Monday, April 30, 2018

IPTC Names Brendan Quinn as New Managing Director, Celebrates the Service of Michael Steidl

As well as being Director of Information Management at the AP, I'm also Chairman of the Board of the IPTC, the standards body for the international news and media industry. The IPTC sets technology standards used around the world, including photo metadatavideo metadataand machine readable rights. We also develop technical approaches to the challenges facing the news media, such as identifying junk news, leveraging automation and coping with the impact of GDPR. Together with the other members of the IPTC - including ReutersAFPDPA and the New York Times - I help organize face-to-face meetings and numerous teleconferences so that we can work together and learn about interesting new projects from vendors and academics.
The Managing Director is the sole employee of the IPTC, helping to organize the work, manage the finances and recruit new membership. For the last 15 years, Michael Steidl has held this role. When Michael announced his plan to retire in the summer of 2018, I organized and ran the effort to find and recruit a successor. We talked to many candidates, several of whom were highly qualified. The Board did not take the decision lightly. In the end, we made an offer to Brendan Quinn - and we are thrilled he has accepted. Brendan brings with him a wealth of news technology experience, with organizations from around the world and of all sizes. He even worked at the Associated Press on AP's Video Hub. He has a unique combination of strategic insight into the challenges faced by the news industry and the technical know-how to help guide our work in technical standards and beyond. I look forward to partnering with Brendan in charting the future of the organization and to grow the work and influence of the IPTC.

Celebrating Michael Steidl's 15 Years as IPTC Managing Director

At the IPTC's Spring 2018 Meeting in Athens, we covered many interesting technical news topics - including video metadata, machine-readable rights, news credibility, and the challenges of localization and localisation. We also welcomed our incoming Managing Director, Brendan Quinn, and took some time to celebrate our retiring Managing Director, Michael Steidl.

As Chairman of the IPTC, I was honoured to give a speech, marking Michael's achievements over the last 15 years of service to the organization.

I would like to take a few minutes to celebrate Michael Steidl, our IPTC Managing Director for the past 15 years. Looking back over that time, many things stand out. I think we would all agree that Michael has a comprehensive understanding of all aspects of the IPTC - the standards, the history and - last but not least - the often obscure facets of the rules and regulations. Many times, an enthusiastic IPTC person has suggested some change or new idea, only to be gently reminded, "Well, I remember a discussion in 2008 where we voted on that topic and we decided..." I know that we will all miss Michael's kind but firm insistence that the rules and history of the IPTC be respected. And, in many ways, he acts as the representative of all the member organizations, whether or not they happen to be present in a particular discussion, to ensure that, for example, the large organizations don't dominate at the expense of the smaller organizations.

To give some perspective on Michael's achievements, I thought it would be interesting to look back on what Michael himself said about his role and the work of the IPTC. In December of 2003, the IPTC Spectrum - the old newsletter we used to publish - included Michael's reflections on his first year as Managing Director. I recommend you read the whole thing yourself. But now I'd like to focus on three things he said.

First, Michael described visiting the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam and drew an analogy between the artist's evolving use of colour and his own intention in how he would work within the IPTC. He said "This might be a metaphor for the big task I jumped into: not to reinvent the wheel of running the IPTC office, well developed, maintained, and handed over by David Allen, but to add some extra shades of colour to IPTC’s image as a major player for standards in the news industry." Of course, looking back over the past 15 years of work, it is clear that on the one hand Michael did succeed in taking over the reins from his predecessor. But, on the other hand, he has done a lot more than simply adding some extra shades of colour. In fact, I would say that Michael's contributions to the IPTC is really more equivalent to an entirely new artistic movement - a sort of Renaissance for the organization - including managing the introduction of entirely new ways of operating the IPTC. When Michael started, there were no teleconferences or video conferences or even development of standards through email lists. There was no internet available during the meetings - which has perhaps been a mixed blessing, since people can keep up with the work back home, but we aren't always as focused.

There were already some hints of these changes in Michael's remarks. The second of the three quotes I want to pick out from the 2003 Spectrum:

We want to "discuss new ways of developing and maintaining our standards. These appear quite necessary to me: in the past decades IPTC usually developed and maintained one to two standards in parallel; IPTC 7901 was succeeded by IIM; and this was followed by NITF over a period of almost 15 years. But now three standards - NITF, NewsML, SportsML - have been developed and approved in a time span of about eight years. These three standards are all currently active and an additional three are under development ProgramGuideML, EventsML and an upcoming weather mark up. So soon we will have six active standards." So, three standards were developed in 15 years. Then three more in eight years. So, the IPTC work was already accelerating. But, just as a reminder, at this meeting in Athens, we discussed six different standards and will vote on three major updates. On top of that, we've discussed ten or more additional work areas - including the VideoDextra initiative, the EXTRA project and everyone's favourite topic of GDPR. Some people might think that standards take a long time to develop - and they do! - but we're no longer producing three standards in 15 years. or even only discussing technical standards anymore.

Now, 15 years later, Michael knows every detail of a full range of standards and an impressive array of initiatives. As was mentioned earlier, Michael has developed an extensive records keeping scheme of - I believe it was - 5,000 file folders stuffed with IPTC information. Now, with Brendan Quinn coming on board as our new Managing Director this summer, it must seem like a daunting task to succeed such an accomplished Managing Director.

So, I want to come to the third Spectrum quote from Michael from back in 2003, to reassure Brendan that Michael was once in the same boat. Michael said: "Yes, I had to learn the ropes first. IPTC operations are complex and it’s like conquering an unknown island: region after region had to be explored and all details of operation had to be made transparent, for me and to others. Preparing and providing the required resources for a meeting, taking minutes that reproduce the key points of the discussions, handling the finances, and last but not least supporting and co-ordinating the technical work of IPTC was occasionally really breathtaking and I have to admit it was a steep learning curve." So, Brendan, don't worry it wasn't easy for Michael either, but it can be done!

Finally, I want to close with an entirely different aspect of Michael's time with the IPTC. I've talked a lot about Michael's work. And, of course, solving news technology problems is the main reason for IPTC's existence. However, Michael has always pointed out in his polite, gentle but firm way that there is more to it than that. The IPTC is also an organization made up of people. It is a unique mix of people who often come from rival organizations and quite different backgrounds, who are able to come together and learn from each other and co-operate to solve problems together. And, in that process, it is often the case that rivals can become colleagues and colleagues can become friends. Michael, many of the people here - and many others around the world - count you as a friend. And so, along with your many work achievements with the IPTC, you should be very proud of all the colleagues and friends you have made.

And now, I'd like to ask all of your colleagues and friends here to join me in raising a glass, thanking you and wishing you a very happy retirement. THANK YOU MICHAEL!