Thursday 26 June 2008

It's a man cold!

As my bardic friend and mentor Mr Rab Burns would have it, "the best laid plans of mice and men gang aft agley"! I am housebound with a lurge, otherwise known as a man cold. Man Cold?
Where have you been! One of THE seminal breakthroughts in medical science.

Tuesday 24 June 2008

UK journalists leading the way with blogs and video

In this smoke free world. the image of the intrepid journalist firing of a world class piece of copy just on deadline amid a fog of tobacco smoke is long gone.

However, even the Wapping hi-rise replacement still had an expectation that jouros would write print, photographers would do the snaps, and the graphic boys would come up with the layout and the diagrams. As for video, that was for the guys over at the BBC.

Now, and in the future, the expectation is for multi media professionals who can tell their story in both print, audio and, increasingly, in video.

Future of Journalism
As could be expected by one of the leaders in the converging media landscape, the UK Guardian is hosting a conference on The Future of Journalism which is being reported in multi media formats, here.
Though a fascinating trend, it is not all plain sailing.

For example the EJC Media News reports a recent study from European Digital Journalism which highlights that though journalists in the UK are more likely to be producing video content and blogging as part of their workload than their European counterparts, over three quarters of UK respondents said that producing additional multimedia content for the web was the biggest challenge to their jobs.

Moreover, though the UK lead the pack, 14 per cent of the UK journos surveyed said they had received no training for producing multimedia content.

The results of the survey are available in full on the European Digital Journalism Study site.

New Zealand versions
The New Zealand online newspaper landscape is also worth watching. Recent changes to the NZ Herald site includes video. Scoop, the independent news source has been doing something similar for some time. All are worth noting.

As for the future - check out the Guardian conference reference . Lots to interest there, especially the interview between Alan Rusbridger and Arianna Huffington, here

Upcoming posts.
In the meantime I am knee deep in three pieces of work , all of which should have a blog version here. First, a report and assessment of the OECD Future of the Internet Economy Ministerial in Seoul . Second a response to the recently published NZ E-government 2007 report - Progress Towards Transformation, , and third, but not least, an opinion piece on the newly formed Digital Digital Development Council.

Tuesday 17 June 2008

Broadband - closing the divide Greek style

Mt Kostas Hatzidakis, Minster of Transport and Communication shared with the OECD Ministerial in Seoul delegates the Greek governments plans to spend 4 billion euros in broadband investment. It will not only catch up with other European Union (EU) countries in the technology stakes by 2013, it will leapgrong others.

Of this around 2.5 billion euros will go towards developing a fibre-optic network to bring broadband access to two million homes. He also spoke of using WiMax and other technologies to get connectivity to the remotest parts of his country, including the islands.

His brief, but quietly authoritative speech was the highlight of the 1st Round Table - Benefiting from Convergence, at the OECD Ministerial here in Seoul.

More Greece Style.
OECD show broadband penetration in Greece has increased from 0.1 per cent in 2003 to 7.1 per cent in 2007. This is below the average for OECD member countries - which is 25.9 per cent - and also trails new EU members like Poland and Hungary.

In 2006, Greece was behind Israel, Jordan, Turkey, Croatia and Egypt in making government services available online. The government will pay for the plans through its own exchequer, EU funding and contributions from the private sector.

Future of Internet economy, OECD Ministerial in Seoul

Here in Seoul, South Korea, the OECD is in day one of a formal two day ministerial on the Future of the Internet Economy. The formal programme runs for three days, including a preliminary day for stakeholder inputs from civil society, business and the technical community.

During this time they will debate the issues in front of the OECD countries, and the rest of the world to ensure internet access and its benefits expands beyond its current elitist and predominantly western centricity.

Thus the current 1.2 billion people with Internet access is only 20% of the world population.

The OECD, and their Ministers first got involved in debating the policy and regulatory frameworks around the Internet 10 years ago in Ottawa, establishing policies promoting online activities in areas such as privacy, security, taxation and consumer protection.

Given the Internet has become a critical utility infrastructure, the OECD Seoul Ministerial is being seen as an opportunity to address the role of the Internet in the 21st century and the direction of the Internet economy.

There are 1500 participants including Ministers and high level officials from Communications, Economy, Industry and Trade portfolios from 47 countries as well as leaders from all stakeholder communities.

The stakeholder forums allow people in the business, Internet technical community, civil society and organised labour to exchange ideas on major policy issues for the growth of the Internet economy.

These in turn are fed into the formal part of the agenda, which includes Ministerial input.

New Zealand Delegation
I am here as part of the New Zealand delegation. David Cunliffe is here in his Minister of Communication portfolio. He is very good in this role - understands the bigger issues and gets down into the detail really well- especially around access, broadband regulation, and the need for the NZ digital stakeholders at all levels - government - business and civil society - to start delivering a lot more in terms of social and economic transformation.

As for myself, the big learning for me is a new acronym A2K - it means "access to knowledge", and encompasses a bunch of ideas, concepts and potential policy frameworks around giving people access not just to broadband but to knowledge frameworks.

Round Table One

There is much more - but I need to concentrate - Laurence Lessig is about the speak as part of Round Table One.

YouTube - OECD
Note: the OECD are runnng a spot on YouTube offering peole the chance to comment on their ideas on "How can the Internet make the world a better place?' You might want to have a go, here

Sunday 15 June 2008

Montana Awards too small for the Big Picture

The controversy over the fiction selections for New Zealand's premier annual literary prize, The Montana Book awards continues into its third week. Last week we saw the beginnings of a good old fashioned literacy spate on Bookman Beattie's blog with one participant calling the latter literary talkback, a reference to New Zealands populist radio channels which invite all and sundry to call in.

Beattie, normally the most benign of literary discursive, as befits his elder statesman/retired publisher stature, almost lost his temper. Others were not so careful. See here.

The cause of the ruck was the perceived snub to both established and aspiring New Zealand novelists by the fiction judges panel who, after only offering four, as opposed to the normal five shortlist of new New Zealand fiction titles, compounded their felony by apparently having it put about that there weren't any others worthy of their attention.

Naturally, a number of New Zealand fiction writers and their supporters have taken umbridge, including Mr Beattie who went on to offer, again on his blog, a few choices he thought were more than due the attention of the judges.

Paula Morris in NZ Listener
This weeks NZ Listener, the weekly chattering classes fix de jour, has now waded into the fray with an article from the equally impressive Paula Morris, who, again in a perfect pitch of surprised impartiality, proceeds to call into question if not the judgement, then certainly the cultural nouse of the judges - in other words - are they mad - why provoke people when you know it will end in tears, and probably yours.?

The article is well worth your attention, here. Also Morris , has her own blog, which is always worth a visit, here.

Montana non fiction awards
As someone who, from lack of time, and with the exception of Chad Taylor, rarely reads New Zealand fiction, I can't actually find it in myself to get to have too big an opinion on the matter.

However, I do read New Zealand non fiction - and frankly, the big story for me isn't over one lost nomination, rather it's the astonishing omission of any mention whatsoever of the Hamish Keith's, The Big Picture.

To say I don't get this is an understatement. And for sure, lets get the acknowledgement out of the way that Keith is a friend of mine. Lets also get out of the way that someone with a NZ Listener column called The Cultural Curmudgeon, and a career that goes back over forty years just might have annoyed a few people.

So what - although quick, and occasionally partial to a fight, especially around his well known antipathy to Wellington and the arts establishment, Keith is still a master of his material, and that's New Zealand art and art history. The Big Picture is his tour de force - both as a TV series and as a book.

So why no Montana nomination? I don't get it. I just don't get it all.

In the rush to find the missing fifth man/woman - can we spare a thought for the real mystery here - and start asking on Keith's behalf the big question about the bigger picture - what kind of lifetime commitment to the arts do you have to clock up to get recognised around here?

This aint right. Aint right at all!

Wednesday 11 June 2008

Blogging the 19th century - a Scottish perspective

I have long since been fascinated by the interplay between the 21st century online emphasis on user generated web 2.0 content and earlier publishing phenomena.

Indeed I once tried [albeit not that successfully] to interest Simon Morton of Radio New Zealand's This Way Up programme in the thesis that early Scottish Broadsheets, then, and still, on show at the National Library Scotland were fascinating precursors to our current blogging tools.

I was reminded of this today by a lovely post from Lorcan Dempsey who is currently in Edinburgh attending the SCONUL conference.
He had been looking at the National Library of Scotland's website earlier and found a reference to a research project alerting PhD candidates of a Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) project  which is trying to find linkages between current blogging and 19th century Scottish heritage correspondence.

AHRC Beyond Text programme
Intrigued I followed Dempsey to the detail. Citing some preliminary work done by the likes of Nancy van House ‘Weblogs: Credibility and Collaboration in an Online World’, 2004). the project challenges the notion that social networking is largely regarded as a novel phenomena of the so-called ‘information age’ with no connection with analogue forms of networking.
It then goes on to construct a research framework which compares 19th century sources and correspondence held in the National Library of Scotland with 21st century blogging sites.

Also involved in the project is the Humanities Advanced Technology and Information Institute (HATII) at the University of Glasgow.

You can find out a deal more about both the research framework and the underlying proposed methodology here. For the moment though, lets note some of the research questions HATII and the NLS hope to expose though this project. But first a brief note to the background premise.

Background Premise
A key background premise of the research is the assumption we have lost sight of the frequency and depth of the postal service in late 19th and eary 20th century European life, and as a  consequence, have but a superficial understanding of how networked some communities and social groups were.

Thus, though it is a common place to cite the example of the Bloomsbury Group being able and willing to write to each dozens of times a day, a less common earlier example would be that of the 19th UK prime minister, Gladstone, who found time to write to his wife three times a day. Even earlier, the likes of Sir Walter Scott, conducted a huge correspondence with extended families and friends.

Much of this material is now held in our heritage collections - and a good deal more context can be found inside the ephemera collections of the same.

It's this seam ,which when combined with the more modern sources of local Scottish contemporary blogs et al, which forms the raw material of the research questions the project wishes to explore.

Harden/Allan collection at the National Library of Scotland.
Included in the earlier sources is the 19th century Harden/Allan collection at the National Library of Scotland.

This collection comprises thirty-two newsletters in separate volumes covering periods of four months from 1801-1811, which were designed to be sent to India to Jessy Allan’s sister.

They are heavily illustrated and are being seen as potential pre-cursors to family blogs and websites, and include drawings of events, activities, and family social gatherings and domestic chores, such as bottling whisky.

Research questions
Below are few of the research questions which I have edited out of the HATII material. Obviously this is just a first cut, and no doubt the successful researchers will find a whole lot more. However, they do offer an intriguing set of beginnings.

1. By comparing the frequency of the interactions with the format and structure of the content how far can the blogs and social networks identified in both domains be characterised as epistemic?

2. What's the relationship between private and public space, what sort of content is posted to networks or kept in the analogue? What are the comparisons - similarities etc.?

3. Are these as much a reflection of societal change as of the technology?

4. How do we expand our understanding of the way in which non textual forms
of communication impact on communication. When for example did the exchange of drawings and photographs become a commonplace and how if at all do photographs taken with a Box Brownie differ from those taken with a mobile phone or that matter from sketches?

5. Is just a question of the technology employed or does the technology radically alter behaviour?

6. What type of content is most commonly posted to networks and how does this differ, if at all, from content kept in the analogue and will this have ramifications for future preservation strategies?
I'm going to follow up on this research, and of course I'm intrigued to investigate how far we could take a similar venture here in New Zealand, beginning with, for example, some of the collections in both the Alexander Turnbull, the Hocken ,the Auckland City Library Heritage collection, and the Auckland Museum, et al . There might even be tie in to some from the material which Jock Phillips and his team at Te Ara have surfaced as part of their research?

There is also a local link in that Seamus Ross the Director of HATII has been a frequent visitor to New Zealand and is I believe one of the reference group to the NDHA, the New Zealand National Digital Heritage Archive.

It would also be fun to go and play inside more of the National Library of Scotland collections. They recently published their next three year strategy, Expanding Our Horizons. It talks of their willingness to build and extend their international relationships. Sounds like fun to me!

In the meantime - just in case I didn't make it clear - the lucky recipients of the research grant have long since been picked. But as I say, there is nothing to stop us growing our own Australasian version.

Tuesday 10 June 2008

McGovern Online has a new web site

McGovern Online the perfectly formed web company which Helen Smith and I have been running for the last 12 years has a new web site. Like every other cobblers wean it has been a long time coming. However we think it has been worth it.

The Focus
Its primary focus is to showcase our work and our clients, especially those from the arts, cultural, library and heritage sector in New Zealand, Australia and the UK. It also explains how McGovern is structured.
In McGovern Studio we make web sites and web properties. In McGovern Tools we play and experiment with our read/write tools and services. Finally in McGovern Consult we offer strategy and planning for organsations wanting to take their digital life to the next level.

The Vision Thing
We also introduce people to the McGovern vision thing:

# We believe we are fortunate to be part of a digital, creative revolution which is transforming the nature of knowledge and creativity.
# We believe each of our projects needs to make its own, however small, contribution to this transformation.
# We love the work we do and enjoy the people we get to work with.
# We believe business is personal and the best of the web is a conversation.
I like this. I like this a lot. It summarises everything I want to be doing, and why I want to do it.
I also think it is worth sharing here!

the iPhone 3g eagle is circling and ready to land in NZ on July 7th

Vodafone , and Apple today announced that the iPhone 3G will be available in Australia, Italy, New Zealand and Portugal on July 11. Later in the year the Czech Republic, Egypt, Greece, India, South Africa and Turkey follow suite.

iPhone 3G is reported to be twice fast as the first generation iPhone. It has inbuilt GPS and iPhone 2.0 software. Among other new features it fills an existing gap by connecting to Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync as well as running the hundreds of third party applications in production by third parity developers using the Phone SDK. [software development kit]

How to get one in NZ
You cant pre- order in New Zealand. It will sell out in days - depend on it. However, you can pre-register. I'm told the address to keep checking is here

What's the fuss?
Speaking as someone how has only used the iTouch I can safely say I will be first in line to pre-register.
This is a genuine inflection point. Plain and simple, it puts the Internet in your pocket Cruising web sites is a dream - and you read text documents with ease. I've tried both. It's true.

It also plays your music - seamlessly syncs pod casts - screens movies, offers online mapping, and checks your email. With the Microsoft Exchange trick now on board, it can also give BlackBerry a serious run for its money. Oh and yes, it makes phone calls.

None of this sounds all that revolutionary - but believe me , the touch navigation makes all the difference - You really are in charge of this little puppy.

End of rave - I need to start saving - because believe me, there will be no freebies on this launch. Hard cash all the way.

Friday 6 June 2008

BBC Televison streamed on Internet - can New Zealand handle it?

BBC1 will be web-streamed live through as of next year, according to the broadcaster’s director general Mark Thompson.

The move was announced yesterday in the BBC's annual statements of programme policy. Speaking about the decision, Thompson said, “Building on the success of the iPlayer, we want to develop to include a broad range of the BBC's broadcast content, as well as new and interactive forms of media that enable audiences to interact with and contribute to the website."

The 2008/9 plan also includes plans for a common standards in IPTV courtesy of a dynamic underlying architecture and a new identity, rating and recommendation system which will form the basis for personalisation on all platforms.

These are seriously interesting statements, and are part of the BBC's annual Statements of Programme Policy (SoPPs) 2008, The Future Media" section starts on page 51 of the PDF.

The UK Broadband
This content plan is best read in conjunction with a wider appreciation of the UK broadband scene. For example, in a recent BBC survey of UK broadband rates it was reported that London's broadband users can go online at average speeds nearly twice those in Wales and Northern Ireland.

The survey analysed speed tests from the last two months in 6,000 UK locations and found the average speed to be 3.2 megabits per second (Mbps). London's average speed was 4.5 Mbps, but in Northern Ireland it was 2.3. Rural areas generally fared worse than towns, with telephone line lengths and lack of access to cable being blamed. In Wales the average figure was 2.6Mbps and in Scotland 2.9 Mbps.

City Networks - Dundee
There are also some interesting city broadband trials with this story from Dundee coming up tops - it tells of University students at Dundee University getting broadband speeds of 45Mbps. Check here for more.

Back in New Zealand
Back here in New Zealand I am astonished to be able to report that a recent change of broadband plan is getting me speeds almost, but not quite, parallel to the Scottish results of 2.6 Mbps.

This still means that my 2.5mbps is almost half what I could be getting in London, it still means a seriously better offer than I had before with Telecom.

My new provider is Orcon [aka Kordia] They recently upgraded the number of local exchanges they were able to offer the new upgraded broadband serivice, ADSL2. My local exchange in the city was one of them, so I was in there like a robber dog.

Two weeks later I have a new wireless ADSL2 router, which was a breeze to configure [just give it the account name and password ] as well as an automatic home wireless zone.

The latter was little harder to set-up, and needed some tweaking. It's fine if you know what you are doing - but I suspect a little daunting if you are nervous around adjusting router settings.

That said, it has to be said that the service was a dream - and the outcome more than satisfactory, especially as part of the plan I chose gives me unlimited toll calls to the UK.

Vodafone NZ
And just off the press is the latest from Vodafone NZ, who are also offering ADSL2 as part of their reach into the domestic and SME broadband market.

Curiously, the BBC news came on the same day that Kordia has scaled back their plans for IPTV. The report I saw, cited concerns around the business case and an unwillingness to take risk around an unproven market. Given that Kordia is a state owned enterprise this is probably a good thing, but it does beg the question when and how are we going to see some traction around other New Zealand video content?

In the meantime, until the BBC start streaming to me I continue to trawl the IP pathways looking for strange talking heads who just might know what the future has in store, mostly because they are in the business of building it.

My latest example is this clip from the OII, [Oxford Internet Institute]. This is going straight on the ipod for the weekend. Who says I need to get out more!

Is the Future of the Internet the Future of Knowledge?
Lawrence M. Sanger (co-founder of Wikipedia and founder of Citizendium) and Andrew Keen (prominent critic of the Internet as a means of acquiring knowledge, and author of 'The Cult of the Amateur') discuss issues of legitimacy, credibility, regulation and censorship on the Internet.

Postscript: a UK spike on my webstats alerted me that this post had been picked up by the BBC Internet blog  - and was now on their del page