Broadcasting the wow factor

The Graham Norton Show

TV chat shows can be great platforms to introduce a new product, create interest in going to the cinema and see a hot movie, or any manner of things celebrity guests talk about and likely to attract a big audience.

In today’s sharing society, you also want to extend the reach of a topic and its wow factor by building buzz online.

A cool product that played a big part in the latest The Graham Norton Show last night – undoubtedly the preeminent TV chat show in the UK, broadcast every Friday night on BBC1 – was a little robot that wowed Graham Norton, his three guests – Gary Oldman, Toni Collette and Nick Frost – and the studio audience.

Check out the video of the four-and-a-half-minutes segment in the show that featured the robot: I bet you go ‘Wow!”

(If you’re in the US and not able to see the video, possibly for copyright reasons, check out the copy uploaded to YouTube by BBC America.)

Norton said the robot is called “Nao,” which made it an easy matter to Google it and come up with details about it:

NAO is a programmable, 58cm tall humanoid robot with the following key components:

  • Body with 25 degrees of freedom (DOF) whose key elements are electric motors and actuators
  • Sensor network, including 2 cameras, 4 microphones, sonar rangefinder, 2 IR emitters and receivers, 1 inertial board, 9 tactile sensors, and 8 pressure sensors
  • Various communication devices, including voice synthesizer, LED lights, and 2 high-fidelity speakers
  • Intel ATOM 1,6ghz CPU (located in the head) that runs a Linux kernel and supports Aldebaran’s proprietary middleware (NAOqi)
  • Second CPU (located in the torso)
  • 27,6-watt-hour battery that provides NAO with 1.5 or more hours of autonomy, depending on usage


If that’s all a bit dry, there is a video:

The company behind NAO is Aldebaran Robotics, whose website says it’s the first French company focusing on humanoid robotics. Its founder and chairman is Bruno Maisonnier whose LinkedIn profile starts simply with, “I’m interested in everything linked with robotics.”

I noticed that the video showcasing NAO was made in 2008, indicating that this humanoid robot has been around for at least five years.

Maybe mainstream focus such as The Graham Norton Show will help propel NAO into mainstream interest. Incidentally, nice work by the PR firm who got the BBC’s interest in NAO leading to its being the star of The Graham Norton Show.

It certainly knows how to dance Gangnam Style.

And it (he) has a Twitter handle: @NaoRobot.

But as Aldebaran Robotics says themselves, “There remain major challenges to overcome before robots become true personal assistants.”

So, some work to do to evolve on from a robot dancing Gangnam Style to getting closer to the concept of Sonny from I, Robot, never mind David from A.I.

Still, wow!

Too much FUD and too little facts about fracking

Fracking equipment

If there’s one major issue of significant public interest today that’s shrouded in fear, uncertainty and doubt, it’s fracking.

If you believe the supporters of this mining process to extract natural gas and petroleum deposits from shale rock – formally known as “hydraulic fracturing” – it could be the salvation of our energy needs for the foreseeable future, maybe for the next forty years or more.

If you believe the opponents of fracking, it’s a major threat to the environment and to public health, causes earth tremors if not actual quakes and is not the answer to meeting our energy needs.

In the midst of all this FUD are governments looking for that political and economic Holy Grail of meeting energy needs that is low cost to do so, will create jobs, stimulate the economy and doesn’t have significant environmental impact, among other things. And might get the political party in government re-elected at the next election.

Who to believe? When trying to find some facts about fracking itself and the consequences of employing the techniques to extract the energy resources from the ground, what confidence can you have that the information you do find is trustworthy? Or rather, those who curate that content can be trusted?

For instance:

A few reports from the mainstream media (plus opinion in one blog post). But is it all just so much propaganda?

Seeing TV news reports of the recent protests surrounding the Balcombe site in southern England and the plans by Cuadrilla, an oil and gas exploration and production company, to carry out exploratory drilling to determine suitability of the site for actual fracking, I’m left befuddled and not knowing who to believe.

Even though the Balcombe protests look far too organized to be purely concerned local citizens – to me, it smacks of professional protesters parachuted in, so to speak, by a serious and well-financed organization, one with a big political agenda and little transparency in who’s behind it all – I’m also left with increasing alarm:  what if the anti-frackers are right?

Now take a look at this video I came across the other day, via Robert Llewellyn. I have no idea who the producer “Millie Thedog” is, what axe he or she may be grinding (or not), nor whether he or she is an information source I can trust. I have no information on that.

Yet this six-minute video presents a calm but disturbing assessment of the alleged impact of fracking in southern England if it actually happens, especially on the scale the video claims.

(If you don’t see the video embedded above, watch it at YouTube.)

After watching the video for the first time, I asked myself: “Just because we could, does it mean that we should?”

Where’s the truth? Is it out there?

(Image at top of page via Cuadrilla Resources)

Tuning in to Hurricane Sandy

sandygoesThe ability for people to be connected via the internet is no more valuable when it comes to crises and disasters of one type or another, natural or otherwise.

Hurricane Sandy – the super #Frankenstorm on track to hit the US East Coast today – is a perfect example.

The latest advisory from the US National Hurricane Center is sobering:


Being able to find out what’s happening, how it affects you, your loved ones and your community can be the difference between risk and safety, even life or death. It provides those in government and public safety organizations with multiple communication channels and tools that enable them to offer information to anyone who wants it and can connect to get it.

It also enables anyone with ideas and purpose to provide valuable information via those same channels. Here are just two illustrative examples:

Google Crisis Response Hurricane Sandy Map


The interactive map gives you a wide range of emergency preparedness information:

Google adds:

We’ve also launched a map specific to New York City, featuring evacuation zone information from NYC Open Data, open shelters, weather information and live webcams.

These resources are the latest from the Google Crisis Response initiative, which has a clear mission:

[…] When disaster strikes, people turn to the internet for information. We help ensure the right information is there in these times of need by building tools to collect and share emergency information, and by supporting first responders in using technology to help improve and save lives.

Sandycam Live 24/7


Speaking of live webcams, live video-streaming event company Livestream has created Sandycam Live 24/7, a "live event" you can watch as long as you (and they) have an internet connection:

Watch the Livestream Storm Cam located on top of Livestream’s World Headquarters in Chelsea, Manhattan, New York City. The camera is mounted on the roof facing south towards the Financial District. Any shaking of the image is caused by high winds as the camera is mounted outside.

Livestream also has apps for mobile devices which you can use to record and contribute your own Hurricane Sandy video.

  • [Update @ 2.30pm] Mashable reports that Livestream is updating its Android app with live video broadcasting capabilities:

    […] Called Livestream for Producers, the app’s latest version includes a live video streaming option and live blogging, by posting real-time text, photos and video clips, said Livestream CEO Max Haot. Previous versions offered in Google Play did not include live video. […] “The Android live broadcasting option is ideal to cover any event when you don’t have the time, the equipment or the budget to cover it with traditional cameras.”

    The updated free app is already available on Google Play.

    Now you will be able to live-stream video of anything you see – Hurricane Sandy activity, for example – wherever you are, assuming you have internet connectivity. Livestream says the app works over cellular networks as well as wifi.

And of course, there’s plenty of real-time mainstream media content.

To everyone in the "Sandy cone," good luck!

Finally a way to understand what ‘the semantic web’ means

If you’ve tried to understand what the semantic web means – sometimes referred to as Web 3.0 – and haven’t got very far, this video will help.

The documentary-style video – surely as good as anything you might see on TV – created by journalism/psychology graduate Kate Ray includes insights from some big names in the web world including Tim Berners-Lee, David Weinberger and Clay Shirky.

It runs over 14 minutes but I found it highly compelling viewing. It’s worth the time.

(Via Lee Hopkins)

The Hobson & Holtz Report – Podcast #315: January 31, 2008

Content summary: Shel’s travelling; FIR Listener Contest winners to be announced on Feb 6; new FIR Interview posted; FIR live on BlogTalk Radio Feb 9; Dan York reports on podcasting gear, Facebook, and more; the Media Monitoring Minute with CustomScoop; in conversation with Dave Briggs about BarcampUKGovWeb, and more; Subway/Quiznos lawsuit; Ryanair’s hottie ad: a PR disaster?; Ask 500 people; listeners’ comments discussion; Neville at the Social Media Cafe in London Feb 1; music from The Weakerthans via Bernie Goldbach; and more.

[Messages from our sponsors: FIR is brought to you with Lawrence Ragan Communications, serving communicators worldwide for 35 years,; Save time with the CustomScoop online clipping service: sign up for your free two-week trial, at]

Show notes for January 31, 2008

download For Immediate Release podcast

Welcome to For Immediate Release: The Hobson & Holtz Report, a 67-minute podcast recorded live from Wokingham, Berkshire, England, and almost live from Basking Ridge, New Jersey, USA.

Download the file here (MP3, 30.3MB), or sign up for the RSS feed to get it and future shows automatically. (For automatic synchronization with your iPod, subscribe with iTunes; good podcatchers include Juice and DopplerRadio, and RSS aggregators that supports podcasts such as FeedDemon.)

In This Edition:

  • #315 show notes at The New PR Wiki (to come)

FIR Show Notes links
Links for the blogs, individuals, companies and organizations we discussed or mentioned in the show are posted to the FIR Show Links pages at The New PR Wiki. You can contribute – see the home page for info.

If you have comments or questions about this show, or suggestions for our future shows, email us at; or call the Comment Line at +1 206 222 2803 (North America) or +44 20 8133 9844 (Europe); or Skype: fircomments; or comment at Twitter:; or at Jaiku: You can email your comments, questions and suggestions as MP3 file attachments, if you wish (max. 3 minutes / 5Mb attachment, please!). We’ll be happy to see how we can include your audio contribution in a show.

Join the FIR Discussion Forum and extend your conversations with the FIR community. You can also join the FIR Facebook Community and become an FIR friend.

So, until Monday February 4…

(Cross-posted from For Immediate Release, Shel’s and my podcast blog.)

A scientific approach to blog ranking


If you had to pick just 100 blogs that would provide you with all the content you need to stay informed on everything that interests you, which 100 would you pick?

And by which criteria would you determine that 100?

Some clever researchers at the Carnegie Mellon University in the USA have done the work for you with the publication of a ranked listing of 100 blogs.

This is not just any old list – it’s been arrived at through a complex scientific analysis involving outbreak detection, submodularity, node selections and sensor placements among many other things.

If that and the image above – taken from a presentation the researchers prepared – don’t give you a sense of the complexity of the research, how the abstract in the published research paper (PDF) begins ought to:

Given a water distribution network, where should we place sensors to quickly detect contaminants? Or, which blogs should we read to avoid missing important stories?

The 10-page paper, entitled “Cost-effective Outbreak Detection in Networks,” is a detailed reporting of what the research aimed to achieve, the methodologies employed and the findings that resulted.

Here’s the researchers’ rationale:

[…] Our goal is to select a small set of blogs which “catch” as many cascades (stories) as possible. A naive, intuitive solution would be to select the big, well-known blogs. However, these usually have a large number of posts, and are time-consuming to read. We show, that, perhaps counterintuitively, a more cost-effective solution can be obtained, by reading smaller, but higher quality, blogs, which our algorithm can find.

A very long tail approach.

I should mention at this point that my blog is in this list, at number 84. Actually, as far as I can tell (I haven’t checked every single blog), only one other UK blogger is in this US-focused list: Hugh MacLeod, at number 76.

So two Brits cut the mustard of blog indispensability :)

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