Nearing the end of 2009

It’s been a hectic year, and I’m currently embedded in the BBC Archive Development team until at least April, though I’ll be continuing my work with Digital Planet, Focus Magazine and the Billboard, as well as other gigs that come up during 2010.

In the meantime, here are two of my stories that I didn’t get round to posting here:

The Media and The Message (BBC Technology site, 16 December)

Like thousands of other people around the world I’ve just spent £2.39 on The Guardian newspaper’s iPhone app.

I can now read the paper onscreen, with some sections nicely cached for offline browsing and a cleverly designed user interface that lets me put the Media and Technology sections at the top of the paper, mark articles as favourites and quickly find related stories.

And Ten Years After Doomsday (BBC Technology site, 8 December)

I spent the evening of 31 December, 1999 in the company of Rolf Harris, Peter Snow and a large number of other people in a studio at Television Centre in London, seeing in the New Year as the nation’s official Millennium Bug watcher.

As anyone who knows about calendars will tell you, the real millennium didn’t start until a year later, but I was there because of the very real fear that major computer systems around the world would crash because they could not handle the rollover from 1999 to 2000.

My job on New Year’s Eve was to interrupt festivities every hour of the evening to report on what was happening at midnight in different countries around the world.

Merry Christmas to all of you who celebrate such things, Happy Holidays for those who don’t but live in places that do, and ‘have a nice day’ to everyone else…

Those who do not understand the past…

are condemned to write bad newspaper articles about it.

Read this, from Ian Katz in The Guardian

Despite the huge success of its website over the last decade, the Guardian was a relative latecomer to the business of online news. While competitors such as the Daily Telegraph built efficient and well-used digital facsimiles of their print editions, the Guardian instead established a new media “skunkworks” team, tasked with dreaming up innovative online ideas, in an airy old warehouse just across the road from its main offices.

There a group of programmers and young journalists dabbled in a curious range of experimental projects from a wildly ambitious, multilingual website for Euro 96 to Shift Control, a webzine so painfully cool that every issue was redesigned from scratch. When, in 1997, Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger dispatched me across the road with instructions to redirect their efforts to building an online version of the Guardian itself, the team wore the despondent look of a bunch of German soldiers who had just been sent to the Eastern Front.

But though many of the hipsters soon departed, some of the lateral, webcentric spirit of the New Media Lab animated our plans for the online Guardian.

Then read this, from my ‘my life as a new media dog‘ on this very website

In early 1995 Tony Ageh of The Guardian suggested I join them there full-time to do Web stuff, having already made The Guardian the first UK national paper with any online content. In January 1996 Tony left to go to Virgin and I became head of the New Media Lab. I stayed until September 1996, having seen the successful launch of The Guardian site, The Observer site, GO2 (Guardian Online online), Top Marques online and the phenomenally wonderful, covering Euro ‘96.

At The Guardian we were convinced we could change the world of newspapers, We were playing around with design, navigation, content and approach, looking for ways to take the printed newspaper online while preserving the values and attitude that made it work: we were all about brand extension, not about being an income-generating business unit. This gave us a freedom that others could only marvel at – when Vauxhall gave us £250,000 to build a Website for the Euro ‘96 tournament I spent all of it on the best site in the world, drawing the wrath of my director, Stella Beaumont.

But I was right – the point was to spend the money and do something great, not feed 10% to The Guardian. Two years later, at the time of the World Cup in France, was still the benchmark for how to do a major sporting event on the Web.

I left The Guardian for many reasons, not least being the tension between the newsroom and its journalists and the Web team under my direction. Since leaving I can’t understand why I stayed as long as I did. My successor, Robin Hunt, lasted a matter of months. His successor, Ian Katz, threw away all the Guardian had learned, and it was left to Simon Waldman and Emily Bell to turn the experiment into a viable, brand-building proposition.

Funny how things can look different from different perspectives.

I saw this…

Here’s what I’ve tagged on

My bookmarks for June 16th through June 23rd

Here’s what I tagged on between June 16th and June 23rd: