Posts tagged ‘2010’


In education, everyone deserves a chance

09.02.2014

I am a huge fan of Sir Ken Robinson, the educational expert. This video has been around for a few years, but it’s well worth another watch.

   Everyone has the potential within them—so we need ways of encouraging this for every life, rather than suppress them in favour of just the three Rs.
   I was blessed to have done well at primary and secondary school, and in my business degree at university, though for the first couple of years at law school, you might say I was a middling student, getting between B-pluses and C-pluses. It was only at 300 level that things began to click.
   I think back to the kids at the so-called bottom of the class at primary. I won’t name my fellow student but there was one who buried his head in his Mission: Impossible annual who I say had a better imagination than most of us. Unfortunately, he wasn’t as strong on the academic stuff. And you think: if only.
   Or, for that matter, Karl Urban, the actor, who really was that talented as a kid, but not in the top three to which our school awarded prizes.
   A small proportion of those who don’t get recognized academically might wind up as internationally fêted actors, with a lot of sheer hard work. But a whole lot get let down at the beginning, even at a really good school, and told they needed to shape up.
   I visit my primary and secondary schools regularly and keep up with their progress, and I am happy to say things are much, much better than in the 1970s and 1980s. There is more recognition of the different styles of learning, and the different strengths of each student. I see more group work and collaboration between students, as well as more extracurricular activities than we ever had. I hope that we don’t have the trend of medicating students as Sir Ken mentions in his talk, and it is very interesting to note that the prescriptions for ADD increase as one moves eastward across the United States (see 3′38″).

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Posted in culture, interests, New Zealand, USA | No Comments »


Let’s improve on the Wellington logo

07.11.2013

The city’s new logo—it is not a rebrand if the underlying tenets are the same—has not met with much support.
   The next question must be: all right, if we’re all so smart, can we do better?
   Ian Apperley and I think we can. Ian approached me yesterday morning to ask whether we should do a competition and open it up to all Wellingtonians.
   At least that addresses the criticisms about getting people involved, and ensuring the internal audience—that’s us—is engaged.
   But to kick it off, we can’t just come up with another logo. I think we need to think seriously about how we might replace the 22-year-old Absolutely Positively Wellington brand (in the widest sense of that word).
   And here’s a head-start to make life easier: a discussion document with some Wellingtonians’ opinions on where the brand could go. In November 2010, I called a meeting with Hilary Beaton, Brian Calhoun, Nick Kapica, Christopher Lipscombe and Mayor Celia Wade-Brown to discuss the ideas about rebranding our city. (In other words, the fact that a city rebrand was of concern to Wellingtonians prior to the Massey University–The Dominion Post mayoral debate was foreseen by yours truly.)
   The document was not released due to busy-ness at the end of 2010, then, the need to seek permission from the participants (which took a little while to secure). All have agreed that it can be released to the public.
   I didn’t want to use it as something to do with my campaign when it belonged to everyone. With the discussion around a city brand arising again, this seems as good a time as any.
   You can largely ignore the minutes of the discussion itself and go on to p. 6. In there, we felt that the Wellington brand should include these ideas, but stopped short at offering a concrete slogan.

   Edge. The notion of “edge” came from this first part. Coastal cycleways are on the edge of the city, literally. Biodiversity is celebrated as an “edgy” concept. Cutting-edge is a concept Wellingtonians can relate to. The Sevens are edgy as a concept; as is concentrated diversity.
   Connections to science and technology. Following Brisbane’s example, Wellington already has research institutes that can help with R&D in the city.
   Empowerment. Other ideas that surfaced from the discussion of a producer culture led to the notion of empowering individuals, which could relate not just to technology, but simpler ideas of growing fruit trees in public gardens, or poetry readings when meeting together.
   Encourage diversity. The carrot is better than the stick. Ideas of tolerance, and showing a better way need to be promoted.
   Nimble. Wellington can move quickly thanks to size and innovation.
   Contests. The idea of competition needs to be built in to the Wellington brand, as discussed above.
   Youth. Get young people involved and allow them ownership.
   Economic drivers. We identified the beauty of the city, diversity, public spaces, technology and the arts as important drivers for Wellington.
   The waterfront. It is a public space that is at the core of much of Wellington’s beauty and is a driver of creativity.
   Creative locations. Already Downstage is becoming an incubator for productions, allowing producers to retain their IP—a shift in how theatres could be managed, and totally in line with a creative city. This shift answers how we work today. What if it extended incubation to designers and other creatives?
   The weightless economy. Design, IP, and related services can help raise New Zealand’s OECD rankings and can overcome the ‘tyranny of distance’. Royalty-based products, such as Apollo 13 and others, paint a way forward.
   Ownership and shifting to an individual culture. By providing ownership of ideas, Wellington can shift to a more individualistic culture, rather than the team one that tends to hold entrepreneurship back.

   A competition page for submitting your ideas can be found here.

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Posted in branding, culture, design, general, internet, New Zealand, Wellington | 3 Comments »


Staying a step ahead: the economic benefit of gimmicks

05.06.2013


Wifi on the waterfront is now a normal part of Wellington life—but in 2009 some felt it was a gimmick.

When I proposed free wifi as a campaign policy in 2009, it was seen as gimmicky by some. I wasn’t a serious candidate, some thought. But those ideas that have demand, such as wifi, have a way of becoming mainstream. The gimmicky tag is lost.
   Just as it was lost with the microwave oven, the compact disc, or the cellular phone.
   Not that the wifi idea was anything that new. Nor was it that original. It was simply a logical thing to propose for anyone who had done a spot of travelling (perhaps I did more than my rivals that time?), and had seen the potential of having the internet on tap to those using mobile devices. (The irony of this is, of course, I was not a regular user of mobile devices, at least not till they got to the technology that I expected of them.) If by providing such infrastructure, others could benefit, then was there anything to lose?
   Former Wellington mayor Mark Blumsky had a target to make our city the first capital in the world to be half-wired, that is, to have half its population on the internet. In the 1990s, when people were still wondering what on earth the internet was, that seemed an unnecessary goal. But leadership demands that one stays ahead of the curve, otherwise what point is there? If people wanted leaders to be reactive, then they may as well vote same-again politicians.
   I’m still pushing for extending wifi, especially in the places where library funding cuts have hurt resources for Wellingtonians. During a recent visit to the Johnsonville library, where staff could not discuss the impact of the cuts, I at least solicited the librarians’ belief that their places of work were used by all sectors of the community. Every age, every culture. And this library was particularly buzzing, as a community library should be.
   It’s going to take rebuilding our business sector—which forms a good part of the only published mayoral campaign manifesto to date—to at least get our economy moving and our rates’ base less dependent on citizens. But on the library issues, extending wifi into certain suburbs can help, especially those hardest hit by the cuts. Provide an uncapped service for those accessing certain educational sites, for instance—it’s technically not that hard to distinguish those from merely social ones.
   We’ve seen how the waterfront system is used through the year, and how it helps people connect. But as with the original system, it sends a signal to others, including those wanting to invest in our city, that Wellington is open to high-value, high-tech businesses. Why should our suburbs not receive the same “open for business” invitation?
   Collaboration, after all, helps fuel the human mind, toward new ideas and innovations.
   On that note, too, other things can be open. The 2010 campaign saw my support for open source. It’s still there, since I work with both commercial and open-source platforms myself. I’ve seen first-hand, through a mash-up competition I helped on a few years back (I mentored one of the winners), how providing open data gets creative juices flowing.
   So why not, in line with all of the above, make our bus and train data open to the public? Presently, Metlink won’t be releasing its real-time information (RTI) to the public, but if it did, potentially, an innovative Wellington company can use these data for live maps, for instance. Find out more information than the RTI that’s being delivered at bus stops. It is called public transport, after all, so why not public data? The most obvious app is a live map of buses that works much like the computer graphics in an America’s Cup race—once gimmicky, now also mainstream. In fact, it’s demanded by broadcasters. The New Zealand innovation of high-resolution, three-dimensional TV weather maps is now de rigueur around the world, too.
   If I can think of something like that, imagine what our really creative, lateral thinkers can come up with.
   While some city data are open, we should continue this trend, especially when it comes to data that innovations can stem from. At the risk of sounding trite, ‘It’s limited only by your imagination.’
   And what if such technology became so highly demanded that another exporter, another high-growth firm, was created right here in Wellington?
   The potential economic impact of “gimmicks” is very serious indeed.

As always, feedback and dialogue are welcome, either via this blog, my campaign Facebook group, or my Facebook page.

PS.: Here’s a prime example from Bangor, Maine of how these data can help the public, which Hamish McConnochie shared with me.—JY

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Posted in business, internet, leadership, New Zealand, politics, technology, Wellington | No Comments »


Giving our young people a fair go

26.02.2011

Earlier this month, I gave a workshop talk to the Leadership and Development Conference for the New Zealand Chinese Association in Auckland.
   I’ve just uploaded the speech notes, and as I did so, I wanted to append a few more thoughts.
   The topic was identity—not just branding, but personal identity.
   My self-critique ex post facto was that I spent insufficient time discussing my mayoral campaign, which, I am told, was the one area the audience wanted to hear more of. In the hour’s space, I spent more of it on the theories behind personal branding.
   It’s not hard to see why the young Chinese New Zealanders who attended this conference wanted to hear more about politics. First up, the title of the conference was a big clue. If you weren’t interested in leadership, you wouldn’t be there.
   Secondly, they’ll have grown up in a far more equal and fair society than I did. Which means they have more opportunities to seek the jobs they want. They won’t be limited by societal expectations and the false stereotypes will be waning.
   While there have been mayors of Chinese ethnicity in New Zealand for the last 40 years, it has only been in recent times that men like Meng Foon and Peter Chin have surfaced and brought a modern face to these positions.
   With the departure of Pansy Wong from Parliament, ‘Asians’ are underrepresented more than ever.
   God knows how many times I have heard the BS line of ‘But Chinese people aren’t interested in politics.’
   Funny, considering China has had politicians for most of the last five millennia and I come from a long line of them.
   And that’s the experience I should have shared more of with the Auckland audience. If we’re to be better represented, then we should be giving young people the courage to do what they want to do.
   If they’re interested in politics, then by all means, they should seize the day, and who gives a damn what their ethnicity is?
   The good news is that I didn’t experience much racism on the campaign trail. Our media were above board on this front, which shows some level of maturity has come into New Zealand society. Bias came in due to politicking in at least one case, but, generally, the fourth estate did well.
   I noticed a couple of instances where my lack of council experience became a talking-point. This is despite three of the last five mayors lacking council experience.
   Considering the structure of Wellington City Council needs fresh eyes to examine it, not being part of the furniture and having a healthy scepticism toward Humphrey Applebys might be a good thing.
   But they were valid concerns for some people, though to be dismissed by a few members of our media because of it means that fresh ideas won’t surface in our society, at least not till the idealism has gone out of them through groupthink and establishmentarianism.
   What would have been worth discussing with the audience was the idea that there will always be forces that try to include and exclude. I’m not pointing fingers because we all do it. The whole debating season I had with my five opponents was about oneupmanship.
   However, it would have been a great exercise to have looked at how they could overcome exclusion in their careers. And without changing their names.
   It would have tied neatly back into my criticism of the Uncle Tom behaviour.
   I apologize for furthering another stereotype: I realize Tom was a far more noble character in Uncle Tom’s Cabin than what people would believe today. I use the term only as a shortcut.
   The behaviour, I am sorry to say, has existed among our own race, too.
   I feel it’s still a concern when I see certain people who buy in to comfortable stereotypes, and use them to shoot down someone. Worse still, when they use them to shoot down someone of their own colour.
   It serves neither the majority nor the minority.
   And given that the overwhelming majority of New Zealanders gave me a fair go, you’d hope that we’d have seen an end to the Uncle Tom mentality.
   That would have been a great debate.
   Fortunately, there were equally members of the Kiwi Chinese community who were extremely encouraging toward my candidacy, because they had grown up with racism not unlike my own experience. They tried to redress the balance wherever possible, and I was extremely grateful for that.
   So many used their contacts to make life easier for my campaign—and it was through those and many other efforts that we punched well above our weight. Netting a third of the numbers of the victor on a tenth of the money is no mean feat.
   The good still outweighs the bad when it comes to race, and it can only get better for our young people. If all Kiwis get to do the things they are most passionate about, without prejudices about what they “should” be doing, they will ultimately benefit New Zealand.

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Posted in branding, culture, leadership, media, New Zealand, politics, Wellington | No Comments »


Starting Upstairs, Downstairs this weekend

23.12.2010

I know I did this on November 23 on my Tumblr, but I have to share this joke with the Ashes to Ashes fans out there.
   Will the opening of Upstairs, Downstairs on Boxing Day on BBC1 (at 9 p.m.) begin with the Alexander Faris theme tune (see also below), or will Keeley Hawes narrate, ‘My name is Alex Drake. I’ve been shot and that bullet has taken me back to 1936’?


Above: Alexander Faris conducts his theme for Upstairs, Downstairs. I defy those of you over a certain age to not have the words ‘What are we going to do with Uncle Arthur?’ running through your head.

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Posted in culture, humour, TV, UK | No Comments »


Even as Liu Xiaobo gets a Nobel prize, Beijing can be smug

12.12.2010

As I watched actress Liv Ullmann read Liu Xiaobo’s address, ‘I Have No Enemies’, on BBC World, I was quite moved.
   The address is what the Nobel Prize-winning author and intellectual delivered prior to his sentencing by a Red Chinese court for subversion.
   What is fascinating is the dignity with which the words are written, showing respect even to his prosecutors.
   Liu even discusses how the human rights in the prison at which he is held have greatly improved since the first time he was locked up there, saying that the ‘enemy mentality’ that Red China once held is disappearing in favour of a more humanist approach.
   Given that he knew he would be found guilty just before Christmas 2009, the address is remarkable for the hints of optimism he holds for his country.
   Liu Xiaobo will not, by himself, see through a wholesale change in the way the Communist Party is running mainland China, but he is representative of many forces which will, some day, make the country freer and more open.
   He is also representative of the area with occident and orient disagree: human rights. While those campaigning for Liu’s release should not stop, his address puts a lot of things into context.
   Mainland China, as it opens up, has tried to find a balance between governmental intervention and the market-place. Even Confucius has been partially recognized by the Politburo as a way to reinforce the state’s position, somehow reinterpreted along the lines of: we bring you prosperity, you give us your loyalty.
   As much as the internet is patrolled, there is a tendency for people to wish to be more free, and blacking out TV screens behind the Bamboo Curtain or resorting to censorship simply makes people wonder what they are missing.
   Where the country might yet succeed, however, is keeping a firm hand on change. Instead of the rush that saw to the collapse of the Soviet Union, Beijing is being pragmatic. As unbridled globalization and a corrupt, conspiratorial financial system has seen to two economic downturns in the last decade, and as the US’s politics move to extremes, the occident is giving fuel to Beijing’s methods. That’s not something that we should feel happy about, nor should we tolerate our commerce being run to further class structures in our societies.
   Liu has been likened to Nelson Mandela by Nobel committee chairman Thorbjørn Jagland. Mandela made a similar speech on the eve of being sentenced to treason in 1964. While Liu has his supporters, and I do not proclaim to be any expert on South African history, my feeling is that the former president was known to far more of his own people. There are also other differences to the other Nobel winners who have not been able to attend, be they Carl von Ossietzky, Andrei Sakharov, Lech Walesa and Aung San Suu Kyi.
   The chief difference is that fewer of us living in the occident in 2010 can be as smug or as preachy. While I support calls for Liu Xiaobo to be released—the jailing of a man exercising the same rights you and I do in criticizing our governments shows, in my mind, the weakness and insecurity of the critiqued régime—there is a real lesson for the rest of us.
   We cannot be in a position to insist on change if we keep supporting governments that weaken our own approaches to human rights. If we vote in a government that widens the distance between rich and poor—and history has more than often shown us which do—then we are letting down our most downtrodden citizens. If we fail to tidy up the mess our business sectors have left in their wake, then we are simply allowing their mistakes to recur.
   For every failure we chalk up because we let things remain the way they are, the more Beijing’s politicians can sit back and accuse us of hypocrisy.

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Posted in China, culture, internet, media, politics | 17 Comments »


TrueStory: My Christmas at Downstage on the 8th

30.11.2010

Some distinguished and famous people, and I as the token undistinguished person, form the cast of TrueStory: My Christmas at Downstage on Wednesday, December 8 at 7.30 p.m. We’re going to talk about our Christmas experiences, and all proceeds are going to the Wellington City Mission.
   Host Tim Gordon will be joined by: Dame Kate Harcourt (actress and broadcaster), Hilary Beaton (playwright, director and Downstage CEO), Gareth Farr (musician, composer and Arts Laureate), Jenny Pattrick (novelist, The Denniston Rose), Dave Armstrong (playwright and screenwriter, Le Sud, Seven Periods with Mr Gormsby), Rangimoana Taylor (actor, director and storyteller), and myself.
   Tickets can be booked at Ticketek.

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Posted in culture, interests, New Zealand, Wellington | No Comments »


Doctor Who’s Christmas ’10 special: US trailer

20.11.2010

Matt Smith completes his first calendar year as the Doctor with a Christmas special, inspired by Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol. Michael Gambon! Best guest star since Bill Nighy. And if that’s Katherine Jenkins, that’s an extra reason to watch this. (Hope she sings, and not the Singing Detective.)

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Posted in interests, marketing, TV, UK | No Comments »


A typeface designer’s test of the Opera browser

01.11.2010

After my endless complaints about Firefox crashing on Twitter (even with a fresh install, it still crashes multiple times daily—even on the machine where the hard drive was reformatted), I was pointed to Opera 10·63.
   I can tell it’s not really designed for anyone who likes type. Here’s how my Twitter page looked, with the default settings:

Opera on Windows XP

In case you think your eyes are deceiving you, those are, indeed, bitmap fonts. Actual size.
   Here’s a page from Twitpic:

Opera on Windows XP

   On our computers, where Arial is absent, Opera defaults to System. It ignores whatever you feed into the font preferences until you start tweaking the CSS under opera:config. This is ridiculous. Since we have FontSubstitutes fed in to the Windows registry to indicate how Arial should be substituted, and every other program we have understands this, it seems silly for Opera to stand alone—and to substitute to one of the least likely fonts as a new default.
   But say you have Arial, or any other typeface, installed. Opera still has a problem. It cannot display quotation marks in the specified typeface. This, to me, is ridiculous: if IE5 and Netscape Navigator 4·7 can, then Opera 10 should be able to do that. Here’s an enlargement from Khoi Vinh’s Subtraction blog:

Opera on Windows XP

It’s meant to be set in Helvetica. It is—except for the quotation marks.
   However, I can’t dis Opera too much because Firefox 1 and 2 had this rather serious omission, something I complained about at the time. It was only Firefox 3 that someone decided that displaying punctuation in the same font as everything else might not be a bad idea.
   It also does something funny to any word with an or ligature: it changes the font for that word. Nothing else, just that one word.
   On Firefox 2, it would display only the ligature in another typeface. This was my test in 2006:

Firefox 2 on Windows XP

Here’s what Opera does, with the affected words highlighted:

Opera on Windows XP

Weird? You’re telling me, especially as the typeface appears to be Garamond Light—something I only specified for the H1-tagged headlines as a default. Believe me, there are no H1 codes on the page.
   I guess with the smaller user base, there have been fewer bug reports filed about these issues. I have filed one on the default fonts, and will be doing another on the remainder.
   The good news is that Opera doesn’t seem to crash quite as often. It also seems more compatible with Flash: my father, who browses news sites a lot, says he has far fewer problems with video buffering, even on an older machine. And I prefer the look of the browser—Google Chrome has really changed the æsthetics of how we expect browsers to look.
   So if you can live with the alleged weaker security and the poor typography, Opera seems to be a good browser. However, I can’t live with poor typography, so I might only use the browser as a back-up.
   In summary, in my world:

  • Firefox: crashes all the time;
  • IE8: cumbersome;
  • Opera: bad typography;
  • Chromium: interprets some code oddly;
  • Chrome: made by Google, and 2010 is my year of being Google-sceptic.

I use Safari on the Mac, but we’ll leave that to another blog post.

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Posted in internet, technology, typography | 3 Comments »


Thank goodness I did not have a ‘Dewey Defeats Truman’ moment on Saturday

13.10.2010

On Saturday, I called then-Councillor, and now Mayor-elect, Celia Wade-Brown to congratulate her. I felt sure that the special votes would see her ushered in, and in my Sky TV interview that night, I stated much the same: I would offer our new Mayor my support for programmes that would benefit the people of Wellington. We all share a desire to make our city great, and that’s a fantastic starting-point.
   I’m glad I made the right call on Saturday, otherwise it would have been my televised ‘Dewey Defeats Truman’ moment.
   Soon after, she and her husband, as well as a few of the Celia for Mayor campaign team, joined us at our event, along with Councillor Ritchie, who was re-elected. We had intended to join hers at Finc, but as they started earlier, their function ended earlier. We were still going, buoyed by a speech from my former rival and now friend Bernard O’Shaughnessy.
   While the Mayor-elect and I exchanged emails this morning, prior to the official announcement of the final results by the High Sheriff, I was able to congratulate her in person at the Backbencher pub earlier tonight.
   I pay tribute to her and her dignified campaign, and her willingness to give credit to policies where it was due from the very start. Leadership must acknowledge the notion of fair play. I am delighted that we believe that ICT will play an important role in our city’s future.
   You might say we worked together, at least, to ensure that the process was fair. When Access Radio mentioned they might like to interview me for Espace Français, I told them that Councillor Wade-Brown should also be approached, as the other Francophone candidate. It was as early as April when we debated one another—in French no less! I don’t know if it was the Councillor’s first debate of the season, but it was mine. I am willing to bet that it was the first political debate in a foreign language for us both.
   She was equally generous with providing opportunities: when she learned of events before I did, I can remember two occasions in which she forwarded me a note.
   We exchanged a few notes during the year and realized that we faced at least some editorial bias from one foreign company. Thankfully, the majority of people in Wellington was too smart to fall for that, and both of us did better than had been predicted by some so-called specialists.
   Her supporters will be pleased to know that consultation, which the Mayor-elect had preached during her campaign, was practised.
   Just as I had a reasonably good dialogue with the outgoing Mayor, Kerry Prendergast, till we became more guarded rivals, I look forward, as a Wellingtonian, to supporting our Mayor-elect.
   It’s a great start to what I hope will be a better three years for our city.
   And as her predecessor’s years come to a close, it is only right that I offer Mayor Prendergast a tribute, too.
   It takes great sacrifice to be in a public role, and she has done that as Mayor for nine years. It is the culmination of many years of sacrifice of putting others first.
   My late mother was a midwife, and it takes a selfless mindset to start in that career. I note that Mayor Prendergast began her career in the same profession, before being elected to the Tawa Community Board, and then to Wellington City Council.
   As a businessman, outside of our respective campaigns, nearly all of my dealings with Mayor Prendergast were positive. She honoured every appointment request I made of her. It is those memories that will remain with me, especially the New Year shows that I have hosted at which she was guest of honour, as she departs from office.
   Never mind that politically, she and I differed. I believed we needed a city IT strategy through the last few years, as growth slowed in our city. I would not have said no to free wifi in 2008, even if she came right on this during the campaign trail. Based on my years doing business strategies, I felt we were being weighed down by bureaucracy—not to mention some entrenched bureaucrats—which needed a solution, either of greater transparency or a renewed corporate culture.
   I trust our Mayor-elect recognizes the many issues that face Wellington: I am sure, after hearing my and my other opponents’ addresses for three weeks on a daily basis, she knows there are pressing concerns, such as our debt, that must be addressed beyond her own manifesto.
   I am sure that we all look forward to Wellington’s future together, in a spirit of cooperation. We can make our city globally competitive and great again.

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Posted in business, culture, internet, leadership, media, New Zealand, politics, technology, Wellington | No Comments »