The Red Lines Page

July 22, 2010

I’m free

Filed under: Audios,drwho,Pest Control,press,writing — Peter A @ 3:21 pm

The Guardian reports that the ASA admonished the Sunday Telegraph for its giveaway of my audio CD Pest Control. The adjudication is here. Thank you to m’colleague Oli Smith who drew my attention to this, and warned me that BBC Watchdog were going to camp on my doorstep and demand an explanation.

I waited until Anne Robinson shouted through my letterbox and then poked her with a sharpened pencil through the open flap. When you next see her on TV, you may notice she has an awkward tic in one eye.

Alas, one complainant felt misled that the audiobook was in two parts and only one was attached to the paper. Another complainant didn’t think the redeemable vouchers made the audiobook “free” from WH Smith because they didn’t live near a store, and therefore had to stump up nearly thirteen quid for all the CDs.

Product DetailsIf it’s any consolation, I spent a quid to get my free Pest Control Part 1 CD in the Sunday Telegraph, and then forgot to get the Monday Daily Telegraph paper altogether. Oli Smith’s audio (free the previous day) was good, though. BBC Audio (or possibly AudioGo) plan to issue it officially at a later date with music and sound effects.  That cover mount was the first time Oli had heard the final version — he got up at 7 a.m. on the Saturday to buy the paper and listen to his CD.

Actually, you can still get both Pest Control CDs in a nice box with a booklet for a mere six quid from Amazon. Or for listeners in the US, for less than $20 here.

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April 15, 2010

Telegraph covermount

Filed under: drwho,Pest Control,press,writing — Peter A @ 11:20 pm

The Daily Telegraph is going to covermount a set of audios as a “Doctor Who Collection”. I’m particularly pleased, because they’re including my audio Pest Control (read by David Tennant) on Sunday 25th and Monday 26th April.

Before that, readers will be able to get new Doctor Matt Smith reading The Runaway Train, which is a bit of a scoop. After Pest Control, the Collection will contain Slipback featuring Colin Baker, Genesis of the Daleks and Exploration Earth featuring Tom Baker and Elisabeth Sladen, and finally Mission to the Unknown, the soundtrack recording of the single-episode Hartnell-era story that (uniquely) doesn’t feature the Doctor or any of his companions. It’s a Marc Cory Story.

Pest Control (Doctor Who) Doctor Who: Slipback (BBC Radio Collection) "Doctor Who", Genesis of the Daleks and Exploration Earth: Genesis of the Daleks AND Exploration Earth (BBC Radio Collection)

“It’s a thrilling collection of unique original audio stories, rarely-heard radio adventures and classic TV soundtracks,” says Commissioning Editor of BBC Audiobooks, Michael Stevens, “featuring the voices of much-loved Doctors, companions and monsters – including the brand new current Doctor, Matt Smith!”

Updated: corrected the dates and the reference about “Mission…” It’s the soundtrack, not the novelisation.

January 15, 2010

Patently obvious

Filed under: Articles,Grumbling,IBM,press — Peter A @ 9:25 pm

Last year, IBM published one of my inventions and another where I was a co-inventor. I was quite pleased, even though they were published, not patented. Then I saw a churlish article in The Register about IBM’s patents — prompting this grumbly personal blog response.

In 2009, the US Patent and Trademarks Office granted IBM more patents than any other company in the world. This was the 17th straight year  that’s happened, though it didn’t stop The Register‘s Gavin Clarke reporting this as “each year for nearly a decade”. (The IBM press release makes this obvious to most of… er… the press.)

Mind you, some of The Register’s other calculations were inaccurate too. And I think they missed a more interesting analysis of  the figures that they were handed on a plate by the various source documents.

For example, The Register claims that a company called Hon Hai Precision grew fastest on USPTO patent awards, but then refers to a table of data that shows Hon Hai was up 39% year-to-year whereas Microsoft was up 43%.

When Gavin’s article was first published earlier this week, it also asserted: “the number of patents granted to Microsoft  almost doubled, growing 43 per cent over 2008 to hit 2,903.” Wouldn’t “almost doubled” be “almost 100%”? And even doubling their impressive 2008 haul would still have kept Microsoft in second place to IBM in 2009. [Subsequently, this calculation gaffe has been quietly removed from the article.]

On trends, the article says: “if IBM and Microsoft continue at the same pace, Microsoft should slide into the number-two spot behind IBM. Then it’s just a matter of time and filings before Microsoft deposes IBM at the top.”  It fails to make a connection with another observation in the article that “the size of portfolio is the currency that you use to trade to another company”.

So how many years on current trends will it be before Microsoft amasses the same amount of total patent “currency” as IBM, Samsung, Canon, Sony or others? Especially as some new patents derive from that existing  intellectual property, and those other companies have been amassing thousands every year for many years… in IBM’s case, for decades. Maybe that’s why in 2003 Microsoft hired Marshall Phelps, the former IBMer who Newsweek said turned IBM’s patent portfolio into a $2 billion business.

In addition, Gavin snorts: “There you have it fanbois: Those who think IBM walks on water because of the patents and IP its generously given to Linux and open-source, the mask as finally slipped. Patents to IBM are a currency it uses to get what it wants.”

But why can’t companies — IBM or otherwise — do different things for different kinds of patents? And if the article’s questioning IBM’s accumulation of intellectual “currency”, perhaps it could have admitted something else made plain in the press release: IBM also had nearly 4,000 additional technical inventions in 2009, but published them directly instead of seeking patent protection, thereby making the inventions freely available to others in a public database of prior art. Including mine. Fly, my pretties, fly!

Companies like IBM, Samsung, Canon, Sony and (increasingly) Microsoft have a big portfolio of existing patents on which they can develop new intellectual property; and IBM also freely publishes thousands of new technical inventions that others can build on.  There you have it, fanbois.

I suppose  journalists prefer to write a story about “the Beast of Redmond breathing down everyone’s necks” or “Big Blue’s mask finally slips after nearly a decade”. (Or is it 17 years? Let me check that press release again.)   And that’s easier to do if you get the basic maths wrong, selectively quote the data, and if you don’t bother with much real analysis of the underlying trends. That much is patently obvious.

January 5, 2010

Audio therapy

Filed under: Audios,drwho,Pest Control,press,writing — Peter A @ 8:59 pm

The “Alpha Mummy” blog in The Times today made me smile. The author’s daughter was bereft at losing David Tennant in the recent Doctor Who finale, and even reading Doctor Who Magazine was insufficient consolation. So the clever father “downloaded a Doctor Who audiobook, read out by Tennant”. And by 11:30 p.m. their daughter was fast asleep.

I like to imagine that “at least one more David Tennant adventure”  means it was an audio original, and specifically Pest Control. Have I mentioned that audio on this blog?  It’s still available for download in the UK and the US and from other fine retailers around the world. Please don’t download an illegal torrent of it, because the author doesn’t get any royalties for those, and that’s how I’m paid for writing it, and not getting royalties makes me weep like a bereft girl.

Well, I like to imagine that the parents downloaded my audio. But perhaps it was Simon Messingham’s Day of the Troll instead. Find that here, if you must.

And for those of you as excited as I am about the forthcoming Eleventh Doctor, check out the preview on the BBC website here (UK only, I’m afraid).

Update: my wife asks, “Was the girl in a coma? After listening to your audio, I mean?”

January 2, 2010

Mail Fail

Filed under: Articles,drwho,press,twitter — Peter A @ 9:23 pm

Daily Mail gets things a bit backwardsTwo suspiciously-similar articles appeared in the press this week, both grumbling that David Tennant was in too many BBC programmes at Christmas. One was in the Telegraph, and the other in the Mail. Both asserted that he appeared in 75 programmes.

To get to 75 appearances, they had to count over a period of three weeks. Now, I know Christmas starts earlier every year, but that seems a bit extravagant even by the Mail’s standards. Well over half of these appearances were Doctor Who (including the cartoon series) or other repeats; two of them were among the biggest-rated shows of the season (the two-part Doctor Who finale); and several others were news or documentary appearances as publicity for the finale. On that basis, the press will presumably be getting in a tizzy about the number of appearances by people in soap operas or the next time Britain’s Got Talent has its run.

The Mail article contained well below 500 words, plus a programme listing that could have been copied straight from the Radio Times. It took three journalists to write that. It contains several errors, which are helpfully explained to the Mail journalists in the many reader comments. They quoted two people from the many on their own comment boards to support the complaint about “overexposure”. Unfortunately, they selectively quoted one of those from a comment that was actually saying the complete opposite, and the original author had to correct them in the comments and reveal why she “really, really resented” their “pathetic” article. The Mail hasn’t apologised or corrected the published article.

This didn’t stop Conservative MP Nigel Evans complaining that this was evidence that the BBC was “freezing out young acting talent”, that the BBC should “name their big earners”, and that “200 channels of David Tennant doesn’t seem to be much choice.” He doesn’t explain how 75 appearances could make 200 channels, but fortunately he sat on the Culture Media and Sport select committee, and not one like the Treasury Select Committee that might require numeracy. Being a former committee member means he probably ought to recognise a non-sequitur, though. Note that he doesn’t sit on the committee any more — one of the errors that none of the three authors spotted in their article, possibly because they think retyping something is easier than checking the facts.

Speaking of which, moon-faced miserablist and Mail regular Jan Moir subsequently regurgitated the whole story in the paper, using the information in the article but conveniently ignoring all the corrections helpfully provided by readers of the previous article. She probably doesn’t think much of readers’ comments, after there was a record-breaking number of complaints to the UK Press Complaints Commission about her nasty article about the death of Stephen Gateley. Charlie Brooker described that fiasco rather better than I could, however – read his response here.

Other recent articles by the same Mail authors include:

  • Ross: “Jonathan Ross angers BBC bosses after slamming television schedule”, another in the Mail’s continuing attacks on Ross, in which no BBC bosses are actually quoted  (either on or off-record), the entire piece being based on a single tweet by Ross’s revealing his uncontroversial opinion that “BBC has shite on occasionally” compared with even worse on ITV.
  • Pope: “Pope has a pointy hat”, a piece about Vatican dress code that speculates whether the papal headgear is an attempt to distance the Pope from his Nazi past, and featuring the comment “puts the Rat into Ratzinger” and a photo of an infallible condom featuring the Pontiff’s smiling face
  • Rage: “’We want to wipe the smug grin from Simon Cowell’s face”, an article whose true Mail agenda is revealed by the website URL “BBC-backing-Rage-Against-The-Machine-sour-grapes-X-Factor-beating-Strictly-says-Simon-Cowell.html”
  • Fat: “Dawn French uses a floral walking stick”, containing the breathless assessment “It is not known whether her injury was linked to her weight, however it is well-known that heavier people tend to have more problems with mobility”, and a series of quotes from a “Harley Street diet expert” lambasting the injured woman.
  • Pug: “Kelly Brooks’ dog has a pink body warmer”, a feature piece containing photos of her, the dog and her rugby-player boyfriend, plus the words “amazing pert boobs”.

I made up one of those five stories — only four were written by those journalists. If you feel like doing a quick web search to work out which is the one I invented, then you’ll have worked harder on ascertaining the facts than the Mail journalists did on some of the facts in their David Tennant article.

PS: For the full effect, you need to imagine that I hand-wrote this blog post in full capitals on lined paper with green ink.

PPS: The Telegraph journalist has previously reported on MPs’ expenses, the war in Afghanistan, and the Jersey child abuse investigation. Must have been a slow news day for him, eh?

November 29, 2009

Top Tennant

Filed under: Audios,drwho,Pest Control,press — Peter A @ 6:08 pm

Still on sale!APA logoNews just in… well, it was news to me, thanks to David Darlington, who sent me the December newsletter from the Audiobook Publishing Association.

The announcement actually happened two months ago at the Chiswick Book Festival. The competition was announced in July, as I may have mentioned. And there was also an article in The Independent about the nominations here.

Anyway, thanks to participating members of the public, Pest Control was voted in the Top Ten. Thank you voters! Fellow nominees who didn’t make the Top Ten were Cormack McCarthy, Julian Fellowes, Duncan Bannatyne, the late E M Forster, Barack Obama, and Paddington Bear.

There were three categories – fiction, non-fiction, and children’s. About four and a half thousand members of the public voted on a list of twenty titles that had been selected from over one hundred titles entered by audio publishers. The panel’s selections were based on excellence in several criteria: quality of literary content, abridgement, reading, production value and sound quality.

The winner of the fiction category was Tea Time for the Traditionally Built by Alexander McCall Smith, read by Adjoa Andoh (published by Hachette). Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book (Bloomsbury) topped the children’s chart. And the overall winner was Dear Fatty, the audiobook of Dawn French’s autobiography, read by Liza Tarbuck and published by Random House.

Full results:

  • Dear Fatty by Dawn French read by Liza Tarbuck (Random House) – Overall Winner
  • The Graveyard Book written and read by Neil Gaiman (Bloomsbury) – Children’s Winner
  • Tea Time for the Traditionally Built by Alexander McCall Smith read by Adjoa Andoh (Hachette Digital) – Fiction Winner
  • Doctor Who : Pest Control by Peter Anghelides read by David Tennant (BBC Audio)
  • Devil May Care by Sebastian Faulks read by Jeremy Northam (Penguin)
  • A Room with a View by E M Forster read by Juliet Stevenson (CSA Word)
  • Slumdog Millionaire by Vikas Swarup read by Kerry Shale (Harper Collins)
  • The Last Fighting Tommy by Harry Patch read by Alan Howard (Hachette Digital)
  • The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga read by Kerry Shale (Orion)
  • The Road by Cormac McCarthy read by Rupert Degas (Naxos)

Before I get too excited, I should note that this inaugural award was initiated by Agile Marketing, and featured “the very best in audio publishing from January 2008 – March 2009”. But it’s always lovely to have recognition for something I’ve written, and I’m grateful therefore to my publishers for nominating me, the judging panel for shortlisting me, and the public for voting.

July 22, 2009

Pest in show?

Filed under: Audios,drwho,Pest Control,press,writing — Peter A @ 9:35 pm

Still on sale!I was very flattered to learn recently that Doctor Who: Pest Control is one of the nominations for the Best Audiobook of the Year. If you liked it, you can vote here. Or if you prefer something else, you can vote for that instead.

The site also links to snippets from each audio. For mine, it’s an exciting action sequence narrated by David Tennant.

There’s also an article in The Independent about the nominations here. Even better, it shows the cover of my audiobook on the front page.

Fellow “best audio” names include Sebastian Faulks, Neil Gaiman, Alexander McCall Smith, Cormack McCarthy, Julian Fellowes, Duncan Bannatyne, Harry Patch, Dawn French, the late E M Forster, Barack Obama, and Paddington Bear.

May 24, 2009

Transparency

Filed under: press — Peter A @ 1:59 pm

Nadine Dorries MP blogged about her experience of being interrogated by e-mail, and the possible motivations of the newspaper’s owner. She said that “the Daily Telegraph has rang Central office and asked them to ask me to remove my blog and not to mention the contents of my blog on air”.

Fortunately, you can still find the missing blog in Google cache here: http://bit.ly/ZqyS I found her entries for May 22nd, May 16th, and May 15th the most interesting.

Meanwhile, that bastion of reliability the Mail on Sunday has news today about whistleblower (and Tory fundraiser, according to The Independent) John Wick who sold the disclosure of MPs’ expenses claims because he was “motivated by a sense of public duty”. It appears that he also “left a trail of bad debts from a succession of failed businesses” and may therefore have “badly needed the reputed £100,000 he was paid for the Commons expense claims”. More private finance than public duty? For all I know, the Telegraph still considers such matters “a distraction”.

So apart from not wanting to discuss the motivations of their tax exile owners, or discuss whether they paid for the procurement of this information, or being unwilling to allow one of the MPs to explain in more detail on her own blog, the Telegraph clearly has nothing to hide.

April 12, 2009

Blind Eye?

Filed under: press,writing — Peter A @ 8:57 pm

Private Eye makes me laugh and groan in equal measure. The latest bit of groaning is at Eye TV in issue 1232, where curmudgeonly critic “Remote Controller” grumbles about the motivations of people working on this year’s Comic Relief. Assuming it’s the same “Remote Controller” who grumbled about previous charity telethons, at least he’s consistent. Or, possibly, she is consistent.

At one point, “Remote Controller” asks for more information from the production team “in the interests of full editorial disclosure”. The irony must escape him. Or possibly her.

The same is true of the annual palaver from the Eye‘s pseudonymous literary correspondent. “Bookworm” is fond of pointing out when people in publishing write glowing reviews of books by their friends and relations, or trash things published by their rivals. “Bookworm” can spot them because they use their real names, so if they’re daft enough to “log-roll” then you can catch them out. What we can’t know, because the Eye correspondent is anonymous, is whether “Bookworm” could have any ulterior motives himself. Or herself.

There seem to be only two regular Private Eye correspondents who have real by-lines. Craig Brown writes an amusing Diary pastiche of celebrity journalism. And Victor Lewis-Smith provides Funny Old World which is… er… a selection of newspaper clippings provided by Eye readers.

In the interests of full editorial disclosure, perhaps we could know who “Remote Controller” is? Surely TV and book reviews are opinions, not news exposés that require Deep Throat anonymity. It’s the sort of thing the magazine would mock in others, and it’s a strange blind spot for the Eye.

I did once e-mail the Eye, asking whether there might be a conflict of interest if someone criticising TV presenters was himself (or herself) a TV presenter, and they replied: “Yes, we’ll watch out for that.”

So, that’s all right, then.

April 5, 2009

Brought on?

Filed under: press,Technology,twitter — Peter A @ 2:30 pm

 The Daily Mail lauds the actions of the good folk of Broughton, Buckinghamshire. Annoyed that the Google Street View camera was legally photographing their homes, the villagers took action against the driver of the car. Or to put it in the words of the Daily Mail‘s correspondent, “a respectable, bespectacled 43-year-old real estate executive” rounded up “a couple of housewives, a nurse, a Tory councillor and an energy consultant” to ensure that a car driver was “trapped for an hour and a half in the village”. More unkindly and inaccurately, The Times describes them as a “village mob”.

The Mail works itself up into an indignant sweat about the “computer giant’s insidious invasion of all our privacies”. I think they’re trying to shut the stable door after the horse has bolted. Possibly a stable door on one of the charming barn conversions you’re likely to find in villages like Broughton. The villagers are upset because a camera ten feet high is more intrusive than an ordinary passer-by with a camera. But navigational information is already available from Multimap’s aerial and bird’s eye views of Broughton. Zoom in and try for yourself. A human chain’s not going to prevent that. Nor are brave villagers linking arms going to stop those helicopter shots that photographers like to take indiscriminately and then sell to villagers all round the UK.  Who authorised BlueSky to take these images of Broughton?

broughton, bucksThe Mail picked up the story from the Milton Keynes Citizen, which ran a front-page article about the human chain. The Mail even published a photo of the Google employee and his car. Unlike the Citizen, or indeed Google Street View for that matter, the Mail chose not to blur the number plate of the man’s car. And unlike Google Street View, the Mail didn’t blur the man’s face in their photo, either.

Mind you, the Mail can’t quite decide where Broughton is. On Saturday it was Buckinghamshire. On Sunday, they said it was the one in Cambridgeshire. Just to add to the confusion, the Sunday article included an aerial photo of the village in Buckinghamshire. On the Mail‘s website, the photo also invites you to “Enlarge”.

Perhaps that irony has escaped the Daily Mail. And the outraged villagers of Broughton seemed happy enough to pose for a press photographer.The Mail has now helpfully published three pieces about Broughton — all accompanied by photographs of the village, with the more detailed ones available on the web. The latest article regales us with the news that Broughton has “now become the focus of national attention” (possibly as a result of newspaper articles, you have to suppose) and that “Street View enthusiasts from across the UK” intend to “descend on the village to snap their own perfectly legal photographs”. Articles have appeared all round the world — including Norway, Turkey, Pakistan, and Ireland.

The villagers have not brought this on themselves. But the press, in a froth of indignation about this “invasion of privacy”, have exacerbated the problem. The Mail would have us believe that Google Street View is an “encyclopaedia for the burgling fraternity” provided by “Snooper Command”. “If our houses are plastered all over Google,” said the ringleader of the stoppage, Paul Jacobs, “it’s an invitation for more criminals to strike.” On the other hand, a local councillor explained that there had been five burglaries in ten weeks before the Google man appeared, and she seemed to attribute them to Broughton’s thirty-fold population growth since the opening of a nearby housing estate “in recent months”.

But if the number of burglaries now increases, and especially if that happens before any images appear on Street View, it won’t be the good people of Broughton, nor will it be Google, who are to blame.

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