Posts Tagged ‘twitter’

Meet MattyBRaps

Posted in Technology, Worldwide on October 20th, 2011 by Matt Taylor – 18 Comments

Meet Matthew Morris aka MattyBRaps. At eight-years-old, he’s voice coached, partnered on YouTube, LLC’d, trademarked, and sponsored, because of his rap videos. He’s managed by his father, who has a BBA (Bachelor of Business Administration). Lyrics and videos are produced with the help of his cousin, MarsRaps. Crafted into a marketable “product”, his tweets are ghostwritten, Dailybooth photos posed and production value of his videos high. Shot in 1080P, some feature luxury cars, celebrities, red carpet and recording studios (and who needs to go out when you have one in your house?).

Hoodie kidHis siblings aren’t missing out on the fun either. Or at least one isn’t. His older nine-year-old brother Joshua (JeebsTV) has his own YouTube channel too with the same high production value and sponsor.

Assumedly his parent’s goal is for him to be discovered by someone like Ellen (a feat which might be difficult as his videos are so polished already), release an album and tour the world. MattyBraps Ellen tweet

If he does make it big, what kind of attention is he going to attract? You can’t have your cake and eat it too. Fame comes with hate, and a lack of privacy. Maybe he knows he wants to rap, but does he understand the potential ramifications for his future? Because I’m not sure his parents do.

Here are some shining examples of friendly Dailybooth commenters (http://dailybooth.com/MattyBRaps/10761255, http://dailybooth.com/MattyBRaps/10109139).

MattyBraps hate 5

MattyBraps hate 4MattyBraps hate 3MattyBraps hate 2MattyBraps hate 1

Would there have been anything lost (maybe except for money) if Matty was encouraged to pursue what he loves outside of the internet spotlight, at least until he was older? Sure, keep the vocal coach, but was there a need to commercialize him this early in his life?

Running your son like a business. Exploitative or just entrepreneurial?

Image credit: QUOI Media Group

TEDxEQChCh Salon #1

Posted in Life, New Zealand, Worldwide on August 8th, 2011 by Matt Taylor – Be the first to comment

A week ago, Christchurchians braved the aftermath of the snow and met at the Bush Bar for the first TEDxEQChCh Salon*. Previous TED talks were shown, and people were invited to share what they were involved in post-quake, or something else the audience would be interested in. Someone I talked to summed up the difference between May’s TEDxEQChCh well: this was more about the people than the buildings.

Cathedral made out of #eqnz tweets made by Kunst Buzz on display in the TEDxEQChCh lobby

Kunst Buzz‘s tweet cathedral, the ChristChurch Cathedral made of a random selection of almost 1000 #eqnz tweets (approximately 98,000 characters) which was on display in the TEDxEQChCh lobby, among other TEDxEQChCh memorabilia that has been given to Te Papa.

The talks

Brene Brown: The power of vulnerability

Brene Brown hacks into lives for a living. She talks about banana nut muffins, worthiness, being imperfect, her office supply addiction and human connection, which led her on a quest that sent her to therapy, but changed the way she lived.

Something she said seemed very relevant post-quake: “they had the compassion to be kind to themselves first and then to others.” Very similar to advice given in a pamphlet dropped in our letterbox yesterday.

Tony Robbins asks why we do what we do

Tony Robbins usually runs 50+ hour coaching seminars over weekends. He talks about patterns, resources, needs and describes what happened in one of his seminars of 2000 people from 45 different countries in Hawaii on the day of 9/11.

Mark Bezos: A life lesson from a volunteer firefighter

Mark Bezos usually fights poverty, but also volunteers as a firefighter. He talks about his first fire, and that we shouldn’t wait for something to happen before we try to make a difference.

Dave Meslin: The antidote to apathy

Dave Meslin tries to make local issues engaging. He talks about barriers that keep people from getting involved.

The people

Tim Taylor

Tim Taylor talked about Project Regenerate a subsection on the Rebuild Christchurch site which shares visions for a future Christchurch in video form and lets people vote and comment on them.

Trent Hiles

Trent Hiles talked about the creation of a multi-purpose arts complex in Lyttelton and Lyttelton’s Act of Art, a Gap Filler project whose first installation, a tribute to James K Baxter and the town, is up.

Grace Duyndam

Grace Duyndam talked about the 350.org Moving Planet September 24th worldwide rally against fossil fuels.

* TEDx Salon’s are intended to engage the community between larger events through small recurring events, keeping the spirit of TED alive—ideas worth spreading.

Calendar Girls Cheerleaders

Posted in New Zealand on August 3rd, 2011 by Matt Taylor – Be the first to comment

Last Saturday, Canada played the USA in an ice hockey match in Christchurch. Calendar Girls, a strip club, sponsored the event. They also paid $500 to All Star Cheerleaders to have them perform at the event, a team made up of mainly underage girls, including a nine-year-old (disclaimer: I know someone on the team.)

Announcements

‘“They were announced as All Star Cheerleaders brought to you by Calendar Girls,” [Jacqui Le Prou, Calendar Girls owner] said.’

I’ve been told that the team was referred to as the “Calendar Girls Cheerleaders” throughout the night. Online comments from those attending on the night support this too:

“We were at the Ice Hockey – and did think it was rather strange to be introducing the obviously young girls as ‘calendar girls’ – it was never mentioned that they were from a cheer leading club (although it was obvious they were trained in cheerleading) It wasnt just once they said it either – all night!!! If that was my daughter – i’d be FUMING.”—MT

“Did find it a little strange to have the young girls announced as Calender Girls Cheerleaders.”—Michael

Youth Olympic Games CheerleadingI’ve also been told that someone, I’m assuming from Calendar Girls, got a caption for a photo changed from the All Stars Cheerleaders to Calendar Girls Cheerleaders, that someone at The Press picked up on that caption for a photo of obviously young girls and that’s why a reporter started investigating.

Whoops

Above, Jacqui implies that the girls weren’t referred to as “Calendar Girls Cheerleaders”. However Calendar Girls’ social networking pages tell a different story.

Calendar Girls TwitterCalendar Girls TwitterEven more concerning is a photo of the Christchurch cheerleading team, including the nine-year-old girl, and I’m told Jacqui Le Prou’s young daughter, that was posted on Calendar Girls’ Auckland Facebook page. Faces blurred by me because they and their parents didn’t know where this photo was going to end up.

Calendar Girls Cheerleaders Facebook

Parents

“They don’t sign up for other people to pass them off as Calendar Girls, but then again their parents were all there and they didn’t pull them from their performance.”—The team’s coach, Claire Stackhouse.

The frustration is understandable. I’d say the reason why teams do events like this is to show that they actually have to put in work to pull off a performance, and to raise the profile of cheerleading to be more like a sport and less like something seedy. A comment on the Yahoo article hits the nail on the head on why the girls don’t have horrible parents:

“…cheerleading here bears little resemblance to the US or rugby style cheerleaders. Here it has morphed into something quite different, involving agility, skills, strength…”—Judy

I understand there was a second part to Claire’s quote that wasn’t included in the article (probably due to space constraints, understandable): during a performance that is supposed to be professional, it is very unprofessional to walk out half way through.

Auckland event

The same match was also played in Auckland and an All Star Cheerleading team performed there also.

“[Jacqui] Le Prou said the cheerleaders at the Auckland event were between 18 and 24.”

I’ve been told there were cheerleaders as young as 14 12 on the Auckland team. This also prompts the question: if Calendar Girls is really against using underage girls to promote their club (“she sent me a nine-year-old, which I wasn’t very happy about”) why did they not pull the Christchurch performance when they became aware that there were people on the team under 18, including a nine-year-old?

Why cheerleaders?

People familiar with cheerleading have said that cheerleading teams always have members of varying ages and that it would be near impossible to find a cheerleading team that only has people aged 18 and over in it. I question why Calendar Girls didn’t hire 18+ models, promo girls or use some of their own staff if they wanted to promote their club.

Whether someone involved was aware of what Calendar Girls wanted to introduce the team as or not still leaves the question as to why the team was referred to as the Calendar Girls Cheerleaders when the team was clearly made up of underage girls.

Image credit: Eustaquio Santimano

The Best or Worst Flowchart Ever

Posted in Free Speech, Law, New Zealand, Worldwide on June 3rd, 2011 by Matt Taylor – 1 Comment

Depending on whether you want MMP to stay or go.
2011 Referendum Election Flowchart2011 Referendum Election Flowchart
(Click for larger versions)

Alongside the general election this year on November 26th, voters will also be voting on whether they support the MMP voting system or would prefer to change to another system. There will be two parts to the referendum (both are optional, so someone could vote for neither parts, both parts, just the first part or just the second part):

  • Should New Zealand keep the Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) voting system?
    • I vote to keep the MMP voting system
    • I vote to change to another voting system
  • If New Zealand were to change to another voting system, which voting system would you choose?
    • I would choose the First Past the Post system (FPP)
    • I would choose the Preferential Voting system (PV)
    • I would choose the Single Transferable Vote system (STV)
    • I would choose the Supplementary Member system (SM)

If at least half of the voters vote to keep MMP, there will still be an Electoral Commission review of it in 2012. If at least half of the voters vote to change the voting system, Parliament will decide if there’s another referendum in 2014 (Stuff has reported it as 2016, but it’s 2014 on the Elections 2011 website) to choose between the most popular alternative (according to the second part of this referendum) or MMP.

STV is probably the only other roughly proportional voting system, with the number of MPs elected reflecting the total share of the party’s votes across the country. However some people might feel their STV vote is useless because if they are in an electorate that predominantly supports, say, National, their vote for a, say, Green MP won’t “count” towards the Green party at all unless the Green MP wins that electorate. MMP is still the best system and results in a proportional and representative Parliament.

It’s arguable that few people actually know how our current or past election systems work(ed), even after having them in place for years. No information explaining the different systems was included in the flowchart’s mail out, except saying that more information will be, I assume mailed out (what about the trees?!@11@), closer to election day and that information is also available on the Elections website. However, most people are inherently lazy and are unlikely to seek out additional information themselves. This will probably benefit the status quo.

Tweeting on election day

The Electoral Act prohibits “electioneering” on election day (midnight-7pm), meaning it’s illegal to distribute statements likely to influence voting decisions. The fine for electioneering on election day is up to $20,000. Chief Electoral Officer Robert Peden says that social networks (Twitter, Facebook…) are covered by the ban and will be checked on election day for influencing material. He says “For a long time, the law has allowed for campaign-free election days, and my sense is that New Zealanders like it that way and so it’s not really in people’s interest to do things like tweet and breach the rules.”

This is stupid.

Amanda Palmer quite accurately compares Twitter to a bar. It can be great and you can find some really interesting people using it, or sometimes you can have inane conversations about nothing. The bar analogy also works for how tweets are shared. Tweets are only “sent” to users that “opt in” to receiving them, just like someone opts in to a conversation in a bar. Maybe they overhear part of a conversation, or are aware of it because their friends are involved, but they can choose to ignore it or join in themselves. This is just like Twitter: you could be aware of a conversation or tweet because of search, through someone you’re following on Twitter, or looking at profiles, but you’re able to ignore the tweet, unfollow or block the users involved if you don’t like it.

Social networks are clearly different to someone erecting an election sign in their front yard and tweeting to a relatively small number of users who have opted in to receiving your tweets shouldn’t be considered ‘seeking to influence the public’ even if it is about who you’re supporting in the election.

In Canada, Twitter users are unhappy about a law that bans the premature transmission of election results—mentioning election results in Montreal in the east before the booths have closed in Vancouver in the west, with a fine of up to $25,000. Users of social networks realized that this applied to them and for their May 2nd election protested against the rule by tweeting the results of the election using the hashtag #tweettheresults.

It would be awesome if something like that happened here (but I obviously wouldn’t condone it).

Death to the Death Penalty

Posted in Worldwide on May 21st, 2011 by Matt Taylor – Be the first to comment

Electric Chair ProtestThe death penalty is nothing new but it caught my eye because of Osama Bin Laden reportedly being killed and because of the “let’s shoot the looters” comments I saw on a Christchurch earthquake Facebook page.

Death to the death penalty (video)
Stop the death penalty (video)

Let’s assume that Bin Laden was killed and buried straight away in the… ocean? This example is interesting as he wasn’t killed after he was sentenced to death by a court. However Obama said he: “…[made] the killing or capture of Bin Laden the top priority…”

Whether Bin Laden was killed intentionally or not I’m not sure. Now his body is in the water so we might not ever know. However I found the outpour of support for Bin Laden’s death and even the celebration resulting on sites like Twitter extremely interesting. And a lot of people were celebrating. I wondered if all of those people would support capital punishment in less extreme circumstances, like for the murder of one person? Or whether this event has changed their views to support the death penalty?

Did this bring about justice? I say no. A civilized trial would have created justice, in my opinion. Some said that the celebrations were justified because it symbolized the fighting and winning against terrorism. Because a figurehead of terrorism was downed. But Bin Laden was just that, a figurehead. Did he encourage hate, hurt and violence? Yes. Did he pull the triggers himself? No. Will someone take over his place leading Al-Qaeda? Yes.

More importantly, does this mean I’ll be able to take my bottle of water through airport security now?

@robinbogg Twitter Two Wrongs Make a Right - BREAKING: Children everywhere confused by sudden implementation of two wrongs make a right

The permanence of capital punishment is concerning. How sure would you need to be of someone’s guilt to support an execution? What if mistakes were made? Are a few false positives alright?

Does the death penalty grant relief to the suffering victim’s families?

This editorial in the New York Times says no: ‘In an open letter to the Connecticut Legislature, relatives of murder victims — 76 parents, children and others — wrote that “the death penalty, rather than preventing violence, only perpetuates it and inflicts further pain on survivors.”’ The death penalty deepens the wounds and the pain of victims’ families and the accused’s family. It creates more victims and continues the cycle of violence.

This page has stories from inmates’ families on how they’ve been affected by an execution. Bill Babbitt turned in his brother for committing a murder and was under the assumption that his brother would get the help he needed. His brother who was a paranoid schizophrenic was sentenced to death. Robert Meeropol talks about having both of his parents executed when he was six-years-old.

The death penalty makes it easy to “solve” re-offending without having to deal with the policies behind parole. It’s also easy to say prison officers would be protected, when in reality issues surrounding staff security need to be sorted.

Instead of putting forward the death penalty as a solution for crime, let’s create better policies. Policies that identify youth that are at-risk of offending. Better mental health services. Let’s remind ourselves that people released from prison need support starting well before they’ve been released to successfully assimilate back into society.

Alternatives to capital punishment might be the way out. Harris County, Texas, District Attorney Johnny Holmes says “you’re not going to find 12 people back-to-back on the same jury that are going to kill somebody when the alternative is throwing away the key.”

Is there a humane way to kill someone?

By poisoning with the lethal injection? Where are those drugs coming from?

Texas was reluctant to release where the drugs they use in their death row come from. Besse Medical, apparently. Feigning ignorance, Besse say they “…[have] no way to determine what its customers, including the Texas corrections department, does with its products.”

That article reports a shortage of U.S. made lethal injection drugs and says states have had to import from overseas. As overseas countries ban the export of those drugs for use in executions (“that supply dried up after the British government in November banned its export for use in executions”) and drugs are imported from dubious sources or drugs are reappropriated, concerns should be raised over the quality and efficiency of the drugs being used. Are they going to kill someone quickly and painlessly? Oklahoma is using an anesthetic, pentobarbital, that’s used in animal euthanasia solutions.

What level of training do the people administering the drugs have regarding administration or dosage?

Short answer: University of Miami researchers say none. It appeared prisoners were assumed to be successfully anaesthetised if they were given a standard dose of thiopental, but this wouldn’t be true if the drug was given incorrectly, the execution took longer than anticipated or the prisoner had anxiety or serious substance abuse issues. After analyzing autopsy data for 49 prisoners who had been executed, researchers found that in 43 cases the concentration of anaesthetic in the prisoners’ blood were lower than required in surgery. Out of those 43, 21 of the concentrations “were consistent with [the prisoner] being aware of what was going on.”

…the researchers, led by Dr Leonardis Koniaris, said: “We certainly cannot conclude that these inmates were unconscious and insensate.”

“However, with no monitoring and with little use of the paralytic agent, any suffering of the inmate would be undetectable.”

They add: “The absence of training and monitoring, and the remote administration of drugs, coupled with eyewitness reports of muscle responses during execution, suggest that the current practice for lethal injection for execution fails to meet veterinary standards.”

As a society we can do better than a primitive band-aid on the long-term problem of crime.

See also: an eye for an eye ends up making everybody blind.

Image credit: World Coalition Against the Death Penalty

Shutting Down Skynet: The Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Bill

Posted in Law, New Zealand on April 14th, 2011 by Matt Taylor – 3 Comments

Home taping is killing music and it's illegalYesterday the Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Bill was unexpectedly rushed through Parliament during an urgent session brought about because of the Christchurch earthquake. This morning it was passed and will come into force on September 1st.

Watching the session was frustrating as few contributors truly understood file sharing and the Internet. Gareth Hughes is one of the few who actually gets it. See him talking here, here and here. He brought up a number of good points including:

  • Access to the Internet is vital.
  • Termination not being enacted straight away is just a delay.
  • Many downloads are because content is not even available legally in New Zealand.

@thomaslebas on Gareth Hughes using real tweets in Copyright (Infringing Filesharing) Bill Parliament debate(via)

The Green Party opposed the Bill because the disconnection provision was still included. Labour didn’t like the disconnection provision either, however still supported the Bill. As Labour MP Clare Curran explains on the Red Alert blog:

Account suspension remains in the bill and could theoretically be used in the future, but any Minister who implements termination will have to wear the consequences. It won’t be a Labour Minister.

This happened many times throughout the night: great points against this Bill were brought up (like disconnection; the fact it’s being rushed; that the MPs themselves don’t know what their children are downloading from the Internet, keep in mind that the MP as the probable account holder will be responsible for their children’s downloading), but then the person finished with their overall support of the Bill. Someone (I think on Twitter, sorry I lost the source) summed it up nicely: “they’re fundamentally opposed to something, yet they vote for it”.

Without this legislation copyright holders could still send warning notices, but this legislation is intended to make the process faster and cheaper. Another side effect is that the process will favor copyright holders. After receiving a warning notice from a copyright holder, it is up to the Internet account customer to prove their innocence (reversing the usual burden of proof). This basically assumes that users who have been sent notices are infringers. It is unclear (to me at least) how someone will prove that they haven’t downloaded or uploaded a file. This is concerning because copyright owners seem to get it wrong regularly. For example a University Of Washington study found they could get a copyright warning sent to a printer that wasn’t uploading or downloading copyrighted files. They say:

Q: I’m a network operator working at an ISP. Should I be suspicious of DMCA takedown notices?

Yes. Our results show that some methods used to generate DMCA takedown notices in BitTorrent are not conclusive and may misidentify users. This may also be true for other P2P networks.

A U.S. study found 57% of DMCA notices sent to Google for removal of material were sent by business targeting competitors and 37% of notices were not valid copyright claims. (Source: J Urban & L Quilter, ‘Efficient Process or “Chilling Effects”? Takedown Notices Under Section 512 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act’, http://static.chillingeffects.org/Urban-Quilter-512-summary.pdf (mirror))

In addition to the maximum $15k fine that the Copyright Tribunal can impose on someone who has received three warnings, there is a provision in the legislation to allow the Commerce Minister to introduce a six month Internet account suspension penalty applied by a District Court. In the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development Information Economy Report, UNCTAD/SDTE/ECB/2006/1, Nov 2006, broadband is recognized as an essential utility for individuals. Disconnection from the internet is a disproportional punishment compared with the effects of illegal file sharing.

The legislation makes the Internet account holder responsible for all Internet use through that connection, treating all content downloaded/uploaded by different people through a connection as one. This may mean that a family member, flatmate or landlord is responsible for other people’s illegal file sharing. This also means that account holders could get the blame for things that people they don’t even live in the house do. The account holders would be responsible for random people accessing poorly protected wireless networks, for example.

Is pirating content really that bad?

The U.S. Government Accountability Office says in a report (via):

U.S. government and industry claims that piracy damages the economy to the tune of billions of dollars “cannot be substantiated due to the absence of underlying studies.”

and

“Some experts we interviewed and literature we reviewed identified potential positive economic effects of counterfeiting and piracy. Some consumers may knowingly purchase a counterfeit or pirated product because it is less expensive than the genuine good or because the genuine good is unavailable, and they may experience positive effects from such purchases. Consumers may use pirated goods to ‘sample’ music, movies, software, or electronic games before purchasing legitimate copies. (This) may lead to increased sales of legitimate goods.”

From a TorrentFreak article:

Although IFPI refused to share the entire research report with TorrentFreak, we can conclude the following from the two pages that were published online (pdf).

Compared to music buyers, music sharers (pirates) are…

* 31% more likely to buy single tracks online.
* 33% more likely to buy music albums online.
* 100% more likely to pay for music subscription services.
* 60% more likely to pay for music on mobile phone.

and

[Mark Mulligan, Vice President and Research Director at Forrester Research who conducted the study for IFPI (who “represents the recording industry worldwide”] has his hands tied and couldn’t say much about the findings without IFPI’s approval, but we managed to get confirmation that paying file-sharers are the music industry’s best customers. “A significant share of music buyers are file sharers also. These music buyers tend to be higher spending music buyers,” Mulligan told TorrentFreak.

TorrentFreak on artists actually profiting from piracy:

A study by Blackburn (2004), a PhD student from Harvard, found that the 75% of the [artists] actually profit from piracy. Blackburn reports that the most popular [artists] (top 25%) sell less records. However, the remaining 75% of all artists actually profit from [file sharing]. The same pattern was found by Pedersen (2006, see graph), who analyzed the change in royalties paid by the Nordisk Copyright Bureau between 2001 and 2005.

Michael Geist on a study of music purchasing habits commissioned by Industry Canada:

When assessing the P2P downloading population, there was “a strong positive relationship between P2P file sharing and CD purchasing.  That is, among Canadians actually engaged in it, P2P file sharing increases CD purchases.” The study estimates that 12 additional P2P downloads per month increases music purchasing by 0.44 CDs per year.

When viewed in the [aggregate] (ie. the entire Canadian population), there is no direct relationship between P2P file sharing and CD purchases in Canada.  According to the study authors, “the analysis of the entire Canadian population does not uncover either a positive or negative relationship between the number of files downloaded from P2P networks and CDs purchased. That is, we find no direct evidence to suggest that the net effect of P2P file sharing on CD purchasing is either positive or negative for Canada as a whole.”

Additionally, downloading doesn’t equal lost sales, some people are trying before they buy. And some people are downloading because they can’t get the content legally.

Labour MP Jacinda Ardern talked about illegal downloading of music hurting small artists, but it’s only the big record companies that you ever hear complaining. Big companies have bigger voices, but small artists are the ones embracing downloads by putting songs up for free on their websites.

A statistic was brought up last night that 90% of people say they will stop downloading illegally after two warnings. There’s a difference between saying and doing and I doubt there’ll be a change.

Will this make those pirates start buying again, or will they just go find the same stuff elsewhere? (via)

Update 17/04/2011: On the InternetNZ blog they point to Amanda Palmer at Webstock 2011 talking about music and giving it away for free. The relevant part starts at 25:00 but her whole talk is worth watching.

Update 19/04/2011: Jonathan Hunt tweeted a link to an episode of This Way Up on Radio NZ. Paul Brislen (from the Telecommunications Users Association Of New Zealand) and Peter Griffin (the Herald’s technology blogger) do a role play of what the notice process could be like, it starts around a third of the way in. You can listen here (MP3).

Some good points brought up:

  • Generally no legal representation is allowed at the Copyright Tribunal. There will be mums and dads who have no idea what is going on, trying to prove their innocence. There will be ignoring of notices out of confusion.
  • This could end up costing IPAPs (defined in the Bill as traditional ISPs; not universities, libraries, and businesses) who estimate costs as $14 to $56 per notice. It is noted in the Bill “that the United Kingdom has recently decided on a cost-sharing approach between rights holders and Internet service providers, at a ratio of 75:25 respectively”. ISPs overseas receive a huge number of these notices each day.
  • If you have a business with 5000 employees, how do you track down whose actions resulted in a copyright warning being sent?
  • If an Internet account is suspended, is the suspension meant to apply to all ISPs? If yes, is there going to be a database of offenders (potential privacy concerns). If no, couldn’t someone call another ISP and sign up with them?
  • This is only targeting P2P file sharing. If someone illegally downloads directly from a website, they’re unlikely to be tracked down unless website logs are kept and are requested by rights holders through the courts.
  • The regime won’t apply to mobile networks until August 2013. It is even easier to “sign up” for a new account; go down to the supermarket and buy another SIM card.

Update 4/06/2011: The United Nations has released a significant report (PDF) relating to freedom of expression on the Internet. A couple of paragraphs are extremely relevant to this post:

49. …he is alarmed by proposals to disconnect users from Internet access if they violate intellectual property rights. This also includes legislation based on the concept of “graduated response”, which imposes a series of penalties on copyright infringers that could lead to suspension of Internet service, such as the so-called “three-strikes-law” in France34 and the Digital Economy Act 2010 of the United Kingdom.35

78. …cutting off users from Internet access, regardless of the justification provided, including on the grounds of violating intellectual property rights law, to be disproportionate and thus a violation of article 19, paragraph 3, of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
79. …the Special Rapporteur urges States to repeal or amend existing intellectual copyright laws which permit users to be disconnected from Internet access, and to refrain from adopting such laws.

Image credit: Gary Denham

A New Normal

Posted in New Zealand, Technology on March 21st, 2011 by Matt Taylor – 3 Comments

Christchurch Earthquake 22.02.11

A month ago, to the day, a new normal for all of us in Christchurch began. Tap water isn’t drinkable and now smells like bleach. The CBD is a wreck, something like one in three buildings will have to be demolished. The roads are covered with bumps, cracks and silt. And the game of guessing the magnitude of an aftershock has lost a lot of it’s charm. On the morning of the 22nd, school started later because of a teacher’s union meeting. Friends from school posted on Facebook that the school swimming sports weren’t going ahead that day because of the weather. It was looking like an average day.

At 12.51pm I don’t think anyone realized that the quake was going to be any different to the numerous other aftershocks we’ve had. But this one kept going. Everyone in the Chemistry lab we were in safely got under the tables. Maybe surprisingly, no chemicals were spilled or glass broken. After the shaking stopped, I grabbed my bag on the way out and we all went to the field.

About an hour later, still on the field, just after replying to someone on Twitter that they should hold off trying to get in touch with friends in Christchurch via phone because it sounded like everyone was fine, I read a tweet that the quake had claimed lives. We experienced a strong aftershock while at school near the end of last year. I think we all thought that this would be the same: that there would be no deaths, not 166+. That the city centre would be accessible in a few days if it was cordoned off at all, not in months. That boiling water wouldn’t be required at all, not for longer than a month. The 166+ people dead are our people. I completely agree with Moata that it’s unlikely that someone in Christchurch doesn’t at least know someone who knows someone who has had to attend a funeral over the past few days and weeks. No one thought we would have to adjust to a new normal.

“All of my friends and family have been accounted for, though the chances that an acquaintance or a friend of a friend has not been killed is fairly low. There are only a couple of degrees of separation in Christchurch.”

Technology

A few days post-quake, I saw an article about cyberbullying in schools relating to teachers searching phones. I’m not doubting the seriousness of the problem, but one of the commenters suggesting banning cellphones altogether in schools. Without most students having a cellphone, the task of getting everyone home from school with an adult (especially for younger students), with limited access to buildings (and their landlines) until they were checked by engineers would have been made even more difficult. Technology is something that should be embraced everywhere. The uses of it post-disaster illustrate that point perfectly. Garth Bray, a TVNZ reporter, talks about how helpful smartphones were after the Japan earthquake here.

Back at home, a few hours afterward, our place was relatively untouched. The power and water were out and silt made it’s way into the garage, but they were little problems compared to the big picture. With our cellphones, mobile data and battery powered radio, we still felt connected.

In the time it took me to get home, the IT community of New Zealand and beyond already had the EQ.org.nz map up in one form or another, running Ushahidi (I love the name, it is the Swahili word for “testimony or witness”). Over the next two weeks it complemented media coverage by mapping the locations of important resources for Christchurch residents, like available ATMs, petrol stations that were open and what the restrictions on petrol there were, where water, medical treatment and showers were available…. Within a day or two they managed to arrange the short code text service for EQ.org.nz with Telecom, Vodafone and 2degrees, volunteers to man the messages coming in through the website, meetings, a partnership with the Student Volunteer Army and media coverage (the map was mentioned in newspapers, on the TV news, on Teletext(!), Fair Go and by the @CEQgovtnz Twitter account)… If I was in charge of an emergency, I’d want to be working with these guys. The media were great. Fairfax, and in particular Reuben Schwarz liaised with EQ.org.nz and Stuff.co.nz switched from using their own instance of Ushahidi to the EQ.org.nz instance. Google and TradeMe, among others, set up pages to help too.

By now, my sister had walked home from the CBD with colleagues and brought with her the war stories of what town was like. What the Cathedral looked like, the chaos and the people. That the huge window beside her that she climbed out of had luckily burst outward instead of bursting in towards her.

The paper blowing down the street in this video is chilling. The businessmen in suits trying to do what they can to help and office workers turning into rescue workers is heartwarming.

Over the coming days we started to get into the hang of the new normal, which involved filling up bottles of water at my granddad’s house and using his shower. A couple of times we received wrong number calls from people trying to find out if their loved ones were okay. They responded with something along the lines of “oh, I thought you were x and alive”.

The two times I ventured into the cordon with Project7 as a photographer, everyone was friendly, including the army personnel and the other media. The feeling in the cordon was eerie and somber, but still hopeful. Silt that had emerged from beneath the ground had effectively buried cars parked on the streets. Shop fronts were shattered and fluro writing was spray painted on to mark that a building had been checked for people. Cars were crushed by falling masonry. Buildings had collapsed. About a month before the quake I was at the top of the Cathedral’s tower, which collapsed in the quake and near the top floor of the Forsyth Barr building, where the exit stairwells collapsed. I had a slight feeling of guilt that media were allowed in the cordon, but business owners that needed to get essential equipment and documentation out from their buildings were not. I know businesses were starting to be let in shortly after my last trip in, but there is still anger within the business community. I think many probably regret not grabbing some things on their way out.

I have mixed feelings about the memorial service that was held. I didn’t attend, or really watch it, but I have read that many people found it touching. On the other hand I read that some families couldn’t bring themselves to attend because their grief was still too raw. Businesses would have felt the effect of either having to close for another day, or paying employees time and a half plus giving them a day in lieu. Students missed out on another day of school. It sounds like it helped people, which is great, but I think it could have been held at a better time later on.

If the quake did anything, it made everyone stronger. It confirmed what I think everyone knew, that in a natural disaster there are many people who are kind and selfless. Our New Zealand spirit shined. CTV’s building was one of the most badly hit but the message on their channel was “down but not out”. The press conferences introduced foreign media to terms like buggered and munted. Our mayor, Bob Parker, in one of the press conferences talked about one of the main sign language interpreters being given the name “hot Jeremy” by a Facebook fan page. Forgotten time capsules were discovered in town. And a boulder that smashed through someone’s house was sold via a hilarious auction on TradeMe.

You can have a look at my photos of the quake here, here and here.