Facebook is not your Village Green

The internet is afire with conspiracy theories again because Facebook has shut down a large number of Anti-Cuts groups in Britain on the day of the Royal Wedding. To be frank, I find the whinging even more entitled than that of Royalty. It’s based on the assumption that just because we are “here” we own it. And we can set our own rules.

Let’s remind ourselves about services provided by private companies. They create products which people are interested in using. In order to use said products, people need to agree to some terms of service. Often those terms include having to pay for it, other times they are mutual e.g. we give you access to this space for free as long as we can sell you and the rest of our companies to advertisers. In the 21st century they are often a mixture of the two.

When I visit shopping malls owned by corporations like Westfield or Lend Lease I often have to double take when I see Oxfam shops or similar. I understand groups like this need to go where the people are in order to evangelise their activism. They’ve made a trade off in order to talk to a greater population – business does that all the time.

Activist groups with pages on Facebook are doing the same thing. They see that Facebook has a captive audience just like in the shopping mall. But then they behave as if they have a stall in Camden Lock or Glebe Markets and they get shut down. Because they’ve forgotten that Facebook is not a Village Green.

Facebook is more like your local Westfield. And just like in Westfield, they’ll tolerate your activism as long as you pay the rent and keep it under the radar. Otherwise they will, like most other cloud based, software as a service applications

…remove any content or information you post..if (they) believe that it violates (their terms)

Protests aren’t welcome in private spaces like Facebook. Find your online Village Green instead. I call it the internet.


Off-topic comments. A symptom of our narrow-mindedness?

When blogposts are suggested to us they often come accompanied with the warning “don’t read the comments”. Some of the best articles attract a large conversation, but if the author of the post referenced some controversial topic: e.g. an article on immigration mentions the arrival of refugees into Australia, then good luck finding comments which make sense or are even in the context of the article.

Most likely the comments will be a sea of the “illegals are swamping us with their terrorist ways” and a descent into petty point scoring. The opportunity for valuable conversation on an interesting subject gets lost and many are left wallowing in their own narrow-mindedness.

In my own narrow view of the world, the conversation often takes place instead on twitter. Over there we can associate the conversation with a hashtag and block or ignore the trolls and comment spammers. Applications such as Echofon go further and allow us to simply “mute” conversations and people on certain topics.

On the one hand this has the opportunity to let us curate our own conversation to ensure the off-topic bits can be ignored. But if we go too far with said cultivation we are in danger of narrowing our evaluation of the topic. Excluding all contrary thoughts preserves only our confirmation bias and leaves us with the same result as in the badly moderated comment streams of popular blogposts.

Many years ago I was a regular contributor to the [sic] list. A list which talked all things QuarkXPress. Humans being humans, we often extended our conversations beyond the topic on hand, but generally and despite the list being unmoderated, the conversation remained generally on or about QuarkXPress related topics.

For the rest, there was invented a number of short tags to indicate something subtly or greatly different: [OT] (off topic), [TAN] (tangential) and the like. If you’ve ever been in a forum or a listserv it’s likely you’ve Continue reading


Sprouting Grain

In Canada they are about to have an election. This post opened my eyes on one view of the ‘reign’ of Stephen Harper. There’s a lot to be said about his incumbent government and some Canadians reaction to it. I know politics is always polarising, but I’m finding in two party systems – which Canada quite isn’t, yet – the amount of bile and distrust seems to be growing ad-nauseum. Continue reading

Are Coal miners using flawed investment models to oppose a Carbon Tax?

This morning Ralph Hillman from the Australian Coal Association was waxing lyrical on the Carbon tax on ABC news radio.

There’s a transcript of Hillman’s pitch to Alexandra Kirk on the ABC website.

The thoughts I shared on twitter at the time were formed from my understanding that before anyone would agree to invest multiple millions of dollars in long term investments like coal mines, any associated risk would be investigated and included in the business modelling.

But as I listened to Ralph’s barely questioned performance, it seems the coal industry either failed to include the risk of a carbon tax on their investment models into account or he was telling some fibs.

If it’s the former then whomever did that modelling should be “retrained”.

If the latter, then I submit journalists should consider  toughening up their questioning of seemingly unreliable witnesses. Either that or stop giving them platforms to broadcast their misinformation.

For more on this “boy who cries wolf” rubbish from earth gougers like Hillman during the previous CPRS debate read Bernard Keane in Crikey in 2009.

I want your increased credit limit like a hole in the head

While not being an expert in marketing my experience tells me most businesses should have well defined cues in their customer databases to help them assess whether a customer is “ripe for the picking” or should be “left alone for now”. So colour me flummoxed when for, what felt like the 10th time in the past 6 months, I received another “offer” to commit to be even more indebted to Which Bank?

If you know my recent history with Which Bank? it has to be said either something is screwing up badly in their CRM or I’m doing something very stupid to attract the junk.

At one of our Digital Citizens events last year, I explained to one of our panellists how odd I found the begging letters I got a few times a year from the Children’s Hospital in Westmead. I understood I had stupidly added my name and address to a donation to the Hospital I randomly made once, so guessed I might get something from them occasionally. What I couldn’t fathom was why they would waste so much energy on expensively created multi-page begging letters which resonated not one jot with me.  He explained to me in great detail, with some segments, this sort of campaign actually worked really well for his organisation. To the extent that some of their regular contributors would stop donating if they hadn’t received one.

I’ve been recently starting to get an amount of begging junk from other charities as well. Which makes me both angry and worried. Angry because some bastard must’ve given my details to a database and they’ve picked me up. Worried because I thought back to that conversation and wondered: am I now part of that segment?

When I wrote a couple of years ago

What if the…computer algorithms have CORRECTLY identified your market segment, but your ambitions, your DESIRES are focused in a different direction.

I was thinking objectively. I always thought, like Carol Beer, the computer would never actually ever say yes. None of the advertising ever resonates with me so I always felt I sat outside of these segments. And naively assumed I would forever avoid the junk.

Say perhaps the computer is right, and I now sit within a well crafted segment. Does that make the data inputs wrong because none of the content works on me? Or have the charities and Which Bank? been tweaking CRM and MRM algorithms because their KPI’s have changed? Perhaps the ROI on their previous methods weren’t good enough and, at least at Which Bank? they are ensuring remuneration solely linked to profit and share price meets the level of their expectations.

And if that is the reason I am getting the same letter for so long at least once a month, and the increasing amount of begging letters from charities then how long, and how many failed campaigns have to pass before the computer figures out that I might not actually be interested?

In the case of the Charities they are taking additional costs but little risk in exposing their campaigns to a new market. But when Which Bank? monthly remind me: “You still have time etc..” they are loading risk onto their retention of me as a customer.

I’ve already indicated when the time is right, I’m ready to sever my ties with Which Bank? due to the stretching of my trust in recent years. While I know that makes me one of those low touch customers I mentioned earlier, the fact the computer is saying yes to sending me junk means Which Bank? still hasn’t got the message.

Consider this the start of a completely unscientific experiment to discover how long before they do.

Rio Ferdinand: bad losers are always worse than ungracious winners

When Manchester City striker Balotelli allegedly taunted the losers after yesterday’s FA Cup Semi Final perhaps that was unsporting. But the petty reaction of highly rewarded players like Anderson and Ferdinand was nonsensical.

Of course I agree players should go hard during the game, enjoy the rewards when they win, be gracious to the losers and walk away. But, if like me you experienced the snarling embodiment of disappointment that was Rio Ferdinand yesterday, it’s clear that the losers have a role to play in that.

As Ferdinand attempted to deflect from his own teams failings by crashing the celebrations of the winners, he reminded us how much worse a bad loser looks in comparison to any gloating by a winner. Losing means walking away, maintaining the rage and driving improvements to yourself and your team the next time around.

Ferdinand and his team failed at their own game today. Their job is to come back on Tuesday at Newcastle, like Manchester City did following their heavy defeat against Liverpool last week, and win again.

Update: It’s not as if this is new

The Final Winter

Living in Sydney it’s hard to avoid Rugby League, despite the lack of interest by most in actually attending the games. I hear that it is best appreciated on the television. With Beer. Surrounded by Pokies.

For me, I once appreciated Rugby League. On a plane, over the Pacific Ocean as I flew to Arizona for a conference. While the Final Winter wasn’t the best movie in the world, it told a story of Sydney through the stories of the Newtown Jets and the struggle of the players in a changing world for them.

And it tugged my heartstrings. I made me feel like I was leaving home.

And that was the first time I felt like that about leaving Australia.

Maybe it was because we had recently had a child, and I was leaving her for the first time, maybe it was because I had finally settled.

Either way, home.

Four and half years later, I’ll be consuming that passion. My final winter will be also my first winter as a dual citizen.

And maybe I’ll even take in a game of Rugby League to celebrate.

Watching the Newtown Jets, of course.

Being Australian is being less than 42

Just over 12 and a half years ago I first stepped on Australian Soil. Well tarmac or concrete or whatever they used as the paving out front of the pre-MacBank owned Sydney Airport of 1998. In 42 days, an almost final step will take place in an unforeseen journey.

So in order to celebrate the “why” and also to fulfil a promise I made to myself back in February when I first applied for Aussie Citizenship, I hope to do an “almost” daily series of posts recalling some memorable – and perhaps not so memorable – moments since I arrived.

It was probably destined, for example, when the first pub I entered in Australia (the Paragon, I’ll have you know!) was showing the 1998 AFL Grand Final.

I ended up staying in order to adapt my arm to the tiny glasses they serve their beers in over here.

For the record, the Crows won and my first Swans game was the next year at the SCG on a Hot Sunday in August, burning my still Irish skin at the top of the Dally Messenger stand, versus said Crows.

6 years later I know where I was when Leo Marked. Do you? I was at the Warren View watching people run across Stanmore Road to put a blow up Cyggy on top of the statue and lesbians “cracking on” to my heavily pregnant wife.

You might say in Sydney, I should be following the local sports, but as those who know my sporting team predilections will tell you, I can’t abide blue on a football team. And, aside from the accident of birth, it’s red all the way.

Though that doesn’t extend to “Mar-on” (or however those Queenslanders pronounce it). And I can proudly say that while being soaked like a rat in the now disappeared North Stand at the Olympic Stadium at Homebush, I was cheering for NSW in the one and only League match I’ve ever attended. The first State of Origin at said stadium, more than a year before the Olympics were run there.

My only other experiences of Queenslanders at Rugby have, I’m sad to say, been negative. Both the shoddy organisation at Ballymore for the Ireland v Australia game there just three days after my state of origin experience in June 1999 and the overly aggressive attitude in the stands at the Sydney Football Stadium when their lot were towelling “our lot” sometime before Queensland Rugby players realised that dollars paid better than blood in the modern game.

Yes for a while there I got into the Waratahs, despite the blue jumpers. In the first few years here, I craved connection, and my love of sport was where it was at. And yet, despite my love of football, never for the local football teams. Perhaps now it is too late, but back then it was too fractured. And while I tried “Northern Spirit” for a few months, their tight ties to the Hun of Glasgow became too much for me in the end and I moved on.

And in the lead up to the 2003 World Cup, Rugby was good to be involved in. There was interest, I lived close to the ground, we had bought tickets to almost all the games we could get to. Roadtrips to Gosford involved a sea of green, to Adelaide involved a try fest and bone breaks and to Melbourne aching disappointment with empty stadia and poor performance by the Irish 15. All heavily dulled with Alcohol.

The Rugby World Cup in Australia in 2003 also had another fortuitous moment, but of that anon.

I’m reminded last week that while I was at the Melbourne Formula 1 GP when an Irishman took the chequered flag,  I haven’t been back for one since. Also that I’ve never been to a footy match in Brisbane, Adelaide or Perth – so that will need to be fixed.

Starting reminisces on Sport is probably easy, and I could talk about some of this all day, but I really want to talk about the country. How despite it’s depressingly long periods without rain, it’s somewhere worth being going out to. Getting in the car or a bus or a train or a plane and just seeing it. There’ll be plenty of that in the next 40 days.

Come back to read some more as my journey continues.