Microsoft has banned me from covering TechEd

How they make journalism (at TechEd): click for copy at FlickrTechEd is Microsoft’s annual developer conference, and TechEd Australia 2013 kicks off this coming Tuesday 3 September. ZDNet Australia had commissioned me to cover it, from a room much like the one pictured — just like I did last year — but now it’s all off. Because Microsoft has banned me.

On 1 August, I emailed ZDNet Australia editor Chris Duckett to accept his commission. But on 6 August, he phoned me, pissing himself laughing, to say that the message from Microsoft — I don’t know from who or how it was delivered — was a no-go. I’m banned from TechEd for “being aggressive to speakers”.

Now I, too, was pissing myself laughing. I was nearly in tears!

“Aggressive to speakers”? Let’s be clear. Any problems were about one speaker, singular. And this alleged aggression — which I’d characterise more as ridicule, mockery and outrageously hyperbolic violent imagery, as is my well-worn shtick — happened solely via Twitter.

Now I’ve thought long and hard about whether to tell this story. Personally, I don’t really care. I’m happy to avoid spending most of next week in that hell-hole called the Gold Coast, and I’ve got plenty of other things to get on with. And Microsoft does have the right to decide who they will and won’t allow into their event — especially when they’re paying.

But I’ve decided to go public because I’m a big fan of transparency — as reflected in my blog posts from 2007, Releasing the Black Hawk crash video was A Good Thing, Scaring the shit out of clients and Being Real: more notes on radical transparency.

I think you should know about this ban, because it potentially affects the quality of my coverage and analysis of Microsoft as it faces some interesting challenges — more about that another time. I’d like you to be informed consumers of my work, which is why I list all the corporate largesse I receive in my Weekly Wrap posts.

I was also under the impression that any problems which may have arisen were all sorted out at the time. Certainly no-one at Microsoft has ever mentioned any problem to me since then.

Quite frankly, to bad-mouth me to one of my commissioning editors — in an undocumented phone call, no less! — strikes me as a tad defamatory.

And without any communication with me? From an organisation that wants customers to trust it with our most intimate and confidential data? Does this not represent a glaring absence of due process?

So, in the tradition of another 2007 post, “Let’s just write that down…”, I’m just going to write it all down, and put my name to it. That’s what honest people do, right?

Come with me, boys and girls, as I tell you about TechEd Australia 2012’s keynote speaker, Jason Silva, “futurist, filmmaker, epiphany addict [WTF?], ecstatic truth lover [WTFF?], techno optimist”. Check his Wikipedia entry and personal website.

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Sky-shouting, yes, but what to call it?

Old Man Yells At Cloud screenshot from "The Simpsons"Discussions with editors about what I’ll be doing in 2013 continue. One discussion is about the title of a new column that the editor in question has described as me shouting at the sky. I need your help.

“Shouting at the sky,” you ask?

We mean the analysis and opinion pieces that result from me cutting loose about something that’s pissing me off, or that quote people who are in the same frame of mind.

Here’s half a dozen near-random examples, chosen from a variety of mastheads so I don’t reveal where this column will appear.

I should also mention that this is for a technology-related masthead, and the topics will include that key focus that I’ve identified in my work: changing power relationships.

Yesterday I asked for suggestions on Twitter. Here’s what you’ve come up with so far.

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Talking Twitter for idea-generation on ABC Local Radio

I must admit, this one threw me a bit. Last Sunday ABC Radio presenter James O’Loghlin wanted to know whether he should start using Twitter because “having to tweet” might help him generate ideas.

I thought he was looking at Twitter from the wrong angle. If he used Twitter it’s not that he had to tweet something but that he wanted to tweet it.

Nevertheless, it turned into an interesting chat, kicking off with ABC political writer Annabel Crabb before I joined the conversation around the 9 min 20 sec mark. I even managed to get Mr O’Loghlin’s sex life into the conversation.

Play

The audio is of course ©2012 Australian Broadcasting Corporation, and was recorded on 20 May 2012. I’ve included the audio right up to the 7pm news because there’s some Twitter-related comments at the end.

Problematising the discourse: clear communication fail

I’ve just read an article which used “problematised” as a verb. Apart from causing me to stumble and have to re-read the whole sentence, this uncommon word illustrates perfectly the problem with so much “educated” writing. And with journalism.

Discussing this on Twitter earlier this afternoon, I said I’d save the writer from further embarrassment. And the editor. But I’ve changed my mind, because I’m going to pull them into this conversation.

The author is Jeff Sparrow. The editing is by newmatilda.com. And the article is certainly something I’m interested in understanding: The Golden Age Of Publishing is an essay on the challenges facing publishers as we move into the digital era.

Here’s the whole paragraph:

That’s why the glory days of the press coincided with the long boom after the Second World War, a time of relative economic and social stability, in which Keynesianism explicitly validated public works and the public sphere. Since then, however, the turn back to marketisation that reached its zenith with neo-liberalism has problematised, more and more explicitly, the very notion of a public. In the idealised free market, there is, as Margaret Thatcher famously explained, no such thing as society — there’s simply an aggregation of competing individuals. In the midst of that fragmentation, the old newspaper model no longer makes sense.

“Problematised”? I’d never seen the word before! I thought it might mean “position as a problem” or something like “assert it’s a problem rather than a benefit”. But no.

So what the hell is this about?

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Links for 30 September 2009 through 13 October 2009

Stilgherrian’s links for 30 September 2009 through 13 October 2009, gathered automatically but then left to languish for two weeks before publication.

There’s so many of these links this time that I’ll publish them over the fold. I think I need to get over my fear of the link being published automatically without my checking them first, and my concern that my website won’t look nice if the first post is just a list of links.

Maybe I should just stick these Delicious-generated links in a sidebar? Or do you like having them in the main stream and RSS feed?

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This ain’t no holiday!

Screenshot from Project TOTO video diary, with Gnaomi the topless gnome and Apollo the cat

People have been asking whether I’m excited about my trip to Africa. To be perfectly honest, I’m not.

Or at least not yet.

Project TOTO is still too abstract. There’s no firm dates, there’s no clear itinerary and, from a project management point of view, no clearly defined goals. Not because the project isn’t happening or doesn’t have support or isn’t being planned properly, but simply because that detailed conversation with ActionAid Australia about priorities has yet to take place.

That conversation is scheduled for this coming Friday 12 June.

Meanwhile, I’ve had many, many things on my mind. Most of them are completely unrelated to Project TOTO. But all of them have conspired to make the last three weeks extremely stressful indeed.

That’s one reason why my last video diary was back on 21 May. That’s a screenshot at the top of this post. I’m looking tired, eh? And I’ve been even more stressed since.

It’s time to catch up. So, even though this is the Queen’s Birthday holiday, here’s a rambling update. With some pictures.

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