4’33” – A Christmas Number one?

If an internet campaign gets positively reported on by the likes of the Telegraph or the Guardian you know it’s gone mainstream. But does that mean that the campaign to make John Cage’s seminal work 4’33” this year’s UK Christmas number one will succeed?

I still find it incredible to believe that getting to the top chart position in time for Christmas is a race anyone can really be bothered to participate in. On the one hand I cant really see why anyone would really care. When it comes to Christmas I normally stick on our old Mariah Carey compilation and tune into the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols on Christmas Eve. But maybe that’s because I don’t watch X Factor. Maybe I’d be thinking differently if I did.

The campaign to get Cage’s composition to number one started with one key (and incredibly simple) motivating factor: stop the X Factor winner from getting there and lining Simon Cowell’s pocket. It worked. The Facebook page went around the social networking site like wildfire. We all smiled with smug self-satisfaction as we clicked on the Like button.

What a delicious thought it would if we could have 4’33” silence at Christmas. Cowell would still receive quite a lot of money no doubt, but he’d be shunted into second place. That might be quite a good Christmas present in itself.

But now the campaign seems to be taking hold, the wry smile I originally had on my face seems to have been replaced with a look of eager anticipation.

Casting John Cage’s Buddhism inspiration to one side and the stimulating take he had on ‘noise music’, there’s a chance for all of us if we set aside the time to ‘listen’ to a ‘recording’ of the work during the festive period.

Christmas is usually a hideous frenetic time. We all resist jumping on the bandwagon. Those of us who fail yearn for a quiet one. Those who get a quiet one usually bore the pants off everyone else saying how lovely it was. It’s a race towards the finish line. It’s far too expensive. And its usually over far too quickly.

A period of reflection – especially if you’re not an observer of the Christian festival – might be a rather nice thing. A sort of un-Christmas carol for non-believers. A chance to pause and reflect a quiet room to escape from all the noise, tinsel and rich food.

Far from being just a cynical post-modern anti-media machine stunt, 4’33” could be exactly what everyone needs this Christmas (assuming its not a counter PR campaign designed to boost sales for X Factor anyway).

Either way, there’s one crucial thing everyone needs to be reminded of. If we are going to put this track to number one we absolutely have to download it. John Cage’s estate derives revenue from ‘recordings’ as composer Mike Batt learnt to his cost in 2002. Theres no room (nor any point) in illegally downloading this one.

Burger King dumps dumping a friend

Burger King’s advertising agency Crispin Porter & Bogusky has come to blows with Facebook it seems.

The social networking site wasn’t terribly comfortable with the idea that Facebook users might have their privacy rights trampled on by a Facebook campaign encouraging users to choose which friends to dump from their list in return for a Whopper coupon.

Bad form on Burger King’s part? Is it deeply unpleasant idea which leaves the victim with an unpleasant taste in the mouth and an increasing number of self-esteem issues as a result?

Or maybe .. just possibly … who knows … it was just a little joke? Something to have a giggle about?

Facebook’s response in this article makes me smile.

“This application facilitated activity that ran counter to user privacy by notifying people when a user removes a friend. We have reached out to the developer with suggested solutions.”

Maybe it’s a wild imagination or the fact that I’ve a warped sense of humour, I’m trying to imagine the telephone conversation had between Facebook and the developer. “Reaching out” wouldn’t be a phrase I would place high on my list of things which may have been said.

What’s the big deal? Obviously it’s the privacy thing and yet as I recall it’s hardly the first application developed which reveals to a user when he or she has been removed. I know. One or two people emailed me directly when they’d discovered I’d culled them. They wanted an explanation. So did I.

Like Burger King’s much-criticised Whopper Virgins campaign, I sense Burger King might have secured the equally dirty high-ground.

Free Thinking Festival: Is Privacy Dead?

Is it wrong to be blogging about an event which has been recorded for radio not intended to be broadcast until Monday 3 November at 9.15pm? Am I revealing something I shouldn’t be even though I know it will happen because I sat in a room and listened to a man tell me and one hundred or so other people ?

It’s a question I’m thinking about having come out of a debate at the Free Thinking Festival which posed the question “Is Privacy Dead?”

In an age of online communities, blogging, micro-blogging and picture sharing, I find myself thinking intensely about my personal activities online. It’s scary. I can’t get it out of my head.

What should I reveal about myself? What do I reveal about myself online? Do I reveal too much? Am I revealing my true self or, a convenient skewed image of myself? Should I be more private? Should I reveal more? Would anybody read anything I wrote if I did?

And if it is I have an online persona and a real one (and personally, I would argue that they are one and the same otherwise both pursuits would be absolutely agony day to day) are there times when I don’t want to participate online ? Are there times when my mood, my insecurities and fears curtail my online activities? Thinking about those specific things, should I in fact be more careful about how I conduct myself online in an act of much-needed self-preservation?

Don’t you loathe people who ask too many questions and can’t/won’t/can’t be bothered to provide any answers? Well, the truth I feel the pressure of time on me. There’s no time to answer the questions even if I knew the answers. It’s a fast moving world. The bar here at the Free Thinking Festival is buzzing – the “Speed Date a Thinker” crowd are busy preparing for their hour of fun and there’s a competition going on between me and another other chap sat across from me busily tapping away at his laptop.

What I’m struck by – yet again – is how a relatively brief session listening to the likes of Bill Thompson, psychologist Sonia Livingstone, Cultural Historian Jonathan Sawday and Geoffrey Rosen has set my mind buzzing with excitement.

The most pointed example raised in the hour long debate hosted by Philip Dodd was this. Geoffrey Rosen explained how some students he knew of would take to live-blogging lectures and seminars. Was this a use of technology which was to be welcomed?

The fact is it’s here. We all do it. Those of us who use the internet rely on opportunities like these. There’s a buzz. A desire to provide a personal response to events as we witness them. We want to share where we are at any given moment in time even if the majority of the audience don’t care or would rather prefer it if we didn’t clog up the internet with our ill-considered babble.

The answer is impossible to arrive at. My interviews kick off in around fifteen minutes time and the speed daters are about to start their speed dating session.

I also have to get this blog published as quickly as possible. I have to beat the bloke sitting opposite me. I know he’s blogging about it. I just know. Why would he look so intently at his laptop in the way he does? I must beat him to it. Seeing as he’s Bill Thompson, the need seems inexplicably even greater.  

Disappointingly it appears I’ve failed. Mind you, it might have helped if I’d been a little less verbose.

You can hear the Free Thinking Debate “Is Privacy Dead?” on Monday 3 November at 9.15pm on BBC Radio 3.

Rory Cellan-Jones on Mark Zuckerberg

Lovely Rory Cellan-Jones posts a video interview he conducted with Facebook Maestro Mark Zuckerberg on the BBC dot.life blog. I wouldn’t normally pour over Mr Cellan-Jones’ blog but seeing as the BBC Internet Blog people are linking to me I figured it would be the Thoroughly Good thing to do to to consume a few more BBC Blogs.

Actually, I wouldn’t want anyone to think I’m some kind of fawning individual. After all, I work at the BBC. Constantly banging on about the Corporation in every other blog posting might seem like I’m selling out. It doesn’t need me to blog about it. And, quite apart from anything else, I’m paid to do something entirely different anyway.

I am digressing. It’s a terrible, shameful habit.

There is, in fact, a far more important reason why I’m reading Mr Cellan-Jones’ blog. It’s because of something my 70+ mother said of the technology programme Click Online on the BBC News channel.

“Oh yes,” she said excitedly on the phone to me this morning as I tried to explain in layman’s terms about internet blogs and why I was updating mine on holiday, “I know all about blogs, my dear. I watch that Click programme.”

I was a little surprised, I have to confess. My mother – a former newsagent and pillar of the local community – has never logged on to the internet for anything, ever. How would she know about blogs if she doesn’t use the internet?

My sense of surprise was quickly replaced by pride before the inevitable and now familiar feelings of bitterness and resentment poured over me like a thick sauce.

“You know the presenter of Click?” I asked her, keen not to sound as though I was flagging up a crass moment, “His name’s Spencer, isn’t it?” 

“Yes, that’s right” replied my mother, “he’s called Spencer.”

“I often see him on the tube on my way into work, you know.” I said with a certain amount of low-key pride.

“You don’t like him, do you?” asked my mother.

So, given that my mother watches Click on BBC News and understands about blogging, I figure the least I can do is consume Mr Cellan-Jones’ latest blog about Mark Zuckerberg.

Zuckerberg is someone I assume I wouldn’t like. He is, after all, the bain of my relatively limited technical project management life. I know only from personal experience the sinking feeling which results when people suddenly leap on the “Let’s have a Facebook application” bandwagon. “If we build it, they will come.”

And yet as a user (and a heavy one at that, I freely admit) I find myself intensely irritated by the spamming and the monitoring and the targeted advertising (if you look at my profile you’ll see I’m married and thus won’t be interested in dating gay men from San Francisco dressed only in a rubber thong). No, I don’t want to compare my friends. No I don’t want to comment on which one of my male friends is hot or not. There’s a simple reason for this. My husband is one of my friends. Why would I want him to have proof that I’m window shopping? How is that going to help my social networking?

Obviously, Zuckerberg isn’t ultimately responsible for the different creative ways various developers have exploited the Facebook platform. Zuckerberg isn’t entirely at fault. The genius which emerges from the Zuckerberg-Facebook story is that the skeleton has been laid out for others to graft on to. He’s established a global brand and, like all well-known global brands, maybe it’s best he doesn’t always think about the profits.

In fact, when I stop to consider the other potential causes for my irritation with him – the fact that he’s a billionaire (on paper, at least), if not business minded then certainly now media-savvy and the fact he’s only 24 years old – I still find myself unable to sustain the bile I would normally have about people like him.

Somewhere in the middle of the 3’28”, Zuckerberg shows himself as a nice guy. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that he shows himself as the geek we all of us reckon he must have been if we believe the Facebook development story.

Facebook and (by extension Zuckerberg) is both a wonderful thing and a dark thing. The one thing you can’t dispense with even though you’d like to sometimes.

Of course, I could be wrong. I could be playing into the hands of the media-savvy people who prepared him (if indeed they did) before his interview with Uncle Rory. I have to keep an open mind. I have to remain reasonably impartial.

Maybe Mr Zuckerberg should do a few more interviews, just so I can be sure.

Facebook “imposes facelift” ?

Maggie Shiels, BBC Technology Reporter based in Silicon Valley reports on Facebook’s recent supposed imposition of a website redesign on it’s users. Suitably motivated and annoyed users have set up a group protesting about the changes.

I’m one for gut reactions to things and when I read some of the user’s complaints about “having” to accept a site redesign and not being afforded the opportunity to still choose between the old one and the new one, I did start climbing the walls of my office.

I appreciate redesigns can be difficult for a consumer to muster, but designers like to change things. We all like to see things change so that new things can be brought in, so that new functionality might be introduced in the future. We all like to go through a bit of a redesign from time to time.

And there’s the thing. It’s just a redesign. You’ll still be able to contact your friends. Still be able to send out infuriating requests to all your other friends inviting them to install some pointless application in a bid to ascertain whether you think they’re your favourite pal or not / hot or not / rich enough / poor enough / ugly enough.

The irritating functionality remains. It just looks a bit different now. That’s all.