Archive for August, 2009
This man will return to New Zealand’s Parliament in 2011 on the anti-Maori vote that National’s apparently not allowed to take any more.
My parents are coming to Hong Kong on Sunday, just overnight on their way to somewhere else, and I was going to take them for a day on the sunbeds.
Annoyingly, however, Dad has just written a post that uses graphs to say sunbeds are bad. (I believe I’m the only form of marketing Dad has for his blog.)
So, instead of the sunbeds, I guess we’ll just have to go outdoors into the real sun. At least in Hong Kong the sun can’t hurt you, because it’s hidden behind so many blanket layers of smog.
Then, on to chilli crab to keep my mum happy until next year.
On Friday I went to Bassment, a new bar on Lyndhurst Terrace.
It’s early days, but I have a feeling this bar is going to improve my life in Hong Kong considerably.
In my career of too much drinking here in Hong Kong, I’ve gone to a lot of bars, on Hong Kong Island, in Kowloon, and, yes, even on Lamma. I have serious complaints about every single one, including: terrible music, over-priced drinks, too Carlsberg-oriented, too wanky, too crowded, over-populated by people wearing suits, etc.
Bassment alleviates all those concerns by playing good (most of the time) indie music, not being full of wank, and offering great international beers from $20 each. I spent the night there splashing out on $30 Punk IPA. By the time I reached number four (it was a friend’s leaving do), the bar staff said we could upgrade to all-you-can-drink for $150 in total. Since with another purchase we would have hit that price anyway, it was a no-brainer.
As the night wore on, a DJ came on and played great, dancey indie music. Because it’s a small place, the 50-ish people there lent it a lively atmosphere without it feeling too packed.
I also liked the fact that the decor was low-key and kinda grungey. Reminds me of the student bars I found so hard to let go of.
I trust I will see you there.
I’ve never been a great fan of New Zealand’s National party or government, but Prime Minister’s John Key’s (and Kevin Rudd’s) success in establishing a semi-open border with Australia has to be applauded.
Under the agreement, New Zealanders will be able to use electronic passport control kiosks to get through immigration and bypass queues for baggage screening.
That’s not quite as good as Hong Kong’s system — whereby travellers can use their HK ID cards to swipe themselves through immigration at any border crossing — but it’s a lot better than having to wait in a passport queue while suspicious immigration officials give everyone the twice-over.
It does seem the infinitely preferably passport-free travel — as in the EU — is still on the cards, but it’s probably some way down the track. Self-processing with passport kiosks is an excellent compromise measure in the interim.
It is a little ironic, though. This is the government that campaigned hard on the fact that so many New Zealanders are lost to Australia every day. Making it easy for those people to zip back and forth between the two countries isn’t exactly going to encourage them to return home permanently.
Still, that’s probably a good thing too. As everyone knows, when a New Zealander moves to Australia, the national IQ shoots up on both sides of the Tasman.
Last night I had a very vivid dream about an adventure ride. I think it’s an awesome idea, and I’m hoping it already exists somewhere. But if it doesn’t, someone can set it up and pay me royalties for the magic business idea.
It’s called the Superfly (as in Superfly Jimmy Snuka), and it basically entails attaching people (one at a time, preferably) to a really long overhead cable (think of a ski-field chairlift) and then zooming them head-first through the air at a great pace for miles, so it’s like they’re really flying.
Of course, this idea is in beta at the moment, but later versions could include deviations in velocity, altitude, and direction, with prop-aided enhancements (think caves, slaloms, obstacles, etc).
It’s difficult to do justice to this idea in mere words, so I’ve had an artist do up the below sketch to give you a better impression of the Superfly.
Don’t forget to pay me the royalties.
Update: Hah. The Superfly has already been done. Crappy name though.
Yesterday, Tech Crunch skewered the numbers in a presentation by Jeff Jarvis that suggested there’s a business to be made in a network of hyperlocal news sites, apps, and other digital initiatives. (See the presentation here.)
Today, Jarvis says something to the effect of, “Fair enough — I was just trying to stimulate discussion, but as digital media evolve it can happen anyway”.
To me, there are as many reasons to be excited about the future of journalism as there are to be depressed. Real-time feeds, social media, smartphone apps, participatory journalism — all fantastic. But it’s also easy to get overly optimistic about the role of digital in saving journalism, and it’s easy to overstate just how useful some of these new digital developments can be (Twitter is great, for example, but only if you finely filter it so the important information doesn’t get lost amid what your friend ate for breakfast and what your brother saw the cat do).
When it comes to too much zealous faith in the digital media landscape — and disdain for the print-based one — Jarvis, I think, is more guilty than most (as Slate‘s Ron Rosenbaum loves to point out). His model for a hyperlocal news network is an example of that.
Jarvis has many excellent ideas, but I think he places far too much faith in ‘citizen journalism’ (or what he has latterly rephrased as ‘networked journalism‘), which, it seems, would form a large part of the base for this hypothesised hyperlocal news network.
Okay, it’s true that a lot of ‘ordinary citizens’ are creating content online, but what is that content? I don’t know the figures, but I’d expect most of it consists of photos, profiles on social networks, videos, and inane ramblings on Twitter and personal blogs. How much of that actually amounts to useful stuff that might be considered news, or local coverage of a niche or area? Probably very little. And I suspect that’s largely because the people who are capable of creating such quality content and coverage are too busy doing other things — like working.
As far as I can tell, the people who are most committed to presenting something akin to citizen journalism — I mean, networked journalism — are the slightly unhinged idealogues who get an ego kick out of publishing unmediated crap on the internet. It helps that many of these same people don’t have full-time jobs to worry about.
There are many excellent blogs about news and the media that exist outside the mainstream (though there are also many excellent ones that exist within the mainstream). I love reading Glenn Greenwald, for example, and, in New Zealand, I’m even fond of David Farrar. But Greenwald is a journalist, and Farrar has made such an endeavour of his blog that it has become a money-making pursuit, despite it largely being a press release engine for a political party (which, I’d wager, is its main reason for being anyway).
While I know there are success stories, such as OhMyNews (mind you, have you ever read it? I haven’t), there is also a lot of stuff I’ll happily ignore forever in favour of journalism that has been paid for (by news organisations), proofread, fact-checked, edited, and selected.
I know Jarvis’ model attempts to bring participatory journalism under that umbrella, but it does seem to me a little optimistic — and not just in the numbers.
Hyperlocal is one way forward, but it’s going to need more than a loose network of under-read blogs to succeed. So what is the answer? I don’t know yet. But nor does anyone else. At least we can thank Jarvis for trying.
When I was working for a digital marketing trade magazine a couple of years ago, there was one company we always wanted to write about but could never really touch: Apple.
We couldn’t even coax the company’s agencies to talk about ad campaigns Apple had done, despite their roaring successes. Apple would never talk.
Well, according to this lengthy and scathing profile on Steve Jobs and the company he runs, that’s because there is a code of secrecy at Apple that rivals anything in criminal world.
In the profile, Jobs is painted as an asshole genius, a prickly “productive narcissist” with deep insecurities.
Well, could be any of us, I suppose.
As a result of this story, however, my opinion of Apple has soured considerably, despite the fact I loved my Macbook (until it broke), I coddle my iPod, and I really want the iPhone 3GS.
Few things in the piece rankled more with me than the fact that Apple’s PR team not only told the journalist “We want to discourage profiles” but then pressured the editors to kill the story.
I’m queasy bout anything related to Microsoft, but from now on I’ll hesitate to call myself a ‘Mac Guy’.
My dad has joined the blogosphere, confirming the fact that now everyone in the world has joined the internet.
I’m not sure how long this venture will last — I believe he had the inspiration to start the blog after listening to the founder of WordPress on the radio — but it’s off to a flying start, so far featuring two short posts.
The best part of the blog, though, is the photo in the header — it’s a view of the hills outside my home town from my parents’ house. The photo was taken by my uncle, who’s an excellent photographer. Visit his site to see more of his work.
While I was in Nepal, I was lucky enough to spend a lot of time with Robin Tamang, one of Nepal’s biggest rock stars. His fame isn’t astronomical — rock isn’t that big in Nepal — but he was certainly well known and loved by the young men of the country.
Tamang writes politic songs in political times, so I thought it’d be good to do a story about him. Happily, that worked out well, and a couple of days ago the Globe and Mail (Canada’s national newspaper) published it (Tamang lived for a long time in Canada).
For some reason, the story isn’t online yet, but, strangely enough, it is available for free on Lexis Nexis.
And just for good measure, here’s an unreadable picture of the story as it appeared.
Why is it so hard to find proper criticism of Rupert Murdoch’s plan to charge for online content across all of News Corp’s websites?
Aside from a brief rubbishing in Valleywag, an admittedly incomprehensive search via Google has turned up very little in the way of people saying, ‘Stupid idea, Rupert’.
Not even Slate‘s Jack Shafer, critic of paid online models and sworn foe to Murdoch, has published a word against the planned move.
Granted, it’s Murdoch’s right to stuff up his internet businesses as he sees fit, but there seems to be more than a little too much optimism about this announcement.
Even the normally sane Andrew Sullivan is getting his hopes up, declaring: ‘It is the last stand of the newspaper industry as we’ve known it.’
I would love to see paid content models working for online newspapers and magazines. It would be very comforting indeed to learn that such a move would safeguard the future of journalism and provide a way for people in my line of work to make a living for as long as people seek news and information.
But I can’t see it working. And I’m surprised more people haven’t been pointing this out.
There are too many readily available news sources online these days to bother paying for any particular one — unless it’s something specialised that has a huge brand and well-heeled companies willing to foot the subscription bill for their employees. In other words, the Wall Street Journal.
But then, it’s not even the cost of subscribing, or paying for individual stories, that is the biggest problem. It’s the inconvenience of being confronted with a ‘Please pay $1.99 to read the full story’ message when a reader stumbles upon a news story by search, or clicks on a headline on a news site. That alone is reason enough for readers to look elsewhere.
And there will always be plenty of elsewheres. If it’s not the Guardian, or the BBC, or Reuters, or Slate, or Politico, or the New York Times (who have already experimented with various pay walls and given up on the idea, repeatedly), or the Huffington Post, or NPR, or whoever, then it will be the bloggers or the news services doing re-writes of stories that sit behind paywalls (we all know lines like this render attempts to put news stories behind walls futile: Sarah Palin will run for President in 2012, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal).
And if it’s not even that, then it will be bloggers and others copying-and-pasting entire news stories into their posts. There would also be a lot of money to be made for lite businesses that aggregate content and circumvent the need to visit (and pay for) the actual sites.
What media business people are struggling to come to terms with in the digital age is that offering free access to their online content doesn’t mean they’re giving away their content for free. It still comes with a price: readers are subjected to advertising that comes alongside, or is packaged within, the content they consume.
This is always how newspapers and magazines have made their money. The cover price likely doesn’t even go far enough to paying for the printing costs the paper the periodicals are printed on.
The hard truth is that the business model newspapers have operated on for the last few decades is broken. But doesn’t mean the death of journalism: excellent publications such as Slate, the Huffington Post, and Politico are doing very well without charging for their content.
It can be done, and increasingly news organisations are finding ways to thrive in the digital age. There’s more evolution to come, more growing pains to endure, before we see the best models finally in place. But in the meantime, Murdoch’s move is a big step backwards.