30-05-07

Jeff Buckley

Today Belgium (amongst other countries) celebrates Jeff Buckley with a concert ‘an evening without Jeff Buckley’. Although he tragically sailed into his death at the age of 23, Mr. Jeff Buckley had a huge impact on many of us. His voice danced between strength and fragility, pulling all of us into his heart and mind reaching music.

 

In one of today’s newspaper, Stef Kamil Karlens talked about him. I had the pleasure of talking a bit with Stef Kamil and his partner Laurence, and they made me think. For me, Stef is not only one of the most gifted musicians Belgium has ever had, but also one of the most giving. There is so much warmth in him, and it reflects on all around him. Much like Jef, and if I wouldn’t be on this plane to New York, I would definitely be in Ghent at the Night w/o Jeff Buckley where Zita Swoon will also be playing.

 

It reminds me also of my wedding with my Femke. At the city hall, we were aloud to play some music. And the 2 pieces we had that afternoon at the magic Grand Place in Brussels (everyone that lives in 1000 Brussels must marry there, before you get any wrong ideas) where we played Jacques Brel, Hallelujah from Jeff Buckley (a cover from the great Leonard Cohen) and Victory from Daan.

 

I must be somewhere in the middle between London and NY now – and although I managed to forget my iPod, I fortunately had backup all my songs on a portable hard disc, and am now near tears in my eyes listening to Buckley’s Grace.

 

Goodnight everyone. Goodnight Femmie. Goodevening NY!

Bart

23-05-07

Google-kerke (or PolderGeist)

Last week-end I spent a couple of days at the Belgian sea-side, in a beautiful place named Oostduinkerke. We have been coming there for about 10 years now, and it remains wonderful, each time again.

 

Femke wanted to view the exhibition named Visually Hungry in Knokke, so I decided to bike from Oostduinkerke to Knokke, via a small detour. Although it was about 90 km (and I had expected to cycle 50 or 60) it was amazing. Totally alone through little villages, small roads in a perfect happiness. A nearly 4 hour during enjoyment.

 

From Sunday to Tuesday I had the honour to be invited to Google’s Zeitgeist, a conference with an incredible line-up and atmosphere just outside London. Speakers such as Sir Martin Sorrell of WPP, Hans Rosling from gapminder, James Murdoch (CEO BSkyB), Chad Hurley (founder youtube), young but fascinating Josh Bear, Kevin Roberts (CEO Saatchi n Saatchi), and about 50 others …

 

Panels discussed the future of branding, entertainment, digital youth, but also entrepreneurship (one of the best session I ever witnessed in my life), education or green technology. It remains weird but also so normal to have a drink with let’s say the founders or bebo, youtube or so many others. But you cannot imagine how much I have been brainstorming, re-thinking, discussing and questionning so much over the last days...

 

It was truly amazing, again. Bravo and thank you Googlers for having us and for creating an atmosphere of exploration.

 

bart

 

18-05-07

FAST

In only a couple of weeks, the digital advertising delivery landscape got completely re-written. Google started off by acquiring Doubleclick for 3.1 billion USD. Yahoo and WPP followed immediately by buying respectively Right Media for 680million USD and 24/7 media for 650million USD. Somewhere in between AOL bought AdTech.

And some hours ago, Microsoft acquired Acquantive for 6 billion USD. In just a couple of weeks.

 

Over the next days I’ll be attending Google’s Zeitgeist conference- with an amazing program and participant list. It looks like a great moment to reflect on what is now, next but also how the industry is blending completely.

 

Amazing.

bart

18:50 Gepost door bart in digital media | Permalink | Commentaren (0) | Tags: google, yahoo, microsoft, aol, wpp, zeitgeist, 247 |  Facebook |

The Belgians are better?

A couple of days ago I attended a literary evening in Amsterdam. The SLAA (Amsterdam foundation for literary activities) organized a 2 day program on Flemish Belgian writers. The first day got titled ‘The Belgians are better!’. Being a Belgian living in Amsterdam, I couldn’t resist ;-)

 

While walking there, I ran into a friend who works for Microsoft. We talked about how great Amsterdam is to live in, about Microsoft trying to counter play Google, and about this literary festival.

 

He ended by a summary (of which I had already heard half, but anyway):

'We live in a really crazy world:

The best golfer is a black guy,

The best rapper is a white guy,

The French think the Americans are arrogant,

Microsoft wants to use antitrust against Google,

And Belgians think they are smarter than the Dutch.'

 

The evening was great: Tom Lanoye, Bart Koubaa (thanks for the beer!), Yves Petry, David Van Reybrouck en Arjen Fortuin had a very interesting discussion, and of course it had nothing to do with Belgians being better. They explained their view of the differences between Belgians and Dutch society, about the differences in reading culture (it is true that the availability of so many great bookshops makes you read more), about having to adapt words to make them understandable in the other culture - even if we speak the same language, and mainly Tom Lanoye talked about the difference you can make by taking a (political) position and opinion.

 

And looking back at 2006, he probably has a point. StudioBrussel (the coolest of Belgian radios) creating social responsibility by raising 2.5m euro (and winning 2.5 million hearts!) in a project named ‘Music For Life’: Tom Barman organized concerts all over Belgian and there are others, and Humo (more a lifestyle than just a magazine) provides free with their magazine with a DVD of Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth.

 

One used to say that art should have the sideline perspective of society, but in Belgium they seem to be the very engine of social conscience.

 

bart

 

16-05-07

Father suggests: Enrico Gasparotto (Giro)

gas1

When I had my father on the phone, we mainly talked about 2 things:

 

First - he told me that my ‘Joost’ didn’t work. Since my father embraced the web, I suggest new initiatives for him to test. I explained him there were a lot of new content distribution platform on the web, such as Joost, babelgum or brightcove - but overnight it became 'MyJoost'. All the things that didn’t work perfect have become My – such as MyBelgacomTV (he had a point there as I had been busy 50percent of my time once to put belgacomtv in the market), MyBittorent, My xxx (replace xxx by everything that I recommended but that didn’t work flawlessly) but surprisingly enough it is not MyGoogle or MyPod (he is probably very happy with that). Guess it’s a father-son thing. For all of us sons ;-)
Just FYI: Joost is an interesting tv distribution platform that is preparing a public launch, but it had indeed a couple of hick-ups these last days

 

Secondly - he told me to watch again the opening stage (a team race against time) of the Giro d’Italia. Enrico Gasparotto, a quite unknown (but very talented IMO) team mate of Danilo Di Luca (one of the favourites to win the Giro), wore the leader jersey. And it was great to see: normally the team leader (Di Luca in this case) comes as first over the white line in teamchronos, so that he is first in the general classification. You saw Di Luca screaming at Enrico Gasparotto to slow down and let him go first, but he pretended not to hear anything, ended first and yep: won the first pink jersey.

 

He told afterwards that he didn’t realize, but I know better. He read my previous post, and projected himself at 70 looking back at his life. He had the choice between being the faithful helper that cycled all his life in service of Di Luca, or pretend not to know what happened, get over the finish first and be(come) a pink jersey leader. One of the great honours for Italian cyclists. I saw already him showing off in his Toscana house to his grandchildren: ‘look here – an old picture of your grandfather when he was first in the Giro d”italia’. I saw him thinking:’ it is better to reign in hell than to serve in heaven’. Look at this picture: does he look like he feels very bad? :-) And just for the record: I am not judging, just describing.

 

Enrico Gasparotto will have had and continue to have a tough discussion with his team or at least with The Manager of Di Luca – but I saw on his face, and I am sure he would do it again. Any time. For the sake of being able to tell his grandchildren some stories at his Toscana hill house.

 

bart

09-05-07

BNoX - Barcamp Brussels

This Saturday I was for some hours in Brussels. A short night-before phonecall with Clo, a former colleague of mine at Skynet, got me over to the Brussels Barcamp (since I was travelling in I could only be there for 2hours). When there, she invited me to do a powerpoint karaoke – a presentation of slides that you have never seen before. Fun to do, not prepared – a good lesson in self-relativation, with a video that I will enjoy watching even more in 10 years or so.

 

Someone asked me afterwards why I would do something like this. True, I am only a couple of days per month in Brussels anymore. But let me explain you why.

 

Reason1:

Creativity and entrepreneurialism unleash the passion in people. Initiatives like Barcamp are not only great to present your thoughts, findings, ideas or realizations – they create an atmosphere of shared searching and discovering. About 2 years ago, Peter Forrett – the organizer of Barcamp Brussels – presented his ideas to the Skynet team for some support (back then was still CEO of Skynet). We supported the idea completely, because Skynet is company that lives on the creation of new ideas: from free internet to ADSL, from consumer to corporate solutions, from portals to interactive television, from search to permission marketing… but also because we thought that sometimes you have to role to support initiatives that enable creativity in Belgium. Barcamp1 was born.

 

Reason2:

Clo was one of  the persons I did quite some effort to hire at Skynet. It hearts a bit to see that see is leaving together with some others, but seen my switch I understand completely and all people are going for what they believe in. They are not leaving Skynet, they are going towards something else.

 

I believe that creativity can only thrive when you are a passionate believer of what you do. When I was very young, my grandfather told me something I would never forget but only understood some years later.

He told me the following: “Bart, in your life you are going to have to deal with some difficulties. In whatever you will do, you will meet people that are better than you. In studying, playing football, managing or whatever. There is always someone better. Except in one thing,… and that is being yourself.’

I think we can all do incredible things, if we are not acting, if we are not doing things for the sake of public performance, but because we truly believe in them. Clo’s blog (bnox.be) can be pronounced in different ways –but for once let us read it as ‘Be No X’. Be no number. Be no actor of public expectation. Don’t pretend to be someone you are not. Just be yourself. Just like my grandfather told me.

I will try to bebart.be.

 

Thank you Clo for a short but good time at Skynet. We’ll meet again. Thank you Peter for the effort in getting it organised. Keep it up. But thank you most of all the participants of daring to share. That’s the only way forward.

 

bart.

05-05-07

Politieke uitblinkers

Deze morgen kocht ik in Amsterdam Centraal zowel De Morgen als De Standaard. Met 2 kranten, 2 boeken en een laptop begon ik aan mijn 3 uur durende treinrit tot Brussel-Noord. De treintijd is trouwens steeds meer mijntijd geworden, en ik besef weer hoe gelukkig ik was gedurende de 2 jaren dat ik dagelijks treinpendelde tussen Hasselt en mijn Fnac in Antwerpen.

 

Beide kranten wogen onze Nederlandstalige politici. Vooral De Morgen vond ik aangenaam, want hun twee sterkst verkozenen bleken Hugo Van Den Berghe (CD&V) en Guy Swennen (SPA).

 

Ik dacht Hugo Vandenberghe te kennen, maar na het googelen bleek dat de persoon die ik voor ogen had Yvan Van Den Berghe had. Ik had ooit het genoegen om door Yvan Van Den Berghe onderwezen te worden. Yvan doceerde een ‘optioneel’ vak, dat onterecht door veel te weinig personen gekozen werd: diplomatieke geschiedenis en internationale politiek. Nu blonk mijn laatste universiteitsjaar niet echt uit in maximale aanwezigheidscijfers. Het praesidium, een lokale club, een activiteit in ontwikkeling en nog wat andere zaken leken mij – terecht achteraf bekeken – boeiender en inhoudsvoller dan een aantal vakken die gedoceerd werden met de passie van een afgesleten deurmat. Maar ‘internationale politiek’ is zonder twijfel het meest boeiende vak dat ik ooit mocht volgen (samen met een driejarige opleiding in klassieke muziekgeschiedenis die ik jaren nadien als vrije student volgde).

 

Als examen mocht je zelf een onderwerp kiezen, en daarna hem je stelling onderbouwen. Hij stelde je dan een aantal vragen, en that was it. Ik heb echter nooit meer boeken gelezen en gestudeerd dan voor dit vak. Fantastisch. Aangestuwd door mijn vaders interesse voor de Italiaanse en Amerikaanse maffia, begaf ik mij op de het gladde pad van de intrede van de maffia en de impact op de Amerikaanse handel en politiek. Het werd een boeiend gesprek, en hoewel ik heel wat gelezen had vielen mijn overtuigingen dikwijls terug op cinematografische elementen van Deheren Coppola en Scorsese (lees: soms flinterdun maar altijd fantasierijk).

 

Mijn passie voor internationale politiek, cultuur, maatschappij, handel en andere facetten is trouwens steeds gebleven. Vandaag ben ik qua job verantwoordelijk voor de activiteiten inzake digitale media (internet, mobiele, gaming, interactieve tv etc) over de 10 landen waarin SBS actief is. De voorbije maanden heb ik dan ook niet alleen gewerkt in en met heel wat buitenlandse collegas, maar ook enorm veel gelezen over pakweg Finland, Denemarken, Hongarije of Griekenland, to name a few. Maandag zal ik mijn laatste ‘onbezocht land’ en team bezoeken– Roumenie. En moest ik niet naar Amsterdam verhuist zijn wou ik mij ingeschreven hebben aan de VUB/ULB opleiding in Internationale politiek, de vrijdagavonden en zaterdagmorgens had ik daar wel voor over.

 

Misschien heeft Yvan’s passionele betoog over de CIA en de FBI, over Azie en Afrika, over de mogelijke (on)macht van de EU het internationale avontuur in mij ontwikkeld? Hij heeft het in ieder geval aangewakkerd. Daarom een welgemeende ‘danku’ aan Yvan Van Den Berghe, maar ook proficiat aan Hugo, en dank u om mij nogmaals aan vroegere jaren terug te laten denken.

 

En Guy Swennen? Ik heb een dermate respect voor Guy dat ik daar een volledige post aan ga wijden.

 

bart

03-05-07

Brussels Airport - the return.

Some weeks ago I had a discussion with a dear friend of mine who works at the airport about the quality of the services at Brussels Airport. I have been flying a lot these last months, and compared to the (nearly frightening) efficiency of Munich or the incredibly well-run overall service at Schiphol in Amsterdam, I found it quite a disappointment.

 

Although he told me Zaventem was the best airport, I convinced him (slightly exaggerating) that it was amongst the worst:

§         for European flights you need your jogging shoes to get at your A gate (it can really long) and it is very boring to do it each time again

§         the check-in takes quite some time compared to others

§         the shops and restaurants are pretty poor

§         an article in the newspaper explained quite some luggage got lost in 2006 (even though it appears to be quite normal for a transit airport like Brussels)

§         etc etc

 

We went together to watch the cycling event ‘De Ronde Van Vlaanderen’ in Geraardsbergen, and arrived talking about it again. The day after an unannounced firemen strike occured... Although I have no idea why it occured and I believe that striking is a right if used under the right circomstances, it at least helped me in convincing that flying off Brussels is always a bit of an adventure.

 

One of the elements, the lack of good shops and restaurants, is really a missed opportunity. For one, for the passengers it makes the long walking and waiting a bit nicer. These grey walls and desolate coffee bars don’t contribute a lot in creating a happy atmosphere. But secondly, if well run this would create a lot of additional income, which in turn could be invested again in the modernism and comfort for its travellers. An airport could be (co-)financed by a well-developed and managed commercial area, which would benefit everyone. Cinemas do this via their 3C’s (Candy, Coke and Chips), but you see alternate business models built on commercial or advertising funding everywhere: from TV stations to search engines to flight tickets to ...

 

This said, my last 2 passages went flawless, and the rebranding of the Brussels Airlines do the airport very well, even though I remain with a previous remark (see http://becks.skynetblogs.be/post/3856723/brussels-airlines) and some search engine optimisation (try typing BA in Google) remains needed.

 

Seen our discussions, I see the secret hand of my friend in my last passages. My check-in, departures and arrivals were completely perfect, so timely that I expect him to have organized this especially to convince me. So a sincere thank you Jan A, I know you are behind all this, and that you are probably already designing a state-of-the-art commercial arena as we speak!

 

J

bart

01-05-07

Koninginnedag, Amsterdam

Dit jaar vierde ik voor de eerste keer Koninginnedag. Ik wist niet goed wat ervan te verwachten, en dacht een avond en dag samen met Femke anoniem rond te wandelen. Een aantal Brusselinnen waren bij ons thuis de dag voordien, en het was tof maar rustig op ‘koninginne-avond’

 

Maar de dag was mooi, zo mooi. Bij het buitenstappen aan ons appartement (aan de Prinsengracht in het centrum van Amsterdam) kwam ik Maurice tegen, de commercieel directeur van google Nederland. Fijne persoon, groot talent ook. Vervolgens rondlopen op de vrijmarkten, waarbij iedereen zijn oude spullen voor de deur zet en je dingen kan kopen vanaf een halve euro. Funny. Maar het leukste vond ik de fijne concerten (misschien wel honderd in de ganse stad), het festival van het levenslied aan het Jordaanplein (goed georganiseerd Eddy!), de optocht van alle soorten bootjes over de verschillende grachten, en het gezellig rondkuieren.

 

Aan het museumplein kwam ik een Limburgse vriend tegen, tussen 150.000 andere pleinbezoekers. Via London en Munchen, was hij in Amsterdam komen wonen als zaakvoerder van een mooie tuin- en meubelzaak. We woonden op misschien een kilometer van mekaar. Small world he... Samen een paar pintjes gaan drinken op mekaar dakterrasjes (ja, we zijn echte Hollies aan het worden), en babbelen over Amsterdam, Munchen en ons beider droomstad: New York. Maar ook hou het koningsfeest hier gevierd en gerespecteerd wordt. Where did we go wrong in Belgium? Ik denk en hoop nog steeds dat ons koningshuis een symbool van verdraagzaamheid, solidariteit en een vorm van morele rust kan en moet zijn. Anyway.

 

Bij het afsluiten van de nacht toch nog even naar het Belgische VRT journaal gekeken, en je gelooft het nooit: in het stukje over Koninginnedag in Amsterdam had men Femke en mij gefilmd. Ik dacht het nog, want ik had een camera van Reuters gezien net toen Femke een van de rommelmarktjes doorzocht... Grappige afsluiting van een fijne dag: 2 belgjes in Amsterdam op het vrt nieuws. De cameraman had vast gezien dat we straalden!

 

Bart.