26 September 2011

Communicating face to faces

G+ hangouts, Skype group video calling for six, Fring for four.
Group video seems to be all the rage.

Options now include Paltalk, which offers 10 streams in a  group video chat (the host needs to install the application). Spreecast will soon launch with four video streams and unlimited voyeurs.

There are plenty of established operators, though the results are a bit of a mixed bag.

Sifonr is a web app that allows you to create an instant video chat room without registration. The room can be public or private.

Tokbox offers up to 20 video streams but requires an account for each participant. It offers an API (application programming interface) so the tool can be integrated into your own website. The charity platform Causes has used Tokbox to enable fundraisers to record a video message to increase the impact of their appeals.

TinyChat is a busy site with multiple casual chat sessions underway. Observers need to register or sign in with Twitter or Facebook, but you can also participate in up to 12 chats at a time. The content is peer to peer and unmoderated, so may be unsuitable for minors.

Some services simply provide the same tools as others and represent an alternative, but little more. For example, VPhonet is a Polish competitor to Skype offering video conferencing via an application that requires a download.

Judging from recent activity, this sector is only going to get busier.

16 September 2011

Why are you reading this?

The writers of aid and development blogs would like to know who is reading them, what you read, how you read it and why.

Dave Algoso of SmartAid and author of development blog Find What Works has a short survey that will take you only a few minutes to complete so bloggers can learn more about their audiences and make improvements. The results will be shared so that bloggers and readers alike can benefit from the analysis.

Please take the survey and also please a link to your own development or aid-related blog!

(with thanks to Ian Thorpe for blogging about this). 

12 September 2011

United Nations protecting journalists

Journalists are often in danger during battles and are increasingly becoming targets themselves in wars and civil strife. Regrettably, many more risk physical harm during peaceful operations in their home markets. Executions of journalists occur for diverse reasons, including political intrigue and to protect corrupt people in the public and private sectors. This happens in locations as diverse as Russia and Mexico and demonstrates that criminals will take extreme measures to avoid publicity.

How many journalists die?
The Freedom Forum Journalists Memorial currently lists 35 journalist deaths in 2011, including those due to accidents such as a recent airplane crash in Australia. The Committee to Protect Journalists has recorded 54 killed so far in 2011, of which roughly half have the motives confirmed. Details of each case are available. The International News Safety Institute lists 70 deaths in 2011, including both journalists and media staff.
Whatever the exact number, it is very high.

Not just reporters
Journalists often travel with producers, translators, sound recordists, camera operators and other personnel, all of whom share the risks. The victims include not only the individuals killed or maimed, but also their families, friends and even the institutions they work for. Ultimately, the risk is to a free and democratic society in which truth and knowledge prevail and corruption and evil can be unveiled and brought to justice.

What can be done?
UNESCO is calling forUN Plan of Action to guarantee journalists the right to fully exercise their profession and the right to freedom of expression. It has called together governments, NGOs and institutions to debate the issues and support the plan of action.

Further information on these issues is available from the freedom of expression NGO, Article19.

05 September 2011

OneYoungWorld: engaging youth, or buying influence?

One Young World, a creation of advertising company Euro RSCG, has just completed its second annual conference that drew hundreds of under 25s to Zurich for three days of plenary lectures,  mostly by middle-aged representatives of major corporations.

The companies on stage were mostly past, present and potential clients of Euro RSCG and primarily from industrialised countries. Presentations were by the likes of OPEC Fund, Shell, a Shell-backed NGO, Barclays Bank and HP.

The advertising industry recognises this as a tremendous idea by Euro RSCG to bring commercial interests together with 'key influencers' and to befriend future role models and affluent consumers. One commentator described it is a "wonderful client schmoozing opportunity" - for the organizers (http://bit.ly/ncwebP).

Many of the corporate representatives seemed to appreciate the chance to promote their credentials to 'tomorrow's leaders' and spent their allocated time in transparent sales mode. Lest they query the merits of being lectured to by corporate types for several days - in between bouts of hospitality - co-founder Kate Robertson told delegates that if they wanted to change the world they world they needed to deal with such companies and the issues they represented. But was this the way to do it? More than one delegate was heard to grumble that they felt like collateral in a commercial enterprise.

Does anybody doubt that this is a one-way avenue for corporations to flex their influence? Sure, there is a series of polls, white papers and a forum for comments, but delegates - many sponsored by companies such as Nike, Pepsico and McDonalds - were given very limited opportunity to ask questions from the floor. Beyond the boat cruise mid-way through the opening day, there did not seem to be a structured way for youth to meet one-another; debate with delegates; run their own agenda-setting discussions. There were limited presentations by youth(ful) luminaries and minimal opportunities for discussion and feedback. After two years on the job, the organizers seem more adept at promotion than execution.

With a slick communications operation spanning social media (http://bit.ly/nQq8Ty), OYW has even appointed global ambassadors as youthful sales people, as seen in this Euro RSCG 'prosumer report' (http://bit.ly/pCxyyy). OYW would do well to put youth to the fore. Its current public face is far from youthful (http://bit.ly/qNcYyL) and betrays thinking that is very business 1.0 .

All is not lost. Euro RSCG is determined to maintain this brand year-round, and is using its 'news room' http://www.oneyoungnewsroom.com/ as well as social networking and news media to keep things spinning. Let the chatter continue!