Thursday, December 20, 2007

Echochroma Concert

On Thursday evening, our faculty musicians organised a concert of New Music in the James Graham Jubilee Room. This was the second "Echochroma" concerts. The setup had 8 speakers distributed in the room. Performers / composers were: Steve Kilpatrick, Tim Crashaw, Kinglsey Ash, Nikis Stavropoulis, Adam Stansbie. The final tribute was given to the recently deceased Karlheinz Stockhausen. A great evening, concluding the work year 2007.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Checking head-worn displays

On Wednesday I drove with the Smart once again across the Pennines: to visit a company which sells head-worn displays. I had arranged for a meeting there with a colleague who too was interested in these displays, and we wanted to check which of the displays would be suitable for the specific tasks we had in mind.

Thanks to a small accident on the M60, I got stuck in a traffic jam for 1h 30 min - and arrived there one hour late.

But then we had a great demonstration of head-worn displays and various VR environments, with interactivity. Now I know what I would include in my next funding bid proposal.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

New Term: "Slog" and "Slogger"

At the MELD lab pitch on Friday, Garth and myself pitched the idea of a unique automatic recording system for journalists and field reporters. As we were looking for a suitable name of such a system, we came up with the not very catchy name "NEWLSOG".

Well, the term "weblog" also was not very catchy as it came up a few years ago... but it turned into a phenomenon as it was abbreviated as "blog". So in this spirit, a "newslog" would turn into a "slog", and the person who writes / post / authors such a"slog", naturally is a "slogger".

As I did a quick search for this term, not much came up - so I hereby claim this term as a new addition to the buzzwords of the internet.

A more precise definition of "SLOG":
a report about a news event, with geotags and annotated information, possibly embedded within the media itself (website, video, audio). Geo-info and timecode is at the core, but there also can be other tags over the timeline of the story, for example names of people and places, activities, other descriptions.

Happy slogging!

And remember: here is where you saw this term first being coined / mentioned!

Friday, December 14, 2007

The MELD Lab - and the Pitch

The MELD lab went on for 5 days. On Monday, the 15 participants assembled in the Sandbox room, in the 4th floor of the University of Lancashire new Media Factory. QA fabulous facility, with lots of opportunities for interaction and collaboration - very well suited for this kind of event.

The storyteller Tim Sheppard led a series of interactive sessions in which we were supposed to use various methods of storytelling to get particular points of a story across. The technologists among us were a bit reluctant, as this was not really "our thing". Instead, we would have preferred to do some software development, to set up a prototype, or to make a powerpoint vugraph. But this activity regarding storytelling was meant to prepare us for gaining self-confidence in presenting. Due to the wide variety of expertise and experience among the participants, some benefitted from this exercise, while others just participated for the fun of it.

In any case, Tim is a really nice guy, and he offered free coaching for the pitch presentation that we were to prepare.

On Tuesday was a "day out": each of us was sent to an institution, so as to see how "things are done" in the industry. Media experts were hereby sent to tecnology firms, and technologists were sent to media production. I attended a BBC Radio Manchester radio studio, where a live show was broadcast. Further, I attended a local TV evening news broadcast, as it was sent and controlled from the so-called "gallery" (ITV Granada News). In between these two events, I went shopping at the Maplin store in central Manchester.

On Wednesday, our groups began working together. I worked with journalist Garth Haley, who also had studied physics. He is very interested in technology, and we worked very well together. But before we coulc actually create our pitch, everybody was asked to think intensively about potential users of our technology. That is, we defined a few examplary user profiles, which were to be included into the pitch. I would have preferred to work on my presentation - lots of things to put into it, but the emphasis was set that the user should be in the centre. I thought, that this very specific targeting of concrete made-up users would be quite demeaning to our pitch clients - I remembered the saying "great minds talk about ideas, medium minds about events, small minds about people" (although that came from another context...). But of course, I understood that it was important to show that we understand the "customers", the clients for which we would make the product. And so we went along and developed two user profiles. The idea which I wanted to pitch, was an automatic recording system for automatic tagging, similar to what has been done in the past years in mobile / wearable computing (e.g. Thad Starner's remembrance agent), but with an emphasis on journalism. And so our two users would be a journalist as the prime user of such a system (for doing actual work with it) and the web consumer who could benefit from the results of such a system.

On Thursday, it became evident that the pitch would need to have more than just the target user profiles: costing, competition, needs and benefits etc. would have to be addressed, and so we finally worked on the Powerpoint files of the pitches. During a few sessions, each group gave examples of their pitches, and each of us gave comments and feedback. Garth and I went out to actually record some video footage of journalistic work, to be included in our pitch.

Friday then was the day when the pitches were presented to the three clients: from Sky News, Haymarket Media, and Johnston Press. We managed well and got positive feedback - and the option ot further talks later on.

Overall this event had been very interesting. It brought me in contact with people in the media area, a field where I see many possible applications of intelligent systems, for support and for novel ways of getting news and stories across.

If anyone is on Facebook, here is the group site for MELD.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

My birthday

Yes, every year the same procedure: I am getting one year older. No wonder that I never can remember my age: it keeps changing every year.

This year I am not at home, but in Preston attending that MELD workshop. I had not told anyone today, but as we were sitting in that nice Italian restaurant Tino's in Preston, I somehow mentioned it as we talked about age and birthdays. As a consequence, I got a nice piece of cake as a desert, with a flaming rocket / torch, and the whole table (total of 16 people) sang "happy birthday" for me. Nice :)

Monday, December 10, 2007

MELD lab in Preston

A while ago I had attended a MELD evening in Leeds, which aimed at bringing together journalists, New Media, and technologists. As a result from that event, I submitted a brief proposal for a "pitch" which was accepted - and so I am now attending a one-week "sandbox" workshop at University of Central Lancashire in Preston, north of Liverpool.

It took 2 1/2 hours to drive there from Leeds, bypassing Manchester during the Monday mornign rush hour. I missed the exit from the M62 to the M61, as I had thought that the motorway would just continue up north... but instead the exit lane for M61 was on the left side, not continuing on the right.

Well, I arrived ok there.

The next days will be preparing a pitch for my project proposal: a piece of computer technology making journalistic work easier.

Friday, December 07, 2007

EU Review in Luxembourg

Once again I had the opportunity to participate in a review of an ongoing EU project: I was invited to Luxembourg for one day.

This time I flew KLM directly from Leeds, going through Amsterdam Schipol. This allowed me to take part in Leeds Met events and meetings on Wednesday, so I arrived in Luxembourg around 23:00. Then one full day of project presentations, I listened, made comments, remarks, notes.

In the evening I went to the Christmas market in the centre. It was raining, a miserable weather. Delicious dishes tempted me to go into one of the restaurants, but I finally decided to just stay at the market and eat some sausage and potatoe pancakes (with apple sauce) there.

Returned next day, arriving at Leeds in the afternoon.