Monday, January 30, 2006

Museums of the Pacific Islands Region Online

Its Asia Pacific Week at the Australian National University and museum directors from around the region are meeting in Canberra. I gave them a presentation on using the web for museums, based on the week long workshop conducted in Samoa in mid year and the research a student I supervised on the semantic web.

If you are using the Firefox or Opera browser (not MS-IE) you can select "View > Page Style > Projection" from the pull down menus to see the slides from the
presentation or workshop.

I was asked at the workshop how appropriate web adverting was for a museum web site. So I put it to the test with ads on my notes. I had to block a few get-rich-quick schemes, but then I got reasonable ads for reasonable museum things. If you see any inappropriate ads, let me know.

Video downloads with advertising

Is this the future of TV? have a web site which allows you to upload a digital video. They then add an advertisement to the end and make the video available. The video is in Apple Quicktime format and includes code to track how many times it is played. The advertiser is charged for each playing of the video and the provider receives a share of the royalties. That is the theory.

My first attempt is a short clip of a Bollywood style dance spectacular recorded using a camera phone in India:

The video is very low quality, not helped by conversion to Quicktime. There is a nasty buzz at the end just before the ad comes on (this wasn't in the original video). The ads don't seem to be hard coded in the video, but downloaded and change (much like Google Adsense ads on web pages).

As I did with Google AdSense, I signed up for the service to see how it works (not expecting to make much money out of it. Revver has a signup process similar to other on-line ecommerce services. They use PayPal for payments. You then upload a video file in just about any format, supplying some descriptive material with it.

The web upload worked smoothly for the very small 70kbyte 3GP (camera phone video) file I used. There are specialized upload programs you can download from Revver to speed up the process for larger videos. The problem I had, similar to that experienced with Google Books, was working out the exact status of my uploaded file. Thinking the upload had not worked I tried several times and ended up with multiple copies. As with Google Books, after a week or so I got a mail message to say my file was ready to go online (there seems to be some human checking in the process initially).

The major problem I had was with blocking inappropriate advertisements. As with Google AdSense, you can block specific advertisers from advertising with your content. Unlike AdSense, there are also some generic categories you can block, such as adult material and fast food. However, as many times as I clicked the boxes to block these, Revver seemed to ignore my entries and record no restrictions. But so far the only ad is an inoffensive one for t-shirts.

Unlike AdSense, which only allows advertisements on your own web site, Revver provides their own web site for the content and you can also distribute the videos by email.

Exactly how acceptable the ads are and how much revenue is generated, is yet to be seen. If this format works, it could be used for an Internet based DIY TV service.

Apple Quicktime includes slideshow and SMIL miltimedia. If these are supported by Revver, it should be possible to produce very entertaining and educational material which is very bandwidth efficient.

Hard Making Money with Google

Cover of Make Easy Money with Google
Found the book "Make Easy Money with Google" by Eric Giguere at the local library. I wouldn't agree that making money using Google's AdSense advertising program is easy, but apart from that the book gives a reasonable introduction.

Guguere suggests you can make between $20 and $60 a month, which is in line with what I have found.

Google provide a good introduction via their help files, but if you don't have the patience for that, this book is a big help. It also provides a quick and pragmatic introduction to how to create a web site.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Documentary on Business Culture in China

Nick Torrens mailed me to say his documentary "The Men Who Would Conquer China" will be broadcast on ABC TV Monday January 23, 2006 at 9.30pm. I saw a preview of this last year when it was up for an AFI Award (which it won).

The documentary looks at US businessman teaming up with a Hong Kong partner to invest in mainland Chinese businesses. It is both educational and entertaining, but isn't too flattering towards US understanding of other cultures. It very much matched my experience in 2003 when I was the guest of the Beijing Olympic Committee with web experts from around the world.

Just to make this relevant, Nick mentioned the documentary is being sold to US business schools as educational material. So how would you turn such material into a more online friendly format? One answer might be metadata.

Friday, January 20, 2006

India: the EU of Asia

Back from three weeks in India and a few travel reports I decided to collect my thoughts on the trip. You can also read the items I posted along the way.

People Everywhere

Lourdes Convent School

The first thing that struck me were the number of people everywhere. Looking out of an aircraft window at Australia's busiest airport you might see no one, or perhaps one or two people. In India there are dozens of people around each aircraft. At first they just seem to be just standing there, but they are all doing something (or waiting to do something). In Canberra if working from my inner city home office, I might see a dozen people in a day. In India, in a rural village, I might see that many people go past the window in a few minutes. This takes some getting used to and the crowds in the markets can be overwhelming, until you get used to the fact that these people are just going about their normal business and you have less personal space than other places.

India: the EU of Asia

bus with Hindu shrine and driver was wearing a santa hat

Rather than a country, think of India as the European Union in Asia, with Indian states the size of European countries. People from across India share a common currency, heritage and legal system. But they look different, have different religions, speak different languages and each think their own state is the best place. At the Kala Academy I attended a performance of traditional dance and singing from the Nagaland, in the extreme north east of India. To me they didn't look or sound like "Indians" but like Native North Americans ("Red Indians").

Like Europe, the borders of India are in flux. There are disputed territories with traditional home lands crossing the recognized borders. During my visit Goa celebrated "Liberation Day", when on 19 December 1961, the Indian military occupied what was a Portuguese territory. The day after the Nagaland performance, the newspaper reported clashes between Nagaland separatists and the Myanmarese army, with several people killed.

Exactly who is an Indian is also flexible. Indian newspapers and billboards have prominent advertisements for bank accounts for NRIs: non-resident Indians. These are Indian citizens living and working abroad. Along with those of Indian descent who are not citizens, these people are a valuable source of income and business contacts for the country. In a narrow Indian village lane you can run into people visiting their relatives from around the world.

Indian citizens move around India with the freedom European citizens move between countries of Europe. They take with them their own tastes and are catered to by the locals for food and entertainment (the two main categories of catering are "Veg" and "Non Veg"). The result of all this is that an Indian is a global citizen without having to leave home. Someone from the USA, and to a lesser extent Australia, could spend their whole life in the one culture in their own country. An Indian will be exposed to multiple cultures, languages and countries on their doorstep.

They are poor but not stupid

The average income in India is very low. But there is a general thrust for knowledge and desperate scramble for educational qualifications as a way to higher income. Like China, engineers and teachers are held in very high regard. If I tell someone in Australia I am a Director of the Australian Computer Society and Visiting Fellow in the College of Engineering and Computer Science at the The Australian National University I get looks of bewilderment and some grudging respect from my IT industry colleagues. In China and India it earns the sort of veneration reserved for saints and pop stars.

Franciscan Hospitaller Sisters email to Portugal

India is a case study in the application of appropriate technology. Watching a house or a road being built with hundreds of laborers it is tempting to say "why don't they just get a bulldozer and a cement truck?". But ask the people organizing the work and they will explain the relative costs of labor and machinery and how in many cases large machines will not fit down narrow Indian streets.

insignia of the Indian Navy Information Warfare Squadron

Outside a traditional performance by an Indian Navy Band I saw military guards with primitive batons and well used submachine guns. It would be easy to dismiss this as a third world country with a rag tag third world military. But also on display was the shield of the Indian Navy Information Warfare squadron. They fly locally made aircraft of German design, fitted with advanced electronics to monitor signals from India's enemies (and friends). These aircraft have the same Israeli radar as Australia's most advanced Maritime Patrol Aircraft.

India is full of IT and engineering entrepreneurs. I saw a two door battery electric car made in Bangalore. But not all Indian engineer enterprises are a success. The story of the "Konkan Railway Skybus", vaulting high over a regional city is almost straight out of an episode of the Simpsons. After considerable expense the monorail seems to have been abandoned due to an accident on a test run.

Goa: India Lite

My trip was confined to one state of India: Goa and to a village there. This provided a relatively gentle introduction to the country (as does Bangalore). Goa's main airport is in open countryside, so you are not immediately confronted by city and crowds. This contrasts with Mumbai, were slums crowd up against the airport boundary, and as soon as you leave the terminal you are confronted by a wall of people and the smell of rotting material.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Art Deco Building

Not all the houses of Goa are centuries old. The Franciscan Hospitaller Sisters home is from the 1930s with decorative metal screens typical of the period and a concrete and metal stairway which could be straight out of the Bauhaus.

Networked Nuns

The Franciscan Hospitaller Sisters look after the elderly in the village of Sallaigo, Goa. In their 1930s Art Deco building run a hi-tech operation, with a Windows 98 PC. Like all the PCs I have seen in India, this has an uninterruptable power supply (UPS). It also has a dialup modem for email to the order's HQ in Portugal.

Tiled Roof

Goan houses have a red tiled roof. The tiles look just like those of Sydney and Melbourne in Australia. There is no ceiling within the house: you can see the wooden beams, the tiles and skylight trough the gaps. This is to keep the house cool and to avoid any damp in the ceiling. Any undetected leak into a ceiling during the monsoon rains would be disastrous. More modern buildings have a concrete roof, covered with tiles.

Indian Electric Car

While the two door Smart Car seems to suit the narrow cobblestone streets of Europe, the car for the Indian city seems to be the slightly larger four door Suzuki hatch-back. In one street in Goa I found what appeared to be a plastic bodied two door battery electric car made in Bangalore by Reva.

Indian Documentary Film and Literature

Attended the Goa Documentary Film Festival at the Kala Academy on 23 December. The guest of honor was "Gulzar", noted India film maker and poet. The opening film was his documentary on the "Sahitya Akademi", the national Indian literary academy, who are celebrating their 50th adversary (and looking to produce e-books). While Indian authors have become popular in the west in the last few years, the film pointed out that they are decades of authors in dozens of languages before that.

The Edge of the City in India

I visited an apartment on the very edge of the city of Panji in Goa. Out one window are apartment complexes reminiscent of Singapore, out the other window rice fields and cattle. Perhaps in a few months time the field will be covered by more apartments, shops and offices.

Bus and Taxi Shrines

Goa's religions seem to coexist well, with Catholic saints having the same status as Hindu gods. Taxis and busses have a shrine on the dashboard, with flowers and flashing LEDs, to a saint or a god. The roads have a shrine to a saint or god ever few hundred meters. A Catholic property owner will maintain a pre-existing Hindu shrine on the roadside outside their house. The bus in the photo had a Hindu shrine, but the driver was wearing a santa hat with "Merry Christmas Goa" on it.

Hindu Carving at Bondla

Several Hindu carvings were unearthed during the building of the Bondla Wildlife Sanctuary. These were most likely buried during the Inquisition, when non-Catholics were persecuted. Rather than being shipped off to a museum, then have been set up in situ and are looked after by Hindu staff.

Bondla Wildlife Sanctuary

The Bondla Wildlife Sanctuary is 52km from Goa's capital, Panaji. The Lonely Planet Guide to India describes it as having a depressing zoo, but this is an animal hospital for rehabilitating wildlife rescued from smugglers. It was a little unsettling to watch the King Cobra relieving its weekly feed of a live snake.

Handheld Web

While visiting a spice farm in Goa I bumped into James (JIM) Minter, Customer Technical Service, from Sicpa Securink Corporation, USA. He never travels without his Blackberry handheld communicator, with email and web access. He reports that this works over much of India using GPRS. But for giving presentations and more substantial work he has a PDA.

Spice Farm

Goa was a trading port for spices, but there are now a few farms producing them locally. This one has terrace walls which double as irrigation canals. The water runs from stone cisterns through stone channels to mixed gardens of pepper, cinnamon, ginger, under coconut palms. Pepper grows as a creeper on the trees. It took a mental leap to associate the plump green berries with what I am used to seeing in a pepper shaker. Also they grow cashews, from which a strong clear alcoholic drink "Fenny" is made. The Fenny is made from the fruit of the cashew (which resembled a small pear), not the nut, and distilled in a clay still.

Ore Barges

One of Goa's exports is iron ore. This is transported along the river in barges. These are made on the riverbank, either in dry docks or on the bank itself. The vessels can run aground, with advertisments for salvage in the local newspaper.

Not Fishing

Some of what at first look like fishing boats along the rivers of Goa are actually dredging up silt from the bottom for making pottery. Several people scoop the silt in buckets on long bamboo poles, while one bales the water from the boat. The tourist boat I was on slowed down when passing to prevent swamping these boats.