Category Archives: Uncategorized

CD-Roms are not going away

Don’t throw out your CD-Rom just yet. Last week Nathan Donaldson from Boost New Media told The National Business Review about the popularity of CD-Roms and DVDs for distributing teaching materials.

He is quoted as saying “When we started Boost in 2000 we thought CD-Roms were over and we’d never do them again but it’s turned out not to be the case at all. In the past 10 years I’ve been involved in more than 20 educational CD-Roms.”

There’s lots of reasons why CD-Roms are still popular, including low bandwidth at schools, the technology skills of teachers, and relative ease of duplication.

It’s helpful to hear of developers who understand the needs of clients (including their situation), rather than pushing the latest thing. I think this is at the heart of Boost’s business success.

Nathan has been helping out with the development of the Wellington e-rider IT service as a member the steering group.

See the full story “Demand still high for Boost New’s old media”, 25 January 2008.

Get growing email newsletter

Garden terraces, Clarence Street, 22 January 2008The arrival of Lynda Hallinan’s weekly email newsletter couldn’t have been better timed. Every Friday in 2008 the New Zealand Gardener editor is sending out chatty gardening tips and commentary, along with news, competitions, recipes, and an ask an expert panel.

Lynda has big plans for New Zealanders. This year her magazine has launched “a campaign to get New Zealand growing. We want to encourage every new and novice vege gardener out there to give it a go.”

This campaign follows a year in which the magazine’s editor lived off produce from her Auckland vege garden, plus $10 a week (for more detail see a NZ Gardener’s Blog Diary). She proved it’s possible to grow a enough food for a household and even swap surpluses. More strings are being added to Linda’s bow this year. Homemade wine, a pizza oven and a whole lot more fun are planned.

The language in the newsletter is so, so approachable and the advice easy to relate to. I think this is because Linda is willing to admit the odd mistake.

This is all music to my ears. My gardening efforts come in fits and starts, so I need some encouragement beyond the sheer pleasure of eating my own food. And despite watching both my grandparents and parents grow loads of kai, I’m a later starter at gardening.

In an almost cause-effect chain of events, I’ve dug 160 litres of compost into the garden since last Friday’s email newsletter arrived. With my final terrace now in production, I’ve been able to plant beetroot, brassicas and naughty marietta.

I’d have to conclude based on just one newsletter, it’s effective at inspiring action. With each month’s gardening magazine (thanks to a Christmas present from my out-of-laws) and now the emails, I guess I can expect to be growing lots this year.

Ways of keeping up

One of the hardest things about the constantly changing world wide web, and ICTs generally, is keeping up with myriad new developments. There is no shortage of information available but where to start.

Miraz Jordan suggests one way for community groups to keep up is setting up someone within their organisation as a Technology Scout (see her article “Technology Scout – an asset for every organisation“). This is not about fixing printers or helping with using computer programmes (though the person who is a scout possibly does some of this stuff anyway).

Rather the Technology Scout’s job is to:

“… explore the world of new technologies, especially, but not only, the Internet, and to work out where and how your group should be involved: to scout the terrain and suggest a way forward.”

For the Scout’s toolkit I’ve got suggestions of a couple of radio programmes available for download that are helpful ways of getting a snapshot of technology developments. I actually find it easier to listen to a short programme that prowl around reading websites and blogs.

It’s easy to get overloaded with the technology hype: the shiny, whizzy latest gizmo or software being pushed by companies, however profit hungry altruistic they may be. Search Engine on Canada’s public radio eschews the technology itself focusing instead on culture and small-p politics. The producer’s describe the show as your “open source to all the surprising and significant ways the Internet is transforming our world.” I haven’t missed an episode since it went on air last August.

The redoubtable Guardian Unlimited has just added a Tech Weekly podcast to their website. As well as running news stories, discussion forums and a blog, the online version of the newspaper now has some of the same journalists producing a news and commentary podcast. Unlike the other two podcasts listed, this show is not broadcast over the wireless.

BBC World Service’s have been running their Digital Planet programme for many years. Each week the programme literally tours the globe talking with people involved in projects, telecommunications infrastructure, the latest gizmos, policies, industry, what’s new online, digital divide, community projects and everything in between. It’s a very broad reach. You may have heard their commentator Bill Thompson talking with Radio NZ’s Simon Morris on This Way Up.

Of course Radio NZ features many useful features and commentaries at different times. I’ll try and list them here later.

Somehow I do find time to listen to these programmes each week, though luckily the fast forward button is at my finger tips.


  • Search Engine, CBC (Canada), 30 minute weekly shows, podcast or on demand
  • Tech Weekly, Guardian Newspaper UK, 30 minute shows, podcast only
  • Digital Planet, weekly, 25 minute shows, podcast or on demand

How to … use the internet, by The Listener

I was looking forward to finding out about some new websites when I saw this week’s Listener. “Strike the best sites on the internet” was the bold claim on the cover.

Springing to mind were the 100 useful websites listed by the Guardian newspaper and the annual list of Webby finalists. Perusing both lists are great ways of finding new, creative and innovative websites.

In an online exclusive to supplement a page and a half of text, the Listener list about 40 useful websites. Most are commonplace like Google, NZ Herald and Wikipedia.

Of the rest, only a couple really caught my eye.

  • Newseum website is the online home of the 250,000-square-foot museum of news based in Washington, DC. The newspapers front page collection, from newspapers in 55 countries around the world, is neat. The Press and NZ Herald are among the 630 front pages collected.
  • Joost offers up free online TV – about 20,000 shows apparently. I couldn’t view any of the clips as it takes more modern hardware than my three and a half year old iBook.
  • Quintura is a new search engine which allows users to visually navigate and refine searches using a ‘cloud’ of terms.

Although the “How to … use the internet” article is pretty basic, I haven’t come away totally empty handed.

BTW: as a by-product of looking at the list I found out more about how far the NZ Herald have integrated RSS into their website: you can subscribe by RSS to individual reporters (and much more). This makes it easy to track favourite writers (or subjects, organisation or features) without having to visit the website.

Lasa connection

It didn’t take long before I was scribbling down a list of resources and websites to look into after meeting Aba Maison, from the London Advisory Services Alliance (LASA). While on a two month trip around New Zealand, Aba took time out from her sight-seeing to swap notes about using IT to support community groups.

One of the tips I was most pleased to get was a plugin to the WordPress blog software that makes it easy to link to YouTube videos (it’s called EasyTube). As we discussed the education and mentoring focus of the Wellington e-rider service, Aba suggested taking a look at a specific article entitled “Moving from personal to organisational directory structures” listed in the hugely impressive ICT knowledgebase.

The knowledgebase is just one part of bigger ICT Hub and helpline freely available to any UK community and voluntary organisation. Aba is responsible for content development, both writing material herself, organising others and working with techies. Along with her colleagues, Aba supports LASA to work as the London regional ICT champion (one of nine appointed nationally by the UK government), and is involved in supporting the UK equivalent to our e-rider, called circuit riders.

The ICT hub has just been expanded with the addition of a supplier directory. Hundreds of pre-vetted suppliers of hardware, software and services are listed. It looks a really useful tool, and something we could possibly look to establish in Aotearoa. The underlying code could be made available to us – something that would be a massive headstart.

I already knew about the ICT hub, but it’s value was really increased by having someone who could point me to particularly relevant content. Aba also pointed out the UK-riders list, which has 380 subscribers providing peer support around community organisation IT development.

The team at Lasa have established strong connections with people working in similar ways in the United States. Aba commented strongly on the value of co-operation, particularly as the issues all for groups seem to be very similar regardless of where they are based. There is an opportunity to swap material that we produce.

The last hint I was left with was about the fifth Community Information Strategies Australia (CISA) Connecting UP annual conference being held in Brisbane in May 2008. I didn’t know there was another CISA conference happening before chatting with Aba, but I’ve already added it to my diary.

BTW: Follow Aba’s travels on her blog at:

Webstock – here I come

Yeeha!! I’ve just been awarded a scholarship to attend the 2008 Webstock conference. The 20 kick-ass speakers and truckloads of high energy talk and inspiration will cover just about everything to do with improving the standard of website design and development.

Topics include information architecture, writing for the web (including a presentation by Rachel McAlpine, whose new book is mentioned below), search engine optimisation, accessibility and interface design. Kathy Sierra, who didn’t return to our shores earlier this year because she’d been harassed for comments she made about blogging etiquette (see “Kathy Sierra cancels NZ workshop” ) is again listed on the agenda. Sam Morgan, whose reputation proceeds him, will be having a fireside chat. And there’s even a 50 minute talk covering all you want to know about the shape of the web to come and how to make things that thrive as part of it by Tom Coates from Yahoo.

From what I heard about the first Webstock in 2006, it was lots of fun and has had a big impact. There has been a real buzz about designing usable websites that anyone can use ever since.

A responsibility I have accepted as the recipient of a scholarship is sharing my experience of the Conference with others in the field I work in. I’ll keep you posted.