Why the Daily Telegraph was right to try twitterfall despite the twitterfail and the lesson for marketers

The Daily Telegraph had a nice idea for its website – run a Twitterfall of terms related to the 2009 Budget in the UK, but within hours of it going up, people were – you guessed it – throwing up comments like “The Telegraph is the worst paper in the UK. I wouldn’t wipe my arse with it.” They took a pounding for it, but I think they were right to do it – even if they forgot the first rule of web2.0.

For those wondering, the first, most basic rule of web2.0 is that once you do it, you lose control, it’s out there and it’s a two-way thing. Skittles saw that recently when they switched out their homepage with social media sites, newspapers and other sites have been hammered by runaway comment sections. It’s a strength of 2.0 but also a weakness – the conversation is only as good as the lowest common denominator.

So it was a daft thing to do but easily seen coming – heck, I remember saying to someone before that if I worked at a paper still and my main competitor set up traffic/weather tweeting systems I’d have them down in less than a day as you could easily flood them with unreliable data if you know how to play the system.

(That might shock some people, but it’s worth remembering that while a lot of web2.0 is built on a fabric of goodwill, kindness, optimism and a little naivety, newspapers are ferocious places where you do what you can to screw over the competition. Hell, I once redirected a competitor’s phone to mine: all was fair in love and war for a scoop. And it was far worse in the 80s and 70s.)

So it was daft to do, but were they right to try it? Yes. They may have thought that people would have better things to do than take the mickey out the feed. (This may have been one of those times where having a PR person about might have had them point out the dangers to the editorial side.) It might even have been worth a SWOT analysis. Ultimately though, papers are trying to show what people are thinking out there and a Twitterfall is as good a way as any.

What they should have done was left it quiet until tomorrow then announced it was happening and what the hashtags would be. That and not started the Twitterfall until about an hour before the event. That way even if people were coming on with abuse, the real content would drown them out.

Another possibility might have been to use a form of Liveblogging instead of Twitter – but that would have involved more staffing and I suspect the appeal of Twitterfall was that it could be automated and Twitter is still the tech du jour amongst many.

Either way, like most experiments, was worth a try, a couple of lessons will have been learned and everyone will have forgotten about it in a couple of weeks – more than likely overshadowed by what’s actually in the budget.

Free SMS Twitter on your phone returns to the UK – for Vodafone users – is this their iPhone killer and is it exclusive? (yes it is)

It’s confirmed on the Twitter blog after being broken on Electropig (great scoop lads) and Mashable – very soon free SMS text service for Twitter will return – but only for Vodafone UK customers.

Many said that the loss of the free SMS service from Twitter was a blow for the service and there was the usual outraged moaning (I thought it made perfect sense – you can’t give stuff away forever) and Twitter went from strength to strength afterwards.

Anyway, let’s look at this another way – is this Vodafone UK’s way of fighting the iPhone? O2 has the iPhone, Orange are rumoured to be joining them (as well as getting the option for the 3G sim-enabled macbook when it comes out) and it seems to be a fairly tight agreement, so what do you do if you can’t have the iPhone? Go get the main channel of communication instead. I wonder if a phone network could insist on this as an exclusive – and make that the carrot they offer to customers?

I’d watch and see what phones Vodafone start to tout now becuase they’ll push phones that let you make the most of this – though I wonder if they will charge a small amount – £5 a month say – as an add-on for the unlimited Twitter option or if it will be free for everyone. If so, who the feck is scaling their network?

Be interesting to see how this plays out.

UPDATE: It’s a Vodafone exclusive right enough. According to Yashin19 

devices tab in Twitter settings confirms SMS alerts are exclusive to Vodafone. Along with good coverage in Edinburgh it seems!

I think this could be a bit of a gamechanger – though the debate has already started (guess where).

Guardian boss: PRs need to learn to pitch by Twitter

Like many journalists, The Guardian’s tech editor Charles Arthur deals with a lot of enquiries and press releases coming from PR operators – some of them relevant, many of them not. But in an effort to try and make PRs be more concise with him, he’s decided to take it to Twitter. He’s removed his email address from Gorkana and wants pitched by tweet alone.

For Charles, it’s a chance to free his inbox from some clutter and perhaps free up a chunk of his time as well. For me, it’s completely fascinating on a number of levels:

It forces PRs to play catch-up and be Twitter-savvy

It changes the rules of interaction between PRs and press

Firstly, making PRs change their method of contact is quite interesting. I’ve often argued that even if they do nothing else, PRs should be monitoring Twitter to see what is said about their clients, but now they have to learn how to use it if they want to appeal to the UK’s top mainstream technology supplement. It’s not the only bit of education involved as Charles also hopes it means people will start to be more relevant in what they send to him.

Secondly, making the PR and journalism interaction take place out in the open is a significant game-changer (and how long before some organisations insist on it for all comms involving publicly funded bodies?). A phone call or email are limited to those involved, but a tweet can be seen by anyone.

So by theoretically tweeting a pitch to Charles – and remember you can’t direct mail unless Charles follows you – everyone knows that you’ve pitched to him and knows what you are offering. So if Charles rejects it, you can’t then go to someone else and say ‘I’m offering you first bite…’ which then gives you the quandry of going to reporters one at a time or all at once. (But Charles himself is quite accepting of this, saying “I’d understand it was non-exclusive. That’s OK – exclusives last about three minutes online.”

At the other end, it’s a lot harder for a person to ignore a @reply than an email – and takes less time to reply to as well.

There’s also the possibility that this might increase PR tweetspam because if PR A sees that PR B has sent Charles a tweet about a product and A has something similar, then they are also going to get in touch with him.

(of course, some are also wondering if this will lead to people phoning up to see if someone received a tweet, just as some currently call to see if an email was of interest/received)

It’s going to be interesting to watch because if Charles – who is one of the more polite and patient senior newspaper staffers when dealing with PRs – does stick to his guns, does it mean he runs the risk of missing a good tale by email? What implications are there for PRs who don’t/won’t use Twitter? Will other reporters follow suit? Will PRs return the favour by saying ‘reach us only via Twitter?’ (Which would crazy, but that’s another post.)

But I wanted to ask Charles a couple of questions about it and he graciously took the time to answer them for me.

What do you expect to gain from this?
Less spam in my inbox. Seriously: there’s no reflection given to the stuff people spew at me. How many separate technology sections are there in Fleet Street? One. How many technology correspondents are there on Fleet Street? About five…If you can’t tailor your email output to a group that select, you simply shouldn’t be in the business.

How many pitches a day do you get?
Oh, God, twenty? Thirty? People to meet: average two a day. Twitter is starting to build up; I tell people to pitch the idea in 140 chars.
(Note: for a comparison to what Charles is saying, see Chris Anderson from Wired’s now legendary post on PR people)

Anyway, Charles continues…
(Or try to DM me, but I’m not following them so it’s lost.) Then there’s just all the other part-ideas. The thing though is that almost all PR stuff is announcements.

And then, he had the decency to point out something that’s probably obvious to those who have worked in editorial departments and PR but perhaps not to all…

I have a sedimentary concept of news. At the bottom you have all the debris: announcements. Almost all press releases are announcements. Above those are “issues” – topics that have people energised about something, but with no particular timeliness. (Eg parking near your house being discussed for charging by the council. Grinds on for months. It’s an issue.)

Then there’s news – when an announcement plus some issue comes together and makes news. That’s the top level, where I work. Why bombard me with sediment? I’m working at the news level. I need issues, not announcements.

And here’s possibly the most salient point from his email when talking about sending out a press release via email to a lot of reporters: I realise it’s the client who pays the bills, so they want the press release put in front of as many people as possible. But I’m afraid that model is officially broken, and has been for about five years – possibly ten or more.”

Now that’s an opinion I’m coming back to tomorrow…(what? a blog can’t do cliffhangers? It’s how you get readers coming back. Works for Jack Bauer every week)

(As an aside Anna Svenson also pointed out that Dan Martin of www.BusinessZone.co.uk has done the same – pitches via Twitter – and hopefully Dan will drop us a note to let us know how he got on with it. And thanks again to Charles for taking the time for this.)

It’s Twestival Time!

It’s time for Twitterers to show what a social and good natured bunch they are tonight with the Twestivals taking place across the globe, with the noble aim of raising funds for Charity:Water, helping to provide drinking water to those who need it most.

Anyway, I’m absolutely delighted that companies I work with have been so keen to get involved with it. Whyte and Mackay stepped right up and have offered the Edinburgh Twestival two tickets for the F1 Grandstand at Silverstone later this year – worth around £500 each (nice one Rob Bruce!)- while BrewDog have put forward beer and beer discounts for the Edinburgh and London events and Twitter’s very own Robert Burns @ayrshirebard has offered to send someone a free Burns email valentine.

No doubt the whole world + dog is sick of people pontificating about social media and how incredible Twitter is at the moment (Bobbie Johnson nailed that one) so all that’s left to say is that I hope it’s a blazing success, glad to see the All Tweet Journal covered it and all going well, I should be along at the Edinburgh bash tonight, so hopefully see some people there. (and if the weather’s terrible, I’ll head over to the Glasgow one instead)

In the meantime, Edinburgh host for tonight Ewan Spence has been grabbing people to do a ‘pass the water round the world’ style video, so I thought I’d get into the spirit of things with a little Burns…and you can see via Ewan’s plea here.

Twitter gets its own newspaper – the All Tweet Journal RT

So the mass-media newspaper indutry is dying is it? Tell that to James McIvor of Scooped. Not content with setting up a successful mock front page business – Scooped/Making the News (an idea that 99% of subs said ‘I wish I’d thought of that’ when they heard about it) and being a sports author, he’s gone and created a newspaper for Twitter, which launches this week.

He’s put a link up to a page one dummy and it’s a fantastic concept. I always joked about people doing a newspaper for World of Warcraft and having reporters run about there, but this is great – another one of those concepts that has people going ‘wish I’d thought of that‘.

The best bit (and this is where James’ skills as a Chief Sub-editor at the Scottish Sun paid off) is the title: The All Tweet Journal (say it loud if you don’t get the pun…)

I think this is a great example of someone using their traditional media skills, appying them online with a bit of flair and imagination (he’s been on Twitter for a while) and finding new marketplaces – something all the doom and gloomers might want to think about…

(and yes, the RT in the title is me being geeky. Give me a break, been a long weekend)

Help preserve Scottish poet Robert Burns’ legacy – Give just $2

It’s the cheapest birthday present ever! As I’ve mentioned online and below, we’re fundraising via Twitter for the new National Trust for Scotland Robert Burns Birthplace Museum. I’ll also be posting lines of Burns regularly via his Twitter account at www.twitter.com/ayrshirebard. For anyone writing about Burns until Tuesday, feel free to use the hashtags #burns. I’m also using #burnspoem when I post a line from Burns.

Feel free to spread this far and wide – here’s a tiny URL for this post: http://tiny.cc/6dV1U.

As this post shows, Burns has touched nearly everyone on the planet, so surely $2 isn’t too much to help ensure Burns legacy is remembered for another 50 years.

Any company which donates a minimum of $100 will get a free press release sent to their relevant media – global, local and national – as well as a thank you via Twitter.

If you have a Twitter account, all you have to do is add your details below and hit ‘Give and Tweet’. It will then prompt you for your PayPal account details – and that’s you, done! You can give more than $2 if you want, that’s just a suggested minimum.

If you don’t have a Twitter account, but would still like to donate via PayPal, all you have to do is send a payment – it doesn’t have to be $2 – to burnstwitter@nts.org.uk

If you don’t have a Twitter or Paypal account, follow the instructions downpage here. If you don’t have accounts and don’t want to set them up, but still want to donate, you can discuss donations by telephoning the Development Department on 0844 493 2113 during regular office hours or by email to development@nts.org.uk.

Acceptance of donations will close at 9am Tuesday morning UK/GMT time.

When Twitter meets Robert Burns

Exciting one this…just been given the go-ahead to spend the weekend seeing if Twitter can work as a fundraising mechanism for Robert Burns and the new Robert Burns Birthplace Museum (what? If it’s good enough for Stephen Fry, Jonathan Ross and Andy Murray, it’s good enough for Burns – and besides he’s been on Twitter for months at @ayrshirebard)

Now I’ve written regularly about how I think Twitter can be used to promote events and organisations, so this is a case of the proof is in the pudding – and no doubt I’ll be picking the brains of Sarah Evans to see if I’ve missed any tricks.

It continues what has been a very Burns-intense day for me as earlier on I was involved with Tunnock’s (of the Teacakes and Florida Oranges fame) and that involved coming up with a few Burns/Tunnock’s poetry mashups:

Address to a Snowball

Fair fa’ coconut sprinkled face,

Great chieftain o the teacake-race!

Aboon them a’ ye tak your place,

mallow, choc, or cream:

Weel are ye wordy of a grace

As lang’s my arm.

Ode to a Teacake

Wee, mallow, rounded, choccy biccy,

O, what a panic’s in my tummy!

One needs tae eat ye hasty

Wi bickering brattle!

I wad be laith to rin oot of thee,

An hae to eat a tattie.

Anyway, for those wanting to follow the fundraising adventures, set your twitter accounts to follow @craigmcgill and @ayrshirebard and the fun begins at noon on Saturday (following the 25th across the globe)

(if you’re still trying to work out all this Twitter stuff, here’s a great starting Twitter guide courtesy of Dubber and Clutch – and those are good guys to follow on Twitter as well.

And now, the obligatory press release….


23 January 2009

Burns Museum benefits from UK’s first fundraising by Twitter

Twitter – the massively popular online service used by the likes of Stephen Fry, Jonathan Ross and Andy Murray – is to be used as the UK’s first fundraiser for the National Trust for Scotland’s new Robert Burns Birthplace Museum.

Twitter has been used as a fundraising mechanism in the US, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars, but this is believed to be the first time it has been used in the UK.

The Twitter fundraising push will run over the weekend, when the world is celebrating the 250th anniversary of the bard’s birth, and end on Monday evening.

Robert Burns is already on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ayrshirebard where lines from his poetry are posted daily, and it is through this Twitter account that the fundraising works and updates will be announced. Regular Tweets reach out to Twitter’s global audience.

The Trust is still looking to raise £4 million for the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum, with £17 million having already been raised.

Trust Development Manager for Corporate Relationships David McKinnon said:

“Twitter has been used for a number of charities across the globe and it seemed like a natural fit for this weekend.

“Burns was one of Scotland’s most consummate communicators and as can be seen on his Twitter site, his work translates well into Tweets.

“We don’t know how successful this first try at fundraising through Twitter will be – it’s never been tried in the UK before, but it’s just one of the new and innovative fundraising approaches the Trust is taking to help raise the funds we need to deliver our exciting vision for the new museum.”

The new Robert Burns Birthplace Museum is set to become one of the UK’s most prestigious and historically rich visitor destinations. This world-class attraction is the largest project the National Trust for Scotland has ever undertaken and will epitomize Scotland’s proud heritage, paying homage to the nation’s most heroic son – Robert Burns.

National Trust for Scotland Chairman Shonaig Macpherson said on Burns being on Twitter:

“Using Twitter to send out the works of Burns is an incredibly inexpensive and fun way of doing that. I’m sure Burns himself would approve because he was, at heart, one of our finest communicators.”

Twitter works by people going to www.twitter.com and signing up for the free service. Users then have the option of finding friends or organisations online and receiving messages sent to them via the Twitter website, instant messenger, handheld devices like the iPhone or other mobile phones.

At Twitter co-founder Biz Stone said: “Twitter is a new way for people to communicate. The National Trust for Scotland has discovered a creative way to spread the works of Robert Burns and we’re flattered to be associated with such a pioneering figure.”

The fundraising can be followed at www.twitter.com/ayrshirebard.


Issued by DADA on behalf of the National Trust for Scotland.

For further information please contact:

Craig McGill craig.mcgill@dada.co.uk / 0141 222 2266/ 07703 175 151

Breea McGinness breea.mcginness@dada.co.uk/ 0141 222 2266/

Notes to editors

1. The Trust’s Burns programme will be the largest, most ambitious project the charity has ever undertaken. It will cost in the region of £21m and this is made up of:

    • £5.8m Heritage Lottery Fund
    • £5.5m contribution from the Scottish Government
    • £250,000 from Scottish Enterprise Ayrshire
    • Land in Alloway with an estimated worth of £2.885m from South Ayrshire Council
    • Trust responsible for raising a total of £7m – approx £4m remaining.

2. The Burns Monument Trust generously donated a series of important assets to the National Trust for Scotland, including the Burns Birthplace Cottage, an irreplaceable collection of artefacts and original manuscripts, and other assets including the iconic Burns monument.

3. The new 1600m² museum building will provide space for the Burns collections, their interpretation and storage, as well as space for visitors and space for learning. The building will provide an exhibition area of 500m² compared to 120m² in the existing museum.

4. Companies interested in fundraising or donating for the new Robert Burns Birthplace Museum should contact Georgina Pearson – 0141-222-2266 or georgina.pearson@dada.co.uk.

5. The National Trust for Scotland is one of Scotland’s leading conservation charities, which relies on the financial support of its members to fund its important work of caring for the natural and cultural heritage of Scotland for everyone to enjoy.

6. You can join the National Trust for Scotland for as little as £5 per month for a family. To become a member, visit http://www.nts.org.uk/Join/Benefits/.

Europe loves Twitter…but there are dangers

Even from before my Twitter article for AllMediaScotland, I’ve been banging on (and on) (and on) about how handy Twitter is for keeping in touch with people, for PR purposes and for fun as well. And now it seems Twitter is the first trendy item of the year, after the report by Hitwise which states that it is overtaking Digg.

While this delights me, I’m hoping we won’t see a rush of corporates and other types just signing up and filling it with rubbish. Hopefully they’ll take the time to see what makes the medium work and then get involved. Forbes has a good article as a starting point. (Econsultancy has a decent piece as well)

(of course I just want people to sign up to my Robert Burns tweets)

I wonder if this will see the Twestivals get a boost as well…

Edinburgh gets a @twestival

Don’t they have enough in the capital?

Edinburgh has signed up for the Twestival, a fundraising campaign – and social event – for Charity:Water.

It’s an interesting idea, but the question is this: should Glasgow have one on the same night or is it too close? I’m happy to head over to the east coast, but it means car and no booze. If others fancy a west coast event, drop a mention below. Failing that, who’s all up for heading through to Edinburgh?

And it better not be a night of keyboard clatter, I’m heading through for chat and hoots.

Calling all UK PR and Media Twitter Users – Mon, Dec 8, 9pm

OK, here’s one for an experiment. Over in the US, Sarah Evans runs a rather nifty little Twitter group called #JournChat for PRs and Reporters- and it’s a good little talking shop. Feels a little more fiddly than the days of IRC but it’s still good fund (and no doubt Sarah will be along shortly to explain more about it), but it doesn’t start in the US until after 1am every Tuesday.

So let’s try an experiment. Next Monday, December 8 at 9pm UK time, can anyone interested start putting in the following with their tweets – #mediachat – and see if anyone out there wants to talk or swap comments with the so-called enemy. Who knows, we may all start getting along a little better…

(and people from outside the UK are more than welcome too)

Hopefully see you next week,


UPDATE: As anyone used to me being online round the clock may have noticed, I haven’t been due to being floored by a flu and chest infection, which sadly means I won’t be partaking in tonight’s chat – others can feel free to do so and when I’m better I’ll get involved – but I’m out for tonight as even typing this much is leaving me fecked. Apologies to one and all.

Is QIK the new Twitter?

Been looking at QIK over the last few days and been impressed with what it does – the Liverpool Post had some great fun with that and Twitter for the La Princess giant spider travelling through Liverpool.

Qik’s also come in handy for that by-now cliche of citizen journalism with two groups set up – and no doubt they’ll grow as time goes by.

I can see a benefit here for people. You fire up a quick Tweet and email from somewhere saying you are going to stream and then you stream. Completely spontaneous fun – or a quick way to send something out for a PR client. (or for journalists a way to break something live…)

Again, it puts us all one step nearer being little Spider Jerusalem’s, but also a way of just joining in fun and sharing the good times. Of course the quality won’t be fantastic, but that’s why you could still justify having pro camera crews at an event – for now. After all if wireless speeds and camera quality keep picking up…

Longterm questions will be asked about video storage, the wisdom of SMS alerts and so on, but for now it seems as if it could have a genuine use – and perhaps even be used to catch crimes happening. Hopefully there won’t be an outbreak of happy slapping though.

(on a similar ‘tech sharing an event’ theme, I see the BBC had a fun experiment using new media tech to covering the latest Apple event with Twitter, Flip and QIK.)

I’m at a wee event tomorrow, Thursday, night that I might see if I can send over if there’s a wifi connection. You can find me via http://qik.com/craig-mcgill

Twitter SMS Users Outrage, Twitter Using Drug Dealer Economic Model?

That slightly popular communication service Twitter has announced changes to their SMS policy.

The main one is that Twitter is no longer delivering outbound SMS over their UK number of +44 762 480 1423. You can still update via the number but updates won’t be sent on via SMS.

Now the reason for this given is that it was costing the company a fair chunk of money, so it’s scaling back the offer while it tries to negotiate deals with telecom companies across the globe.

And there’s two interesting points from this – the reaction and the business opportunity.

The reaction has been hilarious/disappointing (depending on how you view humanity) with users from all walks of life, including a Liberal Democrat local councillor, all bemoaning it as if they have lost a limb.

The reality is that they’ve lost nothing. if they want to receive ongoing, real-time Tweets, the solution is simple: go and pay for it. Pretty much what Twitter would have had to do, but that concept seems to have escaped the majority who appear to just want someone else to pay for their service.

(Nic Brisbourne has posted one of the more sensible viewpoints as a contrast to the rants. Another good one is here.)

The other point is that if I was a company offering a decent 3G dataplan and had the capacity to handle it, I’d announce a product with Twitter front and centre. Even the iPhone could jump into this (in the UK it comes with a decent 3G plan). Make the most of Twitter’s change in circumstances to promote your offering, knowing that with even a minimal PR spend, all the Twitter people moaning about this (and the evangelists I suppose) will spread your message.

Personally, I don’t see what the fuss is here. I’ve alread pointed out that I find Twitter useful for journalism and PR, it can be educational, and it can be just good fun to keep in touch with people. Having said that it does have downsides (which I’ll address in a later post) and far too many people still populate it with rubbish (“had coffee. Tasted coffee-y”) and if people want to keep getting a service that they have had for a while for free, well welcome to the real world.

(a part of me actually wonders if Twitter planned this all along. It’s almost the supply model of the drug dealer – give something away for free for a while and then bring in the costs. And given that some people out there are saying they would pay for the service, that poses an interesting question. Of course I think it’s ridiculous that people would pay to receive SMS messages, but each to their own…)

Nokia N95 as a reporting/PR tool at T in the Park

I was up at T in the Park last month, helping out the Scottish Sun lads cover a few of the acts and I thought that it might give me a chance to properly evaluate Nokia’s N95 (the original, not the 8GB) as a tool for covering events.

I know Reuters had a fantastic kit for their N95 trials but I wanted to try it a little more basic, ie – the phone on a full charge and nothing else.

So how did it do? Let’s break this down into five areas: text, video, audio, pictures, phone in general.

As well as filing for The Sun, I wanted to be able to capture moments over the weekend and found Tweeting to be perfect for that. I used Twibble and it did the job – 95% of the time – perfectly. There was the odd Tweet dropped, but I don’t know if that was because of the network 3G connection or the software.
But sending Tweets worked as a great way of posting and maintaining the live feel of the event instead of writing after the event. It also gave me a great aide memoir when it came to writing the larger copy (indeed, the sub editors could have just copy and pasted from my Tweets if time had been a factor) as well as seeing what others, like Shaun Milne, were doing at T in the Park.

On the Sunday, time did become a factor in filing, but the N95s notes worked perfectly. I was able to write the review for Primal Scream as it was happening and file by email (sending notes as an attachment) instead of watching band and then heading back to the media area to file. It may have only saved 20minutes or so, but being able to hit ‘send’ the second the band went off-stage at 10.50pm made life a little easier for the subs back in Glasgow.

So for text – and none of your predicative texting for me – and writing tweets/copy, it was a definite winner. But I would consider a folding keyboard next time, which would save me a laptop at all.

Given the nature of the event, you aren’t going to get a large tripod onto a N95, so I’ll let people judge the video for themselves. At various points on these videos, I’ve zoomed in and out to/from the maximum to give you an idea of the phone’s capabilities.

What’s quite apparent is that you couldn’t use it on an IMAX screen but for rough and ready footage on handhelds/laptops, it would do. It’s also convenient for the reporter/VJ as they aren’t carrying around anything bulky.

The sound was the surprising thing for me. I’ve certainly had worse bootlegs than what the N95 managed to record.

A BBC lad trying to film…

The Bacardi Breeze Dance Tent

Amy Winehouse plus crowd shots

Amy Winehouse with gradual zoom in/out

Primal Scream – in a tent

Two tests for the N95 in this area – as a dictaphone and as accompaniment for the video. On the latter, as I said above, it certainly did the job decently enough and as a dictaphone, it also did the job. I can’t provide a sample for a ridiculous reason but suffice to say that it was as good as anything else I’ve used in the field (T or any other) in the last 15 years.

Here’s an example of the sound quality from a recent (indoor) bash:

Joan Burnie at the 2008 Scottish Press Awards – m4a format
Joan Burnie at the 2008 Scottish Press Awards – wavformat

(Thanks to Lynn Hunter, formerly of Macdonald Hotels for the invite to that event)

I’m rubbish at pictures, so I’ll let others judge these. What I would say is that at times the N95 felt slow to get the picture that I was going for and other times I had no idea it was taking pictures (but we can put that down to user error)

12072008121Punter at T in the Park

(more pictures here.)

My feeling was that you could perhaps use it to capture general pictures but it wouldn’t be any use for catching a quick moment – someone jumping off stage, punching someone, that sort of thing – but again, you wouldn’t be asking the snapper to go out with it.

I wanted something that would do the job, saving me having to carry a notepad, pen, pencil, recorder and various other gadgets (still carried a notepad and pen/pencils though – always need the backup!) and it worked really well. I was able to stand during acts and fire off notes or Tweets, that could be used later as part of the larger write-ups.

The battery life was fantastic. It was charged up on the Friday and that lasted until the Monday morning (4am) and that was with video and audio recording, 3G hammering, phone calls, Tweets, the lot. In fact my biggest worry, and still is, is how much Orange is going to thump me for using the 3G. I’m on their £35 a month tariff and it certainly doesn’t compare to the iPhone O2 tariff.

I’ve used the N95 at a bundle of events now and it’s just a fantasticly rugged device. Every journalist/PR should have one.

N95 v iPhone
In case anyone was wondering: would the iPhone have been better for the event? In all honesty – and this is speaking as someone who wants an iPhone – not a chance. While the keyboard, screen and UI may have made life a lot easier, there would have been no audio recording (this was pre-App Store), definitely no video and I would guess – but that’s all it is – that the pictures wouldn’t have been as sharp.

And then there’s the battery issue. It would never have lasted. And yes, there may have been charging points at the media village and back at the hotel, but in journalism/PR it’s not outwith the realms of possibility to be on the go for a long period of time. Given that T in the Park started on the Friday night and there were incidents over the weekend, it’s entirely possible that a reporter/PR operative may not have got back to a place to charge. A spare battery is one solution – but not for the iPhone.

There’s also the issue of sturdyness. I dropped the N95 a few times and was never worried. If I had dropped an iPhone I would have been calling the cops to get it back safe.

The N95 is a far from perfect phone, but for people who like the option of catching a lot of data – mobile journalists, web 2.0 PRs and so on – it can do a lot without you needing to carry a lot of gear. And when I pick up an iPhone, I’ll be keeping the N95 as my mediaworkhorse.

NASA shows the best use for Twitter yet

(bit of a space theme this week)

I know there are those, like Iain Hepburn, who doubt the use of Twitter as a news outlet (I, for one, think it is incredibly underused as a news outlet for posting live updates to events and so on – and I’ve used it for the likes of T in the Park, election gossip and award ceremonies as previous posts here show).

But here’s one from the NASA people – Tweets from the Mars Phoenix probe. Not a tweet about the probe or detached information, but writing as if it’s the actual probe writing it, first person, the lot.

Brilliant. Quick snippets of information. Great way to interest someone. Imagine being a kid and realising that you’re getting information sent to you by a robot on Mars. (And yes, I know it isn’t, but it’s close enough – have some romance in your soul.)

(and as you can’t impersonate someone on a blog, how long before we get a law saying it’s illegal to impersonate someone on a Tweet, even a robot? 🙂 )


World War Z Movie Script Review

A couple of people have emailed me after I posted that I had read the movie script adaption of Max Brooks’ World War Z and asked me to provide a bit more depth to it, so in order to please…

It follows the same idea as the book – which is basically interviews with people who survived when the zombies rose and the ten-year ‘war’ that followed. What it adds to it though, is more of a story to the actual narrator.

Where the script works well is that it runs as an accompaniment to the book. It tells a few of the same stories – including the Chinese outbreak, the Jewish solution, the interview with the drug seller and the Battle of Yonkers – but a lot of it isn’t the same as the book (and some of what is, is tweaked around). Sadly, that means the South African and Chinese submarine chapters are gone.

But that’s the beauty of this topic: both are presenting tales from the war. There’s scope for both (and plenty sequels if Brooks decided to spin it out).

If anything, that may be the main criticism of the script: it’s a chopped down-version of the book. That may sound like a strange comment but given that we live in an age where a film like Wanted bares next to no relation to Mark Millar’s original, this is very much the other tact.

What I did like was that there’s a lot more about the narrator, but again it doesn’t contradict the book. There’s a nice metacommentary to the script that could have you believe the book we have is the book from the film (if that sort of thing suits you).

Also, the narrator’s tale has a nice twist to it, going one way and then spinning on it at the last minute in the most poignant way.

The biggest thing that may upset some is that there’s no real scientific explanation for what kicks off the zombie invasion. No mentions of a passing comet, Hell being full or even Solanum. We’re just presented very matter-of-factly with the fact that there was a war with zombies. (it also never answers the question that stuck in my mind reading it: does it mean that everyone who dies now becomes a zombie?)

This was an adaptation that was passed round a lot of decent writers and quite a few pitched for it. I’ve heard of one other take on it – though I’m sworn to secrecy on it – but I think J. Michael Straczynski has done a decent job here. His strength is in monologues and people believing in higher truths and noble goals, tinged with hope and that all plays out well here.

The real challenge is going to be in seeing who can bring this to life (pardon the pun). I’d go for someone like Paul Greengrass as director and Clive Owen as the lead because it needs someone with those sunken eyes – the look of someone who has been to Hell, came back and discovered something even worse (having said that, if Brad Pitt’s two new babies give him a lot of sleepless nights he might be perfect).

Would it be worth going to see? Oh definitely, but fans looking for a massive reinvention of the book would probably come away disappointed as it may not have their favourite scene in it. For other people, it could still be worth a watch.

Where this film would be a total gift though is for the marketing team. You could have outrage by religions, ARG’s, YouTube videos pretending to be public safety announcements in how to deal with a zombie, Googlemaps of outbreaks, community websites and wikis set up showing rebuilding, a rebranded version of Urban Dead… (though I’d love to see a zombie version of The Sims) the possibilities are endless.

One thing we wouldn’t need is a Twitter from the zombie apocalypse as it’s already been done…

Scottish Press Awards – Live(ish)

Thanks to the kind people at Macdonald Hotels, I’ll be along at the Scottish Press Awards (shortlist here) at the Radisson SAS Hotel in Glasgow on Thursday night and it looks set to be a good night. But as always there’ll be a lot of people who can’t make it – stuck on jobs, at the office or just not nearby (or invited), so I’m going to Twitter the results as they happen. Anyone wanting to find out who wins what should set up a Twitter account here and add mecraigmcgill – to their list.

A lot of the folk shortlisted are friends of mine so it would be cruel to pick hopeful winners, but here’s hoping the Scottish Sun’s Matt Bendoris is smiling at the end of the night: he’s thumped the ball out of the park over the last 12 months (hell, the last 10 years) and it’s about time he was recognised for it.

Be interesting to see if Ken Symon gets a deserved gong too – or if his move into the world of PR will have dented his chances.

As for Michael Tierney, well he always wins – to the extent that next year’s awards will probably be called the Michael Tierney Awards if he wins again.

Seriously though, good luck to everyone…