in over the weekend.

Just take your time ...

Posted October 26th, 2009 by debritz

Now I know I shouldn't grizzle about something I get for free, but I'm not at all happy with this message from Facebook:

Account Unavailable
Your account is temporarily unavailable due to site maintenance. It should be available again within a few hours. We apologize for the inconvenience.

Given FB knows where I am, isn't 8am at the start of the working week bad timing for site maintenance -- and isn't "a few hours" a little long?

I want my BBC

Posted October 26th, 2009 by debritz

Now here is something I definitely would pay for on the internet. The BBC reportedly has plans to launch a global version of its iPlayer, so people outside the UK can access some of its most popular shows on demand. If it means I can, for example, watch the topical, satircal quiz Have I Got News For You within a day or two of its screening in Britain (rather than have to hunt around for bits and pieces of it illegally posted on YouTube), I'm in.

Question for the weekend

Posted October 24th, 2009 by debritz

How come I keep dragging the Fox Sports bar to the bottom of the homepage, but it return to its original, near-the-top position the next time I return to the page?

No news today, unless you pay

Posted October 23rd, 2009 by debritz

Rupert Murdoch must be pleased. He's been the one talking up paid subscriptions for online news in the past few weeks, but he hasn't had to make the first move in one of his prime markets. Newsday, a New York paper focussing on Long Island, is tocharge $5 a week for access to locked content on its website. I imagine the New York Times and Murdoch's own New York Post will follow suit rather quickly.
PS: As I've said before, including on 612ABC this week, I'll gladly pay for content online as long as it's worth paying for. Many news websites have a long way to go before they provide it.

Thanks a lot, Bill

Posted October 22nd, 2009 by debritz

Last night, on the eve of the launch of Windows 7, Windows Vista told me it needed to install some important updates. At least half an hour later, after downloading the updates and attempting to install them, it told me it couldn't be done and the process had to be reversed. The result is that I was without a functional laptop for more than an hour and I still don't have the updates. Is this a cunning way of Microsoft telling me I should shell out $200 for the 7 upgrade? But if I don't, and a security flaw in my machine is exploited by evildoers, can I sue Bill Gates and co for failing to protect it?

Are you paying attention?

Posted October 22nd, 2009 by debritz

This from a Tweet:

If you're watching John Safran's show at 9.30, come visit us at The Punch. We're live blogging...

. This interweb thing has just gone crazy. Surely if you're watching the show, you're watching the show, not reading a blog written by somebody else who's watching the show. I've heard of mutlitasking but any comment written on the web about the show, during the show, is written by somebody who isn't really paying attention to the show.
PS: Oh, and thanks to a combination of the usual time zones and the absence of daylight saving in Queensland, a live blog is only useful to people who live in NSW, Victoria and Tasmania.

A case of aggregation and theft

Posted October 20th, 2009 by debritz

Media Watch last night did a good job of summarising in a very short time the challenges facing traditional media. It visited some of the issues I wrote about yesterday, and included some interviews of its own with key Australian media players. Which leads me to a point I'd like to pick up on: not all bloggers are simply aggregators and thieves -- unless newspaper columnists and website editors who "write-off" and link to stories from other news sites are too. On this blog, for example, there's plenty of commentary about news in other media, but there's also original reporting (such as the Brisbane radio ratings results, which almost always appear here first). Unlike some "mainstream" media websites, I always endeavour to link to the source of my material, I declare any potential conflict of interest I may have, and I make it clear when I am quoting from a media release. Some newspapers have a policy of pretending (by omission) that material they've lifted straight from a PR handout is the result of their own interview. What blogs like this also do is they allow realtime feedback by readers, and sometimes by key players in the issue itself (as it was a few days ago when Busting Out producer Simon Bryce responded to other comments about the show being refused hire of the Theatre Royal in Hobart). The one thing that's for sure is that things are different now, and it's up to the consumers themselves to decide what they read and what they will pay for.

Pay for what?

Posted October 19th, 2009 by debritz

I've been saying for a while that newspapers won't get away with charging for the current content they are serving up on their websites. In this column, Mark Day (who says he has no inside running) gives a hint of what News Ltd is up to:

... I gather the aim is to create sites that appeal to various user groups, built in the style of social networks. Some will be aimed at youth markets, others at the so-called working families, others at upmarket, culturally influenced, older audiences. Some will be defined by geography (that is, city or regionally oriented); others by specific interests.

If it's implemented properly, I can imagine paying for it in the same way as I am happy to pay for Foxtel.
PS: Roy Greenslade has this to say about what News International will put behind its paywall in the UK: star columnists (including Jeremy Clarkson), sport and Page 3 girls.

Gene's brother?

Posted October 19th, 2009 by debritz


Messing about with Mystery Google

Posted October 19th, 2009 by debritz

I'm a sucker for a gimmick, so when I read about Mystery Google -- the search engine that gives you the results to somebody ele's search query, not your own -- I had to give it a go. Vain person that I am, I typed in "Brett Debritz" and received results for the query "It is Mystery Google." Now, that was a bit of a disappointment, because I was hoping to be taken into a world I hadn't even thought about before. Presumably, if I understand how it works, somebody will get the results of my search and end up here, reading this post. It's a weird world.

You sexy (and powerful) things

Posted October 16th, 2009 by debritz

Britain's Gordon Brown may be headed for electoral defeat next year, but at least he is sexier than Kevin Rudd. That's according to this website* that rates world leaders on the basis of "hotness". No. 1 is Yulia Tymoshenko, the Prime Minister of Ukraine (pictured) -- and it would be difficult to argue against that judgment. Brown is 84th, Rudd 93rd and Barack Obama is 15th. The top 10 includes Jens Stoltenberg (Norway), Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck King (Bhutan), Joseph Kabila (DR Congo), Cristina Fernández de Kirchner (Argentina), Rafael Correa (Ecuador), Grand Duke Henri (Luxembourg), Roosevelt Skerrit (Dominica), Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (Philippines) and Bamir Topi (Albania). At the bottom of the list is North Korea's Kim Jong-il, just trailing Pope Benedict.
* Obviously, I have no control over the comments made on this linked site.

Historical revelation

Posted October 5th, 2009 by debritz

Step aside Tim Berners-Lee and pretender Al Gore, apparentty Sir Keith Murdoch, father of Rupert, invented the internet. Or, to be more specific, he foresaw the convergence of media way back in 1937 when opening Melbourne radio station 3LK. It's a shame he didn't share his thoughts on how to monetise the love child of radio and newspapers.
Update: Here is the audio:

Mix viral: too smug?

Posted October 4th, 2009 by debritz

In reference to the Mix 106.5 viral clip parodying Kyle Sandilands, one of my Facebook friends says, and I agree, that its impact is ruined by the "ballsy" voiceover at the end and the smug look on the faces of Mike E and Carmella. The subliminal message is that, given the chance, they'd be just like Kyle, rather than a real alternative. If I was at ARN, I'd be fixing that before putting the ad on TV.

Sounds like Larry

Posted October 1st, 2009 by debritz

I use them on this site, but I often scratch my head about the placement of Google ads. I was searching today for Laurence Olivier, and the sponsored link was:

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