Tag Archives: UEFA

Ritual: The Forgotten Sweet Spot of Old Media


Lifehacker just pointed to a four-year old entry on how to fold a newspaper:

Real Simple magazine has an old but good step-by-step guide to folding an unwieldy broadsheet newspaper for easy reading on the go. It’s really just a matter of a few well placed folds, but if you don’t already have a good folding strategy, this post is a great starting point. On the other hand, if you’re a newspaper-folding pro and your methods differ from Real Simple’s guide, let’s hear all about how you make it work in the comments.

Of course, my first reaction was the same as some of the commenters: “What?? Next we’ll be taught how to blow our nose!” But actually it’s quite informative, and I notice that it’s exactly how my dad would read the paper.

Of course, he never taught me how to do that, and I’ll probably never need to teach my kids how to do it. “Fold a newspaper? Are you insane, Dad?” Instead, they’ll be reading on their Readius:


And that’s the point: My use of the newspaper is bound up in my memory of my father reading the newspaper. We as children mimic adults, so it was a sign of maturity for me to read the newspaper—or rather, for me to master the newspaper. That didn’t mean just reading it, but handling it—folding it, creasing it, carrying it under my arm, swishing it in the air when I turned a page, tut-tutting at the goings-on of the world.

Another moment yesterday elicited the same thought: Banished to the kitchen I was listening to the Wimbledon Men’s Final on the radio while my wife watched it on the TV. Of course, it’s vastly preferable to watch it rather than listen to it, but still the atmosphere created by the commentator on the radio was so powerful, his descriptions so flawless and compelling, that I found myself preferring it to the easy visuals of the TV.

What’s more, it took me back to those schooldays clustered around the radio listening to the second-half commentary of soccer matches on Saturday afternoon, or, radio under pillow after lights-out with the volume on 1, following an evening UEFA Cup tie between my team and some exotic-sounding team from behind the Iron Curtain. It was so magical, so dramatic, the inflexions of the commentator so perfect, I am forever transported back to those moments whenever I hear sport being described in real time on radio.

Of course my wife thought me absurd for prefering audio over visual. And I readily accept it is. But it’s like newspapers: beyond the obvious argument that some formats trump others in certain situations (newspapers over computers in the bath; cellphones over newspapers on crowded transport), there’s also the fact that we connect emotionally to the formats, not just because of habit, but because they evoke deeper feelings—to the past, to familiarity, to a sense of habit and ritual.

Most debates about newspapers nowadays are about when they’ll die out. I don’t believe this will happen, because they represent a format that still trumps others in certain situations. But beyond the practical there’s an emotional element too, and perhaps the challenge of ‘old’ media is to capture some of these emotional connections—newspapers strewn around in Starbucks, free, throwaway radios for listening to commentary at big games—in order to inject fresh life into the medium.

After all, it’s not just about reading yourself up-to-date. It’s about the physical pleasure of reading, of feeling at peace and in the security of a familiar habit.

Reading: How to Fold a Broadsheet Newspaper

Technorati Tags: ,,,

When Technology Lets Us Down


(from tcbuzz’s flickr collection)

Two recent events from the UK underlined how dangerous our dependence on technology can be.

The soccer UEFA Cup final in Manchester was overshadowed by riots when one of the massive screens installed in the city for fans who didn’t have tickets broke down.

And more recently, the inquest into the death of a former BBC editor found that she committed suicide after failing to find support among her colleagues. Her line manager, the inquest heard, tried to find her counselling:

However, her manager sent an email to the wrong address and his request was never acted on.

Technology is passive, and doesn’t take into account the implications of failure. In the first case the technology either didn’t work, or those setting it up didn’t know how to work (or fix) it. In the second case, the error was more obviously human: the sender of an email did not enter the correct address, or did not enter the address correctly.

This is more about our failure to anticipate failure in technology, and our blind dependence on it working.

Obviously, it would have been smart of the organizers in Manchester to have had a back-up plan in place for an eventuality like a screen breaking down. And the line manager’s apparent failure to see whether the email arrived at its destination or even to have picked up a phone and tried to reach the counsellor directly.

But perhaps there are ways for technology to further help us by providing a layer of redundancy? In the case of the screen, could there be some sort of diagnostics test which would alert the technicians that something was amiss, or about to be amiss?

And, in the case of email, the answer is perhaps simpler. There are tools out there to determine whether an email has arrived safely and been opened. The one I use is MessageTag, which will inform me whether an email I have tagged with the service has been opened. (The advanced service will give me a list of emails I have tagged and show me which ones have been opened, and which havent–a very useful checklist to show me which emails I need to follow up on.)

(There are privacy implications with services like MessageTag/MSGTAG, which I’ve gone into before. But sparing use of the service, I believe, is acceptable, so long as you give recipients the option of opting out of future tagging. Other people use the receipt acknowledgement option in Microsoft Outlook and some other email programs.)

We perhaps need to be reminded that technology, as it stands, won’t save us from ourselves.

Europe’s Top-heavy Leagues

Lg-spain Spanish Primera Liga (48%)
Lg-bundesliga German Bundesliga (54%)
Lg-epl2 English Premier League (47%)
Lg-france French Ligue 1 (47%)
Lg-greece Greek Ethniki Katigoria (6%)
Lg-holland Dutch Eredivisie (25%)
Lg-italy Italy Serie A (24%)

Lg-champ English Championship (29%)
Lg-scot Scottish Premier League (29%

This doesn’t have a lot to do with technology, but it’s an excuse to play around with sparklines, Edward Tufte’s approach to feeding data into text in the form of small data-rich graphics. And they might tell us a bit about soccer, competitiveness and which country is the powerhouse of Europe. (These ones are done with Bissantz’ excellent Office plugin.)

What started me off here was the comment on the BBC website that English soccer, while strong at the top (Man U, Chelsea, Liverpool, Arsenal), drops alarmingly in quality. Is there really no competition in the English Premier League? The absence of English clubs in the final 4 of the UEFA Cup would seem to indicate it’s true.

But I thought another way of exploring it would be to grab the points gathered by each team in each of the main European leagues, and then plot them as a simple sparkline, each bar indicating the points one by each club in the table. The steepness and evenness of the sparkline gradient should give a pretty clear impression of which leagues are split between great clubs and the mediocre rest.

Visually, Spain is clearly the most competitive league (with the exception of England’s second league, the Championship, which has an impressively smooth gradient.) The German Bundesliga comes second, with the English Premier League third. All the others, frankly, look too top heavy to be regarded as having any depth (Italy doesn’t really count as it’s in such a mess at the moment.)

The figures in brackets show how many points the bottom club has as a percentage of the top club, a figure that’s not particularly useful as, for example in Greece, the bottom club Ionikos doesn’t seem to has won only two games in 26.