Thursday, October 11th, 2018


Netflix And The Return Of The Dark Torrents Of The Internet #

The rise of Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, and the online streaming services looks to be driving a growth in BitTorrent usage and media piracy.

When consumers are given easy and almost friction free access to the media (even if it’s a £10/month fee) they’re going to stay there, rather than explore the darker corners of the internet. While there are still questions over revenue distribution (especially with streaming music services) this is still a better option for creators than having everyone pirate the latest album or TV series.

The problem is that the myriad of services, all with their own monthly membership fees marketed with a rising number of exclusive series, coupled with contractual limitations and limited surprisingly limited back catalogues means that the legal landscape is, frankly, a bit of a mess.

I’d quite like to watch Season 3 of ‘The Expanse’… and yes that’s an understatement. It aired in April this year in America, but Netflix UK only carried the first two seasons. Presumably Amazon UK will have it at some point before Season 4, but it’s difficult to search for news without risking spoilers.

The Good Place‘ does very well in this respect, with the UK release happening shortly after the US release. But because of ‘The Good Place’ I’m ready to dip into ‘Cheers’ again. Nowhere to be streamed.

There are two straightforward answers to this. The first is to go find some DVDs (oh look, region locks). The second is to do what we did before the explosion in video streaming sites… head to the dark corners of the internet and let the online community solve the acquisition problem.

Yes, BitTorrent is once more on the rise. Motherboard’s Karl Bode lays it out:

The content industry spent years trying to battle piracy via all manner of heavy handed-tactics and lawsuits, only to realize that offering users inexpensive, quality, legitimate services was the best solution. Many users flocked to these services because they provided a less-expensive, more flexible alternative to traditional cable.

Now, if the industry isn’t careful, it could lose a sizeable chunk of this newfound audience back to piracy by making it overly expensive and cumbersome to access the content subscribers are looking for.

If you make the legal solution easier than the alternatives, the legal solution will win. But the internet was designed to route round obstacles. While that might have been to offer some resilience in the case of nuclear war, it’s also about seeing the latest episode of someone’s favourite TV show.

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Monday, October 1st, 2018


Some Ideas For Successful Podcasting #

If there’s one thing many people agree on, it’s that podcasts are not an easy way of earning income (although is there truthfully any easy way online?).  John Corcoran’s look at some of your options is a good place both for new ‘casters and old hands. One of them stood out for me:

Jared Easley, co-founder with Dan Franks of the podcasting conference Podcast Movement, suggests new podcasters use Patreon to generate revenue for their show, which allows a podcaster to accept contributions from listeners. While the strategy may not yield huge dollars, Easley says that “crowdfunding is a form of a litmus test for the podcast host. If a podcast host is having trouble getting support through crowdfunding, it is usually an indicator that they need to continue growing their audience and/or that the show is not resonating with the listeners overall.

Having started using Patreon for the Eurovision Song Contest podcast at ESC Insight last December, I’d be very interested to hear how a Patreon works with a brand new show – one of the Insight advantages was the existing community we had that was ready to support us.

More at Medium. Given there are 22 strategies you should be able to find a lot of good ideas in here.

Saturday, May 12th, 2018


On Reaching D2: Tonight I’ll Be The US Commentator For The Eurovision Song Contest #

Not long after attending my first Eurovision Song Contest (Moscow 2009) I wrote this:

Terry Wogan’s continuous thirty-year run as Commentator for Eurovision started in 1980, when he was 42. Graham Norton started commentating on Eurovision in 2009, aged 46. Paddy O’Connell started commentating on the Eurovision Semi Finals aged 38. Ken Bruce started commentating on Eurovision for Radio 2 aged 37.

For the record, I’ll be 35 in May next year, which gives me some time (not that I’m counting) but if anyone down at Wood Lane [Television Centre] wants to give me a call…

So, let’s add a few more data points to add to that list:

Scott Mills started commentating on the Eurovision Semi Finals aged 37.

Ewan Spence started commentating on Eurovision aged 43.

In just over an hour,  I’ll be taking to the airwaves across America as part of the first Eurovision Song Contest commentary team for the US radio broadcast. I’ll going to tell the longer story of this adventure over the next week or so, but I do want to put a marker down before the show starts, and type this out in full.

Tonight, I’ll be a commentator for the Eurovision Song Contest.

The list of thank you’s to get to this point is huge, but for now; Dave Cargill, Tony Currie, Lisa-Jayne Lewis, Ana-Filipa Rosa, Sharleen Wright, Ellie Chalkley, John Egan, John-Paul Lucas, Vikki Spence, Eilidh, Mairi, my family, to everyone else I’ve met and who has helped me on this journey… Thank you.

And now… let the Eurovision Song Contest begin!

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Tuesday, March 13th, 2018


An Update With Some Good News About My Epilepsy #

It’s coming up on six weeks since my last ‘full body’ seizures and ‘just the leg’ tonic clonic seizures. Things are going well.

As I noted in my last post on the subject, I have been diagnosed with epilepsy and there’s been nothing since to suggest otherwise. What’s not know yet is what triggers my brain into electrical overload, and that may never be known unless the seizures start up again (something I’d like to avoid). In general my Doctor says I’ve to avoid alcohol, keep to regular sleep patterns, and avoid getting over-tired.

What is not a trigger is ‘bright flashing lights.’ Although this is the classic epilepsy thing only three percent of those diagnosed with epilepsy have photo-sensitivity. If the strobes, lights, pyro, and projection effects at Norway’s Melodi Grand Prix selection show for the Eurovision Song Contest failed to trigger me, I doubt anything visual will. Last weekend’s trip to that show allowed me to road-test the modifications my body has made, and all seems to be in order.

That said my enforced rest has meant that I have lost a lot of stamina, my right leg is weaker because of the twitching and seizures that it suffered, and my left arm is still recovering from secondary injuries. There are some side-effects from the anti-seizure medication (Keppra/Levetiracetam), including fatigue and a touch of vertigo. As my body gets used to the medication I’m expecting the effects to continue to diminish.

Up next are a few more short trips to cover some conferences and music events during March and April. I expect to be match fit to join the ESC Insight team in Lisbon to cover the Eurovision Song Contest in May.

By all means ask how I am and how things are going if we meet, I’m happy to talk about this. Just give me a little bit longer to walk anywhere and I’m not going to be staying out late.

You’ll find a lot more information at Epilepsy Scotland, including first aid advice on what to do if you are with anyone when they have a seizure.

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Monday, February 26th, 2018


Musical Time Capsules #

What happens when you try to power up and look at the contents of your seventeen year old iPod? James Bareham fights Firewire cables, antiquity, and Thunderbolt dongles to find out. And the results? not just a bit of digital archaeology but a look back into the mind of his younger self:

Though my Apple music devices changed over time, growing slimmer and more powerful with every iteration, much of the music on them remained the same. Seventeen years is a long time in both the worlds of music and technology, but not everything dates in the same way. Though today I am listening to a lot of new music from the likes of Adele, Alabama Shakes, Kaki King, Lana Del Ray, Philip Glass, Michael Kiwanuka, Chvrches, and Gary Clark Jr., looking back through the playlists on my first and oldest iPod I was struck by the fact that some of the music from 2001 and 2002 seemed far more dated than some of the ‘70s, ‘80s, and ‘90s.

As I mentioned earlier, most of the music and the artists from that period are still in my playlists: Abba is as vibrant and fun as the day it was written (#notatallsorrysojustdealwithit); Rush may have retired from playing live and recording new material, but I am still listening to their enormous back catalog; Radiohead continue to make angst the most powerfully powerful creative force in the universe; Oasis and Blur (both of whom are surprisingly missing from my iPod, but I was definitely listening to them back in 2002) are a link to my London past; and David Bowie’s final album Blackstar proved that the world is a less interesting place since his untimely death in January 2016.

The Verge.

Saturday, February 24th, 2018


Starting an obsession with the Rubik’s Cube, from Quartz #

Always nice to see someone go a little bit deeper into the world of Cube’ing. It;s more than Rubik, but Quartz’s Weekend Obsession post is a good starting piece:

The breakout story of this year’s Super Bowl—for some—wasn’t which quarterback had the best hands, or which call was the most controversial, but who could solve a Rubik’s Cube the fastest.

Was it back-up Eagles wide receiver and special team standout Mack Hollins? Or Patriots starting guard Joe Thuney?

This charming diversion was proof of something we probably didn’t actually need to justify: Nearly 40 years after its invention, the world’s most confounding cube of colors is still going strong.

Read the full piece here.

Thursday, February 15th, 2018


What’s Going On With My Body #

I had posted this on Facebook, but of course it’s now a week later so is impossible to find. And you wonder why old hands like me prefer our own blogs on our own servers…

TL/DR: I’ll be fine. I’m staying at home for a bit to get the right level of medication in my body, and then I’ll be back out reporting on the real world.

Thursday 18 January, I was rushed into hospital following an unexpected full body seizure/fit and loss of consciousness for 12 minutes. Although discharged the same night with a referral to ‘first fit’ clinic I had a second full body fit the next night and proceeded to spend two nights in hospital for monitoring.

I was released the Sunday afternoon after starting out on a course of sodium valproate to broadly target the seizures – which meant fit number three on the night of Sunday 21st was about a minute long, had no loss of consciousness, and was restricted to the full length of my right leg.

Multiple focal fits followed (restricted to my right leg) as I increased the sodium valproate dose to 300mg twice per day, which first reduced and then stopped the fits, I’ve not had any since Saturday 27 January

Following my visit with the Neurology consultant in the first week of February, I’m now lined up for some more investigations (including an MRI), and I’m in the process of switching to an alternate medication better suited to my symptoms (levetiracetam). The next two weeks will be all about switching over safely, and getting medication and body back in balance. Given the number and type of fits in close succession, there’s no question on the diagnosis.

I have epilepsy.

And once the medications are all balanced, there’s no reason I won’t be getting back on with life as before.

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Tuesday, September 26th, 2017


On Publishing Five Hundred Podcasts #

Last Friday saw one of the moments where numbers conspired to mean something. Over on ESC Insight, I posted the five hundredth episode of my Eurovision Song Contest podcast. There was nothing particularly special about the contents, it was a regular episode of ‘ESC Insight News’, covering the last two weeks of news in the world of the Song Contest.

The only concessions to the episode number was a sad party twizzler sound effect at the end of the show, and the subtle use of a Fiat 500 as the key image in the post and shared social images.

And while it is podcast #500 on the RSS feed of ESC Insight, I’ve done more Eurovision podcasts and audio that have been sent down other channels – the podcasts and radio shows for the SBS Eurovision pop-up radio station, the work with Radio Six International, the syndicated radio preview shows each year, and even the commentary work I’ve done have all been part of the audio adventure. These shows are not in the core 500, but they all arose because I podcast about something I love and became one of the ‘go to voices’ in the space.

This is the point where inspirational posts would suggest some grand lessons over the last six years of ESC Insight. I’m not sure there are any, beyond find a passion, keep the quality as high as possible, always ask if you can do more, and say yes to every opportunity you get.

The ESC Insight podcast has taken me on some amazing journeys, from a midnight flight into Yerevan to armed guards blocking my path into Azeri press centres; from commentary booths around the world to talking to TV and Radio executives across Europe and beyond; to be welcomed by a community and to create a new community, it has delivered all that and more.

As for what comes next, I’d highlight podcast #499. This is part of a series called ‘Eurovision Castaways’, where host Ellie Chalkley interviews members of the Song Contest community about their favourite records and finds out more about them. That episode arrived in my podcast player with no input at all from me.

I may have started the Eurovision podcast many years ago, I may still contribute, but the podcast is now something much bigger than just myself, a microphone, and some passion.

Now that personal passion is the shared passion of tens of thousands.

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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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