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In Dunedin and the Otago region there is a controversial issue with a fight brewing, to build another rugby stadium instead of an Institute of Design.

StopTheStadium has documented an amazing break down in process regarding the stadium idea, to the point that most people here must think there is corruption in our local, regional and national government processes. I suspect it is more like shrewed business people taking advantage of public, media and administration blind spots while initiating the project, and using that to build up and create unstoppable momentum for their short sighted aims. In short, its a classic case of lobbying for a project where the gains are private and the risks are public.

I can’t for the life of me see the worth of building an international grade rugby stadium down here, but I can certainly see the sense in developing the Institute of Design. It will certainly cost more to build the stadium than their spokespeople have publicly announced, and considering we can’t fill the stadium that already exists, I don’t see any evidence that another one will suddenly boost interest and sustain it long enough so as to fill the seats until the debt is paid off.. I might see the sense in an upgrade of the famous “Brook” though. Even if Dunedin did turn into the capital of the South with a population big enough and cashed up enough to be able to pay off the thing, I honestly can’t see what improvement it will bring to Otago industry, business, education, imagination and over-all sustainability.

Another, far less controversial proposal is on the table at the same time. The Otago Institute of Design, but the public funding pegged for that is being pulled!? Even without knowing any more about the Institute than its name, it is far more obvious how such a thing would contribute to Otago’s economic, industrial, business, educational and sustainable development.

Otago Polytechnic and Otago University are bringing their design departments together to form a new Otago Institute of Design. By pooling their expertise and resources they are creating a centre of excellence for design right here in Dunedin. This initiative will also take collaboration between design educators across NZ and the design industry to a new level, for instance, with their high-tech prototype and modeling facility that will be the most comprehensive currently available in Australasia.

But wouldn’t you know it, the Federal Government looks set to withdraw their 12.5 million dollar loan to develop the Institute, instead directing their funds to the rugby stadium to the tune of 15 million!

I can’t work this out. Rugby stadium / Institute of Design which one will have more bang for its buck when factoring in all bottom lines? When our local economy starts to feel the pinch of international trade and resource depletion, and we are in need of fresh and new innovation, what will help us? A game of rugby or a few thousand designers developing new technology and testing new ideas?

The only good thing I can think of about the stadium is that with its huge glass cover it will make a great biosphere to grow the food that we can longer import because the ships, trucks and trains needed new parts and different fuel.

This letter is sent to:
The Minister of Finance Hon. Bill English b.english@ministers.govt.nz
and Prime Minister, Hon John Key j.key@ministers.govt.nz
cc. Hon Anne Tolley, Minister for Education a.tolley@ministers.govt.nz

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After seeing Roger Stack's tour of Tasmanian Polytechnics, I thought to myself, "man! I know more about Tasmanian Polytechnic geography then I do New Zealand". So I set to work mking my owb version of Roger's Google Earth video just to study up on where NZ Polytechnic's are situated. Oh, and I learned a thing or two about Google Earth while I was at it.

First music track is some way old country by Ernst Thompson care of the Archive.

I stuffed up the credits in the video for the second track. It is called Thinking of New Zealand, but is by Adam Wojtanek – care of the Archive again.

I'll load up a new version with the correct credits tomorrow.

Thanks for the inspiration Roger. 

New Zealand's new Copyright Law presumes 'Guilt Upon Accusation' and will Cut Off Internet Connections without a trial. Join the black out protest against it!

Last year I met with a friend from up North who works a bit for Telecom (a telecommunications company here in NZ). Over dinner we got to talking about the Internet in New Zealand and I spouted some ideas on how I thought Telecom should do things differently.

Nothing much seems to have come of that, no mysterious calls from Telecom offering me a job or anything, so I thought I may as well paste it here.

AT the moment, NZ cultural agencies like the education sector, libraries and archives are allowing NZ artifacts to pour off our shores and into the coffers of popular net services like Facebook and Youtube. Sure, they try to set up their own websites that replicate the services of those pop media in/outlets and they try to make their services more relevant and accessible (and some of them are doing a pretty good job, but they are all missing something key, that the people who use those services (most of us) want the international connection they provide, and using local services is a kind of power down.

Breaking this problem down:
1. The cultural agencies want to make their services more relevant and accessible to the NZ public (including NZrs living over seas).
2. They have a problem in that most NZrs are drawn to use popular media like Facebook and Youtube, and that large amounts of NZ contemporary culture is not being captured by NZ archives etc, neither stored nor served in NZ, adding to international bandwidth costs.

Now, there is a complimentary problem in NZ.. the issue of bandwidth. We spend enormous amounts of money to send and receive data from international servers. Some ISPs have tried caching that data locally, but I haven’t heard of the savings in that being passed down to the end user.

This is where the cultural agencies can step in and offer something great to people in NZ.

The cultural agencies (that’s our schools, libraries, archives, art galleries, museums, local government) need to position themselves between the popular media and the people who use it. How? Well, lets start by taking a look at TubeMogal. One of a number of web services that will take your video and distribute it across a number of popular media in/outlets in one single upload. This is great for people who are really keen on getting their media out to as many people as possible, as well as those looking for some kind of cloud computing storage and backup. Imagine such a tool used by our cultural agencies, where they offer to take your media and distribute it across the popular in/outlets, but AS WELL they list themselves and their own servers as an option for storing and serving your file. Imagine if the NZ National Archives was on my TubeMogal list? Or imagine if the NZ Archives site provided me with a service like TubeMogal but better. Imagine if NZ Archives partnered with services like Achive.org, and generously stored and served everyones media to everyone, but with a special interest in NZ media. And imagine if they could do all that in partnership with ISPs so that when a user does upload a music video to Youtube as well as the NZ Archive and Archive.org and everywhere else, the next time a NZ user requests that same media to be served, instead of the data coming from off shore it was served from a NZ server, complete with local advertising? saving bandwidth and money, and storing NZ heritage. Imagine if those savings were passed down to the end user, helping to make Internet in NZ affordable. Not only would we start seeing more affordable Internet in this country, but more people would engage with, use and identify with NZ cultural agencies, and help them capture the NZ cultural heritage it is currently missing.. on its way out the door to Youtube.

Its important to note that this service does not replace or attempt to replicate Youtube, just that it is attempting to position itself between the user and Youtube so as to benefit from the exchange and offer improved service for the NZ user.

I realise the caching and serving of media locally is problematic, but I included it here for the full picture.

A smarter and more targeted system of ad placement could help pay for this set up. Where as GoogleAds are sometimes nonspecific and uninteresting, this localisaton could afford more targeted and user generated advertising to compliment the effort, and include more generous revenue sharing.. perhaps the best way to do this is to partner up with Google Ads and help them be better.

Last year I was sharing this idea in more detail to my friend the Telecom market researcher. He seemed turned on to the idea but had his doubts about the telco being anywhere near the headspace of even entertaining the idea and look at bringing all this together. I started a campaign page on the KAREN wiki that relates to the thinking behind this. And later again, at the HeyWire8 OER meeting I tried to bring the right people together to talk about the idea, but never had the opportunity to even bring it up.  It is only a recent discussion with Simon on my blog that has prompted me to post the general bones of the idea here.

Who knows, maybe I’ll get a call from someone and I’ll get a few free dinners just to talk this idea through to whatever its end. I think it could work, but then, I know more detail 🙂

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Heike, Ian and I hiked up to the Brewster Hut and ski toured around the Brewster Glacier on the weekend. It’s way late in the season, but just as I upload this video it is snowing down to sea level again! Its nearly mid November!!

As it appears with map, photos and other links on Life in the South

Vote for me, user generated poster campaign

Vote for me, user generated poster campaign

You’d be forgiven for not knowing that New Zealand is preparing for a National Election in the next few days. Even the coverage here is more excited by the Obama win than its own election preparations. Personally I’m more than a little skeptical of Obama (let alone democracy in the USA).. I haven’t even heard him say anything of substance yet, and it surely wasn’t possible for the repugnance to get in again! I suppose Obama’s win is significant in other ways.

Back home in New Zealand the main politics is much more dry. While it is easy to miss, we actually have a lot more than 2 parties running the election. Unforgivably the NZ media mainly runs the stories of 2, trying desperately to cash in on a US style, hyped up, revenue drawing, simpleton election. Those 2 basics are Labour under Helen Clark (presently in power) and Nationals under John Key. Helen Clark is campaigning on a platform of a strong public sector ensuring jobs, infrastructure and stability. John Key is campaigning on a platform of privatisation, stimulating economic growth, and rationalising the public sector. While my sympathies are with Helen, both campaigns are age old and down right dull.

The Greens on the other hand, they have run a very interesting campaign and have a long track record of principled and visionary policy making. Just their poster campaign itself is significant enough, representing a party that can think outside the square and be innovative. Brent Simpson compared the parties a while back. Given that the Greens have had next to no prime time media coverage, I think it is fair to say that they have done an excellent job maintaining a presence in this election, not to mention by far the strongest and most authentic online presence long before the election campaigns started.

Vote for us

Vote for us

If a change is what we need, I sure hope it doesn’t go the old ho hum and long over due for retirement, public vs private direction. That time passed  20 years ago! I hope to see a real shake down and a new generation of politics enter New Zealand government. One that reinforces NZs international reputation for progressive politics and continues to attract migration of progressive people.

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Heike and I head off for a Sunday ski over the back of the Remarkables.

A local primary school here in Otago has been developing capacities in the use of Free Software in their school. I have met the principal of Warrington Primary, Nathan Parker. He came around to my house one afternoon after work. We drank liquorish tea and shared a few tips on the use of GIMP. I got to hear a lot of the ins and outs of the school’s progress, and I honestly think they have found a way to do it right with Free Software in Schools.

Computer World recently published an encouraging article about their developments:

The school is deploying the GNU/Linux operating system, aiming to have free software across the board by 2010, and the complete switch to Linux has been approved by the MoE, says the school’s principal, Nathan Parker.

“We are saving the government money,” says Parker. “We are saving them 13 [Microsoft] licences this year, and hopefully we will be down to zero next year.”

I hear that Nathan and his colleagues have even been rebuilding old computers and providing them to families in the school! That’s pretty nice.

What’s really great to see is the fact that Nathan and his colleagues actually knew very little about computers and networks before they started this. I think Nathan said it was a parent that introduced Ubuntu to them, and the social aspect of it clicked. Now Nathan and his colleagues have been rapidly building up a self sufficiency in computing not only in the school but in the community around them.

Some might say that makes them vulnerable in a global economy. They will have difficulty finding staff and support people for their alternative approaches. The kids will eventually be faced with a new school or employer who has never heard of free software or open standard formats. And they have more work ahead in trying to fit with the Ministry of Education’s approach. There are a few educational ways to look at those issues.. it seems we only look at it one business case way.

One thing that strikes me as VERY concerning in the article is the suggestion that the Ministry have not considered Free Software before:

In terms of future costs for supporting a non-Microsoft environment, he says, the MoE is willing to investigate situations it has not already covered.

But it’s encouraging to think that little Warrington might actually be driving a Ministry rethink!

Ideally (I think) schools should be offering educational experiences in all three computing platforms with a preference for free software. We need to equally acknowledge that there are some people who don’t mind paying for Macintosh, others Microsoft, and some quite enjoy the uniqueness of GNU/Linux.. we should preference the free software because, well.. its free, accessible, and affordable to those who can’t see the sense in paying $1000-$4000 for a personal computer that could just as easily cost $100 – $500 and that evidently encourages computing self sufficiency and the wider recognition and use for open standard formats. (Anyone having trouble opening Vista files lately? Here we go again).

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Sunshine and I took the dogs out for a walk on Thursday. Turned out to be a bit of an epic. Was very windy, cold, wind formed crust over a lot of teh snow, and an exhausting walk out to the car. You wouldn't really know at all from this happy little video though 🙂

Audio track by DJ Lang: There's Something Wrong- The Dirty Water Remix CC By NC

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