Wednesday 30 April 2008

Bebo and TVNZ go for the gap

Lewis Whatiri is a self proclaimed young Maori guy from Gisborne who has just won, in his own words, the big one - to be one of the ten young people who will spend the next 6 months as part of the Bebo Gap Year going around the world with the Reality TV producers, on a series of travel adventures to be streamed onto Bebo in 30mins programme sessions. Thereafter there are more adventures to come.

The Gap Year concept is a joint venture thing between Bebo and reality television producer Endemol UK. There will be three guys and three girls to represent the UK, Ireland, America, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. An interactive audition process was held and the video auditions shared on Bebo.

The Gap Year contestants draft itinerary includes Iceland, Namibia, Thailand, and Russia. They might also end up at the Rio Carnival, Brazil; Chinese New Year, China; Zen Week, Sri Lanka; Pagan Festivals, UK and the Full Moon Party Season, Thailand.

While out in the world they will blog and post online, as well as be filmed as part of the tv series. The tv plays on Bebo- with users able to tune into the series, with a half hour catch-up show will also be broadcast each week on the site. At this stage it's unclear as to whether the tv series will also be picked up by other main stream television syndicates.

Lewis's profile on Bebo is here. Why not visit and offer him some encouragement.

He deserves it. I meet him in the TVNZ Green room yesterday. He is a really engaging and very engaged young guy who understandable is over the moon to have been chosen as the New Zealand rep. As yet he still doesn't quite know where everyone s going and what will happen.

The TVNZ Breakfast TV interview is here. Warning, you also , by invitation, get me putting in my two cents worth.

TV on Bebo
As I say on the clip, it's definitely an intriguing idea. If young people [Bebo demographic is 16-25] are not watching television because they are on social networking sites, then , hey, it's simple - we will take the television to them. Better still, let's make it about them, and while we are at it, let's use the opportunity to give main stream TV channels the opportunity to advertise their programmes on TV.

TVNZ Bebo Partnership
And it all fits in this case. Late last year , New Zealand government owned state broadcaster TVNZ and Bebo announced just this partnership. The deal offers advertisers access to a combined audience of 1.5 million New Zealanders, and Bebo users access to TVNZ premium content.

Bebo said at the time they chose TVNZ as its exclusive partner for selling display and video advertising in New Zealand, because it combined Bebo's global reputation and TVNZ's local strengths in content delivery.

The deal was also seen as a way of offering substantially improved interactive marketing opportunities through a 'one stop shop' - accessing mass users through social networking site Bebo, reaching targeted audiences through and using in-stream video advertising on TVNZ ondemand.

TVNZ GM Digital & Interactive Sales, Mark Copplestone, was also reported as saying Bebo provides a mine of information about users' behaviours and preferences."We've now got three platforms: a mass market, a targeted, and a video platform which enable advertisers to do one deal and reach the majority of New Zealanders online. The specific information that Bebo,, and TVNZ ondemand provide ensures that every single ad that we serve is targeted individually to a consumer." The release is here

Note the personalisation comment - this isn't scatter gun advertising as we currently experience it. Like all social networking ad spend - the advertising that hits the Bebo page is targeted to the known preferences the Bebo users have freely offered up.

TVNZ - private company - state broadcaster.
So , is this okay ? I guess it depends on your point of view, If you see TVNZ as just another main stream, albeit subsidised and state owned, commercial broadcaster, then I suspect you'll applaud the welcome evidence that TVNZ understands its future is internet based.

However, what's the story around their social and charter responsibilities? Do they take them with them, or leave them back in analogue land, and/or the yet to set the world on fire, Freeview?

If the former, what was the long term gain to be got from the $80 million subsidy TVNZ received to get Freeview launched and some new digital channels up and running? Also, what's the status of the assets they have built up over the last 40 years, including the archives of programmes?

Who owns them? If they start popping up on Bebo is that okay?

'As we journey to digital'
It's an interesting set of questions, and one that I rarely hear debated around the recent public forums that are attempting to define the future of New Zealand television and technology regulation .

Round these sector consultation tables I've heard people say things like, 'as we journey towards digital' as an apparent shorthand for the vexed question of when to turn off the analogue signal, as well as a total absence of interest in what might be happening out on that internet thing.

With this announcement TVNZ are telling all of us they are already there. Perhaps the folks running this alarmingly complex review of broadcasting decisions and regulations in New Zealand should take note.

Monday 28 April 2008

Chris Batt and other voices

I am sitting in my own chair here in Auckland feeling for the lever which will put it back at the right angle, looking around at the bent paper clip I didn't leave on the desk, as well as wondering who 'tidied away' the last two chocolate biscuits I had in reserve for my next late afternoon sugar hit. Who says men can't multi task!

I have a whole week in Auckland ahead - the first of its kind in the past six weeks. Not that I'm complaining; in my time away I have had some brilliant encounters with a bunch of key institutions, and heard some interesting people speak about their plans and intentions. I even managed my own contribution to the IATUL conference last week.

Chris Batt
One of the people I spent time with was Chirs Batt, the former head of MLA, the UK agency promoting common thinking, ideas and policies between the UK Museum, Gallery, Archives and Library sector.

He had been over in the Australia with his partner Addie speaking at the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Library, Information and Resource Network (ATSILIRN) conference in Darwin. In addition he did some work with the state libraries of New South Wales and Queensland. 

He was also invited to New Zealand by the NZ National Library , and a session with Puke Ariki down in New Plymouth. There is a rumour that the National Library session was video taped. Hope so.

I attended the Puke Ariki session courtesy of an invite from the Director Bill Macnaught who in turn was once upon a lifetime a colleague of Chris's in the UK.

One of Chris's big ticket messages/insights is his concept of MyBerSpace. Although it might sound familiar - i.e. a personalised piece of the web which lets you store stuff like some kind of virtual squirrel, it goes a lot further than that.

Indeed it fits with my own current thinking on personalisation - rich learning spaces, and the need to understand that the next generation web will not only have the user at the centre - the user will be the centre.

The User is the Centre
You need to take a step back and have a real think to get the measure of how radical this idea is. 

It means going well beyond current web sites looking to be a little more user friendly - a little more web 2.0 - a little more conversational. 

Sources as bricks and mortar
It also means leap frogging past some of the, albeit admirable, new institutional thinking around 'DDI' - [discover , describe and interact] - to a point where we can start to see the notion of a semantic personalised web as a place where the user and his/her community of interest is able to interrogate sources and then use the latter as the bricks and mortar to build their own cyber intelligent home.

Naturally to get there we need to do some strong hard deep thinking. Moreover, I'm perfectly well aware that the results for some users may well be trivial - the equivalent of the pig in the tale's straw house.

But I also hold to the vision that many of these new cyber homes will be strong - i.e. be able to protect the user and his/her community, as well as offer rich collaborative stores of knowledge and influence, which in turn will be the place where new knowledge - new communities and new forms of democratic discourse can flourish.

A tad high falutin ? Who knows ? But the great thing about blogging is its ability to offer the beginnings of just such a place - where opinion - influence and argument can think itself into new kinds of action.

Other Voices
Speaking of sources of influence and argument, TED has just published a new set of talks - including these two, Brian Greene on String Theory, and Amy Tan on Creativity.
C. P. Snow, eat your heart out.

Auckland Writers Festival
Also waiting for me was a note to say that the Auckland Writers Festival has a neat set of video tasters from last years festival [using embedded YouTube]. Check out Fiona Farrell's really funny contribution on the Books left on Buses session. She nails the Stewart Island batch holiday in one.

Radio New Zealand
I have also discovered a set of audio from the Auckland Writers 2007 Festival from Radio New Zealand. I especially enjoyed the opening sessions on Writing about Visual Art where Linda Tyler chairs a wide-ranging session in which Hamish Keith, Justin Paton, of New Zealand and Matthew Collings, from the UK discuss the notion of writing about visual art. There are a bunch more here. Hidden treasure indeed. Thanks to Radio New Zealand.

Christchurch City Libraries
And finally, a wee plug to my old friends at Christchurch City Libraries. They have started their own build up to the festival including a page on the authors and writers with links to their works on their catalogue. Nice touch! Here!

Thursday 24 April 2008

Wednesday 16 April 2008

Paul Winstanley at Artspace

Paintings 1989 – 2007
26 APRIL - 31 MAY 2008

Artspace is one of Auckland's secrets. A contemporary art gallery which regularly pushes boundaries and perceptions, and sometimes, it works! Seriously, they have their own way of doing things and I am a big fan. McGovern Online also did its web site - and so I get their newletter as a matter of course. Their next exhibition is a stunner. I recommend you go and see it. What's the fuss - let Brian Butler, ArtSpace Director tell you for himself .

Curated by Brian Butler

"ARTSPACE is proud to present the first survey exhibition of the work of British artist Paul Winstanley. The exhibition includes a group of paintings from a recent Red Mansion Foundation exchange programme in China and a selection of paintings from 1989-2007.

Paul Winstanley says, “This is a rare opportunity to gather together a selection of paintings produced over a number of years, many of which have not been seen together before, and show them in the beautiful, simple galleries of ARTSPACE in Auckland. Much of the work is in private collections in the USA so I have not seen many of these paintings myself since they left my studio.”

“The book Threshold, which accompanies the exhibition, will hopefully give a context to the paintings being shown and demonstrate how many of the ideas evolve through different pieces and groups of paintings. Work continues and this exhibition provides a snapshot of work to date which I am enormously looking forward to seeing and which I hope the public will enjoy.”

Deriving from photographs he has taken himself, Winstanley’s paintings deal with the experience of looking. The architecture of vacant spaces such as waiting rooms, lecture halls, never-ending walkways are repeatedly revisited.

“The achievement of Winstanley’s paintings [...] is that he embeds this act of looking and the stages of unseeing within the work. This in turn produces a secondary level of conflation between the image and its reading. They cannot thereafter be separated. [...] The ‘repeated’ image might be simultaneous or consequential, but each make demands of readability upon the other.”, says Andrew Renton in his essay in the forthcoming book Paul Winstanley: Threshold.

Christel Fricke says, “One way to understand why the art of painting has survived the invention of new techniques for the production of images is to contemplate the works of Winstanley and to think about what these embodied images are and what effect they have on the viewer.”

Paul Winstanley: Threshold is a substantial 144-page full colour catalogue with texts by Andrew Renton, Director of Curating at Goldsmiths, University of London and Christel Fricke, Professor of Philosophy, University of Oslo. The book will be published by ARTSPACE and Clouds in conjunction with the exhibition.

Paul Winstanley lives and works in London. His paintings are widely held in international collections including the Tate Collection, The British Council, MOCA Los Angeles, Irish Museum of Modern Art. He exhibits regularly at galleries around the world. Solo exhibitions include Annexe, Art Now, Tate Gallery, London, 1997, Driven Landscapes, Camden Arts Centre, London, 1993. Group exhibitions include Inside Architecture, MOCA Los Angeles, 2008, Munch Revisited, Museum am Ostwall, Dortmund, Germany, 2005, Flashback, Kunstverein Freiburg, Germany, 2004, Watery, Domestic, The Renaissance Society, Chicago, 2002."

Paul Winstanley will give a public talk at ARTSPACE at 3pm on Saturday 26 April.


Tuesday 15 April 2008

ANZAC Day - Gallipoli Cine-film

Peter Jackson's Restoration of Gallipoli Cine-film to be Projected onto Auckland War Memorial Museum
22, 23 & 24 April 7.30pm - 10.00pm

This just in. "Auckland War Memorial Museum is commemorating ANZAC Day with a special set of offerings for Aucklanders in the lead-up to this year's ANZAC Day. The centrepiece will be the outdoor projection of the rare film "Heroes of Gallipoli." This rare film includes scenes of British, New Zealand and Australian troops.

It was shot by Ellis Ashmead-Bartlett, a famous English war correspondent. Oscar winning film director, Peter Jackson’s outstanding restoration has just been listed with the UNESCO’s Memory of the World programme.

Memorial images from the Museum's collection will also be projected. Aucklanders are invited to watch the 20-minute film from the steps of the Cenotaph and then come inside the Museum to sign a digital book of remembrance, look up relatives' war records on the Museum's Cenotaph database and enjoy some light refreshments from the cafe. For real film-buffs, wanting to see every detail, the movie will also be shown on screens inside."

Wednesday 9 April 2008

Auckland Writers Festival

The Programme - 14th - 18th May
The new site for the Auckland Writers Festival is up and running. They have details of this year’s line up – including :Man Booker Prize winners Anne Enright (The Gathering) and JM Coetzee (Diary of a Bad Year), Italian terrorism and economics expert Loretta Napoleoni (Terror Incorporated, Insurgent Iraq, Rogue Economics), food guru Michael Pollan (In Defence of Food and The Omnivore’s Dilemma)
Dominican-American Junot Díaz (The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao), hot-shot Lonely Planet scribe Thomas Kohnstamm (Do Travel Writers Go To Hell?), French writer Philippe Claudel (Grey Souls), from Australia Luke Davies (author of cult bestseller Candy), Gold Dagger winning crime fiction writer Peter Temple (The Broken Shore) and Derek Hansen (Remember Me), Canadians Ryan Knighton (Cockeyed) and Heather O’Neill (Lullabies for Little Criminals),

Scottish poet and novelist John Burnside, British writers Sarah Hall (The Carhullan Army, Haweswater and Electric Michelangelo), ‘the most important living philosopher’ John Gray (Black Mass: Apocalyptic religion and the death of utopia and Straw Dogs), crime writer Mo Hayder (Ritual, Pig Island), eminent biographer Hermione Lee (Edith Wharton), historian and novelist Simon Montefiore (Sashenka, Young Stalin), and one of Granta’s ‘Best Young British Novelists’ Peter Ho Davies (The Welsh Girl).

The Pitch
The site was sponsored and built by McGovern Online as part of their ongoing support for the New Zealand arts and cultural sector.

The new build gives the Festival organisers the tools they need to organise the content – keep the events up to date – and of course help them make all the linkages out to the rest of the web.

The Festival team are really good at using these tools - see for example the author pages – not only can you see what events he or she is involved in, you’ll also get links reviews, fan sites, and of course, when they exist , to the authors own online home.

Personal Schedule
Also new for this year is the Personal Schedule tool – so visitors to the site can plan their own festival itinerary, then send it to a friend to help plan and share the event. You can also bookmark your own schedule , and share it as a web address.

Festival Blog
There is also a new blogging feature. This will be run by the Festival staff. It will also include versions of their famous e-mail newsletters.

It’s also been confirmed that there will be wifi access in the venue, so in contrast to the problems you had in Wellington, this years Auckland Festival will be totally onside with the local blog sphere!.

All up, I’m pretty proud of this puppy, and would love people take it for a test drive., and strat planning for the 14th - to 18th May.

Tuesday 8 April 2008

Access to Knowledge - A2K

Just in - a reference to the latest First Monday, which from memory, was one of the first peer review online journals on the Internet. It has a welcome, if sometime stiff focus on cultural analysis. The milage can vary, and the academic noise a little loud sometimes, but the references are totally useful and the points of view always stimulating.

"Info-communism? Ownership and freedom in the digital economy"
First Monday [Online], Milton Mueller Volume 13 Number 4 (24 March 2008)

The current edition has an interesting paper by Milton Muellar, Professor, School of Information Studies, Syracuse University, who argues for a more nuanced debate between the advocates of open source and proprietor software.

In the process he has some interesting things to say about the Creative Commons movement in particular and the notion of an information or knowledge commons in general. He also neatly conjoins this with a new to me phrase - “Access to Knowledge” (A2K).

His conclusion, especially the nod back to economic liberalism might be a tad strong for some. I for one did find it a little neat, but you can make your own mind about that.

However, notwithstanding my own scepticism at the plethora of squared circles, the article does make a contribution worth sharing to the concept and practice of information democracy.


"This paper takes a new look at the debate over commons and property in information and communications. It warns against recreating the old communist–capitalist ideological divide by framing the movement for informational commons as “info–communist.” The spectre of communism haunts the movement because of an unresolved ideological tension in its ethical and philosophical foundations.

The case for free software and open information contains both deontological appeals to the virtues of sharing, and consequentialist arguments against the growing intrusiveness of the institutional and technological mechanisms used to enforce exclusivity in the digital economy.

The paper argues that the deontological case is a dead end that leads to info–communism. The strongest case for open access and freedom in information and communications is grounded in a liberalism that takes maximizing individual freedom as its objective and relies on creative complementarities between property and commons regimes as means to that end"


Don't you love a deontology for breakfast

Saturday 5 April 2008

Napier weekend - looking for the cloud

I'm in Napier doing the family thing. I really like this town. It is as is known , the Art Deco Capital of the world, courtesy of their having to rebuilt the town after the  big earthquake hit the region in the 1930's.

 There are still people around who remember it. I've met a couple - mostly friends of my parents in law, and all, now definitely in their senior days. Precious few senior moments though; one in particular could nail an ambiguity from 330 meters.

As for now, I'm sitting in Ujazi having a decent cup of coffee. I had hoped to make an estactic blog abut the ubiquity of the wifi set up here in Napier and the Bay in general courtesay of Cafe Net and their local partner Airnet.

I also wanted to casually let drop that I've been given another instance of the MacBook Air to play with, which, in turn, sits beside the new iTouch which was also in the box. I have them both for two weeks. And - yep - it is very hard to give these things back.

However all this bouncing is kind of on the back burner until I finish this coffee and recover from half an hour stuffing around trying to get online, writing a blog post, and then having the whole thing lost because the connection kept dropping in an out. 

Living in the Cloud - not
In short, the notion of living in the cloud, which underpins both the MacBook air and the iTouch, is just that, a dream. and at this point - having lost two hours of Napier sunshine, and the opportunity for a swim in their brilliant outdoor municipal pool, its really hacking me off.

But don't blame Napier. It's worse in Auckland. I live in the CBD, and can rarely get a wifi connection, except for an equally spotty CafeNet, and a Telecom Hotspot. Of more later.

I have the same kind of issues when I visit Wellington and Christchurch, although at least the former, CafeNet's home town, has  decent coverage around the main points of the Beltway - e.g. Moblie in the Park, Courtney Place, Molesworth, The Terrace, Wellington City Library etc.

In Christchrch its much the same - though they go one better in one respect - Christchurch City Library central branch , bless them, as part of their complimentary internet access,  offer wifi access to anyone who walks in with a laptop.  Now thats what I call being receptive.

Telecom Wifi Zones
And so back to the the  T word - Telecom NZ . In my bag at my feet is a crumbled letter from Telecom  NZ telling me, with breathless excitement, that they have partnered with another firm to extend and enhance their wifi hotspots at the new cost of $10 an hour.

Ten dollars and hour! This, as the Brits would say is a joke - you are having a laugh, Dr Reynolds, go on admit - cos you really had me going there.

But no - its true! In a week when my namesake Dr Reynolds finally got separation day across the  line to the delight and applause of Minister Cunliffe, industry, innovation, and even some grudging praise from their competitors, Telecom decides to go mad and take us back to the old days of robber baron profiteering 

Dr Reynolds, before you head for Sydney to reassure your investors that everything is rocking on, can you pick up the phone, make a call, and sort this. Because, believe, me as my old mother would have said, fun's fun , but tae hell wi nonesense!'

Tuesday 1 April 2008

McGovern Online is 12 years old

We just noticed. It's the 1st April. It's our birthday. McGovern Online [then known as McGovern & Associates], officially started trading 12 years ago today. We, that's Helen Smith and I, had already been doing some early web work prior to that, but today is the companies proper birthday. So take a bow Master McGovern - you made 12 years.,

That's not a bad record in this fast world of Internet, especially in the New Zealand space. When I look back, many of our then big time competitors have long gone - who for example remembers Webmasters? Shift was then known as SFX, and the big event of the day would be winning a Wammo. Try the Wayback Machine here for that reference.

Out on the bigger world, companies like Datacom still thought the web was for the kids, while others fronted up to the annual TUANZ conferences as if all they had to do was put out their hands and pluck down the apples from the trees.

Meanwhile, the web moved on - the browser wars came and went, and life started to produce a whole bunch of projects and opportunities, most of which taught us something new, with the best of these almost always teaching us that the best clients were the ones who knew you were on their side, respected what you were trying to do for them, and responded in kind.

For McGovern, one of these clients was the law firm, Russell McVeagh. They were our very first client, Better still, they still are - and by sheer coincidence, they chose today to launch their latest web site which we co-created - here

Although on one level a typical big practice law firm web site - it does have a few quirks which are peculiar to this client. First the look and feel - dark and a bit broody on the outside, light and warm tones inside. Moreover, the text sounds like them, and speaks to what they do best - getting the most from their staff on behalf of their clients by being big around teams.

That also means heaps on recruitment pages, and a lot of material directed at local and international recruiting, including an Alumni section, Summer Clerks etc.

I know this sounds like brand marketing - but, believe me, it isn't - after 12 years working with them, I can confidently say, that's how they are.

Less is More
Second - less is more. See for example the partner profiles - you open with a paragraph - if you want more you click for more. That is so them - has been for ever. Or at least for as long as we have known them.

And finally, a connected world - see the practice areas profiles and the links to key information sources - with the Climate Change group being a really good example.

Pat Northey - Champion
And so back to memory lane - way back 12 years ago, our client contact was the wonderful and totally inimitable Pat Northey who ran the firm's library. She was the web champion - and those who remember those early web days will concur that you just couldn't have a client without one - that one person inside the organisation who "got it " - who understood, as we did, that this funny little web thing was going to change everything.

She was quickly joined by Mike Cronin the then IP partner who also " got it " - and who made a point of telling his colleagues the same message - that the web was not a toy - it was going to change the way we all did business - and it was time they listened, and took note.

The Big Thanks
And that's it - the big up - the big thank you - to Pat - Mike - and a whole bunch of other people too numerous to mention,who were the champions in their world - who realised that the web was a place to have fun - and that McGovern were people you could do business with!