Thursday 28 January 2010

The iPad - details still coming in

iPad launches
The detail on the iPad is still still coming in, especially around NZ availability. However, there will be two versions - one with wifi - the other with wifi plus 3G. These are the NZ prices from the press release. As to availability, I am still checking.

My two questions
My two questions are all around the eBook function and the accompanying new Bookstore. and that's will I be able to download and play e-books from say the NZETC, NZ Electronic Text Centre, who already use the ePub format without having to go near the Apple Bookstore.

And secondly, when the likes of the 1000 NZ ebooks project goes live, again  will I be able to buy and perhaps borrow from a public library ePub versions of the same and play them on my iPad?
In short how open is this puppy?

When available in NZ
Global launch including New Zealand is late March for the wifi version, and sometime in April, 2010 for the wifi/3G version. Latter restricted to USA and selected countries. Is NZ in there. No idea at this stage.

NZ prices to hand
wifi only
16GB $708
32GB $848
64Gb $989

3G plus wifi version
16 GB $890
32GB $1032
64GB  $1173
These prices based on US prices converted to NZ dollars at todays rate. This will change. So please don't sue me if this isnt the price in the shop when they arrive..

Still nothing to hand on the fabled deals that are being cooked for magazine and newspaper content. But this is a changing space.

Jim Mora NZ National Radio
Just had a call asking if I would come on The Panel with Jim Mora and guests on his Afternoon Show on National Radio to talk about the iPad. Nothing like the prospect of not knowing what you are talking about to get you doing your homework!

Kelly Gregor from NBR has written an excellent round up of the pros and cons of the iRad for New Zealand, including noting that:

- no iBookstore for New Zealand yet - and no word when it will have access
- no deals struck with local mobile telcos todate
- no newspaper / magazine publishing deals
- no flash player on the device
- no camera

Apart from all that s/he seems quite impressed:-) See here 

Tuesday 26 January 2010

Te Ara - Encyclopedia of NZ has new look and revised IA

Te Ara - Encyclopedia of NZ
Te Ara - the seminal online encyclopedia of NZ,  and one of my favorite reference tools, has a nice new look which includes a tweak to their information architecture. This gives them a lot more options in bringing features and topical content to the fore. In short, a definite move to a more useful editorial policy. Other improvements are explained on their blog, here.

I think it looks lovely!

On the blog, they are keen to point out that their theme/keyword based search/browse tool - they call it the browser-  is still to hand. You just have to click the option and 'it jauntily slides down'

White gloves under manners
Jaunty it may be - I just like the notion that it is is finally under manners. I always thought it was such a pushy - in your face - little bugger and I hated the way it took up so much real estate while acting like some kind of 'move along'  entrance commissionaire with epaulets and white gloves.

Chrystie Hill - Community: its the new content.

It's two weeks to go until the bi-annual Australasian library conference, VALA, in Melbourne.  I'm looking forward to it. Melbourne is a great city, and VALA  a great place to meet and mingle with a whole bunch of Australasian colleagues and contacts. 

Library conferences can be strange affairs - a curious mixture of the future in action and the present in denial.

This video from TEDx Columbus by OCLC librarian Chrystie Hill is currently trending on the library Twitter-sphere. You can see why.

Instead of being talked at, she offers her audience a view of the library of the future from one of their own - it's not about the technology - or the institution - it's all about the people.

He aha te mea nui o te ao?
He tangata! He tangata! He tangata!

What is the most important thing in the world? It is people! It is people! It is people! source

Friday 22 January 2010

History of the World in 100 Objects and Tales from Te Papa - two approaches to museums as broadcasters

Galleries and museums as internet publishers and broadcasters
Back in July, 2009, Neil MacGregor, director of the British Museum, and Sir Nicholas Serota of the Tate made some real waves in both the gallery, museum and broadcasting world by suggesting that the future role of the public museum and art gallery would be as online publishers and broadcasters.

Despite the slightly forgotten fact that the remark was made as a response to a question from the clearly impatient Bamber Gasgoigne  who wanted to know just when they were going to start talking about the elephant in the room - online -  both Neil MacGregor and Sir Nicholas definitely took the moral high ground as clear thinking visionaries who knew what was what in their respective domains. Go  here -  and scroll down to July 2009 - for the video of the session from the LSE.

However, since then the notion of gallery and museum as broadcaster doesn't seem to have made much practical headway.

Two examples
At least, until now. Two examples - one from the UK - one from nearer home  here in New Zealand, offer some interesting examples of the process in action - and while they are at it - a useful benchmark to the potential different styles of approach.

History of the World in 100 objects
The first example  - see the image above - is a co-production between the British Museum and the BBC. Written and presented by Neil MacGregor himself, who also choose the objects.

The scale of the  project,  as well as the reach of the intent to cover as many online touch points is impressive. Thus the core of the broadcasting end of the project is a series of 15 minute radio spots, web presence - and a series of spinoff activities - both in the museum and back on the BBC.

The web site/s
Over on the BBC web site - the 100 Objects  web site offers a  podcast and archive to the programmes, a write up of each object from the British Museum collection - a series of photographs of the same, [zoom-able and tagged with labels] plus a set of contextual maps showing both the objects provenance and its place in the world.

There is also a blog, plus a bunch of other tools - including a widget and RSS to the series. I've embedded the widget to the side of this blog as an example.

So far - this Friday - they have got to the fourth of 100 programmes. And it will take to the end of the year to tell the whole tale - nothing less than the history of humanity in 100 objects. 

On the British Museum web site there is an equally impressive parallel world of the objects and the activities that they have put together to support the project. They also have their own online touch points.

Multiple touch points
I like this project. I especially like the idea that the broadcaster - in this case the BBC - and  the institution, the British Museum - have used different tools and spaces to bring to the front their different ways of considering the objects as a broadcast series, and as a collection with its own pedagogical methodology.

It also gives each party a chance to showcase their core activities/competencies - in the one - bringing the context of the museum to the objects, and in the other showing how good radio needs its own methodology and skill set.

In short, if galleries and museums want to be broadcasters, then they need to work with the best to find out just what's involved!

Other museums - other collections
The project has also gone out to other regional UK museums and got them to play the 100 object game by putting up examples from their own collections.  See for example this beaker from my home area, in East Lothian, here.

And of course, who would doubt it - there is the obligatory BBC nod to crowd sourcing asking people to upload their own objects and so join in the dance. Curiously, try as I might to engage with this, there is something about the BBC crowd sourcing experience to date - perhaps it's the language they use - that always reminds me of a plumy voice asking people to write their answers on a postcard in their best writing. But I digress.

The pulse of the project
The project is a fantastic effort from all parties.  And the amount of work involved from all departments is phenomenal. I also think Neil MacGregor deserves a big round of applause for writing and presenting the programmes. You can hear his commitment - and indeed his scholarship, and it will probably do more to enhance his notion of a world museum than any amount of papers and journal articles.

All that said, it's going to be interesting to see how the project keeps up the energy - whether it be through in house events and programmes, or the ongoing work on the different web spaces.

Curiously, its the broadcasting end of the project that makes me think the energy will endure.

Broadcasters, especially the likes of the BBC, have both the skill set and the track record to understand that programming over time and distance needs a lot of planning, and that new energy, and new directions, need to be injected at different parts of the project cycle.

It will be interesting to see how that works in this instance. In the meantime, I definitely recommend a visit to both the BBC site - and the British Museum.

Tales from Te Papa
My other example, Tales from Te Papa,  is a co-production between TVNZ6 - a local public service digital channel here in New Zealand and the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa , aka Te Papa.

The series of mini-documentaries showcase some of the objects in the museum, and is presented by Simon Morton and Riria Hoter.

The emphasis is again on story - and the belief that each of the objects has something to say about the culture and history of New Zealand as well as offering touch points to science and exploration.

Apart from their enthusiasm for the task [albeit a little overwhelming at times] the presenters have done a great job in bringing out the talent and commitment of the curators and researchers to the objects.

There are 50 reports from an albatross from the storm that sank the Wahine, art from Colin McCahon, early dental clinic chairs, and deep sea fish.

Hei Tiki worn by Te Paea Hinerangi
The example given above is the story of a Hei Tiki worn by Te Paea Hinerangi a famous guide from Rotorua. The story concerns how she saw a ghostly canoe on Lake Tarawera prior to the eruption of Mt Tarawera, which not only destroyed people and their homes, it also caused the destruction of the famous Pink and White Terraces. See the entry at Te Ara for more on all this, here

Again, I like the energy behind this project. For sure, its different to the BBC - British Museum project - much more instant and episodic, without the slow roll of the long reach of history that characterises the 100 Object project to date.

Moreover, there is lot more to be said - and discussed - on how the two projects explore the idea of a museum and its contemporary place in the world. The British Museum, especially the voice of the director stamps real authority on the project - whereas the Te Papa project seems more intent on grabbing the attention of the viewer and making sure that are given a few cultural vitamins.

It would be good to see, or hear of other examples of the broadcasting gene in action the better to explore this continuum?

Thursday 21 January 2010

Project Ushahidi - social media and crowd sourcing in Haiti

Project Usahidi in Haiti
See BBC report  for full report on Project Usahidi, a  crowd sourcing  solution build and maintained by volunteers across three continents whereby local peole txt message situation reports to a central server, which maps the reports, adds in other news, stories,  and includes updates from other social media tools like Twitter etc.

Wednesday 20 January 2010

Apple to host event January 27, tablet expected

January 27 confirmed as Apple briefing day for latest creation
The rumours abound that the Apple announcement on the tablet/slate is just round the corner, with some press and analysts having been invited to a press launch on January 27th.

The reports sight the usual suspect - the Apple tablet/slate, with this story Reuters covering the ground succinctly.  And thanks to EJC for the heads-up on the Reuters story.
"Apple Inc will host a special event on January 27 where it is widely expected to unveil its tablet computer, as the company looks to extend its hot hand into a brand new product category. The event next week is shaping up as Apple's most eagerly anticipated product launch since the iPhone three years ago.
The company has never acknowledged the existence of the tablet, but rumors and speculation have been building for months. Although few details about the tablet are known for certain, the device is said to resemble a large version of the iPhone, with a roughly 10-inch touchscreen.

Analysts say such a device would try to bridge the gap between smart phones and laptops, allowing users to stream video, surf the Web and play games while on the go. Cost estimates on the tablet - which analysts expect to begin shipping in March or April - run upwards of USD 1,000.

Tablet computers have never managed to catch on with consumers, and industry watchers say Apple will have to offer a compelling reason to buy such a device.

If consumers do gravitate to the tablet, it could also propel Apple into the digital book market popularized by's Kindle e-reader, analysts say. (Reuters)"
Source - EJC - here
Why this interests me.
Apart from being a confirmed Mac guy [a comparatively recent conversion I might add]  this development interests me hugely for a bunch of reasons.  For this post I'll restrict myself to three.

First I'm intrigued by the proposed size and form factor. It feels like I will at last have a tool in my bag that genuinely gives me the internet ready to hand.

Secondly I have high hopes that we are entering the promised land of a readable e-book/ e-journal - e-zine device, with in-line links onto other sources. Also, and again there are a myriad of smart phones et al which claim the same territory,  I'm expecting a device which brings to life the promise of the always on network - or as others call it -  network nearness .

Thirdly, I'm interested in how far it will extend the innovation framework which the iTouch/iPhone application world has opened up.

Platform or net-book
All of this will of course depend on what is announced on the  27th January. Will it be a platform offer, or a response to the net-book, mini pc world of Asus  et al ?

By the platform offer, I mean  will it be a bigger iPhone/iTouch  with all the applications being provided by Apple, with third party contributions centrally controlled through the Apple store. And by extension, will there be changes to this model to encompass a myriad of applications and services based around paid subscription content.

By net- book I mean will the new device be an independent web device which can go anywhere - install anything - and be essentially on open web device, which, like the current open web, is a platform for all our imaginations as opposed to what comes from the likes of Steve JobsRupert Murdoch, or JStor. 

Web - and/or 3G
And then we have the network issue - whose  network will the device connect to - open wifi spots or locked in mobile plans from local 3G carriers,  with the content also packed onto the closed "mobile deck', where again subscription based services will be the norm as opposed to the current exception.

Naturally, none of the above is trying to say that on 27th January, Steve Jobs will confirm himself as the 21st successor to Ming the Merciless, by at a stroke defining  the content/service layer of of the always on internet in your bag.

But the 27th Jnauary is going to define something -  if nothing else - the size of of the Apple share price on the January 28th.

Tuesday 19 January 2010

1000 Great New Zealand ebooks project a reality in 2010.

2010 - the e- book year?
I've just left a useful summary on Stuff of the NZ  1000 e-book project being organised by Martin Taylor, et al at the  NZ Digital Publishing Forum.

This group, which came out of the Copyright Council, the BPANZ,  Book Publishers Association of New Zealand, and the New Zealand Authors Society,  offers training and networking opportunities for local publishers who want to understand and participate in the options around e-books.

Started last year, they are making a lot of  sense around how to grow both the e-book market in New Zealand, as well as make sure that NZ titles become visible elsewhere, especially in the new markets and platforms that many commentators believe will proliferate this year.

The 1000 e-book Project
This year their flagship project is the 1000 e-book project which they hope to launch either in May or June. The presentation above is from the first digital publishing forum held last year in Auckland.

I remember it as a curious mixture of traditional publishers and digital advocates, with the former often struggling to understand both the logic and the language of the latter. 'Tis to be hoped that the coming convergence of purpose and profit will help close this gap this year.

Saturday 16 January 2010

The potential price for Google - China Internet population hits 384 million

Google and China
Give the extraordinary interest shown in the news that Google is threatening to leave the Peoples Republic of China as a result of perceived security attacks on their services and servers, especially email, I thought it might be useful as context, to quote the EJC summary of a Reuters story on the growing size of the local internet community in China. See Google blog for their explanation of their potential intent, here.

China's position as the world's largest online community
"China's population of Internet users jumped by nearly a third to 384 million at the end of last year, an official report showed on Friday, days after Google threatened to retreat from the expanding market.

The report from the state China Internet Network Information Center ( underscored the growing scope of the Internet in the country, which Google said it may quit because of censorship and hacking.

Throughout 2009, the number of Chinese Internet users grew by 86 million --more than the total population of Germany - or a rise of 28.9 percent compared to the end of 2008. The survey, based on a count of residents who said they used the Internet in the past six months, found 29 percent of China's 1.3 billion people are now net users.
The numbers establish China's position as the world's largest online community, more than the entire population of the United States.

With China's expanding 3G mobile network, more than 120 million people used mobile Internet applications, said the Chinese-language report. The number of people using the Internet to book travel, bank and carry out other commerce grew by 68 percent year-on-year.  " (Reuters)
Quote - Source - EJC

Wednesday 13 January 2010

White smoke at Museum of New Zealand, Te Papa Tongarewa, new director Michael Houlihan.

New director for Museum of New Zealand, Te Papa Tongarewa,
Though still officially on my summer holidays, this being the last week, I have nevertheless climbed up onto the bridge for a look round. First news in the offing is the welcome announcement that the Museum of New Zealand, Te Papa Tongarewa, have put up the white smoke and appointed their new Director/CEO, Michael Houlihan.

National Museum Wales
Since 2003, Michael Houlihan has been the director general of the National Museum Wales, which consists  of seven museums across Wales. The BBC reports he has a reputation as a visionary, and in recent times, has been a strong advocate of the notion that culture in general, and museums in particular, make strong and positive contributions to the economy.

Bi-cultural experience
By definition, given the bi-lingual - bi-cultural nature of Welsh society, he is seen to have strong credentials in  managing the institutional partnerships Te Papa has with the tangata whenua [people of the land]

The Te Papa brand
Those looking for clues as to Mr Houlihan's stance of the importance of experience in the contemporary  museum landscape might care to note this quote from the BBC story cited above:

"Museums can't shy away from telling national stories, no matter how intricate or controversial they may be, " said Mr Houlihan.

"Te Papa is world famous for its innovative approach to demonstrating how culture and community memory has moulded the history and identity of New Zealand's communities."
Sounds like we have a an interesting and highly effective guy heading down this way. Welcome Mr Houlihan -   I look forward to  learning more about you and your plans! And by the by - I agree with you about museums - along with their sisters in the GLAM space, they are key institutions of civil society which  can make extraordinary contributions to how a society functions - both culturally - socially, and economically,

And that in the upcoming severe drought on public spending, we need to be telling  - and showing - this truth, over and over again.

Friday 1 January 2010

Happy New Year - and welcome 2010

Happy New Year
I love New Year. It totally brings out the creative optimist in me: the sense of accountability to the year past -  the ability to  leave the unsuccessful  bits behind,  but still keep the energy and ideas that provoked them intact into the next year.

All this gets stronger when you have a new decade as well. So all the best to 2009 - you were a toughie in places - and drew some blood with your pound of flesh on occasion.

But that's okay - I learned lots - met some great people - worked on some lovely projects - and had the chance to gestate some new ones for 2010. So thanks for all that. But definitively time to move into the next one!