Monthly Archives: October 2007

Unitec lecture – what I also meant to say

There’s always something that you forget to mention when you’re doing a lecture or presentation. I’ve just got back from running a guest lecture slot with students on the stakeholder communication and image management course run through the Unitec Graduate Diploma in Not for Profit Management, and realise I didn’t talk about creative commons (amongst other things).

A couple of pictures and diagrams I used were released under creative commons licenses via flickr, including rind by Tony from Chicago. These pictures were released under slightly different conditions, but required the user of images not to profit and ensure the creator is attributed. There are a range of similar permutations governing under other creative commons licences.

I would actually have been pressed for time, but I did want to mention that creative commons “provides a range of copyright licences, freely available for public use, which allow those creating intellectual property – including authors, artists, educators and scientists – to mark their work with the freedoms they want it to carry.” The New Zealand Aotearoa Creative Commons licenses are being launched at a seminar in Saturday 27 October. (Entry to the seminar is free.)

There is a huge repository of creative commons material available for use by organisations (provided the rules are followed). There are almost 50 million photos offered by members under various creative commons licences on flickr alone. The official creative commons search engine helps people find photos, music, text, books, educational material, and more that is free to share or build upon.

The other thing that came up I hadn’t included in my presentation were wikis. I likened them to a jointly written story. Imagine sitting around a dinner table passing a sheet of paper for each person to add a paragraph. The first person grabs the paper back off the fifth and scribbles out the third person’s second sentence, and rewrites it. So on, and so forth. For a more elegant description see “How wikis work”.

I’m not aware of many wikis used by New Zealand community organisations. The only wiki I am actively involved in is run by the the State Services Commission for members of the online participation community of practice. Now that the guide to online participation is written, the initial key purpose for the wiki, I’m not sure how active the community of practice will be.

Lindsay pointed out because wikis are edited/ re-edited this online pubishing tool has its downsides: something you once agreed with or thought was reliable on a wiki can be changed. It requires a lot of vigilance.

The other stuff I covered in the course is outlined in my new training section, see Unitec Stakeholder communications and image management course, including a copy of my presentation “Keeping up: new, new, new things online”.

Engaging young people online – whaddya reckon?

For government agencies seeking to bring a youth perspective into their policy work, the Internet seems to be a logical choice. Of course, not all young people are online but a high percentage are regular cyber denizens.

The 2005 Nielsen/ NetRatings eGeneration survey (2MB pdf) showed 78 per cent of people aged 6-17 had been online in the last week. A major Statistics NZ survey on household ICT use showed that 85.5 per cent of people aged 15 to 24 were online in the last year (as at December 2006).

When I met in August with the Young Peoples Reference Group (YPRG), set up by the Children’s Commissioner, I found out that all the group’s members had been online within the previous 24 hours. While most of the group were participating in social networking websites, Bebo being the most popular, some were adamant they wouldn’t join.

The obvious conclusion is going online is a good idea, but the hard bit is working out what is the best way or ways to effectively engage young people.

Some early thoughts and suggestions are captured in my presentation engaging young people online – whaddya reckon?. This contributes to some very early blue skies thinking being done within the Families Commission komihana a whanau.

Both the theory and the experience of people I’ve talked to is don’t expect a large scale involvement if you set up a political/ policy/ citizenship type online space. It’s best to go where people are already active (eg social networking sites), or directly approach schools or youth groups and facilitate the production of content related to the area of policy interest. The Shore/ Whariki photovoice projects, Living Heritage and Outlook for Someday video competition are examples along the lines of the latter.

While debate rages on what to do next, I know the online world won’t be standing still and some new, latest and greatest thing is just around the corner. I’d particularly love to hear from anyone on the YPRG to give me some insights into trends.

Wellington mayoral wannabes online

With a week to go until voting in this year’s the local body elections close, the turnout has been pretty low. The Dominion Post reported last week that just 13.28 per cent of Wellington’s 132,051 eligible votes had been received, down 2.06 per cent from the same stage three years ago.

Most of the mayoral candidates have websites, and I had a quick look at what they have to offer. Disappointingly, few of the candidates are putting much faith in participation with their constituents.

Mark McGrath has a blog on his beige website, but with the comments function turned off. A statement on the website simplys ays “The facility to write on my blog has been taken off but you can still email me.” Comments from the public, ie us the voters, are too hot to handle it seems.

In a glaring blunder, one post McGrath published under his name that he didn’t write or even read was later removed because he was concerned about some alledgely false statements about property developer Rex Nicholls. It’s not a promising start for encouraging democratic dialogue or credibility. A point in his favour: McGrath is open about his past, including acknowledging that he was bankrupted after two failed events in the early 1990s.

You can find a 1990s theme on Bryan Pepperel’s website. If you fossick around you’ll find papers Bryan wrote in 1995 making predictions about the future of Wellington. You’ll also find some vintage pictures of one of his hobbies, motorcycle restoration.

Although the discussion forum on his website isn’t attracting a lot of comment, it’s great that he is open to talking about this ideas and policies. Diving into the social media arena, Bryan has made a couple of election videos and posted them to YouTube. His secreat weapon clip has been viewed 68 times in the last three weeks. Not setting the world on fire, but pretty savvy nonetheless.

Single issue candidate Helene Ritchie shows some technical flair with her really fabulous photo presentation about the disruptive and perpetual construction on public spaces around Wellington’s waterfront. She’s encouraging people to “save the waterfront with your vote.” You’ll find Helene’s contact details, but no other way of interacting with her.

Current Mayor Kerry Prendergast, who is seeking re-lection for a third term, deigns to accept questions then write answers but they have a static, inauthentic feel. Who knows what has been asked, and what has been screened out? With just three questions published, it’s not exactly giving much feel for our current leaders opinions or personality. The airbrushed photo and excessive hyperbole, something web writing wizard Rachel McAlpine counsels against, suggest a victory of style over substance.

Paul Bailey, whose one page website is impossible to find using Google (hence the absence of a link), and Rob Goulden, whose promises remind of those of an appliance sales person, don’t do a lot for me, though their messages could be spot on for some audiences.

That leaves Ray Ahipene Mercer. Finding out about Mercer’s life history, including the lives of his tipuna, was really revealing. He’s into planting trees, clean water, rock ‘n roll, his Maori heritage, and diving. You get a really good feel for Mercer the person, not just advertising spiels like most of the other candidates. I suspect Mercer’s the sort of guy who’d prefer sitting down having a yarn, rather using online discussion tools (none of which are included on his website).

The Dominion Post is running an election special, which includes video addresses by all the mayoral candidates. I haven’t come across that many sites where the elections is attracting any comment. Perhaps I just can’t find it in cyberspace, or perhaps apathy is really setting in.

Unlike the United States presidential campaigners, led by Barak Obama who alone has over 125,000 MySpace friends, the Wellington Mayoral candidates are not using the web that powerfully. I can only hope the new incumbent does a better job of fostering democratic dialogue than the candidates have done online.

NB. The list of candidates whose websites I looked at was based on those listing a website in the election material mailed out. Did I miss anyone out?