Monthly Archives: August 2004

Activism thriving at Webby’s

Not only do the prestigious international Webby Awards have a category on activism but it is first on the list. It’s a reassuring sign that one of the core principles of the Internet – promoting free speech and citizen participation – has a strong heartbeat.

The winner of the 2004 Activism category is Tolerance.org, a website New Zealand audiences should find topical given its devotion to fighting hate and promoting tolerance. Included in the website is news, actions and ways of digging deeper. The design is fresh, the language snappy and the content current. I was almost going to sign the Declaration of Tolerance but noticed it was for making America (sic) a more tolerant country. Luckily there were 100 other tools for tolerance for me to look into.

The “people’s choice” award in the Activism category went to the Human Rights Campaign, the largest national gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender advocacy organisation in the United States. There is a strong action orientation and loads of backbround information. Again there is information topical in Aotearoa right now: facts and figures on civil unions.

Other categories worth checking out are:

  • Film – won by Fog of War, Errol Morris’ documentary on former Secretary Defence Robert McNamara.
  • News – inclusion of Aljazeera.Net provides a reassuring level of inclusiveness.
  • Politics – more about participation that parties.
  • Youth – the winner of this category is the politically focused Wiretap, an offshoot the reliable alternative news service AlterNet.

The website is instructive not only for links to good websites, but because the criteria reinforce good webdesign and active content management. As well as looking for material relevant to each category judges assessed content, structure and navigation, visual design, interactivity, functionality and overall experience. A full list of judging criteria is available online.

New Zealand does rate a mention, with the Pure NZ website being one of five nominees in the travel category.

Although the Award winners were announced in May, the Webby’s are worth a visit. You might even like to consider nominating your website for 2005. Entries close our spring.

Helen Clark’s ‘plog’

I was alerted to the existence of Helen Clark’s weblog in Spinach 7 one of my favourite Australian magazines. The writer of the article on political weblogs – from whence the hideous ‘plog’ comes from – favourably compared the effort of our very own Prime Minister’s against those of Mark Latham and Johnny Howard. “Techno-savvy” was the hackneyed commendation.

Although the Labour Party website might be worth a visit for its policy and party information, and fun and gimmicky free stuff, don’t bother searching out Helen’s weblog. The content is bleached of any personality and is a painful read – of the golly, gee, gosh that’s interesting kind. It certainly doesn’t convey any of the cerebral activity normally associated with our brainy PM.

Here’s a wee excerpt from the 29 July posting:
Later, at Palmerston North Girls’ High, I spoke to senior pupils and had an illuminating question-and-answer session with them, before joining the staff for lunch. The girls asked thoughtful and well-researched questions that ranged over issues such as physical punishment and tertiary education policies.

I would have to say, the weblog breaks the rule “if you haven’t got anything interesting (or witty or insightful) to say, it’s best not to say anything.” It can only be a matter of time before the offending content is removed.

NB You can read more about Spinach 7 in an earlier weblong entry on Radical Melbourne.

Get the Kilbirnie goss online

The above title, reproduced from a recent issue of The Wellingtonian community newspaper, does not refer to salacious celebrity gossip, but to news available on the Kilbirnie Lyball Bay Rongotai Progressive Association website.

Sewage, roading, cycle lanes, the retail precint, water and other local issues are the key concern of the Association. And it is these topics that are reflected in the contents of the website. It’s very utilitarian. You can find copies of meeting minutes and submissions, and the local bobby’s newsletter. You can learn how to join the association, and review the constitution.

The website probably won’t win an award for prettiness, and there are a a few coding oddities and a strange link the Milonic menu folk. But in some ways this doesn’t detract from the aim of the website – to provide a way of strenghtening democratic participation. It definitely provides a means for the Association to be transparent about it’s activities, and it gives people a chance to have their say.

As Stephen Moore, the Association’s president commented, “If you haven’t got time to attend the residents’ association meeting, participate online.” Given my aversion to meetings, I think I better check to see whether my local residents’ association has a website, so I too can participate via a virtual link.

RMAlink website launch

I was pleasantly surprised at the number of people that turned up on a wintry Thursday to attend the launch of the RMAlink website. The 25 people assembled were introduced to a powerful online resource that has been developed by ECO, New Zealand’s environmental umbrella group.

The website is designed to make it easy for people working at a grassroots level to get information about participating in the Resource Management Act (RMA) processes. As well as guidance material on processes and links to detailed information, including lists of publications and case law, there is a directory of active groups. If you want to find out who is working on quarrying or reverse sensitivity and nuisance issues, it looks like RMAlink can help.

The website was funded through a grant from the RMA Education and Advisory Fund administered by the Ministry for the Environment. Funding was is, of course, just one part of developing a successful community project: a lot of people contributed their time to project management, gathering information and peer reviewing content.

Change and development is assured as the number of topics is expanded and case law grows. It is definitely an important online resource to use, promote and support.