Posts Tagged ‘Posterous’

Global Mode… Gone.

May 12th, 2012

A new ISP launched in New Zealand last week – FYX – the service was notable for two reasons. Firstly, and least notable of the two – the pricing model was new. A base rate of $34.34 for access, with no bandwidth caps and a flat $0.34/GB for traffic. Pay for what you use, at a fairly decent rate.

The second point was big. Really big. International tech news big. FYX, the ISP itself, was offering a global mode allowing users to effectively bypass the geo-blocks used by content services like Hulu and Netflix in the US, and BBC iPlayer and others elsewhere in the world.

In other news, the new ISP, FYX that made headlines when it launched last week offering a geo-blocking bypass decided to back down on their global mode service. No reason was stated but the service ended up being available for all of about 48 hours in total. Existing users are being offered refunds or lower pricing going ahead.

So, what happened? Why?

No idea. The popular speculation is that they were scared off by legal threats, but I don’t really buy it. There’s really no clear grounds under which they could be threatened legally. There’s nothing in NZ law that seems likely to offer grounds for that.

If you were to look at the case of me as a user (I wasn’t, but it’s easier this way) using Hulu to watch Game of Thrones (I don’t, and it’s not on there, but this is a demonstration case) it’s hard to see who could really do anything to stop FYX. If I am using technology to circumvent Hulu’s geoblock then I am breaking their terms of use, so they could cancel my account (if I had one) or try to stop my access in some way, but that’s between me and Hulu. Similarly Sky who owns the broadcast (and limited on-demand internet catchup rights) to Game of Thrones could feel aggrieved, but FYX isn’t providing the content, Hulu is. It’s up to Hulu to ensure they only provide content where they are allowed to.

However FYX was also backed by a “grown up” ISP (Maxnet) and in reality I think they were probably just a little spooked by the level of attention the service gathered.

As for the service, some evidence and apparently informed insider gossip suggest it was basically just a wholesale version of the service provided by Unblock US. But all is probably not lost, the company it not being very definite about the service being gone, it may well return in the near future.

QuickFlix: A Step in the Right Direction?

March 29th, 2012

Aussie DVD-by-mail and Streaming media company QuickFlix launched a New Zealand streaming service today (obviously they feel the DVD-by-mail market is served well enough already). Offering movies and TV shows for $9.99/month it seems like a great step in the right direction for NZ, but there are some issues.

The Good:

The company is already established in Australia and has existing relationship and a proven track record. This should make it easier for them to secure the all important content rights.

Already a number of ISPs (initially Orcon and Slingshot) have agreed to zero-rate the data so that users can take advantage of the service without needing to worry about their fragile data caps.


The Bad:

I don’t like to feel like I’m concentrating on the negative, but it seems like there’s a few significant issues with the service…

The technology is somewhat proprietary. Content can be viewed on Windows and Mac PCs and, in theory, Sony PlayStation 3 consoles and some Bravia TVs. That’s it. Unlike the popular US NetFlix service the content is not available through devices like the Apple TV or devices like the iPad, iPhone and Android smartphone. Also the content can’t be downloaded or saved for viewing offline.

Also the premium Pay-Per-View content is not available on any devices at all, only through PC and Mac computers.

The TV content is very limited. Currently only a very small range of BBC titles (and in many cases only the first series). Although to be fair we’re actually winning here – there is NO streaming TV content for the Australian service.

Very limited movie selection also – fewer than 360 titles, and less than 25 from the last two years (not including PPV titles), and many of those that you’ll never have heard of.

Before you read on…

QuickFlix have clarified their pricing to me on Twitter – the introductory price is the standard monthly price for people who sign up in the introductory period. So if you join before the 30th of June then your standard monthly price indefinitely will be $9.99 (unless there is a notified price rise in future).

This is still unclear on their site, and the stuff below was written as a result of that lack of clarity. Hopefully they will make this offer clearer.

I also have a big problem with the cost, or at least how it’s promoted. It’s advertised on the site as $9.99/mth. It says this is an introductory price, but there is no more information. If you click on the Join link you’ll see this…


Subscribe to Quickflix – Only $9.99 Per Month” says the title in big bold letters. No “for a limited time” or “introductory price of” just a big, bold $9.99 per month.

If you fill in your details there you’ll be taken to the next page, where you’d hope to find some more details…


No more details on the regular price, or for how long you pay $9.99 or even any details about what you’re signing up for really. Also a delightfully confusing detail – “If you are joining as part of a promotional offer, there won’t be any charges if you cancel your subscription before the promotional offer period ends. If you continue after the promotional offer this is the credit card we will use for your monthly subscription payment.”

It would seem reasonable to assume that an Introductory Price might be a promotional offer so maybe you don’t have to pay anything now? But when do you? I don’t think the Introductory Price is a promotional offer. As far as I can tell if you put credit card details in there you’ll be paying $9.99 for your first month (actually 30 days – they bill every thirty days, not by calendar month) plus the $8.50 administration fee.

As of now there is NOTHING on the site to say how much the regular price is. It is $16.99/mth – getting close to twice the advertised introductory price – and that will be the price from June 30th. The only way I found this out was by phoning their help line, answered, eventually by Australian staff.

Unfortunately the person I spoke to knew nothing of the NZ service at all. He asked if I was interested in the DVD or streaming service. He quoted me Australian prices, and told me about Australian terms. If I hadn’t already been aware of the full NZ price (thanks to an Orcon press release) I would have taken him at his repeatedly-wrong word. Instead I told him he was wrong, and eventually, after a few minutes on hold while he went to talk to someone, found out when the introductory pricing expired.

While I’m not sure, I suspect that inducing someone to signup for a service on a limited time special offer without disclosing the full pricing and when it comes in to effect would be against NZ’s consumer protection laws.


I understand that today is the first day they’ve been open to the public and that there could be teething issues, but it’s not like they haven’t had time to prepare. Not having this information clearly available is simply misleading.

In general I like where QuickFlix is heading, but I think there are a lot of issues to be resolved first, and sadly I’m not convinced that all of them can be – the licensing of content being the primary one.

Skating, Social Media, Sponsorship and Bullies

March 26th, 2012

This astonishing video surfaced today

[vimeo w=500&h=283]

It shows a grown man shoulder charging a yound kid on a skateboard. It then shows the same man striking at the throat of another guy (Leighton Dyer) who challenges him about his actions. 

The backstory is even more interesting – one of the things that Leighton can be heard mentioning in the video is kids being given spray cans. The whole event was recounted by Leighton in a post to the Muckmouth forums.

The youth skate competition at the heart of this was held at the Victoria Park Skate Park on Sunday. The event was apparently sponsored by Skinny (Telecom’s non-Telecom prepay mobile network) and Serenity (a drug rehab programme). It was organised by former drug dealer William ‘Doc’ Murdoch and claimed support from many sponsors including high profile brands like Dick Smith and Wild Poppies. 

To promote his sponsors the organiser apparently decided it would be a good idea to provide paint for the participating kids and encourage them to tag the whole park with sponsors’ names and other associated stuff. The park, which had been largely free of tagging suddenly looked like this


This may have gone largely unnoticed by most people but event judge Craig Platt, a talented artist in clamer moments, decided to forcefully stop the kid in the video and lash out when challenged. That changed things – that incident, and the event as a whole then got a LOT of attention. Links to the video were very widely spread on Facebook and Twitter – it has received 200,000 views as I write this, less than 24 hours after being posted.


So, what about the sponsorship thing? Well, once the details of the event started to become known people started publicly calling on sponsors to put things right. Skinny, apparently a naming rights sponsor, were the most obvious target and also the most responsive immediately.

Unfortunately their inital responses were not ideal – they tried to distance themselves from the event and organisers


It was frustrating to see because it was their brand painted around the park. If I were running their PR or social media I would have immediately said it was terrible and that we’d do whatever we could to make it right. 

And that’s what they did, which is fantastic, but unfortunately it doesn’t seem like it was their first instinct and it took them a couple of hours to get to that point.

In social media and PR in general I think often it’s not about being right, but doing the right thing. This is true of most customer-facing relationships too and is the core of the saying that the customer is always right – sometimes they aren’t of course, and you have to know how to deal with that but this time they were linked with this event and the right thing to do was repair the damage, even if the organiser was entirely at fault.

Unfortunately Dick Smith, another obvious brand to call upon, is not nearly as active on social media and just went for distance when they did respond

I can’t imagine trying to manage PR for a large brand now without being well on top of social media. We’ve long heard that word of mouth was the most important form of marketing and social media is exactly that, only it’s easy to see, but if you’re not watching you just miss out.

A Mega Conspiracy

January 26th, 2012

The recent FBI takedown of and arrest in NZ of four of it’s senior staff, including Kim Dotcom, has been very interesting and there are a few things that I find myelf thinking and saying over and over again, so I’ll try and elaborate them here…

A Pirate Empire
It can’t be denied that MegaUpload was the source of a lot of copyright infringing content. Although despite being aware of MegaUpload for a few years this was something I only discovered recently, even though I tend to believe I have a pretty good handle on these underground internet things, or something.

I have used MegaUpload in the past for various legitimate purposes. I’ve put files there for others to fetch, and I’ve collected files that others wanted to share with me, all legitimate.

The fact that infringing content existed on the site is hardly evidence of wrong doing on the part of MegaUpload. They can’t actively control what people upload or who they share links with. They had also implemented systems to allow verified rights-holders (movie studios, record companies etc) to unilaterally have content removed. In fact Watner Entertainment, according to the Indictment, had the number of links they could remove raised from 2,500 to 5,000 per day.

At this point what MegaUpload does is not a whole lot different to what YouTube has done for years. Except that YouTube hosts the content and indexes it, making almost all content available to everyone with a simple search.

The Indictment lists email exchanges where MU staff shared links to pirate content as evidence that they were aware that the service was being used for that purpose and complicit in it. I find it very hard to believe that Google/YouTube staff don’t share amusing links to unlicensed content with one another.

Multiple Links
A point that is made in the indictment and repeated in many other places is the fact that MegaUpload was not complying with the DMCA as it was allowing multiple links to the same file to remain even when one or more links to that file had been subject of a takedown notice.

This is based on the concept of de-duplication. In a storage system like the one MU was operating it’s possible that many people may upload identical content – rather than storing every single copy of that content as a separate file you simply point multiple copies of that file to the same physical data. In the indictment the FBI argues therefore that when notified of one infringing link MegaUpload should also have removed all other links to that same content.

However every single one of those links has been uploaded by a separate user. While in theory it is technically illegal for me to have a copy of The Big Bang Theory that’s been ripped from TV, it is not a DMCA violation for me to have that on my computer or to upload it to a cloud storage system. It only becomes a DMCA issue when I share that content with someone else. Also some people might have a legitimate claim to that content – MegaUpload was widely used by people in the film, television and recording industries including high-profile musicians. If the FBI’s suggestion were followed then it’s entirely possible that in removing a notified and infringing file they also remove a legitimate and approved copy of the same file that had been uploaded by another user.

In the same way when YouTube is made aware of a DMCA violation they only remove the specific video in question not necessarily all other copies of the same content (which YouTube’s fairly advanced content analysis could probably identify quite easily).

The FBI goes on the say that MegaUpload has used the checksum before to remove ALL links to notified child pornography and terrorism related materials. This is different – those things are specifically illegal, no one has a legitimate right to be storing or redistributing that material.

“The Mega Conspiracy”
Early in their indictment the FBI term the participants in MegaUpload and it’s related sites collectively the “Mega Conspiracy” – the quotes are even in the document. It’s a term defined by the FBI for the participants, it is not a name they called themselves.

However this name, The Mega Conspiracy, has then been used by media, and even a New Zealand judge, in a way that could easily imply it was a name the accused gave themselves which certainly lends weight to the idea they they knew they were a criminal conspiracy. This seems unfairly prejudicial to me.

Flight Risk
I’m no judge but the decision to refuse bail to Kim Dotcom while awaiting an extradition hearing seems unfair. It entirely hinges on two things… The first is the unsurprising revelation, thanks to special testimony and a report from NZ Customs at the request of the FBI, that it’s pretty easy to get out of New Zealand, and that it’s possible to buy false documents. The second is that Kim Dotcom has “criminal connections” he could use to source these false documents.

This applies to anyone in this country. Anyone wiht a bit of money and sufficent determination could obtain false documents and escape the country by boat or small plane. There appears to be nothing more than the FBI’s imagined scenario to suggest that such an escape is likely.

On the other hand Dotcom has a wife, three children under five, two step-children in school here and twins due in a few months. Going on the run is hardly a simple thing to do, unless he plans to leave them all behind. Also he’s a show off, he likes to be noticed, hardly the sort to go underground for a while, and he seems to believe he has a strong case to defend.

The Bigger Issue
This all comes down to the content industry’s war on piracy, which is, in part, a war on new technology. As has been pointed out in many places these industries have a terrible history when it comes to fear of new technology. The recording industry declared that home taping would kill them, the movie industry said the video tapes were the end of the world, the recording industry sued Napster into the ground before finding an entirely new (and huge) market in online sales.

Piracy of content for most people probably has little to do with wanting something for nothing, and a lot to do with wanting things swiftly and in a convienent way. As the sucess of iTunes and similar stores for music has demonstrated, people will pay a reasonable price for content that appeals to them in a way that works for their needs.

While the movie industry insists on treating its paying customers like criminals with unskippable piracy warnings on DVDs and DRM systems that can render legitimately purchased films unusable people will instead go for alternatives, legal or otherwise, to get what they want.

Artists, too, are starting to see a new business model online where they can sell directly to their fans and not have to give up the majority of their earnings (as well as the intellectual property rights) to middle men. This threatens an industry that’s built entirely on profiting from the labour and art of others.

The market WILL change – for some people it already has. Eventually the industry will have to adapt to meet these demands, it is not a challenge that can be nullified with legislation or legal action.

I’ve written in more detail previously about the idea of Better Than Free and the larger challenge face by the television industry in adapting to an audience that has global connections and doesn’t want to wait.

TekTonic Deleted My VPS

January 6th, 2012

Until recently I had a VPS (Virtual Private Server) with – it was the continuation of a server that I’d originally set up in 1998. It mainly hosted my own websites, also provided DNS for my domain name and others, and provided some email services (including running the NZLUG mailing list).

I say “until recently” because TekTonic deleted my VPS (and by extension everything that was on it) on the 29th of December 2011. 

So here are a few admissions up front:

  • I hadn’t paid the bill. An invoice had been generated for me on the 9th of December
  • I also hadn’t been good with backups. The VPS was on a secure server with RAID storage, I wasn’t really too worried about data loss. Also I knew that TekTonic took incremental backups of VPS images. My mistake.
  • The email address I use with TekTonic isn’t one I use for much else. This was so it wasn’t reliant in any way of any service provided by the VPS. I didn’t check it often enough.

Basically I thought I’d paid the bill into January (knowing that I might be busy or away when the December one became due). I was wrong. I didn’t pay two months in November, only one.

So an invoice was issued on the 9th of December (or mabe the 8th, international date line and all). It was apparently due within 7 days (the 16th) and then another 7 days “grace period” is apparently given (the 23rd). Although in my experience of a late payment in the past the server is deactivated on the 18th, 9 days after invoice.

Outstanding balances are due within 7 days, after which your subscription will be considered Graced for 7 days and then will be suspended.

– TekTonic invoice email on 9th of December

On the 19th of December (10 days after the invoice was sent to me) the service was suspended as my grace period had apparently expired. I believe that the server would have been shutdown then – I really can’t understand how I didn’t notice the server was down between December 19th and January 6th, but I didn’t.

Services will remain suspended for 3 days and then will be considered Expired.
Expired subscriptions are automatically put into our Termination Queue and are in immediate risk of being irreversibly terminated.

– TekTonic email on 19th of December

On the 29th of December (20 days after invoice was issued, 10 days after service was suspended) the subscription (ie. my VPS – my webserver) was deleted. I received a one-line email informing me of that.

Your subscription has been deleted.

– TekTonic email on 29th of December

Today (the 6th of January) I became aware of the fact my server had been deleted. At first I’d assumed that it was off for some reason (that had happened a few times in the past) and logged into the control panel to restart it. When I couldn’t see the controls for it, I checked the invoices and found none overdue (the December one had been deleted from my account). I then logged into the email account and found these emails – in reverse order of course.

I immediately contacted TekTonic via their Live web chat service (actually pretty handy, has been very good and resolving issues in the past). 

The support operator I spoke to, Sam, told me that the deletion was indeed unrecoverable. I expressed my frustration a number of times (politely, I realise it wasn’t his doing, and was largely my fault). Sam told me that I should have pre-paid (I thought I had) and that I could auto pay (had failed with my credit card in the past for some reason) – all of which was useless given that the server was gone.

So now here I am. Unsure of what backups exist (they were made by someone else, still on holiday in Internetless Hills, New Zealand) and with no clear path forward to restarting. I’m assuming that all my website is gone, any files I had stored on the server are gone as are all user records and anything of substance to help me rebuild what has been lost.

I am absolutely astonished that TekTonic would think it an acceptable business practice to completely destroy a customer’s data in such a short space of time, especially at a time when it’s quite likely that people are harder than usual to contact. I have reviewed their online terms and conditions and can’t find any reference to this process, or warning about it.

Other providers I’ve looked at outline processes in their terms, and also specify costs for recovery after the fact – something that TekTonic claims they simply can’t do.

So now, instead of me accepting my mistake, possibly paying a recovery fee and continuing my service with TekTonic I am forced to start again, and will obviously not be going back to TekTonic for my future hosting. How much would it cost TekTonic to store the VPS data for a little longer? Practically nothing – the plan I was on allowed for 60GB of disk, I wasn’t using it all. So simply storing a 40GB disk image is all that would be required. No other resources are tied up by an inactive VPS. 


The invoice that wasn’t paid was for the period of December 9th to January 9th (although I suspect they really mean 8th). I was not paying in arrears. With the grace period considered I received about 9 days of “free” service – my plan was $28/mth so that’s about $8 of service that I received without paying for.

I am not complaining about the process in general. I accept that I didn’t pay the bill, and that service could have reasonably been terminated as a result. What I am upset (and surprised) by is that there is no way back from this action. Had they had a backup copy of my image they could have reinstated it, I’d have paid for the overdue invoice, quite possibly paid a service fee and continued paying money everymonth as I have for the last four and a half years. There are many circumstances where a mistake like this could happen, making the process so fatal just seems silly.

Having Private Tea Parties In Public

November 14th, 2011

The discussion around Teagate (or #teapartytapes, or whatever) is fascinating. There’s a whole bunch of issues, all which get mixed up and attacked and defended in different ways. I’ve expressed a handful of opinions in blog comments etc, but here is my current thinking…


If you’re somehow unaware of the whole situation it goes like this – John Key wants to endorse John Banks in Epsom, giving National voters the okay to give their electorate vote to Banks over National’s Paul Goldsmith, but it would not be the done thing to simply say that.

So the obvious answer is for The Johns to get together for a cup of tea (why not coffee or a beer?) shake hands, pose for photos and drop a couple of little soundbites.

On Friday the 11th of November (11-11-11!!!!!) they made this happen. It was a very unauthentic event, with at least a couple of dozen journalists swarming around the cafe, along with DPS police, aides, campaign staff and a few unlucky patrons.

It went roughly as you’d expect the pair order their tea, sat down at a table, answered some media questions and made small talk. Then, unexpectedly according to media who were present, the reporters were all ushered outside to give The Johns some time alone.

Key and Banks emerged a little bit later, made the predictable statements with the Prime Minister endorsing Banks without endorsing him, or something. All done.

However it turns out that their alone time wasn’t all their own. A cameraman shooting video for APN/ had accidentally left his radio mic on the table, in a small cloth bag and had inadvertently recorded audio of their conversation.

That audio was given to the Herald On Sunday who then ran a story about having the audio but didn’t publish it. Claiming in their headline that the PM “blocked” the publication (a stretch) and also saying that their legal advice said they could publish it, and that it was of public interest. But they didn’t publish it.

John Key was none to pleased, while insisting there was nothing interesting on the tape he also objected loudly to the whole incident and compared it to the actions of the News Of The World.

So, onto some of the issues…

Accidental Recording

We don’t know the specifics of the gear involved, but we do know that what was in the bag was a radio mic. It transmits audio to a receiver attached to a recorder, in this case the video camera used by the cameraman. In typical configuration it will have a sensitive omni-direction mic attached and will be able to transmit a signal a hundred metres or more in good conditions. 

There have been a few assertions made about how it came to be on the table in a small fabric pouch, however in an interview with Radio New Zealand (MP3) he explained the situation, saying that as other media started to ask the pair question he had been in a hurry to place a mic to get good audio. This seems plausible – either way he’d have been putting the mic down on the table rather than attaching it to the shirt or tie of one of the men as would be optimal, the bag would make very little difference to the quality of the audio and it’s certainly quicker to just switch it on and chuck it down on the table.

According to his account he was unable to get good camera position near the table and moved back for another angle. The media were then ushered out of the cafe quite quickly and he rushed to the window to get a good position there.

Apparently he only really discovered that he had the audio of their private conversation when he got back to his office. He claims not to have really listened to it, just to have checked the start and end, then given it to the HoS. 

In the interview he was questioned a few times about whether they asked for it or paid him for it. He said no on both counts. This is totally reasonable – his relationshp with APN would be on spec. He shoots for them then offers up the content, if they like it and use it then he’ll get paid. They don’t pay to see what he’s got, and they don’t pay for what they don’t use. While he’s unclear how and why he gave the audio to them, they will have paid for any video of his they have used from the event.

Continual Recording and VU Meters

The point has been made by many anonymous experts on the web that he’d never have continued recording for the whole 8-9 minutes of conversation unless he’d known that he was getting the audio, and that he had to know because modern cameras have VU meters displayed on the viewfinder.

I’ve worked with a lot of camera operators over the years, and I’ve even shot at news events myself. While most would probably stop and start recording while picking up b-roll (or cutaways if you prefer) there are also others who tend to roll the whole time – this makes it easier to react to anything that happens suddenly. With file-based cameras this is especially likely as it it can be a lot easier to scrub through one big clip in the your editing software than deal with a lot of little ones. 

As an editor I tend to encourage camera operators I work with not to create more clips than necessary when shooting on file-based formats. If they are moving around a small area picking off various shots then I’d have no problem with having the camera movement recorded.

The VU meters is a red herring somewhat. Yes most cameras feature, but they can usually be switched off and even so they don’t really do much to tell you what you are recording, only that you are getting audio. Most news shooters will monitor with headphones rather than pay attention to what VU meters may show, and while gathering video that doesn’t have important audio (such as the afore mentioned cutaways) it’s entirely possible they’d take their headphones off.

So yes, it’s a little unusual that he’d have recorded for 8-9 minutes uninterrupted unless specifically trying to record something that whole time, but it certainly not impossible or even all that unusual for some people. It’s worth considering he edits his own stuff, which makes it a lot easier to quickly jump through extra bits to get to the good stuff.

I don’t think the VU meters argument holds much water. May not be enabled, and very easy to overlook or ignore even if they are on. Also don’t provide any meaningful information about what is being recorded.

Tabloid Journalism

National’s Steven Joyce said “there are a number of inconsistencies in the story which together suggest an attempt to conceal a deliberate News of the World-type covert operation” on behalf of the Herald on Sunday.

I simply don’t think that’s even remotely plausible. No one knew ahead of time that Key and Banks were going to send the media out of the cafe for part of their meeting. And even if they did, a small bag on the table in plain sight is hardly covert, and it seems impossible that anyone would put that on the table and assume it would be allowed to stay there. If your plan hinged on that it would seem doomed to failure.

At most I think this whole situation is a lucky accident on behlaf of the cameraman. Maybe he knew he was recording, maybe not, but he certainly can’t have planned ahead of time to make that recording. He didn’t know the opportunity would arise, and certainly couldn’t count on his bug being left on the table.

A Private Meeting

While in general I don’t really think it’s polite or reasonable to record people without their knowledge, it is equally foolish to conduct a private and potentially sensative conversation in a public venue with bystanders nearby and dozens of media inches away behind a window.

The Crimes Act is pretty clear about what constitutes Private Communication for the purposes of inte
rception, and it’s defined as such:


private communication—

(a) means a communication (whether in oral or written form or otherwise) made under circumstances that may reasonably be taken to indicate that any party to the communication desires it to be confined to the parties to the communication; but

(b) does not include such a communication occurring in circumstances in which any party ought reasonably to expect that the communication may be intercepted by some other person not having the express or implied consent of any party to do so.

(Section 216A, Crimes Act)



Paragraph b is the key one there. For the purposes of the law it seems that it would not be considered private if either party should reasonably expect that it could be intercepted (which in the law means recorded, or listened to) by a third party.

Given there were dozens of invited members of the media within a metre on the other side of the glass as well as members of the public and staff inside the cafe it seems highly likely, unless they were whispering, that it would be reasonable to assume they could potentially be overheard.

So while recording them may have been highly questionable (accidentally or otherwise) it seems to me that the conversation may well not be considered private for the purposes of Section 216B of the Crimes Act anyway.

If You’ve Got Nothing To Hide…

Some people, including the Green Party, have basically said that if The Johns do in fact have nothing to hide in their conversation then they should be happy to release it. I have a huge problem with this argument. It’s exactly the same arguement that’s made to support unreasonable searches as well and it’s highly offensive then.

John Key, if he feels that he’s been wronged, has every right to pursue any and all remedies, regardless of the importance or sensativity of the conversation in question. To suggest that his objection to the recording and it’s publication is proof that he has something to hide is very flawed and exactly the behaviour that we object to when exhibited by the government or it’s agents.

Police Investigation

John Key has complained to the Police about the incident and they are investigating. This is really interesting. Surely now being the subject of a criminal investigation makes it even harder for anyone to publish the recording, but the flip side of that is that if the Police decide that there is no case to answer then it’s a green light for the Herald on Sunday.

It will come down, I guess, to how long that investigation takes. Presumably it could hinge on interviewing various people, perhaps even John Banks – meaning that he could potentially delay the investigation by being unavailable.

How long would the investigation have to last to be effective in killing the story? The election is in less than two weeks, but maybe a week would be enough to take the teeth out of the story? Hard for the media to keep up interest in an off limits item for that long.

Of course the Herald on Sunday could double down an publish anyway. It’s no more an offense to publish while the Police are investigating than it would be to do so anyway – so if they thought they were clear yesterday and still believe they are then nothing changes really.

Putting parents to work

November 1st, 2011

National has released their welfare reform policy. In general I agree there’s probably a need for some reform, but above all else one aspect of it bothers me… Sole parents.

My wife and I are married and live together with our three children, so it doesn’t affect us, but I’m not unfamiliar with the issues involved. We’re lucky enough to be able to live on my income so my wife can be a stay-at-home mum for our kids, however we have previously looked at the possibility of her returning to work… It didn’t make any sense economically.

The National policy would require all solo parents with children over 14 to be “available for full time work”. The argument is that at fourteen children are legally able to be alone unsupervised. This is not a major problem really – I’m sure there are cases in which it wouldn’t be especially beneficial, but in general that seems okay.

But for solo parents with younger children they have to be available for part-time work once their kids are five. In theory in this case they are at school most of the day, and can be in some sort of after-school care at other times. There are many more cases in which this won’t be practical but it’s still not the worst scenario.

For solo parents who have another child they get an exemption for 12-months. So a solo parent of a 6-year-old who has another child would be expect to return to part-time work on that child’s 1st birthday. A parent of a 15-year-old having a new baby would need to return to full-time work when the child turned 1.

The problem is the cost (and limitation) of childcare compared to part-time work. Childcare costs between $6-10/hr in most cases, and is often charged on a half-day/full-day basis. A part-time worker is likely on a low income, perhaps as little as $13/hr. After tax the cost of childcare can easily be more than half of the income.

Then there are other issues – getting into childcare (there are often waiting lists), timing (childcare hours are limited, part-time work often requires weekends and late nights) and sickness (can’t work when child is sick as they can’t go to childcare). 

Personally I think it is a small price to pay, as a society, to try an ensure parents aren’t forced into situations where they are apart from their children, working simply to pay for childcare.

The fake Twitter trap

October 31st, 2011

It’s probably happened to all of us (if we use Twitter much) – we see a tweet that seems to publicly reveal something unexpected about some entity we’re critical of… But it turns out that the Tweeter in question is one of those oh-so-popular parody Twitter accounts. It’s a popular opinion that the best satire cuts close to the truth, so these accounts often say things we think might be true but that would never be admitted by the people in question.

Usually, if we take a moment to check it out, we realise what we’re seeing and avoid embarassing ourselves by reacting with real outrage at the fake tweet. But sometimes that doesn’t happen and we run with it, only to be corrected and then to issue a mea culpa and slink in to the e-shadows for a bit.

This is sort of like what happened to Trevor Mallard. He saw a tweet from @NZNational that seemed to be lying about something that was easily disproved, and he then decided to make a blog post, titled @NZNational says it was a real town hall meeting, about it (on Labour’s official blog site).

Only it’s even uglier than that – Mallard was definitely aware it wasn’t a real account. The profile makes it clear and he’d even acknowledged it on Twitter 24 hours before making his blog post.

It went something like this:

The National party’s political broadcast included a “townhall meeting” which featured (unacknowledged) National supporters and members tossing questions at the PM. A bit like an informercial…

The @nzlabour account tweeted “How can John Key know what Kiwis think when he only talks to hand picked audiences?” at 7:35pm on Friday night.

Then at 9:49am on Saturday morning @NZNational replied “The audience was a cross section picked randomly. The Q’s were not known in advance and @johnkeypm answered off-the-cuff.”

And that was that… Until 9:09am on Monday when Mallard published his blog post, which shows a screenshot of the @NZNational tweet and a screenshot of some National supporters recognising their friends on the broadcast (as evidence that they were plants). That’s it. No more editorialising or context.

However almost 12 hours posting on the blog Twitter user @brendonRS tweeted “@TrevorMallard have you still not figured out that @NZNational is a parody account?” to which Mallard replied “I know it isn’t official but that doesn’t mean it isn’t accurate”

Mallard’s defence to his blog post could be in the title where he appears to have been careful to use the Twitter account’s name, @NZNational, rather than saying it was the National party, but that’s hardly an excuse. He didn’t provide any explanation of the account for readers, nor a link to the account for context. 

His claim in the quoted tweet that being a parody account “doesn’t mean it isn’t accurate” is irrelevant – clearly no National supporter is going to parody the party. To present the tweet as if it were evidence of National Party lies is very dishonest and obviously deliberately so.


Better Than Free

August 10th, 2011

From tomorrow New Zealanders downloading copyright music and video content over P2P networks could find themselves on the receiving end of enforcement notices from their ISPs and, after three strike, potentially in front of The Copyright Tribunal and looking at a fine of up to $15,000. 

The law hasn’t really changed – what does change is the way enforcement is managed. It has always been illegal to trade in copyright material without the permission of rights holder, and in theory they have always been able pursue people for these actions, but it would have been very difficult and costly. 

Changes to the enforcement of copyright in this respect have been criticised as protecting an outdated business model, which I’d agree with. In the late 90s and early 2000s the music industry was facing massive issues with illegal file trading, they tried all sorts of legal threats and manged to shut down some distribution systems but in the end the thing that made the biggest dent on illegal music sharing was the arrival of “better than free” models – iTunes and other similar businesses. They provided what people wanted – easy access to file-based music delivery – at a price that was low enough to make it less trouble that piracy. The model is broadly know as Better Than Free. Not only have those options seriously lowered the amount of music piracy online but they’ve provided massive new income streams for the music industry.

Now, with faster internet connections readily available, it’s the film and television industries that see the biggest threat from illegal P2P trading. In New Zealand we have no Better Than Free options for television, and very few for movies (none that are generally available to all users). In the US this market is increasingly drastically with iTunes providing an extensive catalogue of movies and TV shows, Hulu providing access to most network TV shows and NetFlix offering a huge range of TV and film. 

Breaking it down there are broadly two categories of video media to consider (and two sub-categories in each). There is Television and Movies as the primary content, and within each there is current and archival content. Current material is stuff that is offered in a timely fashion. It would be films that are in current release (most likely in the “home video” stage of release, rather than cinematic) and television shows that have just had their first broadcast. Archival material is obviously older stuff – films from years past, and whole series-lots of TV as is often available on DVD now.

There should be no reason that films couldn’t be made available in New Zealand. Release dates are increasingly global now, so making online purchase available on the same timeframe as DVD release should not present problems.

But television is a huge problem. One of the most-pirated TV shows in the recent past was Lost it was a show that attacted a lot of viewer discussion online and the internet in inherantly global. Fans of the show were effectively unable to visit fan sites for fear of major spoilers if they were waiting for local broadcast – so many of the show’s biggest fans were actually downloading the show because of the show’s success. 

Unfortunately the business of television effectively nixes any hope of online sales of television shows in time with their US broadcast. Broadcasters make a lot of money from international sales to other broadcasters – those broadcasters will typically require regional exclusivity and obviously will be less interested in buying a series if that show would be available over the internet to viewers before the local broadcaster was able to screen it. 

So why not just screen it earlier? Within a day or two of the US broadcast perhaps? NZ broadcasters have certainly tried, but the US TV schedules complicate it. US shows will often take a couple of hiatuses during a season during which time there are no new episodes screened. During that time those episodes are also unavailable to other broadcasters – so NZ broadcasters would then be forced to follow these US hiatus breaks. Instead they often delay the start of a series to cover these breaks, so that by the end of the series they are in step with US broadcasts. 

Because NZ broadcasters can’t screen shows in time with the US, those shows aren’t going to be available in NZ in time with the US. Making them available online (through services like Hulu, Netflix and iTunes) would seriously impact their value to NZ broadcasters.

Until television isn’t the primary market for this content it’s unlikely that we’ll ever see a major Better Than Free offering for television in New Zealand.


Fuck Tournament

July 23rd, 2011

A recent article in The Herald outlined the unfortunate circumstances of a couple who’d had their car stolen. It wouldn’t have been newsworthy had it not been for the actions of Tournament Parking. The car had be wrecked and abandoned in one of the company’s carparks. Police located it the following day and had it removed a couple of days later, however Tournament then decided to bill the owners for the three days of unauthorised parking at $70/day for a total of $210.

The couple communicated in writing with Tournament, as they were unable to reach the right people by phone, and explained the situation and provided a copy of the police report. This wasn’t good enough for Tournament – they suggested that the couple should get their insurance company to pay the fee and threatened to pass the debt on to collection agency Baycorp, with the requsite threat that it would affect their credit rating.

A follow-up article the next day then explained that the couple’s insurance company would not pay the fee and also had difficulty communicating with Tournament. This newer article actually has a couple of quotes from Tournament, which just make them seem even more scummy…

Tournament general manager Dale Clements said the onus was on the car insurance company to cover the fines.


“I have it on authority that the reason we ask the customer to go to the insurance company is because in the past they have covered that,” he said.

So he’s saying that previously they have held vehicle owners liable for fines owing on their car as a consequence of theft? Fuckwits. The article then comes to this…

Mr Clements said the owner of any car which drove into a Tournament carpark was the person responsible for paying the fees – not the person who was driving it.

“We’re quite clear on that because if you’re driving a car that’s not yours and is owned by someone else, you’re deemed to have the authority of the owner to drive that car.

“So the onus comes back to the owner, unless they can prove otherwise that they hadn’t given authority to someone else. We are absolutely watertight on that.”

He said because the car was stolen, the ownership was handed over to AMI Insurance.


Quite clearly, in fact by definition, the driver of a stolen car does not have authority from the owner of the car. Surely a police report is proof otherwise? Similarly the owner in such a circumstance would not be liable for things like speed camera fines either.

The ownership of the car was only transferred to AMI once the car had been found and deemed written off (ie the insurance company would take ownership and pay the policy holder out). And even if by some bizarre twist of imaginiation you believe that an insurance company becomes the ‘owner’ of a car the moment it’s stolen, they still have not provided any sort of authority to the driver.

And a day later there was a new article, Parking firm backs down on fine, but it wasn’t as if they’d suddenly realised they were in the wrong about the whole issue of liability (or committing some sort of PR suicide). No. Instead they parking company has now decided it will puruse the insurance company for the money, although AMI seems to have made it pretty clear they will not be paying, and nor should they.

A lawyer quoted in the last article made the key point: the only person who could possibly be liable for any fees to Tournament is the thief. But that’s no good for Tournament as they don’t know who he is, but the registered owner and their insurance company? Easy targets.

It appears that this is the sort of thing that Tournament has tried in the past, and most likely they have been successful too. Debt collection is a scary threat (although no collection can be undertaken on a disputed debt) and people would probably choose to pay when it became clear obvious that it was the easier way to make the issue go away.

In summary I will never part in a Tournament carpark again, and I’ll suggest the same to others. Tournament claims $210 in “lost revenue” from the stolen car, I’m sure they’ve lost a lot more than that thanks to the media coverage around their shitty treatment of the victims of this crime (and probably others before them).