Spencer Critchley

Spencer Critchley is the Managing Director of Boots Road Communications, which provides communications consulting, production and media buying services in all media. Recent clients include Obama for America (pro bono press and new media work), Congressman Sam Farr, D-Carmel (web, radio advertising); California Assemblymember Anna Caballero, D-28th District (TV & radio production, media buys) and Salinas, California Mayor Dennis Donohue (campaign communications director).

Spencer is an award-winning producer, writer and composer with experience in digital media, film, broadcasting and the music business. He has directed creative groups or led audio production at BeVocal, Beatnik, Silicon Graphics, Silicon Gaming and CCC/Viacom. Among the projects he has worked on are web content for David Bowie, Moby, Britney Spears and Yahoo!, the redesign of BeVocal's voice applications interfaces, the multiple award-winning Choosing Success CDROM for CCC, the SGI/Time Warner/ATT interactive TV system, and he has also served as a freelance writer/broadcaster for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, National Public Radio and others, winning awards for investigative journalism. Spencer has been a composer/producer for Warner-Chappell Music, and was composer and director of audio post production for the Emmy-winning documentary film "Blink". He is the founder of The Desert Mothers, a "virtual rock band" based at http://thedesertmothers.com.

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The News Business Is Broken in the Digital Age - If You're an "ee", Not If You're an "er"

Via Tim O'Reilly's blog I come across San Francisco Chronicle publisher Phil Bronstein, predicting layoffs and saying the news business "is broken, and no one knows how to fix it... And if any other paper says they do, they're lying."... read more

Never Give a Client Three Choices

November 24 2010

In most design fields it's conventional wisdom that you should give a client three versions or "comps" of an idea, so they can choose their favorite, or maybe combine what they like best about two or all three of them.... read more

Top Drupal Gotchas, #2: White Screen / Not Enough PHP Memory

November 22 2009

Continuing my effort to spare newcomers to Drupal from falling into this powerful content management system's most common traps, this time I look at a frequent cause of white screens - the sudden and scary devolution of a previously healthy... read more

Top Drupal Gotchas: "Access Denied" and Permissions Problems

October 31 2009

The Drupal Content Management System keeps getting better and better. But the learning curve is still steep and the interface is still tricky - even after working with it for several years, some gotchas keep tripping me up. That tells... read more

We Need to Teach Visual Critical Thinking

March 16 2009

I was just looking at yet another vacuous presentation graphic, this one purporting to illustrate the SMART test for defining objectives. It looked something like this: This is of course rubbish. Infographics guru Edward Tufte would object strenuously to its... read more

Taming an Airport Express WDS Network

March 14 2009

Apple earns enough goodwill with its usually beautiful design and usability that every now and then it gets away with murder. Case in point: the Airport Express. I recognize that many people are happy with their AE's. I've found that... read more

Dawn of the Software Comedian

March 06 2009

Microsoft Songsmith, designed to be a software aide for musical composition, has instead proved to be a great tool for comedy, as early adopters have exploited its bent for generating hilariously inappropriate accompaniments to famous artists' vocal tracks. This is... read more

More Creativity in a Can: When Thomas Dolby Met the Rhinestone Cowboy

March 04 2009

Microsoft Songsmith has been stuck in my mind lately like, well, a bad song (follow that link at your own risk). It's got me reflecting about the long trend towards using music technology to increase productivity, but not creativity. And... read more

Creativity in a Can

February 10 2009

For me, what's wrong with Songsmith is not that it's so uncool. It's what's wrong (though maybe not so egregiously) with a lot of music technology: the underlying premise that productivity is an absolute good. read more

Does Brainstorming Actually Work?

December 11 2008

It's a staple of corporate retreats: gather staff, whip out the flip chart and announce that "there are no bad ideas". Many attendees just groan inwardly. Are they just cynics, or are they onto something? Apparently several studies back up the Dilberts of the world, at least to an extent.… read more

Good Job, or Good Work?

November 19 2008

Creativity is a good thing. But I think we sometimes fall into the habit of thinking it's the only good thing. Not happy in your job? You probably need more opportunities to be creative. Not happy in your personal life? If you could just express yourself more, you'd feel better.… read more

Esession Version 2: Online Recording, Now More Collaborative

April 06 2008

A little while ago I wrote an article about my experience using esession.com, a web-based "virtual recording studio". Esession struck me as having a very well-integrated collection of professional features. Now comes esession.com Version 2, and it looks like it's going to be better - largely by incorporating more non-professional… read more

All You Need to Know about Creativity, in 48 Pages

September 20 2007

When I worked in Silicon Valley, I realized after a short while that a big part of my job as a manager amounted to finding ways to help people be creative. After all, if you have a collection of very... read more

Flow Award Nominee: FrameForge 3D Studio 2

August 20 2007

Recently I needed to develop a storyboard in a hurry for a TV commercial. Problem: I can't draw. Solution: FrameForge 3D Studio 2, a pre-visualization tool popular with film & TV directors. Unexpected extra: Flow! I loved working with this... read more

Digital Journalism Case Study: Live Blogging a Political Convention

May 07 2007

The California Democratic Party held its annual convention in San Diego April 27-29, and I was there blogging, along with hundreds of other traditional and web-based reporters. Here are some observations. ... read more

Reflexion Filter: A Micro Recording Booth for Project Studios, Remotes or Podcasting

March 08 2007

In audio, as in the rest of life, the basics rule. For example, you can spend all the money in the world on great gear, but if your room is bad, you're just going to end up with a great... read more

Reflexion Filter: A Micro Recording Booth for Project Studios or Podcasting

March 08 2007

In audio, as in the rest of life, the basics rule. For example, you can spend all the money in the world on great gear, but if your room is bad, you're just going to end up with a great... read more

Bless You, Dolby: Technology Limits Annoyingly Loud TV

January 08 2007

Dolby Labs "is unveiling a sound-leveling technology called Dolby Volume today at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas that its executives say will finally eliminate the jagged audio discrepancies that exist between shows and commercials and even between scenes... read more

When A Pointless Flash Animation Is Just Right

January 01 2007

We're all familiar with pointless Flash animations that serve only as barriers to getting to useful web content. But I recently stumbled across an instructive exampe of a "pointless" Flash animation that works: It's on the web site of the... read more

Flow Award #3: The Frontier Design Tranzport

August 08 2006

The old saying, "You got peanut butter on my chocolate!" expresses a deep truth about creativity: two things that differ in characteristics but share a common domain may yield fruitful results when combined. The people at Frontier Design have taken... read more

Wireless MIDI Keyboard Is Latest Attack On Tyranny Of Wires

June 03 2006

There’s a scene in the movie Crumb, about the retro-iconoclast cartoonist & musician R Crumb, in which he sketches out his belief that everything went to hell when wires were strung across the American landscape*. I’m with him. Wires are ugly, and furthermore they have a lot in common… read more

Oh My! The News Is Next: Users Crash Journalism's Gates

May 28 2006

It surprised me to learn it, but one of my most-cited posts has been 10 Journalism Tips For Bloggers, Podcasters & Other E-Writers. It turns out there’s a lot of interest in using the web not just for sounding off, but for practicing real journalism. And as in so many… read more

Long Tail Money Goes To Aggregators & "Filterers"

May 12 2006

In a new-to-me post on his Ventureblog (OK, it as way back in Dec/05), venture capitalist David Hornik explains why the real money in Long Tail businesses goes to the companies that aggregate and/or filter content- and not to the content creators. This is the point I’ve been exploring in… read more

Is This The Inflection Point? EMI & Universal Sales Up

April 20 2006

More good news for the record industry - this via Marketwatch: Europe’s two largest music recording companies, EMI Group and Universal Music Group, reported increasing revenue on Thursday, underscoring the growing importance for both firms of selling music over the Internet. Label revenues have been falling for years now, suffering from the… read more

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Spencer Critchley