07 September, 2010

Some ideas for NZ Civil Defence in the Social Media Space

Below is a letter I am sending to MCDEM and the Minister of Civil Defence with some thoughts from for their Lesson Learnt workshops post the Chrischurch Earthquake.


When you start doing your debrief and lesson learnt sessions about the Christchurch earthquake there are a few points below about the use of the internet and social media which you might want to consider.  This is the first major emergency event in NZ that has has involved a very active involvement of the social media and this medium beings both new opportunities and new challenges to communications in chaotic situations.

Your site (in particular the Chch update page http://www.civildefence.govt.nz/memwebsite.nsf) does not work at all on mobile phones. I have a Nexus One cellphone and when in landscape views it wouldn't scroll and when put the phone in portrait and zoomed in (so could read the text) could scroll a little bit and then got cut off, meaning I couldn't read the all the text on the page. This is an issue because when there is a disaster people may not have power or they might not be at there desktop or laptop.  They are more likely to be accessing your information, which is out there to help them in the disaster area, on a mobile phone of some type. In future this is going to become more and more common.

Either you need to make your pages work on a mobile or have a dedicated mobile site which auto redirects when it detects a mobile phone. The mobile version should also be lighter on the images to improve load time and also to reduce cost. 2 Degrees did a good thing of saying the mcdem, moh, get thru etc sites would be free of data traffic charges. Not sure if this is a short term thing or a permanent thing. Maybe you could work with the Telcos and ISPs about making traffic to sites like yours free either during an emergency or all of the time, in the interests of the greater good.

You updated your site hourly but it didn't show what had changed, so you had to read it all every time. Maybe you need to look at some type of versioning or what's changed thing, so people can just read what has changed since the last update. Wikipedia has an example of what I mean by showing the difference http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=2010_Canterbury_earthquake&action=historysubmit&diff=383217142&oldid=383211709.and http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=2010_Canterbury_earthquake&action=history

This was the first big NZ disaster that involved Social Media and there are some things that can be learnt about using Twitter to better engage with the public.
* You were late to game, there was a lot of info on the web before you poked your head up. Apparently Twitter was busy by 5am or so, which I gather is about 1.5 hours before you came online.
* You were using the wrong #tag on Twitter. #eqnz was the main twitter hash by the time of your first post on #christchurchquake
** Most people followed and posted to #eqnz, so they missed your updates which you tagged with #christchurchquake
** #christchurchquake was far too long as a #tag. Tweets are only 140 characters and people may be typing them on a cellphone. People want content not lengthy #tags in messages
** http://www.cats-pyjamas.net/2010/09/social-media-use-in-a-crisis-eqnz-which-hashtag-prevails/ This is an informative blog about Twitter and Hash Tags and the development of the #eqnz  tag following the Quake

* Your messages could have been more useful.  They just linked and didn't say what the info was in the tweet or what had changed/new on the page since the last update
** Your messages were along the lines of #christchurchquake Update XX HH:MM LINK. Firstly you are not describing the information contain in the link nor are you saying what is new. Some people retweeted your messages onto the main #eqnz feed, but on the whole they did not get much penetration.
** Tweets that got retweeted a lot were along the lines of: "For information on water tanker locations LINK #eqnz" "For damage claim information see LINK #eqnz". These messages were retweeted far more than your tweets even though in some cases they were linking to your page. You need to give a reason for people to go there why they should spend time clicking on your link
** http://www.cats-pyjamas.net/2010/09/social-media-in-a-crisis-eqnz-the-findable-usable-shareable/ This is about useful messages and the quake

* Your tweets were just a bot posting when your site was updated.
** You should have had a comms person monitoring and participating in the twittersphere in real time.
** People were sending you questions and you weren't responding to them.

* The Internet and social media allows for information to travel much faster and there was a lot of information coming up on Twitter.
** You weren't using the information on twitter. I remember at one stage someone was giving an interview on TV and said that the hospital hadn't reported anything major.  At the same time I was reading that the hospital was saying two people were seriously injured.  These days information travels much faster in a much more one to all fashion rather than a one to one chain. And when you start using outdated information people trust you less as you seem to be behind the time and not knowing what is going on
** The downside to this fast one to all communication is from time to time rumours started and would have been good to get under control quickly e.g.
*** "All cell were going to die in under hour." Telecom and VF stood up in this case and said they had more battery than that and managed the rumour effectively.
*** "Riccarton Mall's roof collapsing" from Monday
*** Rumours need to be stopped quickly and from an authoritative source but you were not on Twitter so missed all this and could feed in correct and up to date information.
** Telstra, Vodafone and Telecom early on seemed to be the ones who knew what was going one they were reporting on the status of their networks but also power and the such and generally what happened. Come mid morning once you and main stream media picked up and started telling people what was going on, the Telcos left it to Radio NZ, Stuff and NZ Herald to cover.

Also for personal updates Facebook was an important medium as people could in one place give and update about themselves and also find out the status of their friends and family.

With social media and the internet becoming more important as a communication tool and where people these days go for information and contacting people there are new needs for emergency kits.  Maybe you should start recommending for people to have spare phone batteries and/or solar chargers in their emergency kits. I found the internet much more on the pulse and up to date than other media. I found the radio was behind and TV One really slow and outdated and TV3 seemed to completely miss the fact of the earthquake until the 6pm news.

New mapping opportunities also arise through Google maps and Twitter.  For example the link below is a really good map.  It is being crowd sourced and found via the #eqnz tag
It is a Google Map of cordon, portaloos, water, welfare centres, open fast food, open Petrol Stations, etc.  Neither MCDEM nor ECAN are linking to it. And it is showing the information that people need and a lot is sourced from you but just presented, to me at least, a more usable/digestible form.

I would be happy to discuss some of the above matters with you in more detail if you would like that.  I am located in Wellington.



20 April, 2010

The Music Industry is going ok its just the labels having a hard time

I have just seen a video from the PRS care of CFF, who worry about distrubutions of royaltes in the UK, and they basically saying this part of the music is fine and 2009 revenues is up on 2008. So basically confirms what I said in my pervious blog post that it is the labels who are having issues. And the US Market is tanking while the UK Market is fine. One problem why the US is having issues is that they have less records stores and the hold less different albums and albums have less shelve time before they are no longer in store. When there is no supply there is no demand hence people going to other sources and not buying physical albums.

05 April, 2010

ACTA is about History not the Future

ACTA being labelled Counterfeiting means that most people would assume that it is about counterfeiting. When in actual fact it is more than just counterfeiting and has a lot to do with copyright infringement. So I am guessing given all the secrecy around it and the misleading name is all about misleading the public. It is also being done fully behind close doors which flys completely in the face of being an open transparent democratic process. If the government chooses to adopt this we will not know what is in it until it is too late and not public comments or select committee stages will be gone through because it is an treaty of sorts.

In reality it is being run by people like the RIAA , RIANZ and MPAA. Notice it is Recording Industry Association of America. Notice it isn't something like the Musical Artist Association of America or something else along those lines. It is the recording industry not the artists who are going after this. The recording industry claims it is for the artists they are doing all this for but in reality they are worried about their own pockets. The internet has open a Pandora's Box and is changing the way the music industry works and instead of embracing this new technology and changing their business model to adapt the new world they want to hold onto the old way of doing things. Why is this? Well their business model relies on things not changing. This Pandora's Box is scary to the existing music industry as the artists with the internet have less of a need for the music labels, so it is in there industry to scare music off the net, as artists themselves can do far better without the records labels and such in the mix. And the artists can use the net and they don't have to sue their fans.

With the advent of music mixing tools such as Audacity, Garage Band, Pro Tools and Audition and a computer and some mics you can be recording and mixing your own songs. Then with the help of My Space, Facebook, iLike they can connection with fans. With Last FM they can have their music streamed to fans and recommended to potential new fans and with Amazon's Print on Demand service bands can have there music printed on demand with no large inventory overhead.

Here in New Zealand there is Creative Freedom Foundation who are promoting the views of NZ artists who have the slogan "Not in our name" which is in reference to the music labels who are saying all this anti-piracy and suing of fans is because the artists want them to.

Artists generally aren't for suing fans (other than Metallica who are so big they can make their own record deals) as bands make sweet F All generally off the sales of CDs. Hey even back in the 60s and 70s when records were coming into being in their current form bands were wary of them as they were possibly getting in the way of them making money from live performances and the like. Even in this day and age the band members make their money from playing gigs and selling merchandise. So if you really want to support the bands you like the best thing to do is go to their gigs and by pieces of merchandise.

Before anyone starts labelling me as a pirate who wants everything for well I go to gigs, buy T-Shirts and the picture below shows that I buy CDs.

My CD Collection

I was at Pixies Gig recently and they were selling CDs of the concert as you left. It is a great time to sell stuff as everyone is on their post gig euphoric high and willing to spend money and making impulsive purchases. They are also targeting a market segment that is currently being left untapped for money which is the bootlegging scene. And here you are selling sound board quality recordings which in the bootleg community is the holy grail of recordings.

So in essence copyright protection in it current political form is for the benefit of the record labels and NOT the artists and don't let others tell you otherwise. And bands make their real money from doing gigs and selling merchandise. The music labels want to keep us in the past and not let use progress into the future as they are scared of what it could mean and to backwards and antiquated to understand and fully embrace this new world and bring the future of music to us the fans.

03 April, 2010

Three strikes and you are out

One of the things that ACTA seems to what introduce is the cutting of people's internet with some type of three strikes system. But we may be getting a three strikes law before that stuck in through the back door (http://www.stuff.co.nz/technology/digital-living/3377967/Three-strikes-downloader-bill-welcomed). This bill is better than the infamous Section 92a Law as it goes to tribunal or court before you have the internet cut off which is a nice change. I don't condone the piracy but cutting off the internet is a little hash. A recent study by the BBC Study shows that 79% believe that the internet is now a human right. Currently I don't see any laws where people have their right to send and receive letters or make a phone call cut off if they do something that someone doesn't like. CDs and DVDs can be sent through the post or data sent through a direct phone link between two computers. So this being the case shouldn't they be clocking all ways that you could exchange data?

Cutting the internet off maybe a little harsh as it may affect people's ability to work. Stopping the internet will stop people working from home, using a VPN to remote in or just checking emails to collaborate with people from work.

Now that more people are moving over to VoIP instead of of regular phone lines. This means cutting the internet may mean that people can not call 111 and given the recent press about Telecom not being able to provide 111. The government mightn't like the look of the press the first time someone can't call because they have had there internet cut off.

21 March, 2010

Dumb things people do at gigs

I have mentioned in a another blog post People taking bags to gigs that people do dumb things at gigs. This one (and kinda the stiletto one) affects other people which is why I have mentioned it before. The bellow are just dumb for the person.

At the Pixies gig the other week I added another thing to the list of dumb things people do at gigs. This one is wearing jandals and then complaining when people accidentally step on their toes. Umm if you are wearing footware to a gig that doesn't cover and protect your foot and you want to do go into the mosh you have no right complain, period, end of story.

Hoop earrings. Well lets just say at The Rock's Twenty Birthday gig in Wellington a lady was wearing hoop earings and in the mosh people bump into each other and peoples arms get waved around. I'm sure you can figure out the rest and why it mightn't be such a good idea and I was unfortunately a couple of people along from her and saw it happen.

The last two dumb things happened at a Green Day Gig back in 2005. Boob tubes with nothing underneath yeah they become tummy tubes, so just wear a singlet or a tshirt that has something over the shoulder. The other one is stilettos firstly they hurt people when you stand on their feet even if they are wearing proper footwear, as a stiletto heel exerts more pressure per m2 than and an elephant does. Secondly they break and well must be a pain for the lady but it is kind of funny to watch them hobble away and if they have had a drink or two just generally wobble around.

14 March, 2010

Path to php5-cli on godaddy

Well I have ShihadWiki running at Godaddy and they have an SSH Shell and well php5-cli isn't on the path and well I had to spend ages trying to find it, so here it is with some of the keywords I used trying to find it.

So that is the path for php5-cli for when you are using the ssh command line on the godaddy servers, like when you need to run a php script like the upgrade script for  MediaWiki.

07 February, 2010

Keeping my ears safe

I like going to see live music and well it is loud, the AC/DC gig last week apparently had the loudest PA set up NZ has ever had. Music this loud hurts your ears.  The first time I really realised about looking after my ears was after a Muse Gig in 2004 my ears were ringing for a few days afterwards. Turning down the music at gigs I personally don't think is the thing to do as is still like the feeling of feeling the music through my body along with actually hearing it.

Over the years I tried a variety of earplugs but was never that impressed with them as they seemed to reduce of the volumes of different frequencies differently. This is kind of like some playing with the equaliser settings rather than the just volume knob. I later found out that most ear plugs do not give you flat attenuation. Attenuation technically is the reduction in intensity. Most ear plugs attenuate the different frequencies differently.

In 2008 or so I came across Etymotic ER20 Earplugs. This non custom fitted earplug gives near flat 20dB attenuation. They sound much better regular ear plugs and is just like someone has turned down the volume knob and not touched equaliser. The one thing I did find about these was they sound good but they were a little difficult to put in and got a little uncomfortable after after wearing for longer periods of time. Even given this for $31.50 they are really good if you want something that sounds better than normal ear plugs and given they last longer than foam ear plugs its price really isn't that bad and in the long run would be cheaper than getting foam earplugs for each gig you go to.

At the end of 2009 I was looking at the first few months of 2010 which was going to involve Big Day Out, AC/DC, Them Crooked Vultures, Homegrown and The Pixies gigs. Knowing that I had a few gigs lined up and that the ER20s were a little uncomfortable for longer periods of wear I shelled out $315 and got some ER15s from Pacific Ears. ER15s are custom moulded to fit your ear and offer 15dB of attenuation.

Even though they are custom moulded it is a very quick process and simple process. It starts off with an ear nurse taking impressions of your ear canal. The first step is placing a piece of foam with a string attached next to the ear drum, this is to stop on goo going all the way into the ear. The placing of the foam was the bit of the process I found the most uncomfortable as when the foam was being pushed in it caused some discomfort but once it was in place it was fine. The next step was injecting some blue goo into your ear canal. This blue goo cured and formed an impression of my ear canal. While the goo was in ear it was a very weird sensation as I had no hearing what so ever from that ear. After 10 minutes or so the goo had cured and was removed from the ear canal and the same process was done for the other ear. Elacin has some photos of the impression taking process. It was a Friday afternoon and I placed the impressions in a courier bag and sent them off to Pacific Ears.

By Wednesday the next week I received the packages from Pacific Ears which contained my new Ear Plugs. So it is a very fast turn around. Though one thing to mention is that the impression making kit travels the country and from memory is only in Wellington for instance every fortnight, so you might have to wait a little while for the impression to be taken. Edit 2010-02-08: I have been informed that this is now no longer the case and the only waiting time is getting an appointment time, as each place has their own impression kit.

So I opened the box and tried them on. The ER15s are far more comfortable than the ER20s are they are moulded to fit my ears. Putting them in a breeze as they want to sit in the correct spot due to all the curves and contours of the ear. I have never had a feeling that they are going to fall out or anything because of this. Seeing they are the right size there is no sensation of them stuffing your ear and actually pushing outwards against your ear canal. The ER15s moulds are clear and sit behind the tragus so unless someone is actually looking in your ear they are not going to notice that you are wearing earplugs and far less noticeable than the brightly coloured foam ear plugs due to the colour and that they don't protrude from the ear as much.

My ER15s

NZ $1 coin for size

At Big Day Out I wore them all day and I barely noticed that I had them in and they caused me no trouble what so ever. And even straight afterwards there was no ringing in my ears :D I personally think it was a very good $315 spent and am very happy with them.

One thing to also note is wearing ear plugs actually makes it easier to talk to people around you. This mightn't seem intuitive but this is to do with the fact the ear is better at differentiating different sounds at lower dB and the fact there is less acoustic shock on the ear.

My recommendations:
  • If you go to gigs or loud bars/clubs and don't wear anything please wear some type of ear protection.
  • If you currently wear or have tried normal ear plugs and find that they they distort the sound too much have a look at the ER20s they aren't too expensive and sound far better than normal earplugs. As I said before in the long run will work out cheaper than getting foam ones every gig.
  • If you have tired the ER20s and would like something more comfortable try the ER15s.
More information:

03 February, 2010

Sorting out spam once and for all

Method 1:
People spam because there is a small percentage of people who buy from spam. Therefore the root cause of spam is that there are people who buy from spam. And it is always better to fix the cause rather than try and fix symptoms, so instead of going after the spammers they should go after the people who buy from spam. If the people who buy from spam stop buying from spam there is no benefit in sending spam.

So when people buy from spam they should be fined or something because they are doing bad stuff to affect the rest of the world's population. People will learn very quickly when they or other people start getting fined, they will quickly learn for themselves about buying from spam is a bad thing and therefore sending spam will start to dry up. Say for banking phising emails you lose all the money that you lost and then fined the same amount.

Method 2:
Another method that was working, so well in fact that a spam lord PharmaMaster said "Blue found the right solution to stop spam, and I can't let this continue" (Ref). The method basically boiled down to an automated tool which if you got a particular message and only once per message received filled out the order form on the site saying that you don't want spam. This really got the people paying the spammers to send spams for them pissed off because they had lots of fake order to trawl through, which increased the cost of doing business for no more orders. This system was the target of a DDoS attack and was forced to close down, as it was a single point of failure.

What needs to be done is and was started but never got anywhere was making a distributed system to do this with out the single point of failure. Given the DDoS power behind the spammers it will have to be done bitttorent, Google, etc type size. It has been said by spammers that this method works so it would be good to see if this method could be set up to work again.

Seeing they are saying that spam accounts for 90% of email traffic and it requires CPU time to accept email and then also do all the spam filtering processing. So if spam can be reduced it will help companies be more green as they can use less computers in their email infrastructure.

31 January, 2010

People taking bags to gigs

What is it with people taking bags to gigs? Sure if you have a seated ticket sure do what you want. But people taking bags and hand bags to the mosh in the GA section. They get in the way and bag into people and are often harder and more pointy then people and hurt if pressed against them. Also while I a Big Day Out in the Muse mosh I had my arm sandpapered by a bag with a rough texture. How hard is just to bring yourself, your ticket, some ear plugs and some money to a gig? What else do you really need to bring? There is also the coat check where umm you can check these larger things you don't need in so you don't cause injury to other people who are just there for some fun.


Welcome to Dave's Two Cents. This is a blog where I will offer my two cents about stuff that takes my fancy. It will cover non Software Testing which will continue to be posted on my Software Testing Blog.