Lighting a Spark Under Telecom

February 21, 2014 – 9:13 pm
Telecom New Zealand is changing its name to Spark. Most commentators regard it as a backward move, most recently Lance Wiggs who diagnoses marketing capture, distraction from executive and board, and the death of a valuable brand. I'd like to respectfully disagree. I might be a contrarian, but I think it's a good idea. First, let me quickly disregard that idea that Telecom New Zealand is a good brand. It's a fucking terrible brand for what they want to do with the company. They do NOT want to be a dumb pipe, a commodity provider of connectivity—particularly now they don't have Chorus. They've announced Internet TV and there'll be more to come, I'm sure. The branding lets them get as far away as possible from the idea that they're a telco. (Note that I don't like this. The incentives are all there for them to link their content-provision and connectivity businesses, raising ...

I’m Going on an Adventure

August 16, 2013 – 6:23 pm
I caught up with Jesse Robbins at Foo Camp, and he gave me a great line that I remember as being something like: "I'm going on an adventure. The outcome is uncertain, there will be setbacks along the way, so I'll surround myself with good travelling companions." I'm going on a new adventure. This week saw me join the fast-growing Kiwi education startup, Hapara as something like "Head of Partnerships". I say "something like", because when Jan recruited me, he said "we're growing so fast that each fortnight there's a fresh challenge we haven't seen before, and there's always more work than there are people to do it." In my first week I've arranged for us to go to NZ Pycon, met the head of education at Google for Asia-Pacific, and chewed on the coffee at Point England school (Russell makes it strong). This job is the perfect alignment ...

Andreas Schleicher to NZ Members of Parliament

July 11, 2013 – 8:29 am
Andreas Schleicher runs the PISA programme for the UN. PISA is the OECD Programme for International Student Assessment, a test given to 15-year-old students from most of the world. Data about the students, countries, and education systems are analysed to see not just who is high-performing and who is improving, but why. He came to New Zealand in July, and his talk to Members of Parliament was recorded. My transcription is below. If you can fix some of the parts which are unintelligible, for a limited time you can edit the Google Doc which also has screencaps of some of his slides (please feel free to add more slides). If you'd like to engage with what this means, I'm @gnat on Twitter and we can use the hashtag #ednz to join up disparate conversations. Andreas is @SchleicherEdu, though he doesn't appear to do more than tweet out his press coverage. ...

What is PaCT and Why Did It Cost $6M?

June 16, 2013 – 5:44 pm
(this post is about the New Zealand education system. I wanted to say more than Twitter made easy) NZ has an amazing education system. We went through the "Tomorrow's Schools" revolution in the 1990s, which devolved governance of schools to the communities in which those schools sit. A Remuera school will teach and value different things than an Otara school, despite being only a few km away from each other, and that's okay. But in a world of devolution, how does the state ensure that schools don't suck? They set out expectations then monitor and enforce them. The expectations for "what gets taught" is the New Zealand Curriculum (NZC). It talks about subjects ("learning areas"), competencies and values for the NZ educational system. It's deliberately vague, though, and schools must spend time unpacking the NZC for their local context. The NZC lays out achievement objectives which are levels. ...

Dear Boosted: Surprise Me and Succeed

March 20, 2013 – 3:49 pm
The NZ Arts Foundation has launched Boosted, a way to crowdfund arts projects. Now, if you're like me, you're probably wondering "don't we already have several ways of doing that? I mean, Kiwi artists have already used Kickstarter and PledgeMe to fund projects." Boosted's key point of difference is that, being operated by a charitable non-profit, your donations are eligible for 33% tax rebate. So everyday punters like us can enjoy the tax advantages of philanthropic donation, the same way that the millionaires do. To get that tax rebate, however, you can't receive anything for that donation: no tickets, no hip flask, no signed postcard, no posters, no "flown to Austin for lunch at a fancy hotel with me and my artist friends", and all the other rewards that Kickstarter and Pledgeme and other crowdfunding sites are built around. Your only reward, so far as I can ...

Easily Creating Twitter Lists From Lists of Twitter Users

March 4, 2013 – 7:27 pm
Kiwi Foo Camp just ended. This year, I collected Twitter handles as part of registration and I wanted to create a Twitter list. Twitter doesn't provide an easy way to do this: you're supposed to visit each person's Twitter page and then add them to the list. Many clicks, many hours, no way is that fun. 1) ttytter to the rescue! Follow the website's instructions for installation and tying it to your Twitter account. If your experience is like mine, this will be the most time-consuming part of the process. 2) Create the list, either in ttytter (with /withlist mylistname create Public descriptive text about the list) or from your favourite Twitter client. 3) Then you need to take your list of @names and turn it into a set of command for ttytter: /withlist mylistname add name /withlist mylistname add othername ... or multiple on one line /withlist mylistname add name othername thirdname ... I used ...

Copywrongs and Katherine Mansfield

February 28, 2013 – 10:25 am
Katherine Mansfield is New Zealand's literary icon: feminist, bisexual, incredibly gifted, part of the Bloomsbury circle of clever people pushing literary form before she died of tuberculosis. Her short stories are as moving today as they were when she wrote them almost 100 years ago. Her papers, and those of her husband John Middleton-Murry, are held at the National Library in Wellington as part of more than 50 years of dogged collection by that organisation. Mansfield died in 1923. Scholars have pored over her papers ever since. The most recent acquisition of KM papers, from the estate of her husband, has surfaced at least one formerly unpublished and unknown work. Beyond stories and essays, the collection has many letters she wrote (and never published). Under NZ law, her published works returned to the public domain 50 years after her death (1973). Unpublished works return to the ...

Things You Learn

January 10, 2013 – 1:16 pm
Things I learned while I was too busy to write week notes: if you don't do it, it won't get done ("delegate" qualifies as "doing"); learning to delegate is as hard as learning to do the task itself was, and you've got to learn to delegate NOW; (related) setting it up so it can be done without you is much harder than doing it yourself; it's great to watch lines tracking up, unless they represent debt or complaints; you'll get the first sale to a friend because you're you, but in general repeat business only comes from giving actual value; high-touch enterprise sales needs people inside the organization who see the value and make your case for you at the internal debates when you aren't in the room; know what you want, know why you want it, and then ask for it -- shouldn't be hard, yet it is; "it is a good thing and should happen" is ...

Week Note 3

November 22, 2012 – 10:02 am
(belated) Monday was a big day: I confirmed the hiring of my first employee, and gave a seminar at Auckland University on open research. The employee is my sister (getting back into the workforce after five years out with son; has been helping me out as book-keeper during that time), she's part-time (four hours a day), and our goal is to have her help me scale the business. I know the events inside out, but Jenine has been much better at process definition and automation than I have. Bree's job is to help me do for my side of the events (definition, promotion, sales, registration, hosting) what Jenine's already done for her side. The seminar is on Slideshare (see the slides here; not recorded, alas). It's based on a presentation I gave to the University Research Offices of New Zealand earlier in the year: start with open source, ...

Week Note 2

November 8, 2012 – 6:14 pm
Ok, so it's been a while since my last week report. Sorry, habits are hard to form. Family flew back from our Colorado trip, landing Sunday morning. The great thing about "computer work" is that one can do it anywhere, so I was able to work while I was away. The bad thing about "computer work" is that one can do it anywhere, so I was working while my family were on holiday. This is really hard to do in a satisfactory fashion: work outstrips available time, one is not with one's family while THEY are holidaying, and the resulting conflict between what one must do and what one should do leads to stress. At least, it did for this one. (Bitterly amusing: was easier to take calls while on the road in Colorado than when 10m from my home in New Zealand; the Vodafone coverage at Goat Island ...