Wednesday, September 20th, 2017


Talking about the iPhone and why we’re still saying it wrong (according to Apple) #

Apple’s legendary response to the issues with the iPhone 4 antenna was “you’re holding it wrong” (before it started to sell suitable bumper cases). As the iPhone X (iPhone Ten?) takes to the stage, it’s worth reminding yourself of Apple’s attempt to define everything about the iPhone. Here’s Phil Schiller after taking  to Twitter in 2016 to explain that we were saying it wrong as well:

Weighing in on a discussion of how to talk about two or more Apple devices, Phil Schiller said that it’s not a question that needs asking – because nobody should be referring to Apple devices in the plural anyway.

“One need never pluralise Apple product names,” he wrote on Twitter. “Ex[ample]: Mr Evans used two iPad Pro devices.”

…The strange rule joins other proscriptions from Apple, which also include the fact that the company tends never to use the word “the” in relation to its products. In Apple’s results this week, for instance, Tim Cook described how the company was seeing very high customer satisfaction rate “for iPhone 6s and 6s Plus”.

Just try those rules out on other functional objects you have. It’s perfect! And since that declaration we’ve all bowed to Apple’s will. Oh…

Friday, September 15th, 2017


Harry Dean Stanton, 1926-2017 #

Cool Hand Luke, Kelly’s Heroes, Dillinger, The Godfather Part II, Alien, Escape from New York, Christine, Paris, Texas, Repo Man, Pretty in Pink, The Last Temptation of Christ, Wild at Heart, The Straight Story, The Green Mile, Alpha Dog, Inland Empire… the list goes on. Harry Dean Stanton died in nearly every film he starred in, and I loved him for it. Even though it now has to be in the past tense.

Wednesday, September 13th, 2017


Where Finland goes, iPhone follows #

How are you going to reach your apps on the new iPhone X with no home button? Gestures!

Getting back to Home, as well as accessing App Grid and Top Menu rely on Edge Swipes. Perform an Edge Swipe by placing your finger at the very edge of the screen and moving it towards the center of the screen.
Edge Swipe from top brings up the Top Menu.

Oh sorry, that’s not the innovative first in iOS 11 and the iPhone X, that’s Sailfish OS and the Jolla handset from 2013. Still, a nice bit of innovation to not be ‘exactly’ the same on show at Cupertino yesterday.

Monday, September 11th, 2017


The start of another Eurovision season means a new podcast #

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Imagine if the only football you watched was the FA Cup Final in May? If the only baseball game of interest was the World Series. If the only American Football match was the Superbowl. And imagine the delight if you found out that there was a season’s worth of action…

Well, it’s time for the Eurovision Song Contest season to start. Sure, everyone will tune in on Saturday May 12th for the Grand Final, but there’s a world of music before that point. IT;s one I follow with the team at ESC Insight, and the first podcast of the season is now online.

Its going to run fortnightly for a few weeks, so don’t worry about being overwhelmed, but it’s a great place to jump on board this year’s fun.

You can follow the ESC Insight podcast through its RSS feed, or subscribe in iTunes.

Saturday, September 9th, 2017


Hollywood Is Ready To Blame Rotten Tomatoes For Everything #

Most people have a good idea how good or bad the summer blockbuster movie season was, and I think most people could agree that the quality was not as high as earlier years. For every ‘Baby Driver‘ there was a ‘Baywatch‘ or ‘King Arthur‘. The big game of Hollywood has always been to not be apportioned blame when the music stops.

So the industry has decided to blame Rotten Tomatoes. Brooke Barnes reports on the scapegoating in the New York Times; from how it averages review scores, how it decides Fresh or Rotten, and how it looks outside the handful of traditional old-school white male reviewers in a handful of national titles:

Some filmmakers complain bitterly that Rotten Tomatoes casts too wide a critical net. The site says it works with some 3,000 critics worldwide, including bloggers and YouTube-based pundits. But should reviewers from Screen Junkies and Punch Drunk Critics really be treated as the equals of those from The Los Angeles Times and The New Yorker?

Should they be treated as equals by Rotten Tomatoes? Yes.

Should their views be treated as equal by the public? Probably not, and they probably never have, but now there are more than a handful ofvoices to choose from. Movie fans will grow to love the reviewers they love, understand their quirks and hates, and will be able to decide accordingly. The ability of one person to influence or be influenced is diminished. Once more the internet is subverting the ‘one voice to many listeners’ to ‘many voices for many listeners’ as everyone finds their own tribe.

Attacked by Rotten Tomatoes.

Friday, September 8th, 2017


Thriller’s Missing Millions #

It’s accepted that Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ sold over one hundred million copies. But do the numbers add up? A fascinating look at sampling, rounding up, sales tracking, and hype from Bill Wyman at The New Yorker.

Did Jackson sell a billion records, or even seven hundred and fifty million? Sure, “Thriller” sold a lot of copies, but Jackson recorded infrequently, and his later albums sold nowhere near what “Thriller” did. We know from SoundScan figures that Jackson was selling, on average, roughly a million albums a year in the nineteen-nineties and the aughts in the U.S.—and that includes greatest-hits albums, like the four-million-selling “Number Ones.” That’s not nothing, but it’s not the sort of thing that adds up to a billion records over time.

Did Thriller Really Sell A Hundred Million Copies.

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Wednesday, June 7th, 2017


I’ll Be Hosting Overnight General Election Results Coverage #

When the snap General Election was called in May, I wrote at the time that my first thought was about the result. Or at least how to cover the result. It was this.

I need to get behind a microphone to do the results show from 10pm on June 8th.

Since then I’ve been working on how to do just that, from finding studio facilities, co-hosts, guests, statisticians, the odd politician or two, and some broadcast partners. I’m delighted to announce that I will be hosting a General Election Results show on Thursday night… not only will you be able to listen in on lie, you’ll be able to watch as well.

Broadcast Details

Radio Six International (www.radiosix.com) will handle the radio and audio side of things, offering seven hours of coverage to stations across the UK and further afield (get in touch if you are interested in picking up the coverage). You’ll be able to listen to the stream direct from the Radio Six International website, and we go on air at 10pm UK time (2100 GMT).

The National newspaper is providing studio facilities through the night in their Glasgow newsroom, which will allow us to stay on top of the results as they come in through the night. We’ll also be talking to The National’s reporters who will be at the Glasgow and Edinburgh counts for immediate reactions and interviews. Our studio is going to be wired up not just for audio, but also for video, so you can watch the Facebook Live stream which will be shared from its Facebook Page.

During The Show

There’s no way to fully script out seven hours of live broadcasting in such a fluid environment as the results of a General Election. What we do have are a number of elements that we can call on through the night to keep the show going along. It is a UK Election and the first Scottish seat isn’t due up till around 2am, so while our primary story will be about Scotland, it’s not the only story and we will be looking across all of the UK.

Like any good election show we have our spreadsheets, swingometers, fancy graphics and maps to make predictions and help us try to make sense of what is going on. Once more Steve Griffin is dealing with the numbers through the night. The livestream also means we need something visual to show off.

What’s an election show without lots of voices and opinions? Leading our ‘Pundits Corner’ will be Benjamin Howarth bringing different viewpoints and discussion points from all corners of the political spectrum from a hopefully packed sofa of guests through the night.

The National’s Stephen Paton will be watching social media for reactions from the public, and by the nature of Facebook Live, we’ll be able to ask questions of our audience around the world.

The key thing for me in all of this is that we tell the story of the night, and through that we re-tell the story running up to the vote, and where the story is going. After previous overnight Election shows and various Edinburgh Fringe broadcasts, Dan Lentell will be in the co-host chair to keep the focus on the story, with Ross Middleton floor managing all of the different elements.

Get In Touch

It’s still not too late if you want to get involved as part of the show, and of course you can drop me a line (mail me at ewanspence@gmail.com).

And now, back to reading lots of background material….

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Friday, May 26th, 2017


Good night and good luck, Walt Mossberg #

Walt Mossberg’s final weekly column. He started out in 1991 with “computers are just too hard to use”, and ends with the dangers of ambient computing and its power resting in a few companies:

…if we are really going to turn over our homes, our cars, our health and more to private tech companies, on a scale never imagined, we need much, much stronger standards for security and privacy than now exist. Especially in the U.S., it’s time to stop dancing around the privacy and security issues and pass real, binding laws.

But, as tectonic shifts like this occur in technology, oligopolies get shaken up.
And, if ambient technology is to become as integrated into our lives as previous technological revolutions like wood joists, steel beams and engine blocks, we need to subject it to the digital equivalent of enforceable building codes and auto safety standards. Nothing less will do. And health? The current medical device standards will have to be even tougher, while still allowing for innovation.

The tech industry, which has long styled itself as a disruptor, will need to work hand in hand with government to craft these policies. And that might be a bigger challenge than developing the technology in the first place.

Now it’s up to the rest of us to chart that journey.

Friday, May 19th, 2017


When storage becomes as cheap as chips #

If you’re looking for signs that there’s another revolution on the way, then the price of storage is an interesting figure. In the last twelve months the cost of one gigabyte of data has dropped from a dollar to fifteen cents, according to interviews conducted by Robert Scoble:

Another guy who is still stealth told me his company will build something like a shoebox with eight petabytes of solid state memory. When I worked at Microsoft it took a semi trailer stuffed with hard drives to get to six petabytes.

The times they are a changin’

Wednesday, April 19th, 2017


Planning A New Kind Of UK General Election Results Show – Can You Help? #

Tuesday’s announcement of a General Election in the UK for June 8th caught me a little by surprise and set off a riot of emotions. I tend not to talk about politics too much online, so many of the thoughts I had yesterday are mine, or for friends and family.

But I’ll happily tell you my very first thought, because it’s one you can all help with.

I need to get behind a microphone to do the results show from 10pm on June 8th.”

I’ve anchored a number of overnight election shows on community radio here in Edinburgh since 2010. These have been broadcast out to the capital but also syndicated to other radio stations and streamed online for those in the UK (and beyond) looking for something a bit more rock and roll in their election night coverage.

I am confident I’ll be running an election night show this year. Now I need to get to that point, get a team together, sort out logistics, and all the other little bits and pieces in the way. Time is tight.

Putting The Team Together

The Election Results Show will be a collaborative effort, so I’m looking for people to be involved in the broadcast. The rough plan is have a core hosting team of two or three people working through the night, an ‘experts and pundits panel’ to discuss the results and keep the sparks flying, someone to stay on top of the constituency results and trends, another to watch over social media for a more interactive show, and a tech or two to keep the video and audio streams running.

If one of those roles sounds like something you want to do, get in touch – ewanspence@gmail.com is probably the best way to do so.

Finding Our Temporary Studio

The first order of business – and one that really needs sorting out before the end of April – is the venue. Short of finding a radio studio suite, the show will need a decent sized space for up to 15 people, with tables and chairs, good lighting, and a rock solid internet connection (preferably with a mix of wi-fi and wired access).

My initial thought is that the show will be Edinburgh-based, but as the broadcast will be streamed online I’m open to other locations around the UK, including London.

Other Ways To Support The Show

Obviously there are some costs involved in the show, so I am very much open to partnerships. That could be co-working spaces, start-ups in a ‘broadcast’ space, publishers or other media organisations, sugary energy drink manufacturers, and so on. Again get in touch if this sounds like a contribution you can help with (ewanspence@gmail.com).

At the very least I would love to cover volunteer expenses and potentially the venue hire.

What About A Name?

The Election Results Show’ is functional but not incredibly descriptive. ‘Rock and Roll Results’ suggests musical content, and that’s unlikely to happen. There’ll be a good name that talks about the open nature of the show, the slightly rough at the edges feel, the move away from mainstream media coverage, and the online nature of the show. Right now I can’t think of it. Once more, suggestions welcome.

Over To You

I could do this alone, but it’s going to much more fun with a big group of people. Join me?

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Tuesday, March 28th, 2017


Microsoft Bob, the spiritual great-grandfather of Siri? #

The Guardian’s Ben Beaumont-Thomas talks to the team inside Microsoft who developed Comic Sans, and while the big takeaway is that the font was inspired by ‘The Dark Knight Returns’ is this little gem to rewrite history:

My job was to match products to fonts, sort of like a marriage broker. Comic Sans was designed for Microsoft Bob, which in many ways was a precursor to Cortana or Siri – for people who had problems with computers.

Presumably the Office Paperclip heralded Alexa?

Monday, March 13th, 2017


The one lesson I learned that The Nightly Show needs to understand #

After the first year of hosting my daily chat show at the Edinburgh Fringe (which is still running thirteen years later), Brian Luff gave me one of the best pieces of advice I have had in my broadcast career. It went something like this:

“I listened to the Fringe podcasts, but now I’ve met you I have to ask… why is the ‘you’ that I see in front of me not in the podcast? I want to spend time with that person.”

You can have the latest names, the greatest guests, and the biggest world-changing ideas, but these will only get people to engage with a show once. If they are going to engage a second time, or become regular viewers, they will only come back if there is something consistent that they want to spend time with. I took Brian’s advice, and came up with a rule that I have relied on ever since…

People come once for a guest, but they stay for the host.

Tonight, ITV will launch the third version of ’The Nightly Show’. The first version launched two weeks ago with David Walliams hosting. The second version launched next week with John Bishop. Tonight’s version belongs to Davina McCall. Next week will be the fourth version with Dermot O’Leary.

There is nothing consistent week to week. The second a viewer starts to get comfortable with a host’s style and decides that they’re happy to spend time with them late at night, the host changes. You can’t start building up a reputation for guests, for games, or for viral videos until the foundation is in place. Choose a host and give them a long run to build a relationship with the audience.

That’s why the US late-night shows are as powerful as they are. Every host has been given the time to settle in to find their own footing and their own audience. Stephen Colbert has taken close to a year to understand ’The Late Show’, Trevor Noah is slowly moving out from under the shadow of Jon Stewart on ‘The Daily Show’, James Cordon’s routine has evolved over time on ‘Late-Late‘…

I don’t buy the argument that ITV can’t do a daily chat show, but it needs to understand the unique demands of the format does not always line up with the ‘celebrity guest’ culture that has developed in the UK scene over the last two decades. Find a host, find a team, and let them work through the problems for at least a six-month run.

And if you need proof that a long-term commitment will slowly grow into a daily success story… look at ‘The One Show’.

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Wednesday, March 8th, 2017


SXSW Breakfast, Anyone? #

I’ve been a regular at Austin’s SXSW for far longer than I care to remember. It’s a heady mix of music, film, and ‘interactive’ stuff and I’ve always met many old friends, made new ones, and had my creative batteries refilled from spending a week or two in Texas.

This year is no different, and I’m flying out today.

The other thing that happens every year at SXSW is Saturday morning breakfast at Magnolia Cafe on South Congress. As usual I’ll be there a little bit ahead of 8am to grab a table and see who else turns up. A few of you have already asked and got the date in your diary, for everyone else reading let me know if you plan on turning up.

And if you want to meet at SXSW for any reason, I’m there for the full duration through to Sunday 19th March.

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Monday, February 27th, 2017


A familiar podcasting voice from MWC #

For those following MWC remotely (or need something to listen to on the hike to the Barcelona gatherings), Rafe Blandford is part of the DigitasLBi UK team who are bringing (hopefully) daily shows now MWC is under way. Start of with the preview that aired over the weekend – listen on Soundcloud – and check there tomorrow for more! 

Friday, February 24th, 2017


I thought M*A*S*H answered the laughter-track question in the Eighties? #

Apart from the curious fact that Lucille Ball’s mother is the ‘Wilhelm Scream’ of chuckles on US TV’s canned laughter track, it still surprises me that the debate about whether a laughter track is a good idea continues to this day in America. Anthony Crupi on AdAge is the latest voice:

There’s actually very little research to justify the practice. The last comprehensive study to suggest that a laugh track could precipitate genuine peals of merriment was published in 1974, or a good three years before DeDe Ball chortled her last. A far more recent inquiry into the matter arrived at a different conclusion; a 2011 study of British and Norwegian subjects found that contemporary viewers have all but built up an immunity to laugh tracks, characterizing them as “cheesy” and “manipulative.”

I think there’s much less debate about this in the United Kingdom, and that’s down to BBC 2 airing M*A*S*H in the eighties. As far as I can remember, it was a fixture at 9pm every Wednesday. Someone was smart enough to decide that the audience didn’t need to be told when to laugh and the BBC leaned on Fox to strike new prints with clean audio for the UK audience.

Except one week. One week there was a technical hiccup and it aired in the laughter-fuelled American format. With no Twitter to channel the anger, the only outlet was the weekly ‘Points of View’ show that aired at 8.50pm every Wednesday on BBC 1. That week there was nothing but indignation…

The BBC never aired M*A*S*H with a laughter track again.