Category Archives: Uncategorized

Facebook 500m

Here’s the piece we made for the Six O Clock News on the night Facebook hit a significant milestone – 500 million active users.Produced by Jonathan Sumberg, edited by Nick Tulip

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Facebook 500m, posted with vodpod

A Charity Twitterthon

On Wednesday evening, with an hour to spare in a Paris hotel, and some free wifi – a rarity these days – I started thinking about how I might take part in this year’s Children in Need fundraiser. I asked for suggestions on Twitter, then came up with my own idea – a “follow for a fiver” campaign. I offered to follow anyone on Twitter for £5, and retweet them for £10 or more.

The next stage was to set up a Justgiving page where I could gather donations, and be sure that Gift Aid would be paid on top, and decorate it with a Pudseyfied image of myself – just £1 from the Children in Need site. I went live at around 1700 on Wednesday evening – and by I830 I had already collected over £400. So just a few simple bits of web technology, coupled with the power of a Twitter network, had enabled me to raise money at the rate of nearly £5 a minute.

After that initial burst, things slowed down a bit – but by Friday morning, the Children in Need day, I’d raised around £900 towards my target of £2000.  More Twitter ‘noise’ was needed – people react very quickly on a social network, but need constant reminders because there is always something new to distract them.

So I made a quick YouTube video explaining the next stage – the auctioning of various gadgets via my Justgiving page:

Vodpod videos no longer available.
more about “Raising money via Twitter“, posted with vodpod
The trouble was, nobody quite got the idea of posting a bid for a gadget on the Justgiving site., and  I then realised it was not designed (or indeed permitted) to be used for an auction. Whereas Twitter was, so I set about appealing for bids direct from my network  – and rapidly sold four gadgets for something like £1000.
The people at Justgiving noticed my fundraising efforts and linked to them from their blog, and other Twitter friends started tweeting about it unprompted. The result was that by 8pm on Friday evening, my target of £2000 had been breached.
But it didn’t stop there. Prompted  with some more subtle (ok, incessant..) reminders in my Twitterstream through Saturday, the money kept flooding in. So by Sunday morning, the total stood at over £3200.
I’m really proud that something which involved just a little effort and a smattering of technology has paid off so handsomely. But I’m even prouder of the extraordinary generosity of the friends – many of whom I’ve never met – who contributed to this appeal. I will get round to following them all on Twitter – but I’m a bit worried that retweeting those who offered £10 or more will clog up my twitterstream for days.
So here’s a suggestion – I’ve entered every donor and their messages in a Roll of Honour. They’re in rough chronological order  starting on Wednesday evening  and I haven’t said how much they gave because from £5 to £300 they’ve all played their part. If you still fell short-changed by the lack of a retweet get in touch and I’ll do it. And if you are a contributor whose name is missing, please add it in a message on this blog. Oh – and feel free to donate if you haven’t already – the appeal page is still open.
Roll of Honour

@benbutterworth Good luck!
Great idea, good luck with the fundraising @Solwise xxx
Donation by Quaristice
Good luck, Rory. Donation by @suburbman
Good luck with the twittering fundraising! Donation by @virtualewit
Great idea! @how2crafts Donation by John Morse-Brown
Think you may be following me anyway and no worries on the RT I was going to do it anyway! Cheers, @jonno Donation by Jon Collins
well done Rory, good use of Twitter Donation by @KeithUnderdown
Good luck reaching your target Rory. Donation by Lyndon Johnson @lyndonJJ
Great idea. Good luck getting to your target Donation by @NancollasGree
All the best Donation by @EclipseDeb
Here’s hoping my small donation helps you reach your target! Good luck! Donation by @seng40
Great idea Rory – is CiN on Twitter too? Donation by twitter/russellphoto
Just a little donation towards your goal and for a very good cause! Donation by @anne_f_
Good luck! Donation by @peeebeee
Let’s make it a good year for the kids Donation by @tonepowell
Sure you’ll make it. Donation by @SBA1
Great job Rory. Your name heads a whole TweetDeck group for me @AlisonKS Donation by Alison Shore
Donation by Anon (by the power of twitter)
Best wishes Rory @slicknic Donation by Nick
Nice work, Rory! @Pam_Nash Donation by Pam Nash
Great idea! Could you RT @Mubaloo 23 days left to enter our competition to win a free app for your business: http://mubaloo.realbusiness.co.uk/ Donation by Fran Allen
From @nickshore at @linITX, hope you hit your target Donation by Nick Shore
http://thefonecast.com is a weekly podcast for the UK mobile phone industry. Good luck with your challenge! Donation by @thefonecast
@Veritape: Hi and good luck with the fundraising. A RT would be great, thanks 🙂 Donation by Veritape – call recording made simple
Nice to see social media being used for Children in Need.. Go and get all those PR people who pester you to pay up!! 🙂 Donation by thinkbroadband
You already follow me, but you can have a fiver anyway – nice effort, well done! @katebevan Donation by Kate Bevan
Delighted to contribute @SchoolDuggery Donation by Rachel Gooch
Good work. No worries about the follow. @nickj89 Donation by Nick Jones
Nice idea Rory – @jonathanfrewin Donation by jonathan frewin
Best of luck Rory – I’m @division6. Donation by Armand David
@billiwilliams – can you tweet #gdaddyhorns please Donation by Rachel Williams
I think my tenner means this great idea has now raised £1000! Surely that’s worth an RT 🙂 Donation by @jez_mercke
think you’re already following me but if not I’m @guyclapperton – many thanks. Donation by Guy Clapperton
No need to follow : @headbones Donation by Christopher Gibson
Great stuff – Great cause Donation by @billgibbon
Good luck Rory @chrisbignell Donation by Chris Bignell
Paying a journalist to write/retweet – seriously dodgy… but then again, ’tis a good cause and Shirley did you Welshies proud. Well done Mr C-J. Donation by Rachel Lankester
We’ll be asking you to RT in a moment…thank you, this is great 🙂 Donation by Bev Toogood/Little Sunflowers (@LittleSunflower)
Great use of Twitter Donation by @bubela
@ideasgroup It’s the beginning of the end for the silver disc! Linn to cease production of CD players. Streaming is the future. Donation by @ideasgroup
Feeling guilty about refusing to don the bear suit this afternoon. Perhaps this will help! @davidacgregory Donation by @davidacgregor
Top idea. Now, about next year’s nude tech calendar… Donation by Paul Clarke – @paul_clarke
Fantastic cause and ingenious idea! Donation by Chloe Francis – @chloef
Great idea rory Donation by @ralvin
Great idea. Donation by Louise @louisebinns
Hi Rory, keep up the fundraising, it’s great work! Please can you RT #nothanksbillyocean Donation by @lee_ridley
So much easier to do this ahead of the big night! Donation by @snorestor
Good idea @ruskin147. Onwards and Upwards. @alanmort Donation by Alan Mort
Great idea. I’m @reyes Donation by Mauricio Reyes
Hi Rory good twitter idea and a good cause. Promise we won’t ask you to use #m**nf***t this time 😉 Donation by @wendytanwhite
@neiladam Donation by Neil Adam
Nice idea. @sciorama Donation by tweeter
Don’t worry about the follow, I’d rather earn it through my tweets than buy it. Great idea, good luck reaching your target. Donation by John Keleher @johnkatcrittall
@StudioBunny says: we expect an embarrassing CiN challenge for you to confront – Hah!
This is a great idea, and raising money for a fantastic cause. Good luck reaching your target! @Hendy14 Donation by Scott Henderson
I am sure you will reach your target. Good idea and effort in any case! @mikehellers Donation by Mike Hellers
Hope you reach your target! @mrmackenzie Donation by Sinclair Mackenzie
Well done Rory. Donation by @tftd 2
Good luck with reaching your target – great to see you use your considerable Twitter following for good 🙂 Donation by @jon_bedford
Good luck! A great idea indeed 🙂 No need for the follow, you’ll drown in tweets! Donation by @g4eid
ok here’s an extra fiver to make it up to £30 @darlingbuds Donation by Andrew Darling
It wouldn’t be Children in Need if I wasn’t donating something to Rory.. keep it up @tricias Donation by Tricia
best of luck. Donation by Andrew Darling
@mgarthwaite Rory, you are almost there! Donation by Martin Garthwaite
Go Rory! Helping raise awareness of censorship and libel abuse affecting UK journalists. http://twitter.com/AVerySecretBlog Donation by @AVerySecretBlog
Good luck! Donation by @nicolehudspith
Keep going! Donation by fdelaroche
Hope you reach the target. @lozhead
Donation by Mark Prigg
I’d quite like to take you to party with Pudsey tonight… Donation by Diane Coyle
Great idea Donation by @journotutor
Fantastic effort Rory – good luck, you shall go to the ball!! Donation by ALISONJB
keep up the good work, 10/10 for effort – All at nicado.net http://www.nicado.net Donation by nicado
Excellent use of Twitter. Fingers crossed you can make it £2k. Donation by @matt_rf
Good work & a good cause, from @willsturgeon and @the_mediablog Donation by Will Sturgeon
Well done. Great idea. Great Tweets. @paddythedaddy Donation by Andrew Barber
A very worthy cause. Good luck with hitting the target Donation by @darrenwaters
hopeyou raise lots for Pudsey on twitter! Donation by suseaslowknitta
Donation by Sarah White
Will pass on to all my colleagues at Speed Communications! Good luck! Donation by @Nicky_Savage
Nice one! Donation by Mark Cowell @markcowel
excellent idea! @mrs_od Donation by @mrs_od
Fab idea! Good luck. Donation by @camelliazarbo
Donation by Andrew Darling
Well done Rory! Fantastic haul for a fantastic cause. Keep up the good work! Donation by David Kerr(winning bid for Blackberry Bold)
Well done Rory Donation by @cloggingchris
Well Done Rory! @happymichael Donation by Michael Chung(winning bid for MiFi)
pls RT: Just back from fab Esperanto-speaking school trip to Hungary, part of innovative primary school language course. http://tr.im/springboard Donation by @timsk3
Well done Rory! Great work. (@documentally)
Brilliant stuff Rory – great way of raising money for such a good cause. @abisignorelli Donation by Abi Signorelli
My twitter username is: @sissling – I really don’t think I have anything worth retweeting! Donation by @sissling
Here’s another donation for a great cause! This is much better than that whole baked bean thing..:) Donation by @Moggle
Good job Rory Donation by @saturngirl
Good work Rory, all in a good cause Donation by @craigblog
Great fundraising idea!! From @CRUKWalton Donation by Nancy Scott
Congratulations on hitting the £2000 mark. @Dobblesworth is my username on Twitter. Donation by Daniel O’Brien
3K beckons Donation by Piers Parry-Crook
Cheers to you! @deebdublin Donation by Dee Blake
Well done……!! Donation by @halfwelshdragon
congratulations Donation by @dawnhallybone
I thought I’d tip you over the £2000, but someone just pipped me to to it Donation by @daycoder
Well done Rory Donation by Heather Gorringe
Well done Rory, almost there! Donation by essjayme
Donation by John Church
Good one Rory! Donation by a follower
Well done on the fund raising. Enjoy the party. Oh – and I can’t see why you would be remotely interested in my tweets. No need to follow Donation by Frances Hyde
FANTASTIC to see you getting so close yto your Target Rory. @digitalmaverick Donation by Drew Buddie
Good effort, Rory! This way you don’t have to RT, but you do get (almost) the same amount Donation by Drew White
Good luck with the target! Donation by Bobbyshaw (winning bid for HTC Hero)
Hope you reach your target! Donation by savesnine
Hope you manage to reach your target tonight – here’s a little something to help Donation by @bexxi
Children In Tweed? Where’s my specs…well done Rory. Donation by @ianwylie
Great effort Rory. Well done. You’ll probably need to join the news presenters dance next year to top this. Donation by Peter Horrocks
Excellent idea Rory – RT me (@jordandias) and follow (@adrianlovell) who’s also a fan! I’m with the Bear too! Donation by Jordan Dias
hope your over-achievement means you can concentrate on the dancing Donation by @filemot
Keep it up. Good seeing you at the 140conf. Donation by JP
Nearly at £3k – well done, Rory! Donation by @julietanne
Great work Rory & thanks for the tweet coverage. @gingerpete
Tune into BBC 1 Wales on Sunday evening to watch the Children in Need Gala concert organised by BBC Wales – a brilliant evening Donation by @gingio
That’s the list as at 0930 on Sunday. If you donate after that, please add your name in a comment below.

Hanoi, Halong Bay and Digital Diplomacy

Hanoi street scene

At the end of October, I found myself in Hanoi talking to Vietnamese civil servants and diplomats about the social media revolution and how they needed to get involved. Then I took a couple of days holiday to explore Hanoi and make a quick trip to Halong Bay, one of the most bewitching places I’ve ever visited.
Dusk in Halong Bay
Some of the photos I took during the trip can be seen here.

I also recorded some audioboos including this one about eating in Hanoi:
Listen!

And also this video walking through Hanoi:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about "Walking to lunch in Hanoi", posted with vodpod

I wrote a blog post about the digital diplomacy event which appeared first on the blog of Stephen Hale, the head of digital diplomacy at the Foreign Office, then in Vietnamese on the BBC Vietnamese service website. Here it is:

“It was one of the most daunting audiences I’ve ever faced. They sat in formal suits ranged behind tables in the windowless conference room of a Hanoi hotel and as I began my presentation I was not quite sure just how I’d ended up there or whether anyone wanted to hear what I had to say. But a quick trick I’ve used on audiences ranging from schoolchildren to business leaders seemed to relax everyone.

I got out my mobile phone and took a picture of the audience encouraging them to wave at me and just a few minutes later I was able to show them that a photo featuring some of the cream of the Vietnamese civil service had been posted on the social networking site Twitter, where they were now waving to the world.

The event was the Digital Diplomacy Workshop organised by the British Embassy and Vietnam Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and I had been invited to come and speak. As I explained to my audience, I am neither a diplomat nor a politician, but a journalist – so in fact it’s my job to be as undiplomatic as I can manage without getting into trouble.

But I did feel that we had something in common in that my world as a BBC reporter had been turned upside down by technology in recent years, and theirs was undergoing a similar revolution. My presentation was entitled “Learning To Talk”, and my message was that in a world where just about anyone can get their voice heard there is no alternative to joining the global conversation.

When I started in broadcasting more than a quarter of a century ago, news editors thought they knew what was good for the millions who tuned in to our TV and radio news bulletins – and those audiences had few alternatives but to sit back and accept what they were given. Similarly, politicians and diplomats in the analogue age were able to talk for hours, and the world had to listen, or at least fall asleep quietly.

Now the internet has given just about everyone the chance to talk back at journalists, politicians and diplomats – whether though blogs, through YouTube videos or most likely through social networks like Facebook and Twitter. The reaction of those who used to be in charge of the conversation was at first uncertain, but now mainstream journalists, governments, corporations, governments and diplomats are plunging in, writing blogs, recording YouTube videos, tweeting and Facebooking as if it were going out of fashion – which may indeed happen once something new comes along.

My message to my Hanoi audience was to embrace this new world – but be aware that there are new rules, and just because you are keen to talk it doesn’t mean the world wants to listen. So I showed them one blog from a big pharmaceuticals business which had attracted no comments at all – and a YouTube video from the same company where comments were disabled. Not much of a conversation there.

And I warned them that they might find it difficult to walk the hazy line between the personal and the professional which is an essential feature of blogging and social networking.

When it came to question time, I was pleased to discover that the audience was keen to engage. They’d already shown that they were not shy about cutting through to the essentials, putting Stephen Hale from the UK Foreign Office on the spot about the cost of digital diplomacy.

But it was that issue of personal and professional which was the focus of many of the questions to me – and the other speakers. How could institutions trust individuals to blog – or tweet – without strict supervision so that they did not make up policy on their own? We explained that this was an issue of trust – my employer expects me to be as impartial in my blogs or social networking activity as I am when broadcasting, and the Foreign Office trusts its ambassadors to behave as cautiously in the digital sphere as they do elsewhere.

Still, there was already widespread familiarity at the workshop with Facebook, Twitter and other aspects of modern web culture and everyone seemed keen to plunge into digital diplomacy – as long as it could be done within existing departmental budgets. There was, however, an elephant in the room – the question of free speech in a society where the government has not been tolerant of bloggers and journalists considered to have acted against the interests of the state. Before the workshop, someone had sent me on Twitter a link to an article in The Economist about the recent arrests of three people who had written critically online about Vietnam-China relations.

At various stages during the workshop, I attempted to steer our debate towards the free speech issue, stressing that once you plunge into the digital conversation you can expect to hear plenty of views you may find annoying, ridiculous, or just plain wrong. But I detected some reluctance, not just amongst the Vietnamese officials but also from two overseas online businesses working in Vietnam, to confront this issue.

That evening, I did get another chance. At a British Embassy reception, I found myself talking to the spokeswoman for Vietnam’s foreign ministry and, plucking up courage, I asked her why her country had chosen to arrest bloggers for expressing their views. Politely, but firmly, she corrected me, insisting that it was not what they had written that had got the bloggers into trouble but their involvement in other public protests. Amidst the hubbub of the embassy party, I found it difficult be quite clear exactly what they had done but one message did come through loud and clear – don’t try and tell a country where memories of the war with the United States are still fresh that it does not have the right to impose limits on what can and cannot be said.

To this first-time visitor, Vietnam appeared to be a country making rapid strides into the technological future – from the young people answering their mobile phones from speeding motor scooters, to civil servants working out how to use the web to promote their country’s interests, to the bloggers testing the limits of their government’s patience. It will be fascinating to see just how Vietnam adapts to a world where everyone seems to want to be part of the conversation.”

Inside TV Centre on Question Time Day

This was the view from Telvision Centre a couple of hours before the recording of the Question Time featuring Nick Griffin of the BNP. It was weird sitting in our office watching live pictures from four floors downof demonstrators who’d managed to get in being dragged out again . At first I was under the impression they were Linux and Mac fans there to protest against my coverage of the launch of Windows 7 the day before. Best tweet of day was from the newsreader Kathy Clugston who said a colleague was called “nazi scum” – and he was only getting a sandwich. By 1830 when I tried to leave, staff had virtually to storm the gates after the management announced a “total lockdown” of TV Centre.

Connected Africa

In September, after months of planning, I went to East Africa to report on the region’s hopes to make a great leap forward using technology. In a project called Connected Africa we went first to Mombasa to see the landing point of the Seacom cable bringing broadband to the coast for the first time, and then looked at the impact the first fast internet connection might have on everything from schools to farming.
The Landing Station
It was a fabulous trip – getting to see the kind of places you’d never visit as a tourist. Like a small farming settlement down a bumpy track through a Mombasa ghetto and out into the countryside. The farmers had mobile phones but no running water or electricity. We were shown around a home which was really a mud hut with a thatched roof – and then sat outside logging on to the internet via a 3g mobile connection. It was hard to work out just which century we were in…

Online from the farm

Online from the farm


We shot a five minute film in Kenya for Africa Business Report, a new programme, and a cut-down two and a half minutes for BBC World and the domestic news outlets. Then we did 19 lives on radio and TV, from the landing-station – all using the broadband cable.
Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “Kenya Gets Connected“, posted with vodpod

From there we went on to Rwanda to shoot a piece – which will be broadcast in late October – about that country’s attempt to move from the 19th to the 21st century in a decade using IT. We also made a radio programme for World Service there. There too we got access to the kind of sights a tourist would never see – waiting in the Ministry of Information for a man called Desire to sort out our $200 permit to film, being greeted by a village choir in a settlement down a red dustry road through some stunning countryside, hanging out with a bunch of smart young geeky Rwandans who now seem to be running the country – or at least its ambitious plan to be a high-tech hub. But there was also a sobering visit to the museum commemorating the genocide – and the realistaion that just 15 years ago around a tenth of the population was slaughtered and the roads we were travelling would have been littered with corpses.

Anyway, I’m going to use this post to collect together all the material we produced – from broadcast TV, to radio, to blog posts, to videos shot on my iPhone. Like this one, from Rwanda:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “A Rwandan Choir“, posted with vodpod

And if you go here you can see some of the photos we took on phones, an SLR and a compact camera.

Spotify iPhone app

I’ve been playing around for a few days with a beta version of Spotify’s iPhone app. Quite slick – though it crashes from time to time. The main downside is that it won’t run in the background – eg you can’t listen to your music and tweet at the same time…the upside is the ability to download tracks to your phone so that you can listen offline, when you have no 3g connection. But the whole point is to persuade Spotify customers to start paying – only premium subscribers will get the app.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about "Spotify iPhone app", posted with vodpod

Oldest Telly in action

I went to see the oldest working TV in Britain on Monday, in a house in North London. Had a very enjoyable couple of hours with Jeffrey Borinsky, the owner of the 1936 Marconiphone. He’s a real enthisast – as well as being an electronics engineer working in the television field. Great fun – and the resulting video has been viewed more than 200,000 times. Go ahead and have a look…

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about "Oldest Telly in action", posted with vodpod

The rest of my week was largely occupied by another story. But for that you’d better head back to the BBC website.

Stephen Fry’s speech at Lord’s

On the night before the Ashes test at Lord’s Stephen Fry gave a speech at a dinner – a wonderfully amusing love-letter to the game . I suppose it’s his copyright – but I’m sure he won’t mind me sharing it with you. As we know he’s pretty relaxed about people downloading his stuff – and fittingly, the text came to me via someone in the music industry..

Thank you ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much indeed. It is an honour to stand before so many cricketing heroes from England and from Australia and at this, my favourite time of year. The time when that magical summer sound comes to our ears and gladdens our old hearts, the welcome sound of leather on Graham Swann.

I have been asked to say a few words – well more than a few. “You’ve twenty minutes to fill,” I was firmly told by the organisers. 20 minutes. Not sure how I’ll use all that time up. Perhaps in about ten minutes or so Andrew Strauss would be kind enough to send on a a physio, that should kill a bit of time.

Now, many of you will be wondering by what right I presume to stand and speak in front of this assembly of all that is high and fine and grand and noble and talented in the world of cricket, and to speak too in this very temple of all that is historic, majestic and ever so slightly preposterous and silly in that world? I certainly can’t lay claim to any great cricketing achievements. I can’t bat, I can’t field, I bowl off the wrong foot. That sounds like a euphemism for something else, doesn’t it? “They say he bowls off the wrong foot, know what I mean? He enters stage left. Let me put it this way, he poles from the Cambridge end of the punt.” Actually as a matter of fact, although it is true in every sense that I have always bowled off the wrong foot. I have decided, since Sunday, to go into the heterosexual breeding business. My first three sons will be called Collingwood Fry, Anderson Fry and Monty Fry. That’s if their mother can ever get them out, of course. But back to the original question you so intelligently, if rhetorically, asked. If I can’t play, what can I do? I can umpire, I suppose, after a fashion. A fashion that went out years ago around the time of those two peerless umpires, perhaps some of you are old enough to remember them, Jack Crapp and Arthur Fagg. I remember them. I remember them every morning, as a matter of fact: Crapp and Fagg. Though now, sadly, the law says we can no longer do it in public places. And I believe that may even apply to smoking too. Anyway. We were on the subject of why I’m speaking to you. I don’t play. I’m not even a cricketing commentator, journalist or writer. I suppose the only right I have to be amongst you, the cricketing élite, might derive from my being said to represent, here in the Long Room, all those who have spent their lives loving the game at a safe distance from the square. It is love for the game that brings me here.

In the forty-five years that I have followed cricket, I have seen it threatened from all sides by the horrors of modern life. The game has been an old-fashioned blushing maiden laid siege by coarse and vulgar suitors. A courtship pattern of defence, acceptance, capitulation and finally absorption has followed. When I started watching, A. R. Lewis played for and captained England as an amateur. The game could never recover surely, from being forced, against the will of many of those who ran this place, being forced to become solely a professional sport? I am just old enough to remember too the Basil D’Oliveira affair in all its unsavoury nastiness: the filth of racism and international politics was beginning to stain the pure white of the flannels. The one-day-game appeared, shyly at first. The balance of bat and ball, essential for cricket to make any sense as a sporting spectacle, became threatened, everyone agreed, by the covering of wickets which would privilege batsman, and then that necessary equipoise was threatened the other way by the arrival of extreme pace and the pitiless bouncer. The look and style of cricketers was apparently forever compromised by helmets and elastic waisted trouserings hideous to behold. Cane and canvas pads were replaced by wipe clean nylon fastened by Velcro. Kerry Packer arrived and sowed his own blend of discord. The continuing rise and mutation of one day cricket caused panic from Windermere to Woking as white balls and coloured pyjamas threatened the sanity of Telegraph readers everywhere. Rogue South African tours caused alarm and frenzy. Pitch invasions marked an end of the days when schoolboys could lie on their tummies by the boundary-rope filling in a green scoring book, until they got bored which they inevitably did, all except the speccy swatty ones who were laughed at and are now running the world. The rest of us were too busy asking the man in the Public Announcement tent to put out a message for our lost friends Ivor Harden, Hugh Janus, Seymour Cox and Mike Hunt. One turbulent decade began with John Snow getting barracked and bombarded with tinnies and ended with batsmen getting bounced and sledged. Cameras and microphones got closer and closer to the action to overhear the insults and demystify the bowling actions. The art of spin had disappeared, for ever, some believed. Cricketers wives wrote books about the overseas tours. Reverse swing seemed to arrive out of nowhere : “Not only does he bowl off the wrong foot. They say he swings it the other way.” Ball tampering became a matter of dinner party chat from Keswick to Canterbury . Clever 3-D images were painted on the grass round about the long stop area advertising power generation companies no one had ever heard of. Advertising was not only to be seen on the grass, but on the clothes, Vodafone and Castlemaine were stitched bigger and brighter on the shirts than the three lions and the wallabies and that mysterious silver feather that Kiwis seem so unaccountably fond of.

The county game was rent asunder into leagues and divisions that no one really understands; the politics and governance of cricket, with its contracts and coaches, its bloated fixture lists and auctions of broadcasting rights caused hand-wringing too, though many would rather it were neck-wringing.

Meanwhile, drugs, drinking binges, embarrassing text messages and other scandals continued to erupt like acne on a teenager.

South Africa returned to the fold as other countries entered the club of test playing nations. Kenya, Zimbabwe and Bangladesh.

Two of those speccy boys who used to score at the sidelines got their revenge, their names were Mr Lewis and Mr Duckworth.

To the dictionary of acronyms and initials were added ODI, T-20 and IPL. Power plays and baseball style pinch-hitters were swept in. The old lady of cricket was getting a right duffing up.

Yet, amazingly, none of these changes, professionalism, the covered wickets, helmets, day-night games, confirmed the dire prognostications of those who believed each one might hammer a stump into cricket’s fragile heart. For this same period of my cricket watching life saw some of the greatest matches in the game’s history. The 1981 and 2005 Ashes series, the Tied Test; a new aggression and boldness of stroke play that no one could disapprove of. Scoring rates went up and great batsmen emerged: Lara, Tendulkar and Ponting amongst many others. And miraculously, to keep the game balanced, Warne and Murali showed that far from being dead, spin bowling was supremely alive; even providing a new ball in the form of the doozra. Huge crowds and rising popularity in fresh territories confirmed cricket’s health. Levels of fitness and standards of fielding rocketed. And all the while, the game’s greatest expression, the 5 Day Test Match, led the way, providing the greatest entertainment, the most excitement and the deepest commitment from the players. All those mournful predictions had come to nothing. The greatest of games had triumphed again.

But now, now, in the age of the internet, just as the great, great players of the past ten years have one by one started to play their farewell matches and leave the field for ever, hideous new forces have been at work. The newly emerged South Africa became mired in scandal, intrigue and misery as the new disease of spread-betting lived up to its name and spread, spread like cholera through a slum. Grotesque emails from professional umpires hit the headlines; allegations of systematic cheating and match-fixing have become commonplace, a dismal and lamentably organised Shop Window for international cricket, its 2007 World Cup seemed to lay the game low: an incomprehensible and dreadful tragedy in the death of Bob Woolmer its ghastly and unforgettable legacy. As if that weren’t enough we were more recently treated to the embarrassing spectacle of cricket’s governors cosying up to a Texan fraudster with a helicopter and a bigger mouth than wallet.

A new kind of bitterness has entered some quarters of the game as ex-players become commentators, columnists and journalists and begin to turn on their erstwhile teammates, dispraising the current players, pouring scorn on their technique and deprecating their tactical nous. We have video of course and can see that these pundits know what they were talking about: historical archive reveals that Boycott, Botham, Gower, Atherton, Willis, and Hussein were never out playing a false shot, never shuffled across, never missed a captaincy trick, never dropped a catch, never posted a fielder in the wrong place and never bowled off line or off length in the entire course of their careers.

The benefits and the drawbacks of broadcast technology bewilder us. Hotspots and Hawkeye, referrals and replays, umpires have never been more pressured and exposed and greater more seismically structural questions have never been asked about the meaning and spirit of the game. The rewards are greater, the stakes are higher, the price of failure more public and humiliating.

So a hundred years on from cricket’s Golden Age of C. B. Fry here is another Fry, searching for a way to toast a game that appears to have become … well, toast.

We could choose to believe that and retreat into memories of an apparently innocent and gilded past. We could wash our hands of it all, or we could choose to continue to believe in the game. Not necessarily in its administrators, nor even its players, though most of them in all divisions of the game are proud and gifted. We could choose to have faith in cricket. I for one do truly believe that the game itself, as first played by shepherds in the south of England, the game that spread to every corner of the world, the supreme bat and ball competition, the greatest game ever devised, will continue to provide unimagined pleasures, that true drama will once more come centre stage, booting into the wings the tragedy and farce we have witnessed over the past decade in particular. There will be new scandals of course: that you can depend upon. Undreamt of debacles, imbroglios, furores, brouhahas, crimes, rows, walk-outs and embarrassments are waiting around the corner, quietly slipping the horseshoe into the boxing-glove and preparing to give the goddess Cricketina a sock in the jaw. But new geniuses, new historic last ball climaxes, new unimaginable heights of athletic, tactical and aesthetic pleasure await us too. It is up to the players to believe in the game and the cricketing administrators to believe in the players. But most of all it is up to us to keep the faith and be unashamed, be proud of our love of cricket. Here, in the very place that is so often called cricket’s Mecca, cathedral and temple, is the place for us all to pledge that faith. I do so happily as I raise a glass in toast, on behalf of cricket lovers everywhere to Andrew Strauss in his Benefit Year and his wonderful Team, to Ricky Ponting and his fine tourists and to cricket itself. For, to misappropriate Benjamin Franklin, Cricket is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy. So then: raise your glasses, to Strauss, England, Australia and cricket.

Fun with phones

Last week we made a video for the BBC website comparing the two hot new phones – the latest iPhone and the Nokia N97. It was the latest in a series of web videos we’ve made about new gadgets, the first and most successful example being a comparison of the original iPhone with the Nokia N95. On that occasion, Darren Waters had the iPhone, while I used the N95.

This time, with Darren away, I went solo, showing off both phones. So here’s the result:

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So how was this done? Well it was mainly down to the creative efforts of two people – cameraman Neil Drake and producer Jonathan Sumberg. (Though, as I keep telling Jonathan, it was all my idea.) First, we found a photographic studio in the basement of TV Centre with a simple white background. Then Neil set up a locked off shot, and got me to record one set of links on one side of the shot with the iPhone, then another set with the N97 on the other side.

Then came the really difficult part – the edit. Jonatahan spent a whole day – while trying to produce a piece I made about the Digital Britain report – fiddling with Final Cut Express to merge the two shots together and produce a coherent whole. I shouted at him a bit while he was distracted from his main task, but I have to admit that he did a pretty smart job, considering it was his first edit for broadcast – or at least for the web. Here’s a grab from the edit:

Phones Final Cut

The piece got a lot of views online and we were quite pleased with it it. Then 36 hours later, when I was on a ferry to the Isle of Wight for another story, I took a call from the Ten O Clock News. Could I do a piece for that night about the battle of the smartphones? After a bit of head-scratching we managed to cobble something together, using the beginning and end of the smartphone video, plus some material shot on the Isle of Wight ferry. Including this piece to camera, filmed on an iPhone 3GS.

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So what’s interesting about all this? Well this is the kind of video which would not have been made 5 years ago, because the treatment would have been seen as too wacky and the subject too obscure for a mainstream bulletin. But now we can try out slightly off-beam idas online – and then, if they fly, get them on to mass-audience bulletins.

The Chinese Umbrella Trick – great web video

We spend a lot of time at the moment at the BBC talking about what does and doesn’t work as web video. There’s general agreement that the standard video package – what you would normally see on the main TV news bulletins – isn’t usually ideally suited to the web. It aims to tell the general viewer the basics of a story, whereas we think the web visitor is probably looking for something more.

This piece from James Reynolds, the BBC’s man in Beijing, looks to me exactly what works best on the web. He’s not trying to tell the whole Tiananmen Square story – just illustrating what happens when a Western correspondent tries to get into the square right now. It’s both informative and amusing – and it plays to the strengths of TV, telling a story with pictures.

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