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28.9.09

The children have entered the room 

The team has returned from Air , with mostly good news, but heard a few tanties from around the industry. It’s interesting, because I could have sworn that when I corresponded from the same event many years ago, there were mostly adults there, and we, in the L’Oréal Powder Room, negotiated important deals that would see us through the next 12 months.
   What I hear are things along the lines of ‘X doesn’t like Y because Y cheated on his wife’, ‘You were excluded from the show because you took Z’s side four years ago’, and, my favourite one, ‘You [as in yours truly here] rattled their staff on issue A,’ which is laughable considering I never spoke to the person on issue A.
   Gossip is not my forté, which is why the parties remain unnamed (and I am not stupid enough to name people based on hearsay), but in many of these cases, it shows great hypocrisy and childishness on the part of some fairly major (by New Zealand standards) names. In the last case, it shows that the company is not only unprofessional, but breeds liars who are quite happy to validate their boss’s dislike of me personally—which should have no bearing, given that person’s own statements in the media about how one must separate the person from the company, on the Lucire staff. In the second case, it illustrates the Vogel’s TVC point rather well: ‘It was a year ago, Michael. Let it go!’ except one year is four years; and the first … well, OK, the first I actually can appreciate. I’m with X and exclude him from my criticism.
   I know the industry always had a tanty, immature element to it, but certainly in those early years of New Zealand Week, I remembered we were all working toward an end, and there was plenty of unity. And if we, as a nation, are prepared to play games, then we don’t deserve a lot of success.
   I hear stories like this from other cities, too, but they usually relate to the queuing, PR interns or the gatecrashers, which is the usual story at fashion week, whether in New York, London or Paris—Milano I am a bit of a neophyte on, and I have limited Italian, and I have a mate covering from the photographic pit only there this season.
   Fortunately, this rogue element is a minor thing among the entire craziness of the week in New Zealand. What is disturbing is how it has surfaced more during a tough economic year. Is the lack of money leading to a lack of professionalism, as the are farewelled for an in-house attempt at running a fashion show? Are we now seeing the true colours of some of our designers?
   For the most part, the spirit of Kiwi can-do holds true, and that positive element is what we need to focus on. Those who don’t play games obviously have the type of we want to champion in our publications. Those are the ones who are truer to what they say they stand for. I called up folks at Zambesi, Alexandra Owen and other labels and had that lovely treatment that this was an old friend calling. The overwhelming majority of fashion labels conducted themselves professionally and admirably. Some amazing things are happening in New Zealand.
   Those who prefer to be silly: I’m afraid we are too darned busy to accommodate them. It’s not a type of ‘I’ll shove back now’ reciprocity, but, if I wanted to deal with children, I would have some. Or I’ll visit those friends who have kids and play hide and seek or read Dr Seuss. Whatever.
   I’ve been around too long and watched too many fashion weeks worldwide to know that the childish ones always fall by the wayside: New York, the other city where I have coordinated fashion week coverage regularly, is littered with them.
   Perhaps I should look at restarting a fashion festival here in Wellington? (No, that’s not a campaign promise. It’s a topic for discussion.)
   No, I’ll just wait for the Milano shots for now. First things first.
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24.9.09

I want to build the city you want 

Everyone, I’ve thought long and hard about this. As of midnight, I’ll be giving up part of my private life in favour of a public one, as I announce my candidacy for of .
   It’s not a decision I take lightly. I toyed with this idea three years ago, when the current mayor, , suggested she might step down. However, she decided to run one more time, and there is little point to go against a popular incumbent. And besides, I thought, it would be advantageous to sit the term through, figuring out what Wellingtonians want, and charting a vision for our city.
   Anyone who knows me knows I am concerned, as I have been writing about here, in Beyond Branding (and at its site) and at Your Wellington, about . I am concerned about the development and growth of business globally, but particularly in a city I love and which I have called home for over 30 years.
   I stand by my record as someone who has been ahead of the curve constantly, with virtual businesses, digital media, and the environment. In 2003, when I first negotiated Lucire’s partnership with the UNEP, I remember people questioning me on why I would want something as “out-there” as carbon neutrality. I’ve learned a heck of a lot about people and trust this century, and how sometimes, we need a bit of a nudge in the right direction by the right person.
   I have also been concerned at the Wellington ’s direction, and how the and technological sectors have been hijacked by politicians who simply do not understand their needs.
   But I am also delighted at the way both Mark Blumsky and Kerry Prendergast have positioned Wellington as a hub for New Zealand. We aren’t just the home of diplomats, but we genuinely embrace and art. In fact, I’ve chatted with Mark about my potential candidacy, and during the course of our conversation it emerged I’ll only be one year younger than he was when he took office, should I be elected.
   This is not going to be a cruisy gig. We have a heck of a lot of work to do.
   Some of the most pressing issues include free wireless internet, or , in Wellington, something that we still do not have. It’s ridiculous in a city that has the , and which once proclaimed it wanted to be the most wired capital in the world. We’re missing out on a huge part of the information society, especially in our libraries where we’re charging for the ’net. Someone needs to push this agendum and figure out how it can be delivered.
   And why we are not sister cities with , with that city’s vibrant creative, environmental and tech sectors, is a mystery to me. It’s a topic I discussed last year with Jim and Yvonne Belich. It’s why I’ve referred to my friendship with and contacted the Mayor there, , to begin enquiring about the possibilities. There’s no secret that Wellington businesses have the most innovative thinking around—and that’s going to benefit our friends in San Francisco. These ideas are good for Wellington business, too.
   Even more disturbing is why things that I consider to be no-brainers have not been talked about by anyone who is running for mayor.
   It’s not all fun and games. I have approached one senior member on the council to serve as my deputy, if elected, and I am pleased to say that he has said yes. So we’re going to get the stability many of you will want, along with what I hope will be a vision that Wellingtonians will share.
   There are more ideas over at Your Wellington. It’s the tip of the iceberg, because I’ve plenty more up my sleeve when it comes to e-government, building business and transparency. I’ll share these with you as I have shared many of my other ideas through my many years online. We’ll have a good year’s run-up to the October 9, 2010 election.
   Business-wise, nothing here will change. You’ll be pleased to know that I have a great team around me, one which I can trust fully, and I’ll still be involved in the day-to-day running of this company. Obviously I’ll revise where I stand as we head into August 2010—but considering I already do a 10 a.m.–3 a.m. day dealing with 3,000 emails a week, I know I can master the time management needed—and work hard for Wellington.
   I’ll leave my old posts up—warts and all. You might not like everything I have said—and some of you have made your feelings known in the past (!)—but I’m prepared to be open about it.
   I want you to tell me your thoughts because I see a mayor as a servant of the people. I remember full well when my family first arrived in this city, and Sir Francis Kitts went out of his way to help us. This is my way of giving back, in tune with the needs of the 2010s.
   It’s time Wellington joined the twenty-first century. I welcome your thoughts via my Twitter account, via my Facebook page, or as feedback on this site or at Your Wellington, because while I have some ideas, many of them will be yours, as we build the city you want.
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20.9.09

Congratulations to Jen and Gavin 

My hearty and sincere congratulations to my friend Newsom, who has given birth to a 7 lb 12 oz daughter, Montana Tessa Siebel Newsom.
   Which means, after you adjust for time zones between California and Hong Kong, San Francisco’s first daughter and I share a birthday. Which also means I have zero excuse to not remember Montana’s birthday.
   All joking aside, all the best to Jen and Gavin, and to Montana. The card is in the post!
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12.9.09

Spotting a Twitter-spammer: the mouseover method 

If things continue at this rate, will cease to be useful. Each day, I pop into Twitter, and find I have to block more people than I leave as a follower. There is a theory—with some weight, incidentally—that those with too many followers who are actually bots and can get disabled by Twitter. So it is in Tweeters’ own interests to maintain a clean followers’ list.
   There are other posts on how to spot a Twitter spammer. But there’s one more way that users should know about, and it only takes several seconds.
   Here’s one Tweeter (shown at left) that I suspect of being a account. I am not saying this person is a spammer (the content is marginal, in my view), but their following list is typical of others I have encountered that are. It happens to be the one that inspired this post: it was one too many using this method that other Tweeters should know about.
   How did I know? I ran my mouse over the photos very quickly. And I watched my status bar to notice that over a dozen of these guys have the same name as me.
   For someone who only began Tweeting a few days ago (September 9) and has six Tweets, it’s pretty unlikely they manually found 690 people. I imagine that there is a script finding people with the same name: the top row (the newest) are guys called Joe. So it’s finished with the Jacks, and it’s started on the Joes. It doesn’t have to be your name—any name of which there are more than half a dozen would be enough to sound my alarm.
   Even if this person is not a spammer, I don’t really want to have someone following me who resorts to automated bots to find followers. It defeats the purpose of on Twitter.
   You should still look at the content of the Tweets, the ratio of following to followers, and whether or not they are sending heaps of messages via API; but for me, this “mouseover” method is a very quick way to prompt me to block someone.
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11.9.09

Honouring 9-11, eight years on 

[Cross-posted at Lucire] I don’t think we could let September 11, 2009 pass without marking what had happened in the eight years ago. As with this year, the day fell during New York Fashion Week, and as the publisher I had a few things to contend with.
   I had returned to from only weeks before, and was woken on the morning of the 12th to learn what had happened. (One has to bear in mind that for most Kiwis, the tragedies of 9-11, thanks to time zones, took place on September 12, 2001, standard time.) One of our correspondents, Edward Hodges, had watched the morning television and called me before 6 a.m. to inform me of the attacks.
   Maybe it was a case of grace under pressure, because I remember being very methodical on what I had to do. First, find out that everyone in the company was all right—both at Jack Yan & Associates and Lucire. Secondly, issue a press statement if it was needed. Thirdly, attend the opening of the Wellington Fashion Festival, beginning that morning at Kirkcaldie & Stain’s. (I still have the parking stub (left), kept not because it was issued on September 12, but that it was left in a suit pocket.)
   It was a rushed visit to Kirk’s—a show-my-face one—before I headed back to the office to keep an eye on things. While I received word that the team was fine, I had one friend who used to get off at the subway stop around the time of the first jet striking the Towers. It was only when I got back to the office when I managed to get through and ascertain that he was alive and well.
   No one was in a mood to celebrate the rest of the Festival. I had received emails from friends in Manhattan, as they took digital photographs of people jumping to their deaths and the Towers burning. It was macabre, but then, they were probably in the same state of shock as I was. We kept updated the whole day—before blogs became commonplace—and the home page went from our trade mark red to a black background.
   I recently talked to Cushla Reed, who runs Minx Shoes, about the day. She had to show one of the first evening collections of the night, and we sat there mostly stunned. While New York suspended its Fashion Week, Wellingtonians tried to carry on with their show. I also spoke recently with jewellery designer Mandi Kingsbury, whom I met that evening. She remembers ‘9-11’ well, and indeed had a flight booked for the following day. We speculated on how safe it would be to travel, and I recall I was less confident than I am now, when I tell people, ‘The safest time to fly would have been September 12, 2001.’ I didn’t feel that on the day.
   In fact, I am not sure how I felt.
   Eight years on, where are we now? Maybe more cynical, less certain of the bright promise of the millennium parties. I am not sure if we are any wiser, or internationally aware, compared to where we were before that day. Wars have been waged in the name of , but they have not brought greater harmony to the world. And I doubt if that is how the victims—not just those killed that day in the attacks, but people who lost their lives in the subsequent wars—would like us to honour their memories.
   Leaving aside the question of the right or wrong of the , we need to ask ourselves: what is the best way to honour those who fell?
   It’s not in monuments.
   It’s certainly not in expressing hate.
   I believe it’s about restoring unity.
   There was unity aboard United flight 93. There was unity among all peace-loving nations in the wake of the terror attacks. And humankind tends toward that unity, no matter what divisions some entrenched interests would like to create between people of this world.
   Go anywhere in the world and you’re far more likely to find an outstretched hand of friendship than a mugger.
   Yet we forget those face-to-face lessons. We see the pettiest squabbles delivered in blog comments. We sit comfortably lecturing others on why they are wrong. On the internet, we see leftists sealing themselves off from rightists; rightists sealing themselves off from leftists; and no one ever seems to want to understand the other side as a few minor parties engineer campaigns of hate. Isolation and polarization seem to be the order of the day, whether one is arguing about war, health care, or international .
   Our squabbles and our division are exactly what the terrorists want to see from us.
   We only scared them for a brief time when we, as a planet, showed we were behind the victims of 9-11. I don’t think we are worrying them as much now.
   Yet, we have more tools to create unity, and more technology to offer that hand of between nations, than we have ever had at any time in human history.
   Why aren’t more of us using these tools to create alliances, friendships and understandings?
   Or, more to the point, using these tools to honour those who have died on and since September 11, 2001?
   Have we really been tricked by a tiny minority, a minority that wants to engender hate, to forget that we are capable of coming together on the future of our planet?
   If we are really to honour the fallen of 9-11, then it’s in extending our hands out again, maybe to a total stranger, maybe to someone of an entirely different culture, and saying a simple word: ‘Hello.’
   And let the begin.
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8.9.09

Herald, make up your mind 

I was interested to read Scott Kara’s review of the telecast in The New Zealand Herald, belatedly, today. I assume the reviewer’s name is Scott Kara, even though it was italicized.
   Breaks from my snobbish adherence to Hart’s Rules aside, Mr Kara wrote of our Katie Taylor, Miss New Zealand 2009:

And what was she wearing? I can’t remember because it was too boring. The chick from Germany might have looked like an extra from an Asterix movie but she was memorable. Why wasn’t Katie wearing a grass skirt and a moko on her chin? Yes, one imagines it is culturally insensitive, but there’s nothing like a little bit of controversy to get you noticed.

   Yeah, but last year the same newspaper ripped in to Samantha Powell for her performance of the pukana on stage at Miss Universe 2008.
   I just wondered what you fellas want. Sam pokes her tongue out, you (not you personally, Mr Kara, but the Irish–Australian Herald combine) complain (three weeks after she initially did it, mind). Katie behaves herself, you say it’s boring.
   I deem Mr Kara more in touch with everyday Kiwis than whomever wrote the three-week-late story about Sam last year, mind. But I have to laugh at the annually changing demands of our from the one newspaper.

And what was Katie wearing? Click through to our report on Lucire to find out more about this garment from the Montana World of Wearable Art awards.
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7.9.09

A sign of trends: the Lucire web redesign 

I spent a few extra hours this weekend on the Lucire , which began just before last week. My task: getting the working with the blog, even though yours truly’s knowledge of is at around the same level as John ‘Two Jags’ Prescott’s on fuel economy. But I muddled through and I am pretty proud of the result.
   The overall redesign online has been quite fun, and a reminder of how the ’net has evolved. People are using wider browsers today, which means that the nominal width—a theoretical width that we design to—has grown from 600 pixels (in the days when 640-pixel wide screens still formed the largest proportion) to 960 (now that 1,024 pixels is a minimum). The scroll wheel on the mouse means that deep pages are not as big a concern as they were in 1997, when Lucire first started.
   It began with some of the feature articles and index pages changing, before we modified the all-important cover and the ‘Insider’ template.
   Many of the reasons behind the changes were æsthetic. We wanted Lucire to reflect web design trends in 2009 and 2010, and the 2006 look was getting a bit old hat. That one was designed with commerce in mind: the 300- by 250-pixel unit had become standard, and most of Lucire was geared to run with 160- by 600-pixel ones on the side.
   When I found myself, this year, preferring how the site looked in 2003 to how it looked today, I knew something was afoot. We needed to change, in part back to the clean layouts that we had then, while taking into account modern tastes.
   Getting the various elements and stylesheets to work in ‘Insider’ was an additional challenge. While I claim to be one of the early web designers, doing work since 1993, it was never the sole focus of my skills, and I do not consider myself a coding expert.
   And I imagine it would be fairly easy for real PHP hackers to point out just what I have done wrong!
   But the most interesting development over the weekend was putting in Cufón, an application that could take a Javascript version of our , and render them on-screen inside Wordpress, which drives ‘Insider’.
   It’s not the only technology out there and there are others that are far more likely to become standards as the debate continues. To most people, what I am writing about here is old, old news.
   We turned Cufón off when we discovered that ligatures were not supported, at least not in the version we tried, but temporarily, it was an interesting experiment.
   I have been playing around with tools such as WEFT since the beginning of the century, keen to find a way to send fonts with web pages, but to do so securely so they could not be pirated. I realize no technology is hack-proof, and someone always finds a way around it, but the reality is that WEFT and other tools were always clunky and not that widely compatible.
   Even early Cufóns failed to convert our JY Fiduci to Javascript.
   Apart from ad servers slowing us down (is this down to Firefox? DNS? Whatever the case, the error seems to have been around since Firefox 0·9) I think we have a good template at Lucire that should last us till we next get bored with the way we appear—which should be in the early part of the next decade. Your feedback is welcome.
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1.9.09

Use Arial, get fired 

A New Zealand woman was sacked, inter alia, for using the wrong , says The New Zealand Herald (thanks to Paul Blomfield for the original tip):

ProCare told the authority Walker—who was fired in December 2007 after two years of employment—had caused disharmony in the workplace by using block capitals, bold typeface and red text in her emails.

Here is the image shown in the online edition of the Herald:

Clip from NZ Herald

   As I can’t see any bold type in the above illustration, I can only assume it was her choice of that got her fired. I told you Arial was a bad choice of type. It gets a really bad reaction from people.
   But on a more serious note, understanding the reactions people get from type is an important skill to have in the 21st century. And, to provide the full context, because this post has been tongue-in-cheek, Ms Walker’s sacking was due to a few other allegations, but she has now successfully proceeded against her former employer.
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Entries from 2006 to the end of 2009 were done on the Blogger service. As of January 1, 2010, this blog has shifted to a Wordpress installation, with the latest posts here.
   With Blogger ceasing to support FTP publishing on May 1, I have decided to turn these older pages in to an archive, so you will no longer be able to enter comments. However, you can comment on entries posted after January 1, 2010.


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