I’m shutting down COMPLIANCE FICTION

•October 14, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Yes you heard me. Shutting down. I will continue to post the same sort of content on my new blog:


It’s a blog about a lot more than politics and political economy. It’s about culture, art, books, movies, photography and more. Pretty much anything i find cool or interesting I will post to Three Dice.

I’ll see you there >> THREE DICE


Politicians & Twitter

•September 28, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Prompted by a recent article in Mediawatch, I have been ruminating over the relationship between politicians and Twitter. John Key’s staff tweet for him, Phil Goff’s staff tweet for him, Len Brown’s staff tweet for him, and a lot of other MPs tweet for themselves. The Greens are especially prolific in their tweeting. Some politicians are anti-twitter to the very core of their beings, such as David Cameron, who was recently quoted as saying “too many twits might make a twat”. (Incidentally, Gordon Brown is a twitterer). Paul Holmes doesn’t like Twitter either, in a recent column of his he wrote that “tweeting is inane”. That column, for the record, was 2861 characters long, or 21 tweets at 140 characters a pop.

But I suppose it’s not sufficient to simply say that these politicians are using twitter; we have to analyse why there using it, what they’re saying, and how other people are responding to it. When a politician uses twitter as a medium to spout slogans, then clearly, the value of their tweets is markedly reduced to nothing more than a party advertisement. The only people who will ‘follow’ such tweets are die hard supporters, opponents, and political junkies. Common users would feel like their elites are talking at them, rather than with them.

On the other hand though, if the tweets get too intimate, they will be rejected by the more serious commentators as being inane and unnecessary.

Perhaps what politicians have to be most vigilant about, however, is twimpersinators. A noxious downside of Twitter is how easy it is to set up a phoney profile and claim to be someone you in fact are not. The question then becomes, is it worth creating a legitimate account just to prevent amateur impostors from adopting your personality?

I think there is some value to politicians being on twitter, but they have to use the medium in the way other people use it. Not always to take the question ‘what are you doing’ absolutely literally, but to engage. To spend some time answering questions, not necessarily with everyone, but to address serious issues in a dialogue format. Maybe to debate with other politicians and MPs. That way politics could have the potential to speak to disillusioned young voters.


Or maybe the whole thing could be summed up in one tweet :

“It’s slightly more complicated than that”

From Broadcast to Broadband.

•September 21, 2009 • Leave a Comment

So, TIVO was launched in New Zealand this week. The offering though was pretty flat. Basically you needed a telecom broadband account before you could even start to fool yourself into thinking it would be a good investment. Without telecom, you wouldn’t have a programme guide. Without a programme guide, your viewing experience would be a nightmare. You may as well stick to Freeview.

All this buzz got me thinking of the future though and wondering what the broadcasting environment could look like one day. Is it possible, that sooner or later, people will think of what we now call ‘broadcast’ television as an entity that could not live without the life-blood of broadband internet? Broadcast in this context would almost cease to exist. It’s possible that one day there could be no ‘channels’ as we know them. In the place of channels would be content hubs; websites where audiences could go to satisfy their hunger for a particular style of entertainment which they would be able to view on demand.

Now, obviously this wouldn’t be achievable without major restructuring of broadcast funding models for production as well as distribution and also massive infrastructural development.

But let’s say those problems were resolvable, would that be a step forward for current affairs broadcasting, or a step backwards?

NZ is currently being fed a weird hybrid news bulletin. It’s not all pop news, but it’s not all serious quality news either: it’s qual-pop. And it doesn’t satisfy anyone.

The people who like hard news don’t like it because there’s too much soft news and the people who like soft news don’t like it because there’s too much hard news. But there isn’t enough audience out there to justify the production of two news bulletins, each pandering to it’s own news market, and so everyone gets a less than satisfactory news experience.

Maybe news is the exception.


News is always the exception.


And that’s the way it should be.

Bill Ralston Blogs.

•September 16, 2009 • Leave a Comment

In case you didn’t know (and I didn’t) Bill Ralston blogs on Janet Wilson’s website.

Recently he wrote an awesome post on the pointlessness of the ‘Live Cross’ in televised news broadcasts. I hate live crosses almost as I hate updates about the weather so I had a great time reading it.

And you can too if you like. There is a link to it here

From Broadsheet to Broadband.

•September 13, 2009 • Leave a Comment

I want to take a moment to write about Barry Coleman. I should have addressed this months ago when the decision was announced, but I wasn’t an ‘active’ blogger then and so I didn’t. I was reminded of the issue earlier this week, and also once more again tonight so I thought it would make the good basis for a post.

Barry Coleman has started charging people money to view ‘premium’ news content on his business news website NBR.co.nz. This is largely in response to Rupert Murdoch’s decision to try the same thing on with the Wall Street Journal. Can this really be a feasible business decision?

Martin Taylor has written a very interesting blog which explains that, no, Barry Coleman is not stupid, but, rather, the internet is actually broken.

Unusually, I am not going to criticise Barry Coleman for charging for content. Instead, I am going to quietly sit back and watch to see what happens. The problem with publishers at the moment is that their legacy revenues are diminishing rapidly. This is making many of them less likely to take risks online. They are instead pushing the model they have but do not necessarily LIKE. With the model they have they can charge advertisers and earn money based on the amount of traffic their websites receive. They don’t like this because it means they have to work harder to provide an environment where advertisers will be willing to serve ads.

With a successful subscription model though, a publisher would become less reliant on advertisers and would more easily be able to criticise they corporate entities they once depended on as a primary source of income. This can only ever be a positive thing for journalism.

Of course, given that antipodal business news is an incredibly niche market, they will always have to feature SOME form of advertising on their site, and yes for a long while may actually have to settle for having the majority of their digital revenue come from advertising, but if their is a chance; a glimmer of a possibility of a hope, that we could see a better quality of news journalism come from the mainstream adoption of this model then I would pay to subscribe to that service.

Or maybe I’m just being too optimistic and too idealistic.  

The downside of Online’s powerful measurement tools.

•September 5, 2009 • Leave a Comment

The web is a statistician’s dream. If you have an internet site and install some very basic, very easy to use and very free analytics code on it, you can monitor all sorts of stuff. You can see which pages on your site are most visited, which ones users spend the most time on, and which ones cause users to click away from your site. Ideally, you can use this data to make ‘improvements’ to your website, that is, in the case of content heavy sites, you can provide more of the content that attracts the kind of users you want, and less of that which turns people away or doesn’t get clicked through to as often.

This seems great right? But the problem is you can’t always take this data at face value, there are lots of factors which might contribute to certain pages being viewed more often than others. Take for example newspaper websites. On a news site, much like in an actual newspaper, the stories that are featured on the front page will have a much higher readership figure than those buried further into the site, or further into the paper. So instantly, on a newspaper website, editorial direction will influence the measurable statistics from an analytics tool. That’s a pretty straightforward, obvious sort of correlation which I trust online publishers already understand, but there is a far more understated manipulation going on which I only recently thought of as I more closely analysed my own personal news consumption.

I get the print version of our local metropolitan newspaper delivered to my home. I don’t have a great deal of time to read the whole thing cover to cover each morning, so I peruse all of the headlines and read the articles which are most important to me, or that I find most interesting.

By the time I get to work and am catching up on the rest of the day’s news during my breaks, I am invariably online. But the thing is, I have already read the stories which I find to be the most pertinent. I’m not really interested in reading the same news item twice in one day, so I click on articles that are less interesting to me, but are still relevant to my life. These tend to be softer news pieces and (yes I confess) entertainment news stories.

I seriously wonder whether this pattern of news consumption gets taken into account by publishers. What I worry about, is whether or not my click journeys online are taken as some sort of sign that I prefer to read one type of news story over another. My message to publishers is to be very cautious of analytics data and those who claim that it’s results and statistics are unequivocal proof of demand for a certain type of news.

Because in my case they certainly ‘aint. 

Checking out at the Google Public Library.

•August 29, 2009 • Leave a Comment

So I know I haven’t exactly kept to my word when I said I would publish more posts to the blog. But as no one reads it regularly then I guess we don’t have a problem.

I have a free few moments now though so I thought I’d share with you an article that came onto Vanity Fair yesterday morning. The article was called Is Google Books Evil and it addressed the class action suit that is scheduled to take place on the 7th of October in New York.

I’m not going to repeat all the points in the article. You can read it yourself, but I did just want to draw people’s attention to it because copyright is something that is inherently confusing to most people and I think it’s important that issues like this are discussed at large.