Technology and the Wellington mayoralty: it’s time for real democracy
Here we are in 2009, looking at the local body elections in 10½ months’ time.
I’m seeing the same old approaches to the campaigns. My opponents are, largely, doing the ‘Vote for me’ approach, and there is the ‘Vote for this’ with the ﬁelding of a team of élites claiming to represent the people of Wellington’s best interests.
What about, I wonder, ‘Vote for us’, the Wellingtonians like you and me?
We are in an age where real democracy is within reach. Our elected ofﬁcials can, ideally, have blogs, Facebook pages and Twitter accounts. As well as face-to-face meetings with citizens, we can engage people and hear their thoughts directly.
No more intermediaries, no more polls. The technology exists for us to hear directly from Wellingtonians.
When I set up the Your Wellington website (yourwellington.org), in advance of my own mayoral campaign announcement, I signalled that the next mayor is not someone who has his own agenda.
The next mayor is a mayor who pushes the agenda of all Wellingtonians, based on what is learned from them through citizen engagement.
I have put up some basic issues as springboards for discussion. There are some areas where I am a specialist, but I would be very arrogant to claim that I know it all.
Over the next nine months, we will build this website to cover more and more issues.
By the time of the local body elections on October 9, 2010, I will have presented myself as a candidate who has listened and is going forward representing what the people of Wellington have told me they want.
The Your Wellington blog will continue if I am elected as a Mayor for all Wellingtonians, as a means through which we can respond to city policies as we see ﬁt, rather than demand we attend council meetings to voice our concerns. I will also spearhead other social media tools through which Wellingtonians can have a say in our city.
Local body elections are notorious for the low turn-out of the 18–45 group. I have to wonder whether this is down to politicians’ failure to engage us or the sense of élitism that has driven away Wellingtonians’ hope and future.
By saying that we all have a say in our future and using tools that have been around for years, Wellington can become a model city in true representation.
In many respects, this is a 21st-century development of the face-to-face approach that Sir Francis Kitts was known for. But in a larger and more diverse city, we must employ technology to reach as many Wellingtonians as possible.
I want Wellington to be a leader, both technologically and democratically. Throughout my 22 years in business, I have tried to show off just how great our city and our country are.
And since I began blogging in 2003, I have tried to live the ideals of engagement and transparency. I haven’t suddenly emerged this year as a mayoral candidate because I want votes. My belief in this city, and my accessibility to all people, are a matter of record, especially online.
Next year, I hope we will “vote for us”—namely, a mayor and council who believe that power resides in the people, not in the same-old arguments, personalities or élites.
PS.: Please note that the above is missing vital paragraphs linking these arguments to previous mayoral campaigns. Although I know I saved them in Eudora, it appears that the program elected not to obey me—just as Microsoft Word changes fonts and margins on us. Despite an intent to send the latest, saved version, this was the version that Eudora chose to send off to a colleague two days ago. I copied and pasted it from that email, assuming that my save was successful. Curiously, no record exists of the later versions of this text. I am rather annoyed at the moment, and I offer readers my sincerest apologies for serving to you what I consider a poorly written, half-baked entry; the consolation being that you see my thoughts in “raw” form. Yes, I do know how to use computers—and I am experienced enough to realize that there is such a thing as a “computer glitch” that occurs regardless of the most careful of keystrokes by humans.—JY Posted by Jack Yan, 01:02
Google deletes Social Media Consortium blog without explanation
Google, through its Blogger subsidiary, has now deleted the Social Media Consortium blog, for no reason whatsoever.
For the last few months, the company has made access to the blog next to impossible. It would not let us post on it, even when we fed in the Captcha code to conﬁrm that a human had just typed in an entry. It made a false accusation about it being a spam blog, which was not true. Both Vincent Wright, the blog’s owner, and I, ﬁlled in the form requesting that the blog be reviewed by a human. Google promised to do this within 48 hours, but it never happened.
The company has now unilaterally deleted the blog without so much as an explanation to Vincent, just as Yahoo! Groups deleted the Lucire discussion group’s entries in the early 2000s. Or when Google took out the home page to the Beyond Branding Blog and refused to answer any questions. No one was ever able to respond to enquiries.
Even a ‘We messed up’ would have been nicer than ignoring us outright.
This is the second instance of highly imperfect and questionable Google technology that I have encountered in the last 24 hours.
There was no reason for Social Media Consortium to be ﬂagged as a spam blog, either. The majority of entries were original. I made a few cross-posts but I equally put in numerous original entries. And from what I can tell, my co-authors always respected the rules.
Four-and-a-half years of hard work, principally by Vincent, has been ﬂushed down the toilet because Google no longer lives its motto of ‘Don’t be evil’. It certainly does not live the ideal of ‘innocent till proved guilty’. Posted by Jack Yan, 04:06
Those applications you blocked are still in your Facebook account
If you’re anything like me, you might indulge in one of those silly little Facebook quizzes from time to time. But because I dislike how applications can access my private data—and over the years I’ve revealed many instances where Facebook has been able to get this information when you didn’t expect it—I am very diligent at removing each one by heading to the Settings menu up top, then selecting Application Settings, ﬁnding the application I just used, and clicking the X to remove it.
Imagine my surprise today—while down with ’ﬂu—when I found that all those applications had not been removed.
Go to Settings, then Application Settings, then in the pull-down box next to the word Show: select ‘Allowed to Post’. Scroll to the bottom of the page and expand the section ‘Never Allowed to Post Any Stories’. All the applications I expected—and any reasonable user would have expected—to be removed are still there, connected to your proﬁle:
The only way to get them off this list is to individually block each offending application.
I’m pretty sick of how Facebook introduces new ﬁelds to take our data without our knowledge. Four months ago, it had introduced a new ﬁeld where it could use our data for advertising by default, but went on the defensive and blamed the developers. A month later, I noticed it had changed the setting in this ﬁeld so it could use my data again.
If you take your privacy seriously, I would spend some time blocking applications that you thought you had blocked, but now need to do again. Posted by Jack Yan, 11:32
Surprises at GM and Chrysler this week
This has been a fascinating week not so much for me (the Mayor has always maintained to me that she would consider a fourth term, and Sir Robert Jones’s quip about being the corporate backer behind a mayoral candidate and council was on the cards for weeks), but for the automotive industry.
GM’s board of directors has voted to retain Opel, which is a wise move for several reasons. First, CEO Fritz Henderson is absolutely right when he cited the strategic importance of the unit. Its platforms underpin many models, including the Buick Regal, based on the Opel Insignia. GM would have been weakened in the CD segment, given how poorly its non-Opel models are engineered there. GM US, GM do Brasil, Holden and Daewoo could only pick up so much slack.
Secondly, it gives the brand some assurance, if only for the rose-coloured glasses’ factor: that people are more comfortable with the status quo. Magna may have had some automotive experience, but could it have been the parent company to a car brand; and how soon did Sberbank reckon on seeing a return? After Chrysler’s time under Cerberus, where the company was basically stripped of resources, I question the wisdom of the ﬁnancial sector and its forward planning.
Jobs would have been cut to the level of 11,000, and I am not saying that job losses would not happen on GM’s watch, either. However, I think the numbers may be more conservative; and that the Opel Astra, having picked up the Goldene Lenkrad (Golden Steering Wheel) award last night, could help volumes at the plants.
To say that Opel would lose access to the Russian market is foolhardy, as GM already has long-standing ventures in the country and expansion can continue, regardless of owner.
Meanwhile, Chrysler had plenty of people Tweeting as its product plans to 2014 were announced today. In a word, it’s all achievable: some platform sharing for small- to mid-sized cars, retooling of the top models, rebrands across the board for Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and, the surprise one, Ram—Dodge will spin off its truck division into its own brand. There seems to be a real concerted effort to involve suppliers, there was some healthy transparency, and there was a sense of identity at each one of the brands presenting.
Anyone would be worried about Chrysler after the missteps made ever since Daimler-Benz AG came courting. It wound up a weakened ﬁrm, and things only got worse under Cerberus. Now, with Fiat and Sergio Marchionne, the management style of internal competition and functional integration seems to be working. His dual Italian–Canadian nationalities, and the understanding that that must entail, seems to have been put to good use.
I think this gives suppliers a real sense of security, as well as the thousands who work for Chrysler. Dealers and customers also beneﬁt similarly.
And the rebrands are well timed and expected.
Plans announced, the hurdles that Chrysler confronted with US suppliers should be smoothed over more.
There was less in the presentations I watched about the Chinese and Russian markets, but Chrysler is present in both, and at least has the potential to grow its presence there.
It won’t become a major player, but at least it looks like it will survive. Posted by Jack Yan, 07:45
Google will frustrate plans to charge for news
We publishers had a very entertaining morning at Trentham Racecourse on Melbourne Cup Day Tuesday, organized by our printer, Format Print, and one of the presenters mentioned that if News Corp. wanted to begin charging for content, it would likely succeed.
The argument that might is right is appealing, and certainly it would be an interesting experiment on the part of the Murdoch Press. The main argument is that News Corp. has unique content, and there would be people willing to pay for it.
This is not the same-old blog post about people not willing to pay for online content—that has been beaten to death—but whether brand loyalty to websites is anywhere nearly as strong as the Murdoch Press anticipates.
In my experience, brand loyalty on the web has dropped as the number of sites has increased, especially blogs. Many blogs have not been designed with brands in mind, because they are personal in nature. And not everyone has successfully marketed themselves as personal brands.
One has to ask: how do netizens ﬁnd news? It’s a very different process to print, where there are titles that one trusts and goes toward—the sort of world which Mr Murdoch comes from.
For me, it’s Google News. Whatever the search engine aggregates, I’ll likely go for—and whomever makes it to the top of the list on the topic I want to read about gets my click.
I am not convinced that that’s going to be a Murdoch Press publication every time.
And what if it is? Google News tells us when a site requires a subscription, so chances are, I’m going to go to the next one.
I also doubt if anyone has a monopoly on content any more as news has become more commodiﬁed over the last 15–20 years.
If I want news on a particular person, (s)he would either be a search result in Google News or in a newsfeed reader.
Since moving to a near-daily format at Lucire earlier this year, we’ve had fairly varying days visitor-wise depending on what news stories have made it on to the site. Viewer analyses tell us that many visitors are infrequent and, still, in some cases, ﬁrst-timers. (The features are steadier and they attract a lot of the regular viewers.)
More people are ﬁnding us again via search engines but, this time, it is Google News that is making up more of that share.
We might have our loyalists—every title does—but for the daily news, the stuff that News Corp. is trying to shift, loyalty is a rare commodity. Posted by Jack Yan, 13:03
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Copyright ©200210 by Jack Yan & Associates. All rights reserved. Photograph of Jack Yan by Chelfyn Baxter.