Thursday 23 December 2010

Politicians struggling to cope with that interwebby thing

Good article from Colin Jacobs who heads up Electronic Frontiers Australia:

Besides liking to get their picture in the newspaper, the politicians of the world have something in common: They are struggling with the internet.

The Christmas Spirit (from my "What The ?!" files)

Yesterday I rang my grandmother around 10am to confirm lunch with her on Christmas Eve.  This has been a tradition in recent years, largely due to the fact that my mother is an unusual human being who hasn't spoken to any of her children, grandchildren or ex-husband for several years.  As a result I and my immediate family are un-invited to any "real" family events such as Christmas Day, Easter Sunday and my grandmother's birthday that are attended by said mother, grandmother, auntie and cousins, so instead we make arrangements on different days close by (I'm actually OK with this).

Imagine my surprise (uh-huh) when my grandmother advised that Christmas Eve lunch was going to be "difficult" this year.  A combination of auntie moving to the country recently, "real" family Christmas Day lunch at her house, mother being sick and grandmother unable to drive herself that far, cousin driving grandmother to country on Christmas Eve instead, Nicky being "rescheduled" (yet again) as a solution to all these woes.  Yes, imagine my surprise.

Taking into account the time of year and that I'm currently running 2 children who have been in 2 different places all year, work, study which doesn't stop over Christmas, building a house and a husband that works long hours, I managed to slot in a quick visit yesterday, after 11.30am doctor's appointment but before grandmother's 3pm Christmas party event.

So my morning went like this:

10am - phone call
10.15am - rushed to post office & supermarket, 2 kids in tow.
11.00am - rushed home, put shopping away.
11.15am - rushed out to doctor's.
11.45am - sat on path outside doctor's surgery while son lay on ground feeling faint.
11.55am - took children home, lay son down on bed with water.
12.00pm - asked son if he was OK to visit or if we should cancel. Son OK.
12.10pm - jumped into car and braved Bell Street (very busy).
12.20pm - McDonald's drive-thru for lunch.  Stopped for 3 minutes in carpark to wolf down burger.  Continued on.
1.00pm - arrived at grandmother's, feeling a little chuffed at achievements thus far in day.
1.01pm - got chewed out for being "late" and not calling.

And people wonder why the Christmas spirit is not strong in me :>

Wednesday 22 December 2010

WEB207 - Topic 1.3 - Music

As a long-time Internet user, I was mildly offended/vaguely amused by Kot's "Before Napster, downloading music on MP3 files was a relatively esoteric pursuit reserved for only the most dedicated music geeks.".  Ha! I've never considered myself to be a dedicated music anything but I confess to having a substantial MP3 collection long before Napster ever appeared.  So I suppose I'll wear the "geek" part... Tongue out  It IS true to say that Napster helped me find music I'd never listened to before, and I did buy quite a few CDs as a result of stuff I found on there, which was definitely one of the benefits of Napster at that time because up until then you either had to go into a shop, hope to find a friend to borrow a record from or listen to the radio for hours on end and hope you'd get to hear what you wanted to hear.  But at the same time, I downloaded a lot of music that I never ended up buying and I can see how that was a challenge to the record labels.  I do remember the Metallica-uproar, and all the anti-Metallica sentiment that was going around the file-sharing community at the time.  The funny thing was, I'd never listened to Metallica until then but I went and found a copy of something-or-other to check it out!

1.  Digital communication and distribution create both the benefits and the challenges for the music industry.  Digital enables perfect copies to be made quickly and easily, which allows digital distribution outlets such as ITunes to distribute music in a highly cost-effective manner with relatively little human input, and provides artists with a much wider distribution than they may previously have had by distributing record albums.  At the same time, this also allows users to distribute the same perfect copies illegally.

2.  Current laws were mostly created before digital distribution became a reality, and are woefully inadequate in today's world.  Most of them have no appreciation or allowance for what the Internet can do, and how people use the Internet to access music (and indeed other forms of digital media).  Virtually all are nation-based, while the internet allows users to traverse national borders, therefore rendering most laws obsolete.

3.  Radio is still the quickest and most cost effective way to distribute real-time news, sport and media.  Even though digital devices allow users to personalise their musical playlists and listen to podcasts later on, radio still allows local community and national interaction for live events.


Tuesday 21 December 2010

WEB207 - Topic 1.2 - Film

1. Here are some key quotes and my ideas from the reading:
  • "Unlimited selection has led to a complicated scenario in which unlimited choice runs up against an incredibly crowded marketplace".

  • "there is certainly the risk that what Wajcman refers to as "virtual communities of choice" will only serve to reinforce cultural homogeneity and exclusivity because participants may seek out only those opinions that reinforce their own perspectives on the world".

  • Movie piracy - "As digital distribution was increasingly becoming a possiblity, debates frequently focused on internet piracy".

  • "the convenience of watching movies at home takes movie watching from something associated with effort to something associated with domestic space" - friendships with other customers and store clerks, the "tactile quality of picking up videotapes and DVDs for examination" is lost.

  • "Netflix has over 100,000 titles in its catalogue, it currently has the rights to stream only about 10,000 titles via it's Watch Now player and set-top box" - and isn't legally available in Australia.

  • "the paradox of choice" - the frustration that many consumers face in response to having too many choices.

  • "audience enthusiasm has not necessarily translated into financial stability".
2. Yes, anybody could make a film, just as anybody could write a book or paint art or create a sculpture - but the media they're creating has to be both compelling enough material, and told skillfully enough, to capture an audience's attention.  The fact that it's easier now to produce new media is counteracted by the other fact that there's now so much more competition.  I still think that, like good blogs and good books, the cream rises to the top.  Internet sites like YouTube can assist that process.

The other point to make is, that not every filmmaker wants "Hollywood success", as Tryon describes when discussing the Mumblecore filmmakers, who have distanced themselves from the Sundance Film Festival "which they define as too commercial and too unforgiving for the truly independent filmmaker".  So the Internet has also given these filmmakers the opportunity to gather a niche audience away from Hollywood that they otherwise may not have been able to gain, while also providing those audiences with a wider variety of choice than they previously had.

3. Here are some key quotes and my ideas from the article that I feel help to answer to this question:
  • "ultimately, the unofficial Internet campaign for Rings taught Hollywood much about how fans could promote a blockbuster."

  • "Although some of these sites were doing things of which New Line disapproved, all of them were publicizing Rings."

  • "Like the film itself, the Internet campaign had to both appeal to the built-in fan base and create a new, larger audience."

  • "The website was covered widely in print, broadcast, and online media, generating additional free publicity."

  • Ian McKellen at - "his diary created an unintended rivalry with Forde's "Force of Hobbit," which contractually had exclusive rights to on-set coverage."

  • "New Line learned from experience and changed its strategy."

  • "In the wake of Rings, a slow shift in the attitude of Hollywood companies has become apparent as they realize the enormous value of the free publicity offered by responsible fan sites."

  • "Some fans seemed already to feel themselves as allied with the director against the Hollywood system."

  • "Knowles and some other webmasters invented the category of professional fan."

  • Fan sites like AICN & TORN initially lost money but now making money via advertising revenue, affiliate links, merchandising, voluntary subscriptions.

  • viral marketing - "New Line discovered the virtues of cooperating and negotiating with fans"

  • the point is not to convince fans to go to the movie, but to convince them to communicate their enthusiasm to others.

Monday 20 December 2010

Sunday 19 December 2010

9 Ways to Connect With Santa on the Web

You don't have to head to the North Pole to hook up with Santa this year. There's a sackful of online options that will let your little ones connect with the Claus from the comfort of your own home.

Saturday 18 December 2010

Thursday 16 December 2010

60 Questions to Consider When Designing a Website

We spend a lot of time asking ourselves, our clients and other people questions. Whether it's choosing the perfect shade of green for our latest web layout or figuring out how to implement a complex typographical solution, the ability to ask the right questions is among the most critical of skills for a web designer. In this article, we'll go over 60 specific questions that web professionals should ask before taking their website public.

Friday 10 December 2010

JPEG 101: A Crash Course Guide on JPEG

Somewhat geeky article about the JPEG compression algorithm for images - hey, it's my blog, I can post what I like :p

Thursday 9 December 2010

WEB207 - Topic 1.1 - Television

Time-shifting has changed the way I and my family watch TV - I have most of the shows I regularly watch setup to record on FoxtelIQ with the "Series Link" option on, which lets you set-and-forget (digressing slightly, but if you're interested in my recent input to improving "Series Link" please click here), or I download what isn't being shown here yet.  I rarely watch a "live" show any more, although my husband watches a lot of sport live - but even then, he rewinds the exciting bits if and when he feels like it.  But then I look at my Dad and grandmother and it has had very little impact on them.  My grandmother has only just figured out how to record on her VCR and my father still hasn't mastered it!  What has changed is the "watercooler talk", but that isn't entirely due to time-shifting - pay TV and the increased number of available channels has also contributed.  My Dad still has his 4 channels but nowadays when he tells me about a show he watched last night, I either haven't seen it at all, or haven't had time to watch it via the IQ yet.

I think sporting events and certain popular shows are still best to watch live.  In the case of sport it's partly because it's still very difficult to download a sporting event after the fact, and almost impossible to find a free live stream online.  I'm sure this is again a corporate notion, but it's painful.  I remember being in the US in 2008 when Buddy Franklin was due to kick his 100th goal for the season in the AFL, and frantically Googling all over the place trying to find a live stream of the game so I could watch it.  Granted, the actual goal was up on YouTube shortly after so I could watch a replay, but it wasn't the same as watching it live and in the context of the whole game.

As for popular shows - I remember Tama signing off Twitter when the Lost season 6 finale was shown in the US, until it was shown in Western Australia!  Simultaneous broadcasting would certainly be an awesome thing in cases like that. :>

I don't really think that "overflow" has a vast impact on a TV show right now, and because it doesn't happen with every show it's more like an "added bonus" thing.  It's also difficult for Australian's to participate due to the "tyranny of digital distance", as illustrated in the Leaver (2008) reading, because most of these shows aren't shown straight away in Australia and therefore any online participation would happen well after the fact.  This is partly why I downloaded episodes of Heroes for several years, so I could participate in the online stuff that went with the show.  However, I watched all 6 seasons of Lost this year and only really utilised the Lost Wiki to try to understand some of the things that had happened that I was losing track of along the way, so I wouldn't say it's imperative to either have the "overflow", or to utilise it.

I wrote a Blackboard post outlining some of the reasons that the commercial networks in Australia do not simultaneously broadcast shows directly from the US.  Last week I was talking to a TV station manager at a Christmas party  and told him what we've been studying this week.  He said that yes, it's all about commercial reality, and that when new ideas crop up they ask 2 questions - "Can we?" and "Should we?".  The first generally relates to the technology and is usually "yes" and the second relates to commercial reality and is often "no", at least initially, because if there's no money in it then it's not worth doing.  But he also said that they are now being forced to do a lot of new things by the federal government, all the new digital channels, plus anti-siphoning laws, etc.  He didn't mention the NBN but I imagine that will have an impact too.  So I don't really know when all this will happen, but I think it's definitely "when" and not "if".


Wednesday 8 December 2010

Thoughts on television

In answer to a question on Blackboard about why commercial networks aren't looking at simultaneous downloading, I posted this:

My husband has a background in TV so I grilled him about this.  What I got from said grilling is that basically, the main barrier to simultaneous broadcasting is all commercial and it's quite complicated.  To break it down a bit (and I hope I got this right, and apologies for the length of the post!):

- There is a distinction between a broadcaster and the owner of a show.  For instance, CBS in the US may commission Jerry Bruckheimer to make a show (like CSI) and it's not CBS's show to sell, it's Bruckheimer's, and it may be HIM making the deal to sell it on to another country's TV network.  However, sometimes the deal IS made by CBS or NBC, but these deals can become quite complicated and may involve clauses such as having to buy 5 shows, and show A, B and C before they're allowed to show D, or "can't show this until x days after US release".  These deals can take a while to work out, as they are worked out on a per-country (or per-network) basis.

- Australian TV networks (ALL TV networks) are commercial entities - they buy a show and then sell advertising slots to help cover the cost of the show they have bought.  So if we watch a show via a download and not via a TV broadcast, the end result is a loss of advertising dollars to that network.

- While a lot of us doing Internet Communications know how to download bittorrents, at the moment broadcast TV is still the main way that a majority of the population view TV shows.  The reality is that it is easier and more cost effective for the commercial networks to cater to a majority and simultaneously do things in a way that suits THEM best, not the individual.  Until more users start downloading and hitting their hip pockets, this isn't likely to change much.  My husband's answer to the question "why can't they do it?" is basically - "they can - but it's not in their interest to do it right now".

- Australian TV networks also influence distribution - they want to show top-rating shows during ratings periods, to get the biggest bang for their buck.  The US ratings season is the opposite of ours - their top shows start in their autumn as school starts, which is when our ratings are winding down for summer.  Traditionally the Australian networks "kept" the good shows to use at the start of our school year, so as to get the best ratings.  The numbers of viewers drop off during summer, with holidays, daylight savings, etc.  As well, they play games with each other, and with us.  Ever noticed how some nights there are a bunch of good shows all on at the same time?  The networks play games, trying to get the highest ratings and therefore the highest revenue.  Sometimes they'll hold back their best show and concede the ratings for that slot to another network, and put their best show on at a different time when there's no competition.  Often they show repeats but don't tell the viewer that they're repeats, so we tune in and *bang*, another rating point for them.  Very sneaky. :>

- Australian TV networks used to watch the US shows and see what was rating well there before buying it for screening here.  So arguably what we used to get was the "best of" from the US.  If it flopped there, chances are we never even saw it or if we did, it was as part of a package deal that was shown in the off-ratings season.

- Sometimes, it can be cheaper for Australian networks to buy shows that are a bit older, so they wait a while.  In recent times, the networks have taken some risks on brand-new shows and bought them before US screening, at arguably a cheaper price.  That's why some shows disappear really quickly nowadays.

I personally think that TV show/video downloads will probably follow a similar path to music downloads.  First they had Napster, then once enough people used it enough to impact the music industry's hip pockets, all the digital rights management stuff appeared and eventually it got a lot harder to download music illegally, and a lot easier to download it legally (Itunes etc).  Then the commercial entities could still make their money, and everyone was happy. :>


Why WikiLeaks Is Good for America

"WikiLeaks stands to improve our democracy, not weaken it."

Now how about we all stop trying to shoot the messenger, and instead take a look at the actual message (and perhaps also a quick peek at the shitty "security" measures that allowed the leaks to occur in the first place).

Tuesday 7 December 2010

Open letter: To Julia Gillard, re Julian Assange

"We wrote the letter below because we believe that Julian Assange is entitled to all the protections enshrined in the rule of law and that the Australian Government has an obligation to ensure he receives them."
At the time of posting this there are 2149 comments on this post - I haven't read all of them because frankly, I can't keep up!  But from what I've read they are overwhelmingly supportive.  Add your name today.

WEB207 - Media Diary Part 1 - Today's Diary

You are asked to keep a diary of your media consumption for a single 24 hour period (ie one day) once during the first two weeks of this unit. At the end of the day, please do a summary of how much time you've spent engaging with different media platforms.

Diary of Monday 6th December 2010

7.00am           Woken up in the usual manner, via "4yo boy alarm clock".
7.20am           Get up, turn on PC.  Check HTC Desire Android smartphone for any urgent overnight email (I only have 2 of my email accounts configured on this, for sanity reasons) or Tweets (I have 3 Twitter accounts, one each for personal interests, my web development business and for school).  Nothing important.  Log into PC and fire up email and Facebook (but no time to check anything yet).  Start getting myself and kids ready.
8.30am           Quick check of email - I have approximately 8 email accounts all downloading into Microsoft Outlook and filtering to various folders, for various interests and business.  Quick churn through Twitter using Yoono, a Firefox plug-in.  Click on a few interesting links for later reading.  Go through eBay searches (for Christmas shopping).  Quick scan of tech newsletters.
8.50am           Rush out the door to deposit kids at school and childcare and pick up mail from PO Box.
9.20am           Head to local shopping centre to attempt to finish Christmas shopping.
9.30am           Arrive at shopping centre.  Tackle David Jones and Big W, looking for a particular Zhu Zhu Pet for my daughter (after failed attempt at different shopping centre yesterday).  Both stores advertised these as being available on their websites at 11pm last night.  As expected, not a Zhu Zhu Pet to be found in either of these stores or in fact anywhere else in the entire shopping centre (not that I walked the entire centre, but another mother I met in Toys R Us had).  Googled "Zhu Zhu Hamster" on my HTC and discovered it was available online, but couldn't complete purchase due to non-mobile website and weird popup window.  Abandoned online shopping attempts, completed several other purchases in stores and gave up on the bricks and mortar "Great Zhu Zhu Pet Search of 2010", and went home.
11.35am         Arrived home.  Google searched "Zhu Zhu Hamster" on PC and immediately found what I was looking for on  Add to Cart, Checkout and paid for in 3 minutes.  Wonder yet again why I bother shopping in shopping centres when online shopping is so much simpler.  Mixed feelings - happy that I've finally found the thing, but irritated that I wasted 2 hours wandering around a shopping centre (no, I do not love shopping).
11.40am         Checked email while boiling the kettle.  Scanned through Facebook and The Age.  Posted a link about Melbourne's impending locust invasion on Facebook.  Gross.
11.50am         Caught up on Tweets.  Most of the accounts I follow contain links to articles.  Scanned through previously opened articles (from 8.30am), and read a few new ones.  Mostly about Wikileaks and Julian Assange, which has turned into a minor obsession. :>  Posted interesting ABC article about Wikileaks to Facebook.
12.30pm         Stopped for lunch.  Rang my Dad while eating.  Read through a few more emailed techy newsletters.
1.00pm           Continued with WEB207 coursework, which wasn't completed last week due to (a) website rebuild and (b) waiting for brand-new reading glasses to arrive so I could actually read the readings.
1.58pm           Posted outraged link to Twitter and Facebook - "What a load of Mc-Bullsh*t, Mc-paid for and Mc-sponsored by... guess who?" (  Feeling slightly nauseated.
2.00pm           WEB207 coursework.
2.15pm           Corrected one of Tama's typos via Blackboard. Tongue out
3.15pm           Downed tools to go and pick up my daughter from school.
3.45pm           Back home, checked email, Facebook and Twitter.  Got afternoon snack for my daughter and did a bit more WEB207 reading.
4.45pm           Downed tools to go and pick up my son from childcare.  Then home, dinner, kids, etc.
7.15pm until 11.00pm   Back home, checked email, Facebook and Twitter a couple more times.  Continued with WEB207 readings yet again.  Posted a few things to Blackboard.  Showed husband nauseating Oprah McVideo.
11.00pm          Half an hour of "Angry Birds" on my HTC before bed.
11.30pm          Bedtime.

Via the combined use of my PC and smartphone, I was online all day!  I probably spent about half an hour reading email, about 2 hours reading news, links from Tweets and on Facebook, 3 minutes shopping online, approximately 5 hours on WEB207 work, about an hour on the phone and the rest of the time on Christmas shopping and with my husband and kids.  This is a fairly typical Monday for me, I either work or study or both, but if I'd chosen a different day then it would be very different as my son only goes to childcare a couple of days a week this year.

Monday 6 December 2010

WEB207 - Topic 1.0 - Introduction

Core Viewing:
Liu, D. (2010) Apple Mac Music Video. Retrieved from
Core Reading:
Jenkins, H. (2004). The Cultural Logic of Media Convergence. International Journal of Cultural Studies, 7(1), 33 -43. doi:10.1177/1367877904040603 [Via Library Catalogue]
Manovich, L. (2009). The Practice of Everyday (Media) Life: From Mass Consumption to Mass Cultural Production? Critical Inquiry, 35(2), 319-331. doi:10.1086/596645 [Via Library Catalogue]

1. Jenkins suggests nine areas where the relationships between consumers and producers are changing. What are these, which seem most important, and how far have these new relationships emerged.
    1. Revising audience measurement. An example of where this has happened in Australia recently is within the Australian TV ratings system, known as OzTam.  On 27 December 2009 OzTam introduced the measurement of Time Shift Viewing, which allowed for the capture of ratings for programs viewed at a later date, or that were paused during a live telecast, as well as the original "Live" system.  In some cases this has changed the results of a shows viewing by as much as 14%.

    2. Regulating media content.  Once, media producers aimed to appeal to as many people as possible so content was quite conservative and broadreaching.  Now there is a move towards more narrow, personalised media production.  However, this has resulted in cultural conservatives attempting to impose their own ideals and effectively put things back to "the good old days".  This may help to explain the recent attempts by many international governments, including Australia's, to introduce internet filtering or other ways to regulate content online.

    3. Redesigning the digital economy.  The concept that content will increasingly come with a pricetag, although attempts to enforce this haven't always been successful.  An example that I used in NET102 was Rupert Murdoch's implementation of a paywall around the websites of The Times and The Sunday Times in the UK, which has seen a 90% drop in traffic since it's introduction.  However, sites such as ITunes, which seem to have appeared after this 2006 article was written, seem to fit the theory of a "micropayment system" that would "allow media producers to sell their content directly to consumers, cutting out many layers of middle folk, adjusting prices for the lowered costs of production and distribution in the digital environment".

    4. Restricting media ownership.  Changes to restrictions on media ownership in recent years has seen even greater consolidation of ownership. Although Australia's media ownership laws have remained unchanged for some time, our media is still fairly concentrated between large organisations such as News Ltd, PBL, Fairfax and Telstra.

    5. Rethinking media aesthetics.  Media across multiple channels and the aesthetic implications of this.  For instance, in the case of a TV show like "Lost", the TV show must be self-contained enough to satisfy viewers who only watch the TV show, but additional media such as web-only media can enhance the media and make it more complex for those viewers who want that.

    6. Redefining intellectual property rights.  Jenkins says "In the new media environment, it is debatable whether governmental censorship or corporate control over intellectual property rights poses the greatest threat to the right of the public to participate in their culture".  Couldn't have said it better myself!  There are so many examples of the ludicrosity of copyright - the one I used for an essay in MED104 was the case of Larrikin Music against the Australian rock band Men At Work, which I won't repeat here - but suffice to say, I thought it was a nonsense lawsuit that should never have happened in the first place!

    7. Regnegotiating relations between producers and consumers.  The examples used are the recording industry and the gaming industry, where the first have responded to new technologies like peer-to-peer networking with legal action, and the second have actively engaged with their customers.

    8. Remapping globalisation.  Teens in the developing world use American culture, and teens in the western world are now consuming media such as Japanese anime, Bollywood films and Hong Kong action movies.

    9. Re-engaging citizens.  Using the media for the purposes of activism.

    While I think all these areas are important, since this article was written in 2006 I think the most important areas have become the regulation of content (2) and intellectual property issues (6) - but that could just be that I find them the most interesting!

    2. Manovich suggests a few areas where the most interesting and innovative responses to social media are being produced - what are they, and how might (or might not) these be indicative of new forms of creativity unleashed by digitisation?

    I didn't enjoy this reading as much!  A bit too wordy for my tastes.  But to answer the question - unprecendented growth in social media has led to lots of innovation by both large organisations and also individuals.  Every professional or company, regardless of size and physical location, now has the ability to have a web presence and put their new work online, for viewing by a global audience.  This not only allows individuals to see what others are doing, but also allows them to work with others to develop new tools together.  An example given related to artists and artistic schools, where traditionally one produced work which others then responded to with their own versions of things, but the original did not engage with those who followed.  Today's media practices involve two-way conversations between a wide range of individuals, which arguably can only help to enhance cultural creativity.

    3. Lastly, a much bigger and more personal question: Looking at the unit material, which areas look to be of most interest to you? Why?

    Without going through all of the course material to formulate a complex response at this stage, I suspect that Television and Photography will interest me the most, as both are areas that I already have an interest in.  Regarding Television, my interest isn't so much in watching it, but in how it is produced and how ratings are measured, and the changes that are occurring as a result of new media innovations.  I have also long held a personal interest in Photography, so I am interested to see what we cover in that week's coursework.

    WikiLeaks a blueprint for things to come

    "the failures of WikiLeaks provide the blueprint for the systems which will follow it"


    Saturday 4 December 2010

    The Shameful Attacks on Julian Assange

    "In a memorandum entitled "Transparency and Open Government" addressed to the heads of Federal departments and agencies and posted on, President Obama instructed that "Transparency promotes accountability and provides information for citizens about what their Government is doing." The Administration would be wise to heed his words -- and to remember how badly the vindictive prosecution of Daniel Ellsberg ended for the Nixon Administration."