Channel4’s Dates, go watch it…

Dates s1ep1

Angie was the first person to tell me about Channel4’s Dates

From the creator of Skins, a witty, sexy and emotional drama series about the complicated and hilarious ways that strangers interact on dates in their quest to find love

I am happy to say I have watched the first one on my tablet half in my lunch time and the other half on the tram home.

I liked it, somethings I’ve experienced and somethings I would avoid. Interesting conclusion to the episode too. I won’t spoil it… Go watch it on 4OD now.

Black mirror s2e1: Be right back

Black Mirror s2ep1

Black Mirror season 2 episode 1

Martha (Hayley Atwell) and Ash (Domhnall Gleeson) are a young couple who move to a remote cottage, where Ash’s parents used to live. Ash is a big user of social media, tapping away on his phone, just a bit too much. Martha doesn’t really mind, she loves him and they’re looking forward to their new life together. The day after the move, Ash is killed, returning the hire van. At the funeral, Sarah (Sinead Matthews), a friend of Martha’s, tells her about a new service that lets you stay in touch with the deceased. By using all his past online communications and social media profiles, a new ‘Ash’ can be created – disarmingly ‘real’ and a help to a grieving partner. Martha is disgusted by the concept and wants nothing to do with it. Martha decides to stay in the cottage, despite her sister, Naomi (Claire Keelen), being worried about her isolation. Then one morning Martha receives an email from ‘Ash’. Sarah has signed her up. Martha is furious and deletes the message. But then she discovers she is pregnant and in a confused and lonely state Martha decides to talk to ‘him’.

*Spoilers ahead, you were warned*

Excellent episode which involves a woman losing her partner. A friend sets up her with a special system which takes all the public data of that person and generates a avatar of the data. So all those public tweets, flickr pictures, etc. First it emulates the voice and then it starts to emulates other aspects. In the end the woman is lured into levelling up  to a physical avatar.

While it seems somewhat insane… Its not as far future as you may think.

When I first started watching it, I instantly thought about Weavrs

Weavrs are your alter egos crafted from the threads of the social web.

Imagine Weavrs + Google Now…! Yes be afraid, be very afraid… You think sleeping with your partner as weavr is bad, wait till you point it at someone eles’s weavr! Or worst pointing it at yourself!  Scary and freaky stuff!

Charlie Brooker did a preview showing of black mirror at the BFI last month, which I need to watch when I get a chance (can’t get it to play on my xbmc setup unforgettably). Thanks to tim dobson for reminding me of tomscott’s piece about this a while ago… well worth watching like most of his stuff

 

Ecstasy

Ecstasy Facts

My experience with Ecstasy is not like you would imagine.

I have never ever taken Ecstasy or for that fact taken any other illegal drugs. Even though I was surrounded by the ecstasy filled rave scene. Me personally I was very much into the music and the experience of dancing in time with people of all cultures and backgrounds. However I won’t be lie and say I never noticed the amount of drugs going around. In actual fact I have some interesting experiences off the back of ecstasy.

Channel4 are putting Ecstasy on trail in another one of their grand experiments.

Nearly half a million people are believed to take the Class A drug ecstasy every year in Britain and the country was dubbed the ‘drug-taking capital of Europe’ in a recent EU Drugs Agency report.

Now, in a UK television first, two live programmes will follow volunteers as they take MDMA, the pure form of ecstasy, as part of a ground-breaking scientific study.

Presented by Jon Snow and Dr Christian Jessen, the programmes aim to cut through the emotional debate surrounding the issue and accurately inform the public about the effects and potential risks of MDMA.

When I was in school, I had strongly held believes that Ecstasy should be decriminalised and even legalised for many reasons. Most of it is about getting drugs out of the drug dealers hands. But even more to get a base-level quality. Ecstasy use to be cut with all types of crap including brick dust, ketamine, asprin, sugar, etc, etc. So what your buying could be anything. In the past there was rumours of Ecstasy being sold with a coat of LSD. End of the day, you had no idea.

Ecstasy was new on the scene and was instantly demionised by the press. Then Leah Betts died and all hell broke loose. The notion that she had drunk 7-8 litres of water in 90mins was ignored or never came out till much later. After that the war on drugs went into overdrive and by the mid millennium ecstasy was being replaced by other drugs. The point I guess I’m making is it was never tested in lab conditions to see the full effect, who would be allergic to it and the long term effects.

You could say I’m a total hypocrite because I’ve never taken it and never will. But I’d suggest that I can have an opinion and I’ve seen more that enough use in my time.

In times when I rubbed up against ecstasy use. I’ve never seen anyone die, I have seen some admitted to hospital to have there stomach pumped however, I remember spending time in First Aid with a asthmatic attack talking with a girl who had eaten 11 ecstasy pills (of course who knows what were in them) but she was chatting away and hugging people while chewing her lips off. Not a good thing but certainly not what the war on drugs wants you to see and think.

I welcome the Channel4 trial but to be honest I don’t think it will be scientific enough. Ecstasy has been used for many things in the past including a tool for couples having relationship problems. Fact is street ecstasy is nothing like you see in the lab. This is why I was a massive fan of those people who went to raves and clubs and tested ecstasy in the wild. I was also part of the Drugs Awareness Campaign in Bristol and dj’ed for them in many different venues (good to hear it still exists)

Its all about cutting through the hype, crap and frankly bull. Giving people frank honest information. Something the war on drugs never learned…

It upsets me so many people are fed dis-information saying “Just say no…” Hopefully Channel4 can raise a light to this massive issue.

The audience vs twitter…

Mainstream

Channel4 is known for some very interesting social experiments including something which really gets at something which I have a lot of opinions about

However before I talk about that TV programme. Let me give you my thoughts on The Audience

If you don’t know it, its basically… A bunch of people follow a chosen person for a week and help solve there problems.

People with life-changing decisions to make – from ‘should I give up the family business?’ to ‘should I have a gastric band fitted?’ or ‘should I consider fostering?’ – are followed around by 50 strangers for a week. These strangers must then agree on a decision and deliver their verdict on the path to take. For the person with the dilemma the process is emotional, sometimes difficult and often eye-opening. And the audience holding this enormous responsibility have to navigate through layers of heartache, resistance and personal revelations, as well as the nights out, kitchens and cramped offices of the people they’re trying to help.

Although I’ve not quite watched the first one yet… It strikes me as odd because frankly…

Isn’t this just Twitter???

I say twitter oppose to your social network because its people who you don’t know. The stranger advice is a well known human effect. People generally prefer to confide in the stranger.

Or maybe I’m wrong…?

I know this requires a level of transparency and openness which most people are not willing to disclose but personally I’ve had very good things happen from being so open and asking questions of strangers…

A vision of Intrusive TV?

There is one sequence in the last episode of Black Mirror, which you got me really thinking (bear in mind there is tons of interesting subjects matters explored in the show)…

A long while ago I coined the term Intrusive TV for a technology which later got renamed to Perceptive Media. Without going into any detail, this is what I’m worried may happen if certain aspects of the technology behind Perceptive Media is taken to its extremes.

Without any details, you can still certainly get a feel for how scary a future were heading towards…

Hopefully YouTube/Google won’t take it down straight away… But if so, watch the whole thing and about 40mins in look out for the sequence when there’s not enough credit to skip or change anything. You will know which bit when you see it…

Oh no… within a few moments I got a email…

Dear cubicgarden,

Your video, Intrusive TV?, may have content that is owned or licensed by Channel 4.

No action is required on your part; however, if you are interested in learning how this affects your video, please visit the Content ID Matches section of your account for more information.

Sincerely,
– The YouTube Team

Oh well so much for that…

Black mirror’s 15 million merits

You got to hand it to Charlie Brooker… not only is he a genius of comedy but he’s got a amazingly dark sense of humour…

If you’ve not checked out Channel 4’s 15 million merits, you must watch it.

Its a mix of Big Brother, Xfactor, Miniority report and Gamer all mixed in one with deep meaning for the connected generation. If you don’t mind being spoiled Den of Geek of a excellent review while if you’ve not seen it, check out this review which is a little less on the spoilers.

After watching it, its also worth reading the background of how it was all put together in creative review

The secret of luck or the richness of life?

derren brown

Derren Brown isn’t a household name outside the UK, no idea why… but he recently did a excellent show in the conclusion to his experiments series…

In the show he slowly convinces a town that a statute in a local public garden it might be lucky. Through a series of other activities and press attention, people start touching the statute more and more over the months. But where it gets interesting is when he tries to find a person who by the end of the show will bet a huge amount of money on a roll of a dice. So convinced he might just be lucky.

What Derren is proving is the power of the mind… Something I’ve seen long understood from my time in hospital and afterwards. To be honest it was one of Derren’s best ever shows and something I love about his style… Unravelling some of the more complex mysteries of life.

The secret to luck is opportunity

If you take the opportunities you will make more human connections, gain more experience and feel more lucky… (Roughly)

Its something I’ve become very versed in recently.

Opportunities are there for the taking… When you understand this, your world is your oyster.

I was trying to explain this blog entry on the train to Tim Waters who I hopefully didn’t bore to death between Liverpool and Manchester. I used the tale of the Japanese lady on the train story to explain taking opportunities. Its very easy to just stick your headphones in your ears and ignore the world of opportunities which are served up to us everyday… I personally don’t put my earphones in my ears when going to work till I get out the front door of the apartment I live in. Why? Because I’ve had some fascinating conversations in the lift with people (yes and some of them are lovely woman).

For example once I got in the lift and the lift went up a few floors and stopped. Doors open and a woman gets in wearing PJ’s and fluffy sleepers.

It could have been easy to ignore her and stare at the glossy silver lift doors but instead, I couldn’t help myself. “So, sleepers…?” *big grin*. She smiled and said “…well you know their all the rage now…”

There’s plenty more I can say about this but seeing how I’ve had this blog entry open for a good few weeks, I think its best ended with a vague reference to social objects mixed with opportunities…

Maybe luck actually feels like the richness of life…?

Textuality almost the idea we had but poorly done

INST MSGS - Episode 11 - U H8 ME

A long time ago Channel4 posted a contest based around writing a play. Having never written a play before me and Sarah (my exwife) went about writing a play based around the interactions of people via social technologies.

The concept was simple, people interacted on stage in different ways, you could see what there really thinking about or mean via a large screen above them. Honestly quite a bit of the influence from my end came from the very early project by Jun Group called Welcome to the scene. (a candidate for something to re-look at me thinks)

I was intrigued when I read about textuality in my cousins movie collection of course in XBMC.

Now to be fair it only managed 3.4 stars out of 10 on IMDB so its not exactly inception but its worth watching to see how the concept we came to was executed by others. If I had the time and resources I would like to still see it as a play.

It was actually proposed to the contact theatre as their young and talented improv artists could maybe do something quite amazing with it, but I’ve never really picked up on it.

Lastly Revision3’s INST MSGS, rings a bell when re-looking at this whole area.

INST MSGS is a web anthology series that dramatizes social media. Based on everything from submitted instant message conversations to found Craigslists ads, INST MSGS shines a satirical light on modern (mis) communication.

Mary Portas: Secret Shopper

I don’t usually watch these kind of things but I did find Mary Portas Secret Shopper somewhat interesting

In this brand new series Mary Portas has changed sides. Rather than helping businesses to maximise profits, she’s now championing the shopper, and battling to get Britain’s biggest chains to put customers first.

Mary believes that Britain is cowering under a cloud of poor customer service and that we’ve never had it so bad. By using the stealth weapon of secret shopping, she exposes shoddy customer service and uses the evidence to give company bosses a wake-up call. And, with the help of her covert cameras, she’s planning to start a retail revolution.

Customer service is indeed a sham in the UK. Everything has been pushed aside for higher profit. Theres a great scene where Mary is talking to the head of pilot in front of the owner of leon. He gives all the reasons why he felt everything was going well and they didn’t need to change. Of course all the reasons were to do with expansion and profit, customer service was never mentioned in anyway.

Its intriguing because theres so many elements we’ve learned from the online world via things like the cluetrain manifesto at play. In actual fact the real world can learn a lot from the online world.

Customer is king, how sad we are for not punishing them who forget this.

Channel4’s TV Phoneshop, Deal or no deal and Come dine with me

Since I’ve been at home recovering from my brush with death. I’ve started watching a lot more TV. This has been a bit of shock for people that know me. He’s the ones I watch the most, weirdly there mainly Channel4.

Come dine with me

I love this series, its very simple. Take 4/5 strangers then every night a guest cooks for the rest of the group in there home. At the end of the evening, the guests mark the food and dining experience out of 10. At the end of the week we see who has the highest score and that person gets the prize fund of £1000.

The concept is so simple and works for strangers, celebs, sports stars, almost anyone. I’ve even heard that some of my friends have done a personal come dine with me with other friends. Although I got to say thats got to be one of the quickest ways to loose friends and cause massive rows.

The best part of come dine with me has to be the voice over which points how nutty the guests are. Its cheap throw away television but cleverly put together

Phoneshop

This is a brand new series from Channel4, its only on episode 3 but I got to say its had me in stitches, mainly because the characters are simply crazy and I also know people who actually talk and interact in the same way. The South London urban accent and setting makes the whole thing even more funny. Specially since I spent a good few years there myself.

I’ve included a clip at the very top of the post, if you don’t get the humor maybe its just not for you.

Deal or no Deal

22 boxes, no one knows whats in the box. The player picks a box and picks off boxes till there is only two boxes left. Hopefully the player has picked a box with a quarter of million inside and opens it to find it. The external force is the banker which changes everything.

My ex-wife says this is a game for those who don’t understand probability but you know what I’m not so sure. I can only talk about the UK version (as like most game shows theres versions all around the world).

There’s a strategic point running through the game which the game kind of glosses over.

I first thought the banker would simply offer offers which were the average of whats left in the boxes, but thats not the case. In actual fact its a bit of a poker game, if the banker thinks the player will go on and believes in the box, the banker will offer higher amounts to put the player off. If the player seems shaky and a little nervous, the banker will put in slightly lower offers, hoping the player will go for it. So theres a bit of interaction from a far.

The game’s deceptively simple format has attracted attention from mathematicians, statisticians, and economists as a study of decision making under risk: It is an excellent instructive example of the application of utility theory.

In 2004, a team of economists played a scaled-down version of the game with 84 participants and compared the results with the expected utility hypothesis. The study received a great deal of media attention, appearing on the front page of The Wall Street Journal on January 12, 2006 as well as being featured on National Public Radio in the United States on March 3, 2006.

So its the game strategy which interest me about the gameshow.

I may also have a member of my family going on deal or no deal in the near future, so I’ll be filling them in on all the strategy behind the game.

would they let fonejacker on national tv in america?

There is something about fonejacker which is pretty cool. I was thinking would they ever let such a show go out on national tv (non subscription cable or sat) in america? Are we teaching our children how to fonejack? Maybe but better that robbing top boxes off scooters.

If you have no idea what i'm talking about check out these youtube videos ripped from the show.

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Desmonds, only available on Bit Torrent

One of the best features of Bit Torrent and UK nova is when it pulls up gems from TV's past. Someone posted up the first season of Desmonds which is a classic Channel4 TV programme from the late 80's. Its amazing to watch now and I can't believe I had all but forgot about it till last weekend. Sarah's having a hard time understanding the mixture of accents on the show but finds it funny watching me crack up. The poster wrote this about the posting.

It was as late as 1989 that a British sitcom which focussed on the life of a black British family finally became mainstream viewing. It was worth the wait. Desmond's was not tokenism: this was a funny and warm show, with a strong cast and all the traditional sitcom ingredients, but with a solid anchor in the lives of those it portrayed.

Unlike The Cosby Show (to which Desmond's is often compared), St Lucia-born writer Trix Worrell set the series in a working class area of South London's Peckham. Desmond and wife Shirley are first generation migrants from Guyana who have set up their own barber's shop. They live upstairs, along with two of their teenaged children, Sean and Gloria and spend their days serving customers and enjoying the company of the regulars, including Ram John Holder as Porkpie, Christopher Asante as eternal student Matthew and their BUPPY son, Michael.

Watch for a young Domonic Keating, who is introduced later in the first series, now famous for his role as Malcolm Reed in Star Trek – Enterprise. He wasn't particularly natural in Desmond's (and isn't in Enterprise either), but he does possess a lovely pair of cheekbones.

The show ended after the sixth series, with the untimely death of Norman Beaton. With quality writing and lovingly observed characters, you'll enjoy the warm, fuzzy glow that the show imparts.

What ever your view of Bit torrent, this has got to be seen a really good example of that long tail. So far its been downloaded almost 170 times and there are currently 44 seeders and about 3 leechers. Sharing Desmonds with a community of people means it will never be lost or locked up in a valut somewhere. Showing Sarah Desmonds was a interesting experience.But its also certainly something I would love to share with my kids when there old enough. And if CD/DVD doesn't pack up I should be able to still play back un-drm'ed media from 2006. If worst comes to worst and CD/DVD does pack up, I'm sure the 170+ people who have nabbed it will be happy to share it in the future.

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First views on channel4’s IT Crowd

The IT Crowd

So the IT Crowd is now available online for people wanting to check it out. The official site is or you can download directly from Channel4 using this link. Slashdot has a overview of comments.

So my own view is that its not bad, its got some funny scenarios but I don't see how there going to keep it up for more than 6 episodes which would be fine. There's quite a lot of taking the piss out of geeks, nerds and IT staff generally but to be fair this also applies to the non IT Staff trying to use computers (like the boss who thinks his computer is now voice controlled). Its certainly more mainstream than I expected which in this show is actually a good thing because its very accessable, even if it reforces the very obvious stereotypes. The IT Crowd feels really British, I can see why it got a bad review generally. The laughter track seems like a typical shown to a audience affair rather than American canned. For those interested in watching it on TV, its on Friday on Channel4. Expect it to be bit torrented everywhere really soon. By the way, I'm currently downloading Beauty and the geeks which Sheila recommended.

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