Archive for March 2010

The Downfall of ‘Wellywood’


Necessity is the mother of all invention. I never thought some of the Der Untergang (Downfall) parodies could be topped, but I think this just happened.

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Posted in culture, humour, internet, New Zealand, politics, Wellington | 2 Comments »

The ‘Wellywood’ sign: people power gets things done


That was a very interesting 30 hours. I found out about the ‘Wellywood’ sign yesterday afternoon, through Twitter, and Tweeted to say I hated it. Little did I know then that there was a huge Facebook group—6,000 strong at the time of writing—where Wellingtonians were making their voices known.
   And when I got there to Facebook, I was inspired.
   While my opponents were still talking hot air, I decided to act for the good of the city. I was inspired by one comment on the larger anti-sign Facebook group, which asked: surely someone holds the copyright?
   First stop: the Hollywood Sign Trust. If anyone knew who owned the sign, it would be them.
   I received a very nice reply from Betsy Isroelit of the Trust at what must have been very early hours in California, to say that she had referred it to the correct parties.
   By the time I got up today, I had an email waiting from Global Icons, LLC, which, with the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, owns the original Hollywood sign’s intellectual property. Global Icons, from what I understand, looks after this side of things for the Chamber. And would I please send them the artist’s impression of what the sign would look like?
   And that kicked it off. I mentioned this to Rachel Morton at TV3 news before I was interviewed, and she took the initiative by contacting the CEO of the Chamber for comment immediately. It turns out that he did not know that the matter was already brewing in California, but he does now. Rachel tells me that he then put the Chamber’s lawyers on to the case. That’s two for us, nil for Mayor Prendergast and the airport.
   All it took was the creativity of Wellingtonians to show something I have said from day one.
   You know, creativity? The thing that this sign does not represent, and makes fun of?
   And all it took were everyday Wellingtonians collaborating. I was inspired by the person on the Facebook group. And if I hadn’t approached the Trust and Global Icons, I wouldn’t have mentioned it to Rachel. And if Rachel hadn’t called the CEO, Global Icons would probably be going it alone. It doesn’t matter who gets the credit, because the credit is, really, everyone’s. The result should hopefully be that this horrible sign does not go up because people were prepared to act—whether by making their voice known on Facebook, or making some phone calls.
   People power, not corporates, not élites, gets things done. And that includes this year’s mayoral election.

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Posted in culture, internet, media, New Zealand, politics, technology, Wellington | 5 Comments »

A spoof ‘Wellywood’ sign seems out of touch to me


I was interested to see a Tweet today (via Daniel Spector) asking if I would object to the erection of a ‘Wellywood’ sign in Miramar that would parody the ‘Hollywood’ one in the Hollywood Hills, Calif. The answer is: yes, I would.
   For numerous reasons. First, it’s naff and tacky.
   Secondly, why do we need to rip off someone else’s idea as a joke (and a second-rate one at that)? Sorry, whomever raised this is, to me, not used to the idea that New Zealanders are original, innovative people, and we lead. We don’t copy. Judging by my own Facebook page, this issue is running 12 to 1 against the sign, with the one conceding that she would prefer to see something ‘more Kiwiana’.
   Thirdly, that money could be better spent elsewhere. City deficit much? How about Wellington Airport just gives the city that money if it has this much to spare on trivial projects?
   Fourthly, we don’t need any damned sign for us to know we are the best. Didn’t the proponents of this sign watch the Academy Awards last night? Winning those Oscars was proof enough Wellington doesn’t need a sign to be the world’s best.

PS.: There is now a Facebook group objecting to the sign.—JY

P.PS.: The Wellingtonista has covered this, too.—JY

Photograph by Scott Beale/Laughing Squid and licensed under Creative Commons

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Hints of Google’s privacy misbehaviours in 2007


I did my last edits to this blog’s pages that had resided on the old Blogger service today, before decommissioning them from the service. After today (in theory, since the updating stalled twice as I wrote this), you will not be able to make any more comments on posts written before January 1, 2010.
   In doing so, I discovered a very interesting post: my moan about Google Web History on October 1, 2007. It turns out that was the day I switched it off, until Google decided, in its wisdom, to turn it back on again. In the same post, I mentioned how I was unhappy that I was signed up to Orkut and Google Groups without my consent.
   Anyone who thinks Google’s recent misbehaviour is new is (as I was) mistaken.
   Back in 2007, I threatened to shift this blog away from Blogger, which I did not carry out for two years due to busy-ness.
   The silver lining then, as now, is that at least Google has the guts to tell us under what means they were collecting our private data and allow us to opt out (in theory). But the point, surely, is that we should not need to opt out, if we have never opted in, to these services.
   The more things change …

Photograph by; CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

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Did I mention I dislike junk faxes?


I received yet another junk fax today, which I believe are not permitted under the Telecommunications Act. My enquiries to Telecom suggest that this is the case.
   This time, it’s a well known business based in town and in the Hutt. And you know what? I’ve now made a mental note not to go there. Unless they and these other junk faxers want to pay for the film and paper they use up. Because my giving them even more money is now an offensive idea.
   A couple of years back, I outed a company that turned out to be an old friend’s. We patched up our differences (I would be happy to frequent his business given that his really quick response to show he gave a damn, and he has ceased this practice), though in the process we discovered that these fax lists date back to the early 1990s.
   That’s right: they are as old as surgically enhanced parts of Demi Moore.
   The usual defence is that anti-spam legislation in New Zealand does not extend to junk faxes, but what that paragraph does not tell you is that unsolicited, nuisance faxes fall under another law. From what I understand, faxes, too, have to be solicited.
   When you are using someone else’s resources, beyond their time, to get your message to them, the balance feels wrong. By all means, send me stuff in the post, and pay for your own paper. Asking me for money when you are already wasting it with a junk fax is more arrogant than any form of top–down marketing—and separates buyer and seller more firmly into “us” and “them”.

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Do schools kill creativity?


Stefan Engeseth pasted this to his blog over the weekend, and it’s one of the best TED talks. As Stefan has investigated child behaviour himself, I can see the relevance. But even for the rest of us, it’s a thoroughly entertaining talk by Sir Ken Robinson in 2006 that has some wonderful touchpoints—and humour. It’s very apt when Sir Ken discusses the foundations of the educational system in the Industrial Revolution, and how we still make judgements based on its values.

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Posted in culture, leadership, USA | 3 Comments »

Funny how the war keeps coming up


I could guess the entire storyline but my goodness, I still think this is hilarious. (Courtesy Chris Young at C7 Design in New Plymouth.)

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Posted in humour, marketing, TV, UK | 2 Comments »

Trading identities in the personal branding space


The day the current mayor, Kerry Prendergast, announced her intention to stand for a fourth term, I was asked by a few media colleagues what I thought. The wittiest reply I gave to Salient, as it was an email interview, and I seem to be cheekier in writing than I am in speaking. I won’t spoil it yet, but let’s just say one learns an awful lot from television.
   This morning was a very good start to the day, giving a guest lecture at my Alma Mater, Victoria University, thanks to my friend Helen Baxter, who has begun teaching there. In fact, I taught out of the same building in 2000 when the campus was shared with Massey University, and the A on the front was not mounted backwards (typography students must have taken note by now).
   One thing I hit upon, and I don’t think I have shared with readers, is the concept of personal branding taking on corporate behaviours. We know that corporations and countries have been swapping roles a bit in the 1990s (Wally Olins wrote a book on it, called Trading Identities), but I don’t think it has been properly addressed at the personal sphere (corrections welcome).
   We have corporations trying to look mean and responsive, and speak with a personal voice—the One principles that Stefan Engeseth has talked about, and the idea of one-to-one from Christian Grönroos. They are trying to look like individuals, so the person in charge of the Tweetstream is the “voice” of the organization.
   Meanwhile, people are becoming aware of branding themselves, of differentiating who they are, and finding the right things to align with in order to make themselves employable. Of course, such efforts must still remain authentic, as we can see through the spin, but it would not surprise me if the nascent ideas of personal branding in the 1990s become formalized in to whole courses on personal brand management.
   I refer not just to styling, of course, but making sure embarrassing stuff is taken off Facebook (I believe my words were along the lines of, ‘By all means, party and show you’re human. But photos of you doing a powerchuck: maybe not’), of figuring out what your vision is from a very early stage, of engaging with your audiences, and, if I may be so bold, living your brand as part of living your life.
   The cynic in me recognizes that last phrase sounds dodgy because it cheapens the whole experience of life into a brand event, which is not precisely what I mean. But it is important to have some idea of a personal direction in mind and doing things that are compatible with that. This is, in some respects, no different to some of the self-help claptrap out there, explained in corporate branding language as opposed to spiritual fulfilment.
   However, it’s not altogether a bad way to think. I’m willing to bet some of us have done exactly this, perhaps unconsciously or informally. We all have some purpose, some raison d’être, and whether we like thinking about it in branding terms or some other method is up to us. Brand, at least, provides a framework and some boxes to tick, and if they help people get a personal advantage and get the job of their dreams, then why not?
   Note to self: Keeley Hawes jokes work a lot better with heaps of Brits or Anglophiles in the room.

PS.: I got one post-lecture question, to which the answer is: yes, I am the guy opposing the liquor ban.—JY

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Posted in branding, business, humour, marketing, New Zealand, politics, Sweden, UK, Wellington | No Comments »

An unplanned post about Google (Friend Connect this time)


The disappearance of my Google Friend Connect gadget from the right-hand column was not part of my plans to de-Google my life: after all, it took me a while to amass the followers there (I think I had a mere 18, but some of them were friends).
   From my Google Dashboard, I noticed there were Friend Connect entries for all sorts of things, including blogs I had deleted. And, oddly, there were two entries for this domain: one for the main site, and one for the blog.
   Naturally, I deleted the entries for the dead blogs (which I never entered anyway), and since there were two for, I took out the one for the site and retained the one for the blog. Logical, but wrong.
   Now that the gadget has disappeared from the right-hand column, the penny dropped: the one for the site was one I manually set up, and was the account used for the gadget formerly on the right. The one for the blog was one that Google “helpfully” put in to Friend Connect.
   This is precisely the point I and others have been driving home for weeks on this whole Google mess: if we have not asked for it, don’t do it.
   I never asked for any sites to appear in Google Friend Connect except the ones I added. Granted, it was still my action that killed the gadget at right, and lost me those followers, but Google’s practice of trying to trick you into using its services (‘Look, you’ve already signed up to them’) sure didn’t help me.
   So to my 18 followers, my apologies. Hindsight is a great thing. And it seems I have even fewer connections with Google now—even if it was unintentional. (I’ll be deleting the unrequested blog entry in Friend Connect, too, as it has no followers.)

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Wellington needs free wifi and jobs, not a council that goes nuts with spending


Back Jack Yan for Mayor Funny how a media article can inspire you to send out a release, especially when you’re a ratepayer and you wonder if our City Council of élites understands how hard it was for us to make that money. In today’s case, it was Lindsay Shelton’s Scoop Wellington op-ed about Wellington City Council going nuts with its spending. Lindsay highlighted not only a $350,000 sculpture for the World Cup—money which I reckon we could use to boost the central city’s wifi coverage—but Dave Burgess’s report in The Dominion Post that WCC spends six times as much as Porirua’s council on food and drink.
   I’m not sure how we can justify those sorts of numbers, but I do have an aim to balance the budget if elected.
   As I wrote today, if we can grow our creative and technological clusters in Wellington—and get free wifi up and running (initially in the centre of the city, expanding outward)—we can grow the local economy and create jobs. After that we can look at partying—but not till we earn Wellingtonians’ respect by doing a bloody good job.
   A city that supports its clusters strategically will be able to balance the budget—and so far, it seems I’m the only candidate who is even willing to talk about this issue.
   We can start improving those communities through the new jobs we’ll be creating, and deal a blow to inner-city crime.
   If we fall behind on the tech side of things, consider this: we will lose the Sevens and any other event because our visitors will be asking, ‘Why can’t I get on to Google Maps on my iPhone without paying for it?’ It’s very simple, and when a mayor and council miss out on the simplest things, then it is time for a change.
   I would have thought a divided council—a complaint of the incumbent, Kerry Prendergast—would mean that we would not be spending massive amounts on things because there would be a lack of agreement. Spending ratepayers’ money, for some reason, seems to get rapid accord in this council—which tells me that when we vote in our mayor and council later in the year, we should have a far greater change than even I would have expected when I began my campaign.
   We have a divided council that needs firm direction on how to grow the economy, and a mayor who understands what ‘world-class city’ means.
   World-class does not mean big. World-class means nimble, modern and transparent.
   In 2010, we don’t need the same old, tired voices. Or the same old élites. The direction Wellington needs is a fresh one that brings new promises.

Incidentally, we have added a Facebook widget for my campaign page on this blog. It’s been placed at a few locations on my sites. Also, as of today, redirects to—it’s important to have the consistency in the domain name and the campaign graphic (thanks to Demian Rosenblatt).

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