The Royal seal… 2007 year of the podcast!

It seems that podcasting has come of age far sooner than one might imagine… when the British government adopt practice it is common, when the Royal family adopts a practice it is positively Byzantine!

The traditional “Queen’s Christmas Speech” that is the British Queen Elizabeth II of Windsor is available as a podcast from Westminster Digital, along side her 80th Birthday speech, RSS feeds of course available!

Why is this of interest, well I guess its not, except that when new format media become adopted so soon after their release into the broader market (this speech is of course always broadcast by the BBC on Christmas day), it is a sign of either a fad bubble, or that as in the case of mere podcasting, a technology that genuinely meets the needs of a significant market audience…

Feliz Ano Novo, I hereby give the Global Nomad101 official seal of approval on 2007 year of the podcast!

Aid effectiveness wiki… by UNDP!

UNDP LogoYou may not be surprised to learn that UNDP has developed an excellent resource on Aid Effectiveness, tho’ you might be surprised that it is a wiki! Though not launched, and appears to have sneaked up by the back door it is certainly worth a second and third look.

Designed by a hardened field practioner the Aid Effectiveness Wiki has been developed by Aidan Cox at the Regional Centre in Bangkok following his development of the Donor Assistance Database (DAD) in Afghanistan and coordination support to Angola, India, Iraq, Maldives and Sri Lanka. DAD spun off from AIMS Humanitarian Information Centre where a very early stage incarnation the Appeal Tracking Information Management System (ATIMS) developed. Yes this history is of primarily nostalgic value.

Now UNDP has complimented its comprehensive corporate DevAid site with the wiki they can truly act as the access point to some of the best information on this topic, of course they are by no means on their own, ODI, The World Bank, OECD just to name three all conduct critical work in this area. However genuinely opening up to contributions for the broader community of expertise may well ensure that on this topic UNDP can at least ensure accessibility from one location to critical information and comment, if not develop thought leadership.

Lets sing praises where it is due. Following recent critical comments about the slow adoption of modern approaches to information management by security specialists in the humanitarian and development sphere, What do Aid workers and spies have in common? and Open Source Spying and NGO’s by the NGO Security blog. It is refreshing that in a critical area such as Aid Effectiveness advanced transparent approaches to information sharing and management are being advanced.

No doubt some find it hard to swallow that UNDP is leading the charge! However take another look, UNICEF openly publishes its RSS, podcast and vodcast at the bottom of every page on its website. Despite the excellent podcasts being produced by Christian Aid they are still hard to find on their site. Maybe traditional fears of change stressed by NGO Security are on the mark.

Wiki’s are a key information management tool, the more focused the interest the more powerful and valuable they become. Given the critical nature of humanitarian and development work we would be doing a disservice to our end clients and ourselves if we do not adopt such technology sooner rather than later.

The Renaisance, Apple Mac Apps & News – favourite podcasts!

Escaping into a reality you never were aware of! … ok, so that is over the top, however I must confess I have become a podcast addict since leaving Afghanistan recently and rediscovering the delights of broadband, (sorry again guys!), all downloadable from i-Tunes at no cost.

1. History 5: European Civilisation from the Renaisance to the present. University of Berkley.

French Revolution… Top marks to University of Berkley posting many of its lectures at last count 59 Audio podcasts and through the web site many as Video casts. The quality is very dependent on the lectururer however Professor Thomas Laqueur brings it to life, openness about his German Jewish roots adds to the value, full marks for a fascinating, insightful and entertaining account. This series illustrates what is missing or rather could be achieved with high resolution enhanced podcasts!

2. Jointly goes to Neat Little Mac Apps and ScreencastsOnline!

… sadly not for the Windows majority out there. Apple is renowned for having a broad supportive community of users and amazingly useful add on apps and widgets, I was surprised to find it really exists and they are incredibly helpful! NLMA presents enhanced podcasts on free or very cheap apps that are not only extremely useful but are a pleasure to use and often fun! Screencastsonline provides high quality full screen video tutorials on how to use Apple software with extra content available on subscription. But windows folk should not despair, with the advent of VISTA (replacing Windows XP) Microsoft has adopted a far more sophisticated front end and not a few Apple approaches so it should become a pleasure to use, your widgets are called Gadgets :-).

3. BBC Newsnight (video podcast feed)
… this was a tough call, but they just squeezed in! with excellent content on a variety of topics (sure a UK bias) not available on BBC World, recently they started releasing short format news casts more regularly, with a weekly show as usual… short and focused… like home from home. Of course the BBC seem to publish as many audio (ripped from radio) podcasts as they can, I find most of it uninteresting, but I imagine they are working on the longtail principle.

In truth podcasts are not that popular with surveys implying that pick up is not increasing dramatically. However niche markets such as humanitarian and development users such as MSF and Christian Aid are seeing sharp increases in usage because they have specialist application.

Of course I have access to broadband in Brazil… no doubt a trusty developer could easily configure content delivery software and package it with an i-Tunes like content aggregator to ensure that broadband doesn’t continue to be the bugbear it is for the populace of less developed countries and their frustrated humanitarian techies.

Podcasts, not popular… but useful!

podcastIn truth podcasts are not popular, BBC reviews a survey by the Pew Internet and American Life Project (Nov, 2006).

Internet access in the US is extremely high, out of 300 million people in the US, there are an estimated 207,161,706 internet users (Nielsen NetRatings).

However in it’s 5000 person sample the Pew survey found just 1% of respondents download a podcast on a typical day, with 7 to 12% claiming to have dowloaded a podcast. These figures have been consistent much of 2006.

Despite this the number of podcasts being distributed has exploded… in November 2004 Podcast Alley a show directory, listed 1,000 podcasts, today more than 26,000 and over one million episodes. Although usage implies a high percentage are discontinued it is evident that publishing a podcast requires minimal equipment and is simple indeed.

I could go on to quote all the hype of market growth, but it is frankly irrelevant, podcasts are an excellent medium for select applications (“MSF & Christian Aid …”, “Rocketboom, UNHCR & Refugees”, “Online video sharing….”, “Promote MP3’s, Zunes, i-pods …”).

The technology has simplified to a stage where any luddite (such as yours truly) can download podcasts from i-Tunes, they are free. In truth it is nearly just as easy to upload! Even I (ok, an adventurous luddite) with an Apple laptop and Garageband, prepared an (admitedly poor) audio podcast ready for upload to i-Tunes. Don’t forget you don’t need an i-pod, any MP3 player or computer will do. I watch all video podcasts on computer and listen to audio from the laptop as if it were a radio (“Pandora & Filter – Personal Radio Stations…”).

Forget the hype, play with podcasts, lets see how we can turn this tool to valuable applications to further humanitarian and development work.

Rocketboom, UNHCR and refugees

Rocketboom … one of the most popular trivia and news podcasts available on the web published footage from floods and refugee camps in Kenya with UNHCR (21st Nov 2006). A refugee recounts his image of the impact of islamists from Somalia.

As reported in “Online Video Sharing…” and “Alive in Baghdad” … this highly accessible medium is making it ever easier for the young in the west to find out what they want when they want… as new generations increasingly shun TV for the Internet, or formal media for community and peer approaches. potential important tools for advocacy indeed!

Rocketboom can be accessed at their website or downloaded from i-Tunes, it presents 3 to 5 minute news clips for free, daily. Produced at very low costs, only distributed online (available world-wide), its ‘status’ has been achieved purely by word of mouth, and it seeks to engage its audience in an online dialogue, see WikiBoom.

New ‘participatory’ media is truly beginning to change the manner in which news and information is obtained, limitations to web access may not ensure video becomes common in developing countries, but there is no doubt that it will become an ever more important medium for communiction, information sharing and advocacy. Its great to see Rocketboom democtatising news broadcasting.

MSF & Christian Aid blaze podcast trail!

Is it our role to advocate for change, communicate needs on the ground, promote intellectual debate and ensure education and awareness of different communites of the challenges faced by others?

Fortunately there are trail blazers out there testing new media to and its effectiveness for the rest of us. Podcasts that can be accessed on i-tunes, or downloaded from websites, dramatically further communication and information sharing. MSF

MSF has demonstrated three prominent approaches. MSF Voice podcasts in the build up to the XVI Aids Conference in August 2006 along with daily discussions on key topics and demonstration of how MSF drives advocacy at such conferences. Regular advocacy and discussion of field activities and focus of programmes in different countries. Finally, MSF Frontline is a monthly podcast enabling individuals to catch up with MSF operations. programmes, facts, figures and personal testaments. MSF Voice and MSF Frontline are seamlessly integrated into the web site for ease of access.

CAChristian Aid after using podcasts for internal reporting opened their podcasts up to the public, as reported by humanitarian.info and Full Circle. Some examples include fascinating mini series on different campaigns, such as the Beat goes on a march against the policies of IMF, WB and the North in controlling the South and a demand for friendly and inclusive policies. Daily podcasts for a field visit to Haiti truly set a standard for everyone to match! It reflects the naevity of foreigners, gives a detailed awareness of challenges faced in the country and yet the character of people and their cultural legacy comes through. Finally like MSF, Christian Aid uses this medium to present interviews, debate and discussion on critical issues.

In a former piece I argued that podcasts should be taken into the office, Christian Aid and MSF have illustrated that staff with basic training can use podcasting instead of paper reports, perfect for disseminating information in an accessible form to staff, they also provide the perfect advocacy platform. Advocacy organisations take note!

Internal communication, information sharing and advocacy are critical elements of management in all humanitarian and development work. MSF and Christian Aid provide different exceptional examples of how podcasts can be applied in both settings… the race is on!

03/12/06 Editors note:

Apologies to UNICEF who have been operating podcasts since February 2006 with a mixture of UNICEF news and programme reports now in video and audio!

The UN also started a twice daily news podcast in November (sorry can’t find any show link), and but worry yee not this phenomena is catching on, UNESCO has put out bids for video podcast proposals!

Online video sharing, lessons for development?

Have online tools for uploading video content finally come of age? Rather are they relevant to Humanitarian and Development work as opposed to teens in San Francisco? Or how far do they need to go before they can really start being used to support field work?

Of course bandwidth is as ever a problem, but these days there is content delivery technology that can solve that problem, enabling the uploading of files to be automated to specific times, only upload when prioritised usage (emails, voice) is curtailed, it can even be managed so that the same computer can upload or download digital information over different connections automatically as it is unplugged and replugged, such as moving from office to home or hotel at short notice.

Film from a video camera, normal digital camera or web cam is becoming the media of choice, new generations are reacting to this media the way some of us got excited over digital photo’s and MP3… no lets be honest emails! Google’s purchase of YouTube placed their number of unique visitors at 120 million in September, sure their communities of interest sit largely in the US, but the shift to view all content text, audio, photo, film as interchangeable, shareable content will quickly become standard.

Metacafe has developed an interesting approach where they use it to help talent thrive. Unlike YouTube they reject duplicate films and use 100,000 volunteers to peer review content, then like Wikipedia have them write and vet articles. Finally of course they use algorithms to analyse, sort and rank video’s and over time develop the highly valuable database linking customers to content. Individuals can use this as an effective medium to show their talents in film-making or acting, by licensing video’s to Metacafe indiviuals have successfully used this to become noticed, and make revenue from their work.

The development community has long depended on peer review and participation to ensure that ‘best practice’ rises to the top and can be shared easily, however we have been poor at introducing the use of technology. Of course I am being slightly unfair, IRC (Water and Sanitation Centre) for example is one of many that has been using the internet for many years to share content with specialist research, training and advisory centres around the world for many years, seeking to build capacity through joint projects. To a certain extent its distributed organisational structure depends on the internet and members are investigating possibilities to work with participatory new media approaches. Similarly The Provention Consortium depends on a thiving networked organisational approach, in this case encouraging institutions to support each other in furthering disaster risk reduction.

However we have to recognise that new tools require new approaches, there is increased attention in the western world on humanitarian and development issues. Not least because technology entrepreneurs have turned multi-millionaire Philanthropists.

I for one believe that we should find means to garner the talent, ideas and community experience of these entrepreneurs and the young to engage them in development and humanitarian work beyond merely interest, concern and fund raising.

Whether this means more formal approaches such as linking schools and organising for raw footage from developing countries to be made available for editing as they choose into documentary footage by youngsters in the west. Supporting artists and small businesses getting their skills and wares to western audiences or highly informal approaches that simply enable families to make their own camera footage, and tell their stories so that they may be uploaded to commercial sites in country and shared online.

Alternatively video and audio diaries or weblogs and podcasts could form part of the remit of professional staff as they undergo operations as a monitoring, assessment or evaluation tool humanitarian.info comments on such an approach by Christian Aid in Tajikistan. Heck for the sake of transparency why not put this in the public domain, uploading as possible. Have you ever thrown you heart and sole into a monitoring report, only to discover that the important recommendations were passed over?

There is alot we can learn from the increased openness in sharing information publically, I trust the entrepreneurs and enthusiasts riding this wave, look to broader horizons. Their experience and skills are needed lets see how we can open their eyes to another exciting, challenging and rewarding world in humanitarian and development work.

Promote MP3’s, Zunes, i-pods and podcasts @ work

Organisations and businesses are slow to adopt proven technology to communicate and share information with staff… in fact managers are typically appalling at communicating with staff and remote teams per se. Shunning team developed posters for bland intranet posts, stiffling informal communication for company magazines; generally communications is managed as a one-sided push (messaging down) and pull (reports up) relationship, with no feedback loops or genuine involvement of employees.

As communication skills have become more important, powerpoint has become the standard presentation tool, enabling complex messages to be simplified and presented to everyone easily… sadly it is all too easy to use… (see powerpoint is evil) leaving presentations dull, uninspiring and text based. Who hasn’t walked out or slept through a meeting where the presenter merely read summarised text, when key facts could be assimilated in a fraction of the time?

Management should embrace new innovative communication tools, from white boards in coffee areas and personal space on an intranet to podcasts. Audio and webcam funcitonality is so user friendly that IT could enable team members to prepare podcasts on critical issues, staff benefits, training courses, exiting news and simply things that interest them… combine slides (photo’s, diagrammes, graphics) with audio. Even better these can be mixed with specialist podcasts freely available on the internet. Why should an organisation’s newsletter not also be a weekly podcast?

Development and humanitarian workers pioneered participatory approaches to communication that have become standard in businesses these days. We are all aware how information should be presented and shared in a form that is accessible and appropriate to the target audience, perhaps it is time to revolutionise communication in and between our offices. Communication is from the French ‘communicare’ to share, we cannot share by continueing to push uninteresting information in an increasingly inaccessible format.

Maybe that next uninspiring brief will come from a colleague making a podcast on his lap top … on the bright side at least no paper has been wasted and I can still write an email at the same time!

Alive in Baghdad … witness awarded!

Video Blogging or Vlogging is, as it sounds, regular posts of video’s from bloggers. Scobelizer and John Furrier amoungst others report on the Vloggies…. Yes you guessed it an annual award show. Highly deserved the Best Vlog went to Alive in Baghdad along with three other awards Best Group Vlog, Political Vlog, Favourite interview Vlog! New world journalists in Baghdad who report on daily life and challenges.

One of the first podcasts that I subscribed to on my return to the connected world (after Kabul), Alive in Baghdad is intense, real-life and scarey. During the First Gulf War depleted uranium affects on health came to the for, how many of us are aware that today the grotesque disfiguration of iraqi’s due to depleated uranium is now common place. Highlighting the daily challenges of people trying to live a normal day to day life. Such as ‘disappearence’ from a line to collect fuel at the petrol station. The impact of minor injury on a families survival. The need for middle class and poor to set up neighbourhood watch “vigilante” groups. Alive in Baghdad place this all on your screen in full lurid colour.

As we all witness Iraq lurching through one crisis after another it is important we all witness the daily impact on people, who a short while ago lived daily life like us! After all regime change has been foistered on this country in our name. We are currently witnessing only the first step in a change process that is likely continue in fits and starts for a decade or more.

History illustrates how countries typically stagger through a whole host of upheavals as they shift from a State controlled from the top to a Nation of citizens. Many countries have seen huge displacements of population and dramatic changes in national boundaries as they underwent this change. The inter-ethnic strife and political activism suggest that Iraq has just started on this path.

Alive in Baghdad provides a small window on the past, present and future. It is a fantastic example of new participatory media and will no doubt provide evidence for future generations to reflect, learn and hopefully advance transitional justice!

Pandora & Filter – Personal radio stations on Internet and via i-Tunes

Internet radio stations are commonly used globally today, but are you aware that you can set-up your own personal music radio station?

Pandora provides you the opportunity to set up personalised music radio stations, you select specific music and they match it with others to ensure you have a station streaming music to your preference.

Even better, for those of us in developing countries without broadband, use a similar approach to rediscover your ever-expanding music collection. The Filter enables you to do the same for your own i-Tunes collection, giving you the chance to have playlists made on the fly after you have selected a few tracks!

Sadly for a few of us this is only available for windows i-Tunes, but worry yee not, a Mac version is in beta form being used by the team at The Filter!

Personally I look forward to Filter having more functionality, so I am able to set-up a personal radio station relaying information my favourite podcasts (see future post), lectures from the University of Berkley, and technology updates from dl.tv, Scobleizer, and especially theTWit Netcast Network coordinated by Leo Laporte.