Photos must tell a story

Poland broke away from the communist block in 1989. Two years before that, Stanfield – a National Geographic photographer, took a very important picture of Zbigniew Religa. Stanfield commented: “In this day and age you need more than a pretty photograph, you need information.”

National Geographic long realised that a pretty photograph is not enough. They got to the crux of the saying that a picture is a thousand words – it’s not how many words that matters, but the substance. And the substance is captured by the right moment: “I never let him out of my sight, never turned my back on him,” Stanfield said. “This was the payoff.”

Dr. Zbigniew Religa

The anxious eyes of Religa monitor an instrument with data about the patient next to him. The patient has just gone a heart transplant. Outdated equipment drapes the patient. A staff member who has assisted Religa through the 24 hour marathon, is sprawled in the corner, gaining some rest. “Each of these elements,” says Stanfield, “gives dimension and drama to the photograph, while helping tell a story.” Each of these elements, Roland Barthes would say, contribute to the multi-dimensional space of the story, left to be disentangled only by the person viewing the photo. Stanfield’s perspective does not die (as in ‘Death of the Author’) after the photo is published, but it becomes one of the interpretations. Maybe, a story of the sadness of the desolate state of that operating theatre.

Everything about photos has changed since 1987. Good story-telling photos are everywhere now, and if you’re taking them, is helping you sell them. And even if that doesn’t make every person who buys an SLR a Stanfield, Facebook is open for anybody who wants to tell a story. Instagram’s homepage boasts the slogan “Capture and Share the World’s Moments”, pretty ambitious for a website, but then that’s why Facebook acquired it for a billion dollars!


Seriously digital storytelling

Thanks to Ania, today, I met Nowness. For over two years now they publish innovative, fresh and original digital content which respects the needs of the online world. To the point and simple to read. Short words wherever possible. And in the active voice.

They deserve a mention in my blog for this, and also for a lovely snippet about Malta and Gozo. I love it. Read A Maltese Affair.

Almost a year ago, they also published a truly well-made short documentary about Strait Street in Valletta. The Director, Wiz, also uses authentic footage from when British soldiers flocked to this street after disembarking from the warships. Bars, liqueur, girls and brawls. This past and today’s reality make WIZ: Strait Street a must see.

30 years later

This page on designly‘s website inspired me. It’s called ‘one second‘, and that’s as long as it took me to decide to link to it.

To my followers, I apologise, because I haven’t been able to post for a while. A whole jungle of things happened, and I have not been writing about digital stuff for a while. I still write about other things, but the material is not publishable yet. Meanwhile, feel free to stay in touch with good stories, questions and anything interesting.

Hasta la vista!

Content is King. Can Mobile Data Save the Music and Film Industries?

Chasing our present, asking it to help us change our future, is not going to help. Instead, the best way to predict the future is to create it. I just finished reading the book called Who Moved My Cheese: An Amazing Way to Deal with Change in Your Work and in Your Life. It’s an old tale, beautifully narrated by Spencer Johnson – one which has helped millions around the world. Can it help the mobile industry as well maybe… the one who is losing 23 billion USD to the creators of Whatsapp and the likes?

Mobile phone companies cannot survive the next 10 years by just selling 2-year contracts, minutes and SMS. But from my position as a customer, I see them dead set on a loosing strategy. Let me take SMS as an example, and here’s what I think makes Whatsapp an unbeatable competitor to SMS: 1) it’s reliable and you know when the recipient has read your message, 2) you can easily converse with multiple recipients independent of what device they have, and 3) it integrates easily with your address book. If everybody had an iPhone, only iMessage would be better! So sorry telcos… you won’t be beating this. Look elsewhere.

Back in 1996, Bill Gates prophesied that content is king“Content is where I expect much of the real money will be made on the Internet, just as it was in broadcasting.” We all know that he is right now. We also know that those who did not master the art of adaptation have failed to make it through…

Remember Blockbuster? In 1994, it was purchased for 8.4 billion USD, calling for the acquirer Viacom’s chairman, Sumner Redstone, to call it a “global media colossus.” But it filed for bankruptcy in the United States in 2010. The most cited management mistake is its refusal in 2000 to acquire Netflix for just 50 million. Dish Networks acquired Blockbuster out bankruptcy in 2011, but finally admitted at the end of 2012 that it was scrapping its plans to turn it into a Netflix competitor.

When it comes to music, according to IFPI, “digital” now accounts to above 30% of revenue. Yet the same report, shows that despite the growth of over 8% between 2010 and 2011, this did not compensate for the loss in physical sales, and that the music industry slumped 8.7% globally (to USD 10.2b). It all started with a fight against Napster. That battle was won in 2001, but the war is long condemned to being lost.

The biggest enemy to the music and film industry is digital piracy. IFPI/Nielsen report that globally 28% of internet users regularly access unlicensed services.

The rise in revenue from digital accounts for the music industry is however encouraging. A reversal may eventually materialise also for the film industry: last year, GIA (Global Industry Analysts) estimated that the value of the movie-rental industry will rise to 4.7 billion by 2017.

But the whole point is why wait for the future to unfold when the mobile industry can be changing all of this, creating a bright future for itself and the arts? GfK reports that in 2012, phones accounted “for 17% of total time spent with the Internet across all devices, compared to 12% in 2011″. So shouldn’t this industry that’s loosing 23 billion USD a year to mobile texting applications, be investing sharply to build revenue from content and thus more time spent on the Internet?

Spotify comes to mind – “Turn your phone into a magnificent music machine with our award-winning Spotify Mobile Apps for iPhone, Android, Symbian and Windows Phone. Stream from our full library, or go offline and listen to your playlists without data charges.” says their page. The biggest inconvenience to this is that digital rights laws don’t allow Spotify to offer this service without geographical limitations.

At an investment from the telcos, of the total worth of the music and movie industries, everybody stands to benefit. Happier customers with cheap music and movies on-the-go. Telcos with a growing market propped by content which 13% of the global population spend their time on the Internet for. Music and film industries that can stop battling digital, and embrace it to the extent that it will be their main funding agent for years to come.

Here’s the proposal in figures: Should the telcos globally invest 10 b USD (the whole value of the music industry) and 4.7 b USD (the perceived value of film rental in 2017), and so 15 b USD annually, this would account to:

(Thanks for the inspiration M.R.)

Solving Mac problems in Power, Fan, Lights and others by resetting the SMC.

There is a bit of your Apple computer that is called the System Management Controller (SMC), and it controls some hardware functions so that the otherwise busy main processor can be left to work on more important stuff. This piece of hardware sometimes malfunctions and your Mac will start to behave very strangely. Such as when the laptop’s fan goes on at full speed even if it’s properly ventilated. Or the MagSafe light goes out and doesn’t come on again even if your Mac needs charging.

There’s a whole bunch of quick diagnosis things you can do to understand whether you should think that the SMC isn’t working well. Click and read this Apple Support page to read all about these and about how to easily reset the SMC to get the whole system to work peacefully again.

I did it on my Macbook Air and it works. Read the support page before proceeding further.

Resetting the SMC on a MacBook Air
Resetting the SMC on a MacBook Air


Little Green Men

Here’s what’s next in the Universe… Peace with the little green men. Now that Barack is secured another term in office, we can also talk about the planet that’s probably home to the little green men. The star it orbits is still called HD 40307, not a sexy name like our Sun, but we can christen it later. Let’s focus on making contact for now. Discounting the possibility of Omega radiation, within just 42 years travelling at electromagnetic speeds we might be shaking hands with Greendude in persona. By then hopefully we’d have also have figured out how to communicate with hopefully “advanced space-faring civilizations in interstellar space” with a little bit more sophistication than we could come up with in the Voyager Golden Records of 1977.

Go to Wired to read more information about the planet, and less of my sarcasm, or carry on.

To set the record straight I am not one who believes God created Earth in 4004 BC, on October 23 at 9AM. I strongly believe that there can be other forms of intelligence in the Universe. But I just find it preposterous of humankind in general to be defining “life” and “intelligence” on a universal scale. How can the people who say they believe life on Earth is just an example of the sophistication of creation also be the ones looking for life in the Universe? Are they assuming that it’s got to fit our Earthly-thought definition of it? Just let the little green men live, and let’s focus on making the Earth a better place!

Little Green Men

Fixing the iPhone Daylight Savings Problem

Did your iPhone wake you up an hour earlier today? It’s 28 October and clocks around the world went back an hour so we could sleep from 2am to 3am twice! But the iPhone didn’t and woke us up on Daylight Savings Time.

The good news now is that you have an extra hour at hand and that the problem is a known iPhone bug. It’s going to take you two minutes to fix:

  1. Go to Settings > General > Date & Time
    Date & Time Screen on the iPhone
  2. Switch the Set Automatically to OFF
  3. Reboot your iPhone
  4. Go back to the Settings > General > Date & Time screen
  5. Switch the Set Automatically back to ON

You should notice the iPhone automatically resetting the time to the correct one. Problem fixed.

Have a great Sunday!

Sold only by Amazon. And only if they like your face?!


Some magazines in Kindle-format are only sold by Amazon. You’d be technically correct to say that’s monopoly. But you can also get the publications in .mobi or .pub formats from download sites on the Internet. They’re counterfeit and illegal and so I don’t use them or promote them. But, admittedly this is a black-market which is promoted by what’s probably an irregular commercial distribution of digital content.

Downloading freely over the internet
The opportunity for illegal downloads to become popular even among normally law-abiding people is also brought about by an additional constraint. Somebody somewhere decided that even if they have the magazine, they just won’t sell it to you because you’re from a different country! Are you calling that racist now?

Kindle titles for your country are not available at
Kindle titles for your country are not available at

You’d think that it’s the publishing house that does not want to sell it to you.

But The Economist website allows you to subscribe to the digital copy in all formats, except for the Kindle. That’s only available from Amazon! I then also checked the Time website – they admittedly provide a digital subscription for the Kindle Fire (but probably because it reads the same format as the Apple iPad). The formats readable by the more common liquid-ink Kindles are only legally available from Amazon. Agggrrrgh!

Buy digital Economist online for tablet, smartphone etc...
At an EU-level it’s a recognised issue with the digital single market. The jargon means that even if you’re meant to enjoy free movement of goods and services across EU borders (and so, buy things from any EU country without legal or administrative obstacle), that still is not fully practicable when you buy online. Read more about the Digital Single Market here.

And if you’re thinking that this is only an Amazon problem, you’re mistaken. Apple only opened iTunes to the whole of the EU in September 2011. I remember it making the news: “Apple launches iTunes Store in all remaining EU countries” and “iTunes store now available in Malta“.

The market is starting to budge. Let’s make it happen by raising our voices and putting the pressure as consumers.

Revealing the next internet success story

When did you last think you need to create the next internet craze and become rich? Friends ask me if I have an idea for the next ‘big thing’. My reply is that everbody has ideas – yes of course, including me.

But, the internet is only just a tool for every one of the next big things. For years to come, every one of these is going to be a distributed system, and so one whose success is based on the collective effort of its users. Users who create content, share experiences, co-build knowledge and collectively solve tomorrow’s problems.

You only need to browse the list of Newsweek’s Digital 100 Revolutionaries on the 2/9 July double-issue. Or read this week’s Time story about Salman Khan’s Academy that teaches kids over YouTube. Or look around you, at the apps you use most frequently. None of these would survive if the users were simply ‘users’ – they are also contributors and co-creators. That’s what social media really is about.

Are you planning the next successful internet success story? Then you must be thinking about actively engaging your users in true Web 2.0 spirit.