Occasional cool moments online

There are occasional moments when something online seems extra cool.
You may have noticed NASA has launched a space shuttle for the first
time in a couple of years, since the last shuttle flight ended in
catastrophe. NASA’s making a big deal of this mission – and part of it
includes a 24/7 live feed, with audio and video, from the space shuttle.

They must have a web cam mounted on the shuttle, aimed at the earth,
because you can watch the earth moving past below as the shuttle orbits
around the world. The budget seems not to have run as far as a colour
web cam, but even in black and white it’s still a remarkable sight.

And you can listen to the shuttle crew and mission control back on
the ground going about their business, along with occasional voiceovers
from the official NASA mission spokesperson, who tells you about what’s
going on (which basically means translating a pile of acronyms into
plain English!).


Big Brother recruits cameraphone users

No not that wretchedly boring TV show. Actually an interesting addendumto the Poop Girl story:

“A UK firm today unveiled plans for a service that allows members of the public to send pictures of antisocial behaviour to local authorities using mobile phones.”

The idea is you can take camera phone pictures of graffiti, abandoned cars etc and send them in, so the issue can be dealt with by the local council.


Telstra Cynicism

I’m sorry, but I can’t help but treat this cynically. Telstra says it will offer phone bill rebates for “calls made by customers in Australia checking on family members in London, or those in London calling home to speak to family. “

Oh, and it’s only for a 24 hour window. Oh, and you don’t get it automatically, you have to ring a special number which will be printed on your next phone bill.

If you, or another family member, were “hospitalised” as a result of the blast you’ll get rebates for one month.

It just smacks of a bureaucratic response, it’s limited, it’s complicated and you have to do something (ring the number) to claim.

How about something much simpler – all calls to the UK for a few days be free of charge?

Blogging Extremes

I was struck today by two examples of the extremes of blogging – from what could be termed completely frivolous, to the extemely serious.

First is the story of the woman in South Korea who didn’t clean up after her dog. Whilst this is offensive in some places (in Melbourne it’s law), her biggest crime appears to be that a fellow citizen took photos with a camera phone and posted them on a web site.

Try a Google on Dog Poop Girl and you’ll get my drift – it’s gone around the world.

Second is the terrible bombings in London last week. You’ve probably seen some of the camera phone photos, for example those taken in the Underground in the aftermath of the explosions. Eye witnesses have been blogging about what they saw, their experiences of being in the middle of the attacks.

Robert MacMillan in the Washington Post remarks:

“This is the essence of reporting — vivid, factual accounts of history as it explodes around us. People like me spend years in J-school learning how to do it just right. We spend the subsequent years subjecting you to the mixed results. Stacey, Zoulia and hundreds of other amateur journalists, packing camera phones and an urge to blog, reminded us how simple it should be.”

There’s even a term been coined ‘Citizen Journalism’. There are now hundreds of bombing photos available on sites like Flickr.com, along with others from the Asian Tsunami earlier this year.


The Market Stall Arts Economy

Citizen Journalism makes my writing efforts seem minor. But here’s my latest offering – an only somewhat tongue in cheek argument for stopping of all government arts grants. More seriously, my underlying point is that if we are going to talk about an arts economy, then we need to remember that an economy is supposed to be sustainable. And the arts economy, given its cycle of boom bust particularly amongst the big arts companies, is clearly not.


“Grant funding is a vicious, non- productive circle – just like long term reliance on the dole. It ties people into a pre-determined model, instead of exploring alternatives. It’s a bureaucratic, unimaginative way to do business. Each year the Australia Council and sundry state government arts ministries publish their glossy grant round booklets. Each year arts managers and artists pore over the colourful pages, considering how they can manipulate and massage their current visions into the frameworks compiled by a bunch of government employees sitting in their ergonomically designed cubicles.”

ninemsn Cynicsm

Maybe I’m just getting old. Logged into ninemsn’s music download site because I wanted to buy an album. I was asked to confirm my details, and presented with this message next to a checkbox:

“If you wish to receive information from ninemsn about promotions, special offers or competitions, please un-tick this box.”

Read it carefully. It says, if you want to receive promotional spam, don’t check this box. It’s a carefully thought about piece of psychology. If you are a regular net user, you’ll be used to these sorts of marketing list permissions. Except, the normal behaviour is that you check a box to accept something, to agree to something. Except here you are ‘unchecking’ the box to agree to something. In fact, by checking the box, you are NOT agreeing to something. If you follow my drift.

What ninemsn is hoping is that you will, like me most of the time, read the first part of the sentence, realise it’s a marketing list authority, presume that by checking the box you are agreeing to something EG accepting marketing emails. So you don’t check the box. And thus wind up getting marketing emails.

It’s a cynical reading of the anti-spam and privacy laws. What they really want you to do is accept being on a marketing list. So they’ve crafted an underhand statement to try and con you into agreeing to be on the list.

It’s sneaky, and completely unwarranted.