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Saturday 30 June 2007

Australian racism

I can't put better than Richard Ackland in The Guardian what is happening in Australia with Aboriginal people.
For 10 years [Prime Minister John Howard's] government did little other than dismiss the suffering of Aboriginal people in the past as an invention of leftwing academics in the present.

Under Howard, federal government support for black Australia slowly dried up. Services were slashed, native title restricted. By 2000 official figures revealed that more than 41% of indigenous women and 50% of indigenous men could expect to die before they reached 50. Still nothing was done. The condition of many Aboriginal communities - frequently and accurately described as third world - grew only worse. The dreamtime was a grog-ridden nightmare. In the last few years black leaders, government agencies and welfare bodies have been talking of a growing crisis in traditional communities and calling for immediate action. But not until last week did Howard, less than six months out from an election and facing polls pointing to, in his own words, "electoral annihilation", discover this "national emergency".

Alcohol banned in Aborigine areas
Aboriginal people gather in a street in Alice Springs (file image)
Alcohol and poverty have blighted Aboriginal communities
Australia is to ban alcohol and pornography in Aboriginal areas in the Northern Territory in a bid to curb child sex abuse.

All Aboriginal children in the territory will be medically examined.

The new proposals follow a report last week which found evidence of abuse in each of the territory's 45 communities.

The report blamed high levels of alcohol and poverty for the situation, which Prime Minister John Howard has described as a national emergency.

Ackland: For 10 years the trauma at the heart of Australia had not only been denied, but exacerbated. Now there was a damburst, a national outpouring of despair and anger.

For Howard the aborigines are the problem. His response is not to send teachers and doctors, his response is to send the army and the police. He is a risible human being and unfortunately the rest of my fellow australians that support this policy are just as disgraceful. But Howard has now won a number of elections appealing to them, and this is just another attempt.
The subsequent comments detail a litany of experiences of Australian racism and I'm sad to say that is my experience of most Australians (I lived there for fifteen years): they are either overtly racist or in denial, thinking 'sorry' is enough. There are a lot of people who actively support reconciliation but they're the minority. Even 'left' parties support racist policies. This isn't surprising though as Aboriginal people are largely invisible - most Aussies wouldn't know one - and effectively segregated. Most Australians in my experience are ignorant of their own history.

The plain fact is that at the heart of the problem are two issues: rights and resources. Aboriginal people need collective land rights and a settlement like the Maori and Native Canadians (who are much more successful) have. But they also need resources and that means spending. Much of this would be to bring Aboriginal settlements up to standard and provide equality in resources like health. I had a friend in the NT who had to travel hundreds of kilometres twice weekly for dialysis - this is common. Lack of facilities like sewerage is common.

The two go hand-in-hand. Rights is about recognising the past because it's part of the present problem. Even with the supposed shock of child abuse - whites were part of that problem. In Sydney there have been various child-sex scandals involving aboriginal kids and prominent white people. I had a friend who is an elder who dealt with the damage - dead kids - which resulted. They'd kill themselves, one way or another.

I don't agree with Ackland's hope though for some sort of damburst - I can't see it in the reaction I'm seeing in Australia. Australians had an opportunity with former PM Paul Keating's 'we poisoned the waterholes' Redfern speech in 1992 ["a fundamental test of our social goals and our national will"] and the reaction to the Mabo native title case, and the Millennium marches for reconciliation but it's been downhill ever since.

There are now less Aboriginal university students than ten years ago. And, as a former PM and a leading Aboriginal woman say in a statement, no democracy - Howard abolished it:

We believe we are the only western democracy with a significant indigenous minority that has no elected representation of any kind. Trachoma, the leading cause of blindness worldwide, is entirely a disease of third-world countries – except for Australia where it is the scourge of remote Aboriginal communities. Our governments pretend to be generous with aid to the third world. There is a third world living within Australia, to Australia’s shame.

We can be pleased that the Government accepts there is an emergency which requires action. But their first step needs to be a broad-based approach based upon respect, upon self esteem and on the recognition of a real partnership.

Rt Hon Malcolm Fraser Prof Lowitja O’Donoghue Mr Brian Butler
Malcolm Fraser and Lowitja O'Donoghue are Co-Patrons and Brian Butler is the Chairman of Stolen Generations Alliance.

I agree with Ackland that Howard is "a risible human being", but so are the Aussies who continue to support him and his policies. The Australian Aboriginal situation should shame Australia and Australians. It says volumes that it obviously isn't and the more who say this loudly to Aussies, the better.

A commentator on Ackland puts the situation for Aussies well:
June 28, 2007 7:50 PM

I'm from New Zealand, and this really disappoints me. Despite what you may have heard, and apart from sporting rivalries and poking fun at each other, New Zealanders tend to like Australians.

But there's a big difference between the two countries when it comes to race relations. New Zealand is far from perfect, and has its share of people with racist views, yet these views are rarely reflected in electoral results. For example, in the last general election, the leader of the conservative party attempted to copy Howard and attack "special privileges" for Maori people. After a brief surge in the polls it was back to normal, and he ended up losing. In the end, while they may be perturbed about many things, New Zealanders won't put up with out and out racism. Another example: in Australia, Howard basically refuses to deal with Aboriginal land claims. In New Zealand, there is a government agency set up to deal with them, and many claims have been settled. Again, a lot of New Zealanders aren't happy with this, but it hasn't prevented the government from engaging in the difficult, and ongoing, task of sorting out past injustices.

I often wonder why there is so much racism in Australia. Perhaps it is because most Australians do not personally know any Aboriginals. In New Zealand Maori people are everywhere. We all go to school and work together, and I personally have many Maori friends. That's not to say that Maori are not overrepresented in poverty and crime statistics, but there is no "separate society". Non-Maori New Zealanders deal with Maori all the time.

Part of it may be that Maori have been heavily involved in the political life of New Zealand. For the last 140 years Maori representation has been guaranteed in the New Zealand Parliament, with a set number of seats set aside for them in proportion with their share of the population (although in the last few decades Maori people have been free to choose to vote on the general or Maori roll, and the number of seats has been adjusted accordingly). Maori issues are always front and centre in New Zealand politics, often because Maori members of parliament are vociferous in defending their interests.

I can't understand why this cannot be the same in Australia. Believe me, this latest news could be very very bad for Australia. As some other posters have noted, Australia has not loomed large in the global consciousness as a racist state, whereas countries like South Africa have. It seems to me that this latest crisis may well change that. Many people are finding themselves taking another look at Australia and Australians, and this cannot be good.

I guess it's now up to the Australian people to do something about it. They better do something, or they will end up as pariahs, which would be a shame, because Australians are generally nice, fun, informal and outgoing people.

Recommended reading - Greer gets to the heart of remote communities
Worlds apart Australia's prime minister is sending in the army to tackle child abuse and alcoholism in the Aboriginal homelands. But his aggressive campaign will only make the situation worse, says Germaine Greer

PM 2.0

Downing Street syndicates content to YouTube. In it's latest, Taking a break during a typically busy day inside 10 Downing Street, Tony Blair confides that "nothing prepares you for the difficulty of being Prime Minister".

Here's another one showing him meeting the Queen, narrated by an Aussie for some reason (possibly tourism-related). John Major says: "you can be frank, even indiscrete .. nothing is bared, everything is open season".

The Downing Street YouTube Channel appears to be a relative hit.

City: London
Hometown: Westminster
Country: United Kingdom
#23 - Most Subscribed (This Month)
#9 - Most Subscribed (This Month) - Directors
#61 - Most Viewed (Today)

And some content is getting significant audiences.

Added: 3 days ago
Views: 56,850

Though probably not the one today (Gordon visits kids) which opens solemnly then proceeds into inappropriate disco music (there is such a thing).

Thus far in Downing Street's Web excursions, it's Tony Blair saying 'Am I bovvered?" which gets the most views - something above 300,000 in its various incarnations:

The website itself is getting more and more Web 2.0 like:

They even have a youth version, motto 'more than just a door'.

This encourages them to:


You may not get a reply to your email.

If the content of your message is private or personal, or you would like to be sure of a reply, you should post a letter to Gordon Brown at 10 Downing Street, London SW1 2AA.

'Country' isn't a required field.

Wednesday 27 June 2007

BBC imitates The Onion

Er, why is this news?

In response to the commentator pointing me here - For 68 rudder-less minutes on Wednesday, the UK had no prime minister, it seemed. So did anything happen that could have rocked the country?

That sort of 'padding' is kindof fun but how is it news that websites update quickly? It is progress that alongside the newspaper's response someone looks at the Web but that's not what this is about. It's provincial to presume that websites wouldn't change, it's stating the bleeding obvious. Then it ignores the rest of the Web when it actually would be news to track the reaction across the Web. Very definition of 'dumbed down'.

Bytes · Estonian lessons - Best luminosity - What digidivide?

Back to life and catching up with the scrapbook ...


Citizen engagement: Growing grass roots, Rosie Lombardi,
“We get better information by electronic means, and people find it easier to get to it. We’re not seeing as good information coming out of town hall meetings,” he says, adding that summarizing these verbal proceedings is a laborious, manual exercise. “Meetings become more a way to validate electronic feedback.”

The more dynamic Web 2.0 enables greater online collaboration and allows people to easily organize themselves into communities of interest, says Cunningham. “This will allow people to find each other and create communities around public debate on political decisions. Once they reach critical mass, these can make their positions heard and influence decision­-making. Governments are struggling to be more modern and relevant in a post-modern world, so they ignore this trend at their peril.”

Michael Cross in the Guardian, talking about Estonia, found another reason why there are issues with DirectGov:

Centralisation comes with penalties, however. One is that, however centralised services are arranged geographically, some users will lose convenience. Another penalty comes with size and complexity: government systems are already too big, and big and complex IT systems go wrong more often than small and simple ones.

Finally, as the Estonian experience shows, there is the vulnerability caused by creating a single point of failure. Not just to cyber-attack, but to old-fashioned terrorism. Not to mention industrial action: if the Treasury is considering taking on public-sector unions in the next spending round, it might want to reflect that picket lines can be shared services, too.

The updated Accessibility guidance from WCAG will have the following luminosity recommendations:
Level AA Threshold
· Large text (and images of large text) have a contrast ratio of at least 3:1
· Regular text (and images of regular text) have a contrast ratio of at least 5:1
Level AAA Threshold
· Large text (and images of large text) have a contrast ratio of at least 5:1
· Regular text (and images of regular text) have a contrast ratio of at least 7:1


Public Sector Forums says that an important new review of the Government's strategy on the digital divide has been "hushed up".
PSF has managed to track down the whereabouts of said obscure report – which we found helpfully buried away in a deep, dark corner of the DCLG's Digital Challenge website, down at the very bottom of this page.

The report can be downloaded here, and shows that the Digital Inclusion Team completed and submitted their 125-page report in March. Strangely, it was not actually released until Sunday, 20 May, and then with no announcement or word of its existence, or any ministerial comment. A surprising move indeed, given the report's supposed importance and with digital inclusion being high on ministers' agendas, so we are told.

As we reported back in December when news of their findings first began filtering out, these made for very uncomfortable reading - depicting the Government's digital inclusion agenda as practically in chaos, with waste, repetition and disjointed policies the order of the day.

The report concludes - two years' on from the launch of the Prime Minister's much-vaunted Digital Strategy - that "the ownership and governance of the digital inclusion agenda", as well as policies and strategies, are "fragmented across government, industry and the third sector".

Tuesday 19 June 2007

BBC America billboards

I think this is New York, they have live opinion polls in them. 'occupier? liberator?' 'citizens? criminals?' 'befriend? beware?' 'imminent? preventable?' Very good. Would grab me walking down the street.

Monday 18 June 2007

Catch up Bytes

catching up, more later ...

  • Here's a prediction, we'll see a lot more of Mud In The Digital Age — Charles P. Pierce writes it up for the Boston Globe.
Imagine: One disgruntled, tech-savvy voter breaks into a presidential candidate's website and plays a dirty trick, destroying a campaign. Impossible? Inevitable.

  • TechPresident examining the - now - "Long Tail" of online video, with some examples. They note that decisions on what gets plugged on YouTube etc. isn't transparent, something which have raised.

  • Google has a new Public Policy blog. It was previously internal but they've made recent blog posts public.

  • Iran's big brother for bloggers
    Farsi is the fastest growing language online!
    Blogging's influence in Iran is undeniable. Recently, when Seyed Reza Shokrollahi found that his friend Yaghoub Yadali, an Iranian writer, had been held illegally in jail for 40 days, he blogged it (at; he got 5,000 hits. The next day the link had been spread through the Iranian blogosphere and into newspapers' headlines. Finally, the government was forced to release him.

    Blogging in Iran is not confined to particular groups. Even clergymen and hardliners who once viewed it as an "opposition" activity today have blogs of their own - along with gays and lesbians, who have their own communities online.

Saturday 16 June 2007

Bytes · Web2.0 distracts - Fat Long Tail - Climate myths

catch up ..

The effects of global warming are already being felt worldwide. The Larsen-B Ice Shelf on the Antarctic Peninsula collapsed over 35 days in early 2002, prompted by 3°C of warming since the 1940s. (NASA image by Jesse Allen, based on MODIS data.)

"I Got a Crush...On Obama"; By Obama Girl

"They found a crew and the model through Craig's List and did it in 2 hours". 750k views in three days.

Phil de Vellis, author of Hillary 1984, talks about ObamaGirl on Huffpost.

Friday 15 June 2007

Clearing search pollution?

Now here's an interesting proposition ..

Today I'm thrilled to announce the Mahalo Greenhouse, a place where the public can build search results that-if accepted by our Guides-will be included in the Mahalo search index.

Oh yeah, if we accept your search result we will pay you $10 to $15 per search result (the range is based on how many search results you've completed: more here).

Now, if you're a disciple of Yochai and you absolutely will not work on a web-based project for money, we've got an amazing proposition for you: make the web better by writing spam-free search results and we'll donate your fees to the Wikimedia Foundation. So, you can make the world better 2x: first by making clean, spam- free search results and second by helping keep the Wikipedia running (those server bills ain't cheap!).

We've earmarked up to $250,000 in donations to the Wikipedia this year.

I love Wikipedia. They've got me already. Have lost several hours in Wikimapedia, which is brilliant and growing. I just tried 'Paradise garage' and got nowt though ... it'll grow..

Web Guru, Dan Gilmor, loves it. He blogs that Maholo founder Jason Calacanis, at the NMK event in London this week, called for wide efforts to rid the Net of the pollution he says threatens to choke off all of the value.

Calacanis hates SEO, calling them 'one of the worst polluters. (Click on his slide, left, to see a trajectory of decline.).

But, he says, blogs have so far responded fairly well with antibodies. (The “blogs” slide at right has a happier ending.) Naturally, he pitches his new company as an andidote for part of the problem.

There’s no question that the major Internet companies (read Google, Yahoo, Microsoft et al) have not done enough to curb the pollution. But do we really want to toss out the part of this that machines handle so well? I don’t think so.

Gilmor is reminded of the Open Directory Project, which ironically is a pillar of Google - "but this time with payments for the editors. Not a bad idea."

As I said, not a bad proposition ...

Thursday 14 June 2007

Tuesday 12 June 2007

GMaps UK - finally

Just noticed (thanks Google Sightseeing), that Google Maps appears to have updated England to high-res — including one of my favourite places in the Whole Wide World .. Sheringham. yay!

Here's the boating pond ...

Tide's in. Here's the beach where I once rode on a Donkey ;]


Google and privacy. And?

Following John Battelle on Google's big slap (BBC etc) on privacy:

The original release from Privacy International (yow, that's not good).
The Media Story. (ouch, wow, says Average Joe Newsreader, Google sucks).
Danny (the counterintuitive Google defense).

In the end, this is only going to play poorly for Google. Sure, folks like us might read Danny or TC and realize the story has more than one angle. But two or three orders of magnitude more folks will only read the Media Story.

Google, get out in front of this one....

According to GMSV:

Google has countered that the PI report misunderstands its services and is based on inaccurate information. Google also apparently pointed out that a member of the PI advisory board works for Microsoft and therefore the watchdog group has an anti-Google bias, which drew an open letter to Google CEO Eric Schmidt from PI Director Simon Davies demanding an apology.

Battelle suggest I read Donna Bogatin (her of the 'Inside Chatter'). She thinks:

Google is WRONG On Consumer Privacy

She mainly has a go at Matt Cutts, one of Google's Bloggers.

Google defied the {Department of Justice] DOJ not in solidarity for its users, but in defense of its business model and competitive stance.

In any event, Google may not even be able to find its users data to comply with all of the DOJ’s demands! I recently discovered a “reason” for Google’s inconsistency in its privacy and data practices: Google apparently does NOT readily know where its users’ data is in the Google cloud, according to its top privacy point man!

Peter Fleischer indicates that Google doesn’t automatically know where user data is. So what, he nevertheless suggests. Fleischer is Global Privacy Counsel for Google and, as Google proudly declares, sits on the Board of the International Association of Privacy Professionals.

And ... ?

It is surprising then that he cavalierly declares “Your data is in the cloud,” somewhere.

Surprising? Not only does this expose the real lack of depth of understanding by PI but also the - frankly - luddism.

As Bogatin constantly returns to, Google's interest is itself.

And ... ?

There are gawd knows how many companies who would have to say - “Your data is in the cloud”. What's it with Google, eh?

They have no interest in breaking the basic bond on privacy with their customers. That would end their business (the Googlers would get terribly upset for one thing ...). Do they actually want Google to stop producing stuff like Maps and Earth until they approve it?

Here's Danny Sullivan at Search Engine Land:

Privacy International’s report is based on quite a bit of secondhand information there. “Overall, looking at just the performance of the best companies PI found shows that Google measures up well–and thus ranking it the worse simply doesn’t seem fair,” he writes. “But the bigger issue is that the report itself doesn’t appear to be as comprehensive or fully researched as it is billed. Frankly, about the only thing saving Privacy International from many more companies or services being upset over this report is that they singled out Google as the worst. That’s almost guaranteed to make players like Microsoft and Yahoo shut their mouths and point at this silently as vindication they aren’t so bad.”

I just Googled 'Google and privacy' and look what's top:

News results for Google and privacy

- View today's top stories
Group Criticizes Google Over Privacy Practices - FOX News - 3 hours ago
Defending Google's approach to privacy - Guardian Unlimited - 9 hours ago
Google Maps aids terrorists, NY lawmaker warns - Register - 3 hours ago

Google as Big Brother

Inquiries to Google about their privacy policies are ignored. When the New York Times (2002-11-28) asked Sergey Brin about whether Google ever gets ... - Similar pages - Note this

Google's Privacy Policies

UPDATE 2004-07-18: A new California law, the Online Privacy Protection Act, went into effect on July 1, 2004. Google changed their main privacy policy that ... - Similar pages - Note this
[ More results from ]

Google balances privacy, reach | CNET New

Sunday 10 June 2007

Bytes · Smart kids - BBC3 satirised - Satisfaction is key

Way too busy to blog much so here's some clips:

  • Tom Steinberg's 'Power of Information Review' is available in PDF here.
  • Marc Andreessen (Netscape) has popped the idea that we're in another dotcom 'bubble' on his new blog.
  • According to The Observer:
    Thousands of schoolchildren have made it their mission to break through internet filters in schools meant to stop them surfing 'social network' websites such as Bebo, MySpace and Facebook.

    More power to them.
  • Privacy International says that Google has the worst privacy policies of any Web company. They have a "comprehensive consumer surveillance and entrenched hostility to privacy," it's claimed.

    The problem I have with this is that privacy campaigners don't seem to ever realise that the foundations of all Web businesses is consumer trust. This is why banks make special efforts. If Google is ever caught out seriously it will pay in lost business.
  • Media types are apparently on the hunt for an anonymous blogger making life hell for BBC3's young Controller, Danny Cohen. Thetvcontroller is great satire.
  • ZDNet interviews Sir Tim Berner-Lee [VIDEO], the Director of the World Wide Web Consortium at the MITX (Massachusetts Innovation and Technology Exchange) Technology Awards. He sounds terribly mid-Atlantic and talks about the (drumroll) 'semantic web'. He doesn't like APIs, he wants you to think SPARQL.
  • The LibDems put down a motion in the Commons on Friday on the 53rd Anniversary of the death of Alan Turing.

    Every programmer or web person should know Turing's name.

    I was shamefully corrected (thanks Seb) and, as I've a mo, here's Alan's lifestory from Andrew Hodges tribute website (my emphases):

    Who was Alan Turing?
    Founder of computer science, mathematician, philosopher,
    codebreaker, strange visionary and a gay man before his time:

    1912 (23 June): Birth, Paddington, London
    1926-31: Sherborne School
    1930: Death of friend Christopher Morcom
    1931-34: Undergraduate at King's College, Cambridge University
    1932-35: Quantum mechanics, probability, logic
    1935: Elected fellow of King's College, Cambridge
    1936: The Turing machine, computability, universal machine
    1936-38: Princeton University. Ph.D. Logic, algebra, number theory
    1938-39: Return to Cambridge. Introduced to German Enigma cipher machine
    1939-40: The Bombe, machine for Enigma decryption
    1939-42: Breaking of U-boat Enigma, saving battle of the Atlantic
    1943-45: Chief Anglo-American crypto consultant. Electronic work.
    1945: National Physical Laboratory, London
    1946: Computer and software design leading the world.
    1947-48: Programming, neural nets, and artificial intelligence
    1948: Manchester University
    1949: First serious mathematical use of a computer
    1950: The Turing Test for machine intelligence
    1951: Elected FRS. Non-linear theory of biological growth
    1952: Arrested as a homosexual, loss of security clearance
    1953-54: Unfinished work in biology and physics
    1954 (7 June): Death (suicide) by cyanide poisoning, Wilmslow, Cheshire.

  • Worrying statement in a report about a survey on what people want from DirectGov:
    "With 60% of respondents saying they want more government services in one place online, all of the insights we gained will be taken into consideration as we plan the future of Directgov."

    Sounds like a leading question to me. I hadn't noticed the public clamouring to have their services all just through DirectGov.
  • Customer satisfaction is now the most important issue for websites, according to new research by ForeSee Results.
    Consumers look at more factors than price, according to the study. Offering the lowest price isn't always the best strategy; it increased overall satisfaction for only 5 percent of the top 100 online retail sites. "Site experience and brand, if improved, will have the biggest payback to retailers," said [Larry] Freed, ForeSee CEO. "On the opposite side we have price, generally the lowest of any other elements."

    Retailers that don't allow consumer ratings and reviews, or editorial reviews, on their sites risk letting consumers go elsewhere for the information and transacting with another commerce site, according to Freed. "Those that get reviews are generally more satisfied and apt to purchase than those who did not," he said.

  • SpyBlog seems to be moving around the web (ahem). But it is one of only a few places watching the Government's "vague plans to try to censor the internet".
  • New York Times covers Doll Web Sites Drive Girls to Stay Home and Play

  • Newsnight ran another MSM hit-job on the Web's trustfulness [VIDEO] as a source this week.

    First up in their 'argument', Wikipedia. Listen, Newsnight, not only does the MSM NEVER admit it's mistakes but scientific study has demolished many of your arguments. Just look at this Nature story from 2005 comparing Wikipedia with Brittanica (the BBC covered it). Guess who's winning? It's not the MSM.

    BBC News job cuts
    are obviously already affecting Gavin Esler's research assistance.

  • UofC psychology researchers have found another use for Second Life: improving understanding of Schizophrenia. According to The Big Issue, they've set up a Virtual Hallucinations building which will simulate the world as a schizophrenic experiences it. Examples include: voices, changing reflections in a mirror and a bookshop which appears to have fascist literature.

  • For one week only. First (yawnsome) full-length film available on youTube.

Thursday 7 June 2007

New reports

Too busy to read these ATM but what's become known as the Steinberg Review, The Power of Information: An independent review by Ed Mayo and Tom Steinberg, has been published on CommentOnThis.

Also, SOCITM has (finally) released Better marketed: achieving success with take-up of online services.

Don't listen to me, Dave, listen to My Mum

Parliament must listen to the blogger in his pyjamas - Cameron

According to The Register:
A Conservative Party task force examining democratic participation proposes that online petitions should help set the parliamentary agenda. The four proposals above are just some of the open petitions recently accepted by the No.10 Downing Street website. In other words, these are the sensible ones: over 10,000 have been rejected. (This one, for example, was quite inexplicably deemed to be outside the scope of Government.)

"I would like to see a system whereby, if enough people sign an online petition in favour of a particular motion, then a debate is held in Parliament, followed by a vote - so that the public know what their elected representatives actually think about the issues that matter to them," said Cameron in a canned statement.

Which drew the Reg's acid tongue:
Gentlemen - start your scripting engines.

What is it with geeks and acid tongues?

Look, Dave, I don't want to be at the head of the 'being listened to .. ' queue just because I can log on and participate. There are 15 million like my Mum who aren't near the starting blocks. Talk that one up for a change.

A piece from today's Guardian Technology seems apt to link to:
Since the 1960s, politicians and pundits have predicted the imminent arrival of a digital utopia in which robots would do the washing up and we would live in peace and harmony in an electronically connected, global village, thanks to the net.

So why are the utopian visions of 40 years ago strangely similar to the ones we hold today? Because business and political leaders have consistently pushed a carefully orchestrated fantasy of the future to distract us from the present, says Richard Barbrook, who explores the subject in Imaginary Futures - From Thinking Machines to the Global Village.


He is particularly interested in exposing the "nonsense of technological determinism", which he describes as "the theory that someone builds a machine, the machine sprouts legs and runs around the world changing it".

Wednesday 6 June 2007

Web 2.0 - the year ahead?

14th World Editors Forum in Cape Town, South Africa yesterday.

Adam Pasick, Reuters virtual journalist in Second Life; Dave Panos, chief executive officer, Pluck; Rebecca MacKinnon, co-founder, Global Voices; Facebook afficionado Richard Sambrook, director, BBC Global News; and Didier Pillet, director of information, Ouest-France (speaking in French with English translation overdubbed).

Tuesday 5 June 2007

Bytes · YouTube transfers - Psychology of banner ads - Mash up Excel

Catching up .. clearing the scrapbook ...

Stevie Ryan, AKA Little Loca, has become the first YouTube discovery to get her own network TV show. She'll co-host reality-based "Online Nation". The half-hour series will showcase user-generated clips found on YouTube, Revver and other sites.

I hate this stuff - Al Gore's CurrentTV would be watchable if they got rid of the amateurish 'announcers' top-n-tailing some actually interesting product. Maybe that appeals to teenagers, doesn't to me. They'll be a looot more of this ... Little Loca's definitely got a demographic, girlfriend. Pour moi? One clip's enough. Later!


    The psychology of banner ads
    repeated exposure to a product via banner ads generates a positive feeling towards that product.

    repeated exposure to a stimulus that's barely perceptible can enhance a person's feelings towards what's otherwise a neutral object

    familiarity-based advertising may work best for impulse buys, where more detailed evaluations aren't likely to occur


    An OpenNet Initiative report has found - apart from what you'd think about the usual suspects
    no evidence of filtering in more than a dozen of the surveyed countries, among them Russia, Venezuela, Egypt, Hong Kong, Israel and Iraq.


    Motivation, context, and citizen analysis of government data
    Swivel is just one place showing how communities can use stats mashups. Jon Udall examines another on his blog and points at his own mash-up which, neighbourhood by neighbourhood, is publishing/explaning crime stats details.

    Talking about 'patient intimidation', he comments:
    Similarly, when your neighborhood is sick, you’ll be motivated to engage with government data, and you’ll build yourself a context for that.
    He likes Excel.

Monday 4 June 2007

MSFT Search Skunk Works

Microsoft have just handed the development of their next generation (aka 'stealth', aka 'MSFT Search Skunk Works') search engine to 25 yo Sanaz Ahari

From Fast Company:

Ahari is widely credited with helping pioneer a new way of programming the Web. She's currently working on the Live Search team, preparing to launch her fourth new product since she arrived at Microsoft from college.

"Gadgets are making the entire Web a canvas. Gadgets (or widgets, as they're also known) are small programs that can reside online or on the desktop and perform a simple, single task, such as keeping track of your recipes. They usually extend an existing product or service, and they're primarily for the display of personalized information.

I can see a whole new level of advertising through gadgets. An early example was when Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) had that Da Vinci Code gadget--a replica of the 'cryptex,' the cylindrical decoder device from the book and movie. You could take the puzzle and put it on your Web page for your friends to discover. That was great. Create something cool, and people will distribute your brand for you. And content will become the new forum for advertising.

Users will tell you if you're doing it right. When I launched Microsoft's (NASDAQ:MSFT), a gadget-powered home page, we released a weather gadget with only Fahrenheit capability. That was really bad of me as a Canadian--but after people complained, we had Celsius up there almost immediately. I was so delighted to really connect with customers and show that Microsoft is not a big, bad, evil thing.

Now all these startups are creating widgets. It's kind of exciting but a little out of control. Everyone has their own standards, and they aren't as portable as they should be. Users should be in control of data and be able to put widgets on any Web site they want. They also need an effective way to find the best ones for them. I don't worry about progress, though. This is still in its infancy."

DirectGov: follow-up

Now I've seen the actual 'secret' DirectGov blog posts and it doesn't say anything about actual post content by Moi. I'm just so hurt ... [weeps, exits curtain left ... ]

It notes mine and other blogs and sounds like a lone voice (it's another Paul) trying to attract attention just to our existence ... poor sod ..

I have spotted some suspicious search patterns as well as the direct links by the way (Paul). Not that I'm bovvered of course ...

Simon Dickson quotes from their RSS Feed on his blog and has commented some more..

Sunday 3 June 2007

Bytes · Avoiding the O/S - StreetView - Gears

.. catching up again ...

The Guardian notes that 'Councils bypass Ordnance Survey for Google Maps', highlighting Brent's use and focusing on the savings against paying the ogres of Ordnance Survey.

Couple of other things:

  1. Using Google Maps gets you into the much wider world of the web, widgets'n'all and gives you the ability to tap into exemplars in a way generally not available elsewhere in eGov. It bypasses 'has a council used that? too risky otherwise'.
  2. It is risky. I could see Google charging for it, ad-free. This is why the Telegraph's dropped them.


Raf Needleman reports on Webware that Google image search recognizes faces (it's in beta, live but unnanounced)

[Do a search], go into the address bar and stick this on the end of the URL: &imgtype=face. Go to that URL and you'll see just image search results of people.

You can also search for news results: Append &imgtype=news.


Google Maps StreetView isn't new. Heard that? Virtually none of the shock-horror media seem to have noticed that A9 have been doing the same thing for ages.

Google Sightseeing has a Street View Roundup

Here’s a guy taking a pee into a bush in San Francisco!

Although, this all seems strangely familiar


Google sees Gears, which is open source and was much reported this week as a direct attack on MS, as a Standard.

“We feel very strongly about this being an industry effort and being a standard. We want this to be the one way that developers can add offline capabilities to their applications,” says Jeff Huger, Google’s VP of engineering, during the keynote for the company’s global Developer Day.

More on Tim Anderson's blog and Search EngineLand.


DirectGov search marketing

DirectGov has been in the eGov eye in the past week as an internal blog of theirs is picked up from website logs (including mine, hello there DirectGov, pay attention now, you can always hit 'anonymous' in comments ... ).

But I've also noticed them increasingly using Search Marketing, alongside some other big government agencies, especially the NHS as well as some rather odd government advertisers.

I'll just look at one term, but you could extrapolate to the general approach.

And here's what is it: happening, welcome, but not very efficient and either ill-advised or ill-directed.

I did some searches around 'pregnancy' when I blogged about Davina McCall's show on the issue of SexEd for Channel Four, two months back.

I went back and did the searches again and the results are almost the same.

Caveats: I don't do Search Marketing full-time for a living, which also means I don't have the full toolkit. Also, when your search budget runs out the ads disappear - they could have advertised against all sorts of terms and it's not showing just right now.

Following comments and from private email about the technicalities, I'd add that budgets, commercial competition and matching issues are all relevant of course - a comment about the importance of content in the search context is particularly relevant to eGov.

I've added more at the end.

Click on the screengrabs for the larger version.

Here's organic results for 'pregnancy'. At that point (end of March) the Child Trust Fund was advertising against that keyword. DirectGov appeared when you selected 'uk only' or if you came in via They're not right now and all the top results today are commercial.

On 'Teenage pregnancy', DirectGov show up (they still do, but only if you start at But this is a category title of theirs, I don't think it's much of an organic search term.

Would you search on 'teenage pregnancy' if you were a teenager? Obviously it's searched on, just probably not by the key market. I suspect this is in the list simply because it's government's metadata.

Also, the first result is for the Cabinet Office Unit (useless for a pregnant teenager), but the lack of commercial interest in this term just underlines the likelihood that users don't actually use it.

After that point though the marketing stops.

People don't just search on 'pregnancy', they search on a whole bunch of related terms, the total of which would be significantly more than 'pregnancy' and some of which are particularly relevant.

You can see this simply by seeing what gets advertised against.

A holistic, efficient campaign covers the typos too.

Terms like 'pregnancy yoga', 'pregnancy calendar', 'pregnancy symptom', 'sign of pregnancy', 'pregnancy nutrition' — even 'pregnancy test'.

But if you try 'ectopic pregnancy' (then, not now), government ads (NHS) appeared again.

This strongly suggests to me an internal hand guiding what they'd advertise against rather than taking advice (though I never discount the 'it was just a f*** up' explanation and I fail to understand how a big agency could put their name to it) because those are the sorts of internal list terms which drive eGov — not user-defined terms.

Google is not the only SE. Particular SEs have particular audiences.

The NHS, I notice, was extending to Yahoo on 'pregnancy'. MSN/LiveSearch has a skew towards a female audience.

The reason why all this is of any importance is simply because this is how people find government services. The vast, vast majority online and a rapidly growing majority for Google.

Search is the gatekeeper to Government services online, but in failing to take up Search Marketing with any seriousness government is abandoning citizens to the market for their advice at crucial moments.

This is even more important when — as a result of a wider failure around linking — government advice does not show up automatically or with any consistency at the top of organic results.

Readers with children potentially searching for pregnancy or STDs or sexuality information discreetly online might be interested to see who is actually advising them.

It's not the government.


Addendum: I don't think that the budget considerations or the technical issues involved with budget choices undermine the basic point: this is how people are finding information and where is the government?

With budgets, they need to change. As is rapidly happening with marketing in general, more needs to be spent on search marketing and less on newspaper ads.

The comments about all the issues involved are all right but that doesn't stop others from testing different approaches. You can't do that unless a good SEM can just get on with doing their job without being second-guessed.

The big issues I think are the commercial competition and how to wade in. Thinking about that makes my head spin because it's not just commercial considerations, it's moral and political and lots more.

I don't pretend there's much thought elsewhere going on about this but, at base, how long is the market going to define the terms (literally, if you think of long tail keyphrases!) by which YOUR child finds information? That's what's actually happening.

And it's good that DirectGov + NHS have dabbled. It's a start but it's too slow. Government has to either regulate (Bill Thompson's idea) or engage (or go 'lalala. can't hear you .. ' or shoot-the-messenger).

With the stuff I found, I think it's telling me that someone who thinks they're important needs to stop pretending they understand Search Marketing and hand the deciding on things like the actual spend, the terms, to someone like the commentator on this post who obviously does do it for a living (and/or fire the agency who don't).

Give the qualified SEM a realistic trial budget and let them PROVE their worth. Then share the findings.