Friday 28 September 2007

Te Ara - the pompous talking to the stupid ?

Can't help but share and respond to a challenging comment to my last post from John, who takes strong exception to my enthusiasm for Te Ara. So, thanks for the comment John. I guess if you begin a post with a bias warning, then you can expect an equally robust response. But it could provoke a counter response. I'm up for others two cents worth - but here's mine. So here we go.

First, thanks for the comment/response. You obviously feel very strongly about Te Ara, so I guess there must be some kind of professional, or maybe even, on the taxpayer thing, some political angle to the strength of your views?

Te Ara Design
As to the design - for sure it could lighten up a bit, and it does get a tad dense on occasion - but I totally stand by my own opinion around the information architecture - the use of themes instead of an A/Z encyclopedia approach, and the way they have chunked the material into different sizes for different kinds of audiences is, IMHO, very effective.

Pompous people to stupid people
That said I'm more interested in engaging with your other strongly held critique - that .." Te Ara is a top down elitist channel from pompous people to stupid people.... that people don't need experts .. that the material is badly written .. and that the primary audience is other pompous people"

Frankly, I think the tone of the above is sheer tosh. But whatever.

The Expert?
However, I do think your post is well worth engaging with on the issue of the place for the 'authoritative expert' in this brave new world of web 2.0 citizen created content.

Curiously, I'm the guy who is more often or not seen as the champion of the non authoritative voice. But as I suspect you long since guessed, I'm also on the side of the expert, and totally believe there is a need for peer reviewed walled gardens.

However, before you explode into another bout of well structured and well written - bah humbug - I'm also equally clear that the the gates to the walled garden need unlocked , and that ultimately, the voice of the expert is best heard inside a conversation in which other voices can both participate and contribute to the ongoing vitality of the topic.

But let's be clear here - that doesn't at all mean that the primary loci of the online expert voices abandon their individuality, structure, and give way to a cacophony of other voices.

Moreover, offering Wikipedia as an alternative doesn't help here - the notion that Wikipedia doesn't have subject experts is superficial at best - most articles are shaped and grown by a panel of contributors, who, by definition, have assigned themself an authority to speak. Indeed, increasingly, this authority to speak is in turn validated by the growing structure of editorial control that has crept into Wikipedia.

Collaboration Spaces
However I do believe, and I suspect we might even manage a grudging agreement here, that Te Ara, and other formal sources need to allow their pages to be exported into new collaboration, and/or learning spaces. I also believe that Wikipedia should do the same.

In short, I believe the future is not around trying to navigate debates around the benefit of formal - informal : expert- citizen created content.

Rather I strongly hold the view our energies should be pointed at either writing or persuading people to develop open API's, federated search and discovery tools, which people can use inside their own digital spaces

My Studio
As to what these personal collaboration spaces might look like? Who knows? But I'm equally strongly of the view that the likes of My Space and Facebook are pale shadows of the potential that we could build to manage our growing digital lives.

My own way of talking about this is to imagine what might be in an online space I call My Studio.
As it happens , it would probably be full of what you call pompous voices - but thats my choice, and hey, we don't have to share. But we could if we choose.

For myself, I'm totally up for the challenge of not just making studio spaces - and finding partners who share the potential of the idea - and persuading the mainstream knowledge factories , both public and commercial to put their content into them - and that includes Te Ara.

So, for me, not only is Te Ara welcome to their money, I totally believe, they are a welcome part of a learning revolution in which the expert voice is as welcome around the fireseide as yourself.
p.s. my favourite example of so called experts talking about their subjects is In Our Time - BBC Radio series - the new series has just started at
But hey - maybe its just more deluded pompous people talking to more stupid people.

Thursday 27 September 2007

Te Ara : The Bush now online

A warning
I need to begin with a warning. This is not an unbiased post. I love this project. Te Ara, for me, is a world leading project - both in the idea behind it, the execution, and the professional depth of purpose that underpins it.

The Project
First, the project - develop over 10 years an online equivalent of the Encyclopedia of New Zealand using best practice online methodologies.
The Execution
Second , the execution - bring together a whole raft of contributors - writers, editors, photography, heritage sources, et al.
The Professional Practice
Third, the professional practice - i.e figure out how all this has to be architected so that the user can navigate thorough the complexity while retaining the sense of the overall story.

In short, keeping the faith with both the subject expert - the audience - and the online medium.
So no pressure then!

The Bush
The latest theme, the Bush has 106 entries covering the landscapes, plants and animals of New Zealand as well as conservation and outdoor recreation. You can see it here.

These include entries on Maori and European exploration, Maori topics such as Taniwha and Patupairehe, and scientific entries on the eco-regions and the evolution of plants and animals.

It was was compiled by 54 leading scientists and features, has more than 2500 images, 200 maps and diagrams and 146 videos.

In short go get there.

Tuesday 25 September 2007

Internet - 1960's style

Thanks to uber info guru Simon Riley of Internet NZ for this really nice piece from You Tube on how something like the Internet was imagined.
Off to chair the Digital Media & Content at the Staford Plaza for the next two days. Quite a line up of speakers - including most of the main stream media players and/or their strategists.

Thursday 20 September 2007

Bodgies - Mazengarb Report - Today in NZ History

Bodgie Day
Today, the 20th September is the anniversary of the publication of the famous New Zealand Mazengarb report on juvenile 'moral delinquency' of 1954.

I discovered this when, to my absolute pleasure I revisited the NZ History site - the sister online project to Te Ara and the History Group of the NZ Ministry of Culture and Heritage

It has had a makeover since the last time I visited. My apologies if this happened months ago - but it was news to me - a brand new design and any amount of content that I had hitherto either forgotten about, or more likely, had been lost to view inside the old site.

Whatever the outcome, and however, Johnny come lately this correspondent might be, I wanted to acknowledge it, and tell people to get themselves over there.

The Mazengarb Report
Then, even better I discover that this is the anniversary of Mazengarb Report - with its totally over the top declamations on how modern youth were going to hell in a hand basket, that the girls were the worst of the lot, or as the site has it, the report : 'blamed the perceived promiscuity on the absence from home of working mothers, the availability of contraceptives and young women who entice men into having sex'


Brilliant stuff, especially as I discover that the report is on Gutenberg and that NZ History have a page of supporting image and sound material on Children and Adolescents, 1930-1960, including bodgies, et al.

See the NZ History site for the main entry ,
NZ History also offer these external links.

Finally, I looked up one of the secondary sources, Arthur Edward Manning, The Bodgie, a study in abnormal psychology, on WorldCat. Hooray! It works - shows me the holdings from 21 of the New Zealand Libraries which stock it.
Must try this trick again!

Wednesday 19 September 2007

TVNZ: Tripper Map : mapping the world - to mapping New Zealand knowledge

TVNZ - Breakfast TV
I'm still doing a semi regular spot on the TVNZ Breakfast Show. It is of course semi addictive for people like me to be asked. And yes, I do enjoy the opportunity to flick a story into the kind of areas of I am really passionate about. Sometimes this is more accidental than planned. This week was a case in point.

The video is here.

Tripper Map
In the video you will hear us discussing Tripper Map. Paul Henry the TVNZ c0-breakfast host is a notorious cynic about community lead web 2.0 stuff - so I knew that asking to talk about a tool which allowed people to put their photos on a Google Map or Google Earth was just giving him an open goal. And , of course, he went straight for it - 'why would I want to look at other peoples holiday snaps. Paul".

Good question - and a great opportunity to talk about how Flickr can produce their own flash mobs of interest, and that people were interested in sharing their material.

Mapping NZ Knowledge
But I was also able to make the connection that being able to mash photos onto Google Maps , or Google Earth was a brilliant precursor to the time when knowledge assets, stories, and other pieces of community memory, activism and research assets can be mapped using the same kind of technology that created Tripper Map.

All The Goodness
Best of all I was able to tell him that Tripper Map site uses the original code developed by the Wellington based Mark Zeman & Katie McAlpine of All The Goodness

Mark now teaching at Massey University since leaving Morse Media, the Wellington company he cofounded with Aaron Dustin. See Mark's portfolio here. Not sure what Katie is up to - but happy to redress the silence if required.

Building a New Zealand Knowledge Map.
Going forward, I'm also very keen to explore more on this notion of a New Zealand knowledge map. I'd like to link it to the idea of building a store of New Zealand Creative Commons material - i.e. make the knowledge map a way of seeing and accessing pieces of digital content that have been put into the Creative Commons domain.

Peoples Network
I'm also keen to see this idea attached to some of the content thinking that is currently being explored as part of the Peoples Network project.

In short, watch this space - there are plots to be hatched - places to visit and peole to pester.

NZ Navy - Virtual Frigate
Footnote one: One of Mark Zeman's other credits was the NZ Navy site way back in the early 90's. I remember this as a winner of the TUANZ, Interactive New Zealand Awards. The big irony was the winning feature on the site for the New Zealand Navy, a virtual frigate, was announced on the day that Max Bradford, the then Minister of Defense had his case for new frigates turned down by his Cabinet colleagues.

It was never reported whether the virtual frigate Interactive New Zealand win helped soothe his disappointment.

Footnote Two : Speaking of Flickr campaigns, just great to see the National Library Innovation team's library card campaign taking off - story here.

Tuesday 18 September 2007

NZTE: Beaglehole: early essays on Captain James Cook

Just in from the ever excellent and totally to be supported New Zealand Electronic Text Center.
Their latest addition to the NZETC collection is a series of essays by historian and Cook scholar John Cawte Beaglehole, the renowned Captain James Cook scholar and biographer.

As they would have once said in the hallowed halls of cold and damp Oxford, after Beaglehole, there was precious little left to say.

Actually, I'm not sure about that. Anne Salmond's recent The Trial of the Cannibal Dog is a bit of all right, and the more, shall we say, populist, Captain James Cook , by Richard Hough has survived three clean outs on my bookshelves.

But old Beaglehole - well it has to be said, he is definitely, the business. And so a big thanks to the NZETE for giving us this brilliant set of 10 essays from the early work around both the three volumes of "The Journals of Captain James Cook on his Voyages of Discovery" and the biography "The Life of Captain James Cook".

The essays, date from 1956 to 1970, cover aspects of Cook's character and the process of editing the journals:

Note: the NZETC are able to publish these texts online thanks to the kind permission of Professor Tim Beaglehole.

These essays add to a small collection of letters and academic works by J C Beaglehole already available as part of the NZETC collection.

The NZETE are always pleased to receive any comments about the texts or the collection in general.

The Captain Cook Journals
You can find the full text of Cook's Journal from his first Pacific Voyage ("James Cook's Journal of Remarkable Occurrences aboard His Majesty's Bark Endeavour, 1768-1771") online as part of the National Library of Australia's South Seas project
The State Library of New South Wales in Sydney has a brilliant digital set of the papers of Joseph Banks

Monday 17 September 2007

Papers Past

Way back when, [2001] I was invited into the office of Graham Coe of the National Library of New Zealand to be shown the early draft of a project they were working on - Papers Past.

I also met its midwife - Steve Knight - who when asked , is it searchable, said - 'not yet'. Well, it is now! Take a bow the newly relaunched - re-designed [very smart linconshire green] and of course a search box.

I love this project. For the record, it's an online resource of 19th-century New Zealand newspapers and periodicals. From the New Zealand Advertiser and Bay of Islands Gazette in Northland to the Mataura Ensign in Southland. At its launch in 2001, it carried 300,000 digitised pages of New Zealand newspapers held in the Alexander Turnbull Library collection. Today, the site features more than one million digitised pages from 44 publications.

I know it's had its critics - "Why digitise these papers? Why not these over there. Why not this photographic collection? "

How can you answer this ?

Doesn't it all just come down to choice - that no matter how many collection policy manuals you write, and how many stakeholders you consult, at the end of the day you do just that. Choose.

And if in the process you get a mile of expertise, and a bunch of staff who have figured out what do , and what not to do, the next time, then that, as they say, 'is a very good thing indeed'.

So take a bow the newly searchable Papers Past.

Detachable Search Box / API ?
But please , can I have a detachable search box? Then I can put it on my blog - and other web sites, likes your peers in the public library world could embed it on their heritage pages?
Now there's an idea? You might even want to think about an API so that people can start using the material it in their own projects?

[I know - never satisfied some people - just can't please them - have they ANY idea of the amount of work it took to get to this stage!]

Thursday 13 September 2007


ARTSPACE, the Auckland contemporary art gallery has a new web site. McGovern Online helped plan it, design it, and provide the gallery and content management tools.The content, is of course all theirs!

It's just great to see the effort they have put it into this content. The Exhibition section goes back 10 years! Go have a look - its just such a brilliant example of how a contemporary art gallery can, over time, build themselves into an institution of contemporary art practice. Here is the link to 1997 -then take it on from there.

You might also like to check out the editions - there is some really interesting work in there. Some of them might even end upon your wall.

Artspace also have a unique back catalogue of their publications. These too are extensively documented on the site.

Public Space
During exhibitions Artspace run a regular Saturday Talk series at 3pm. These events are free.You get to hear invited speakers responding to the work. These include artists, curators, critics, collectors, educators and art commentators.

Reading Room
They also have a Reading Room where visitors can come and browse a huge resource of local and international contemporary art publications. This is a one of a kind resource in Auckland that is free to view by anyone.

This was a great project for McGovern to contribute to; I would especially like to thank Ida Moberg from Artspace for being such a great partner on the client side - and of course,to Brian Butler, the Director, who green lighted the project and kept us all in mutual good humour throughout.

The current exhibition is the Californian artist Meg Cranston, The Pleasure of Obvious Problems, 4 August - 15 September more

NZ Digital Content Strategy

NZ Digital Content Strategy. I'm planning a longer post on this. However, for the moment, it's available for download here. Below is the core of the thinking - a wheel of possibility which will see New Zealand taking total leadership in the read - write - collaborate space.

LIANZA: Librarians have more fun

Just back from Rotorua and the LIANZA conference - the annual conference for the library and information flash mob of Aotearoa. This is my fifth. I have at spoken at three of them. They always surprise, and they always have a story.

Parking your prejudices.
This year I have three. First of course , with the exception of Charlie Gates of the Christchurch Press, the truly pathetic attempt by the New Zealand media to have a go at the stereotype of the librarian, as boring, stuffy, and basically past it.

I don't know which public library these guys make a point of never visiting, but they just might want to park their prejudices up on Ponsonby Road for ten minutes and mosie on down the hill to , for example, Auckland City Library on any Saturday afternoon.

There they will see a whole bunch of young, totally cool desk staff, who I'm sure could nail some jouros of my acquaintance with one look, especially if they come out with the self patronising twaddle of the likes of my sometime host Paul Henry on TVNZ Breakfast [ librarians are boring - bah humbug] -

The comments were sparked by the the news that Paula Ryan ex NZ Fashion, was coming to the Rotorua conference to give some hints on style. Some members of Libs - the NZ Library listserve took umbridge at this and it was all on from there.

Back at the conference, the room was packed. And, yes, your intrepid corespondent was there., albeit briefly. For the record I was wearing Workshop ,with a dash of hidden Elle McPherson, and, GAP, though I'm still never sure about the latter - qv. the famous BBC doco.

So what did I learn from Paula Ryan? Basically be tidy - and take your good clothes off when you get home from work - oh and first impressions count. At that point I left for another session.

Cambell Live on TV3 also did a spot. This is here.

NZ Blog Idol
As for more on the real deal on library land, you might also want to check out this story from Stuff - the NZ News portal, who have announced the winner their inaugural Blog Idol competition to be Christchurch librarian Moata Tamaira.

The 32-year-old won after three weeks of stiff competition against nine other bloggers, as they went head-to-head to win a year-long contract to join's blogging team.

So good on her. She has a really nice voice - opinions worth reading - attitude worth respecting, and turn of phrase worth waiting for.

Other recent voices in the New Zealand library blogsphere can be found at the newly launched National Library tech blog. This is a collaborative effort from a bunch of the younger National Library staff. They were very much in evidence at the conference, and at one point appeared to have taken over the National Library stand. Definitely a breath of fresh air.

There was also a really interesting poster/card campaign - much of which is now on Flikr, here.

Also worth checking out is the emerging voice of another National Library blog - this time from the School Services possie .

Tuesday 4 September 2007

War Art Online at Matapihi

News from the Mataphi , the metadata harvest portal to some key New Zealand heritage, art, library, and archive resources, both local and national.

They have announced that more than 600 artworks, including paintings and drawings, from War Art Online, a new digital collection from Archives New Zealand Te Rua Mahara o te Kāwanatanga, have been added to the Matapihi website at

War Art Online draws together artworks from New Zealand’s National Collection of War Art, covering major conflicts involving New Zealanders from World War One onwards.

The collection includes portraits, battle scenes, landscapes and abstract works, giving a picture of the men and women who served New Zealand in times of war, and the arenas in which they served.

They suggest, as an example, look for images from War Art Online on Matapihi, together with resources from other leading New Zealand heritage collections, by searching for battle areas such as “Monte Cassino” or “Tobruk”, or for war artists such as “Russell Clark”.

You can also view highlights from War Art Online and other multimedia content relating to New Zealand war histories and major events in the updated New Zealanders at War showcase here

Monday 3 September 2007

Auckland War Memorial Museum

M0re news - I write, with a small blush, to advise that I have a letter in front of me confirming my successful application to the Board of the Auckland Museum. Totally delighted by this - a little humbled, but determined to do my best in the role.

My primary pitch for inclusion as a candidate at the interview spoke to my belief that this was an world class institution who had the potential to develop a world class digital strategy.

I also gave them a strong message on the need for collaboration at the highest level by the heritage and knowledge sector - in short GLAM rules!

Now all I have to do is deliver on the rhetoric [ gulp!]

To help, I'm studying the published 10 year plan.

Going Bananas

Time to catch up with the world – too many things been happening – and not enough time for quiet contemplation. The big news is that mcgovernonline has moved offices to 3 Lorne Street/228 Queen Street – we have two entrances!
More on that later – but first some catching up.

Going Bananas
Two weekends ago had me at the Going Bananas Conference in the brand new Auckland University Business School. As per the last two conferences, this annual event brings together a whole bunch of different people all of whom claim, own, or are interested in being Chinese in New Zealand.

This is my second conference – I missed last year: however the first year had an energy that was palpable, an opportunity for the various Chinese communities [old and new settlers] to come together and start discussing a distinctly Chinese discursive formation in New Zealand.

The first one, I seem to recall spent a good deal of time discussing the differences between the different kinds of Chinese groups here in New Zealand – e.g. including some great sessions on the history of the poll tax generation who came to New Zealand in the late 19th – early 20th century, and going onto to the needs of the new primarily Beijing based new migrants.There was also a big contingent of people from the earlier wave of immigration in the 1980’s the children of whom are now busy making up the rich cultural mix that is any Auckland night club on a Saturday night.

This time round the sessions seemed to be looking more to how migrants already here, and those yet to come would be influenced by, or indeed, being part of the consequence of the extraordinary explosion of growth coming out of China and South East Asia.

On that, the session from Charlotte Glennie the ABC [ ex TVNZ] correspondent in Beijing was fascinating.

Mr Brown
I also really enjoyed the session with Mr Brown – the Singapore blogger whose podcasts have become a key part of the Singapore media , and offer a welcome layer of satire to the locked down political landscape.

Digital Communities Project
However , I was primarily at the Going Bananas conference to give support to the upcoming Digital Comm unites project which is being designed and built as a ‘community partnership’ project between the New Zealand Chinese Association [who organised the conference] and Auckland City Libraries.

The project is essentially a digital storytelling and community repository project with a bit of a twist. But it's a good twist!

But first, I should declare an interest here; I was part of the early discussions on this project. The idea was simple enough – albeit hard to do – develop a community/group story telling machine which gave people the tools to tell their story including being able to upload and store images, audio, video and documents .

The twist
However, the solution also needed to be clever enough to recognise the pattern of the story and then go off to ask various heritage and memory collections if they, in turn have anything on the topic or story being told. In addition the ACL resources would be searched and customised as resources and additions to the story, or the topics it includes.

So no pressure there then!
This was two years ago – since then there has been a welcome stream of energy around building community repositories – web 2.0 tools, and personal/group content tools, all of which not only validated the vision, but also gives as a few clues to where to start.

So, despite the length of time it has taken to get the funding I am really excited about seeing this project come alive.

It also feels like a perfect example of the logic and ambition behind the draft New Zealand Digital Content Strategy, and the notion of a creative partnership between formal institutional content and the community groups and individuals who, encounter, use, and reuse this kind of content.

But wait – there’s more!
The Auckland Digital Community story box should also have the ability to export the combined stories out into the world, provided the permissions from both parties allow. And for sure, there is an opportunity to use the New Zealand ported Creative Commons Licence as well.I’m told the ported NZ licence will be launched on the 28th October. See the site for details.

Kete Horowhenua
They are also auditioning the Horowhenua Trust Kete software, as the kernel to the solution.
I am really interested in seeing how all this pans out, and will definitely keep people posted.And of course, big ups to the Kete people for their nomination to the New Zealand selection for the World Summit Awards.

Lastly, the aforementioned Content Strategy is being launched from Wellington this coming Thursday – so more on that latter as well.