Negative political tactics make you look dull

I admire democracy – after all the alternatives are much worse. I also believe that a robust ‘loyal’ opposition is a necessary part of a healthy democracy.

But it all falls apart when an opposition chooses vindictiveness and obstruction over constructive opposition and collaboration.

Two recent examples:

The US Republican party apparently plans to add 450 amendments to a climate change bill, in order to slow it’s progress down to a crawl. This is a climate change bill – a rather relevant piece of legislation for the entire world. So why not engage in a constructive debate and work out the best solution – rather than simply opposing it?

The second case is closer to home. NZ’s Labour party just used the same tactics to obstruct and delay the passage of the Local Government (Auckland Reorganisation) bill. If you happened to tune into parliament in the last few days it was a sad indictment of the system, and morever an appalling way to use the Maori language as Labour and colleagues used the language and resulting required translation to slow things down even more.

Sure Labour wants to get the bill to committee, but their petulant behaviour in this instance makes them lose face, and though they may crow about parliamentary victories, to this listener they just sounded like ignorant obstructionists.

And yes National didn’t do the ‘right thing’ by operating under urgency, and they could have accepted an offer for a fast committee pricess.

The parties have argued themselves into a corner on this one.

It’s particularly galling as clearly both sides clearly want a single Auckland council. They differ on the details, but the situation is exacerbated by the Mt Albert by-election and the adversarial tactics used by both sides.

So please – both sides – grow up and govern.

Posted in NZ Business | Tagged ,

eBay UK stacks it high and watches it fly

eBay have taken a leaf out of 1-day‘s playbook and have launched a Daily Deal on their UK website. The idea is simple – offer a compelling deal from the homepage, drive traffic to the site each day and sell the bargains by the thousands.

Meanwhile once you arrive at each day, why not check out the rest of the site – this should increase overall sales.

For once this is something that Trade Me could actually copy from eBay.

There are 3 key questions that remain to be resolved though.

  1. How do you select the products? They have to be real bargains from sellers that will deliver fast. It’s also an administrative burden to manually select those products, so it there some sort of auction each day for the space?
  2. How do you compensate Trade Me for the home page slot when  the margins are so tiny? The home page slot could be sold for cash, but Trade Me does clip the ticket on the increase sales of the bargain anyway. Do you offer lower fees to get the prices even lower?
  3. How do you manage the fallout from smaller sellers who compete (poorly) with the products on offer. This is especially bad if the front page sellers get a cut on fees, but bad even if their fees are standard and they pay a home page placement fee. This could even cannibalize entire categories as members wait for the deal rather than shopping.
Posted in auctions, Trade Me | Tagged

BMW’s new bike – the S1000RR

BMW has just released the street version of their Supersport bike. This is an important event in the decade long takeover of the marque by horsepower crazy hoons.

Those hoons still believe in ABS and traction control – this bike has 4 settings that adjust the engine, ABS and traction control for Rain, Sport, Race and (even) Slick. I like how there is no ‘cruise’ setting.

As with all Superbikes, relentless efforts go into reducing weight. Look at the tiny reservoir for the rear brake fluid:

The chain goes through the swingarm:

While the integrated rear lights both look elegant and don’t interrupt the airflow.

The bike joins its dirtier cousin – the G450X – in allowing BMW to compete at the very top in motorcycle sport. It will take a while for them to start winning regularly, and then to dominate, but this is a great start.

You can’t just design a series of great bikes and start producing, expecting them to sell and to be reliable. It is even tougher if you are starting from the position that BMW did back in the early 1990s.

The successful transformation of the Motorad group is one of the great stories of the motorcycle community – but sadly an untold story, one I would like to read. It seems that BMW decided that they want their bikes to be as good versus their peers as their cars are versus theirs. Full credit to them for this transformation.

Posted in Business, Motorcycling | 1 Comment

Uncovering the truth behind “50% of teens post senstive information”

Last week we saw a plethora of New Zealand headlines bemoaning the poor behaviour of ‘kids today’ – this time in how they handle their sensitive information online.

The punchline was that one in two students had posted sensitive information about themselves online in the past year.

TVNZ went with Half of NZ teens post sensitive info online while NZHerald went with Nearly half of Kiwi teens post sensitive info online – both remarkably similar to the original press release.

Some went further though – and the three best articles that I read were from:

  1. The venerable ODT – with Teens lax over online security a very well written article that included a local angle and even a call to a local academic.
  2. The Dominion Post with Internet’s effects may be taught – an interesting angle, and with only passing reference to the survey. Well done to the Dom Post and Greer McDonald.
  3. TV3, with some new news Policing unit to monitor internet for criminal activity which probably means bald 50 year old men masquerading as 15 year old girls are going to start flirting with me online.

The articles all stemmed from preliminary findings published by PhD student, and research manager at Netsafe – John Fenaughty.

Colour me skeptical. Indeed I am frighteningly skeptical about any headlines that say “the youth of today are….” as I remember all too well that the youth of my day were actually pretty on to it.

I suspect (and from what I see, know) that the youth of today are much better at figuring out what they can and cannot put online than their older peers. In particular I see that horribly inept early Bebo pages and youthful utterances are increasingly becoming the norm, and employers and voters of the future will accept it as such.

But I was also concerned that the survey itself was a bit of a half baked scaremongering exercise. So I decided to dig into it a little. The Netsafe website was useless – but I did find the press release after a fellow twitterer shared the link.

So I called (there was no email address) John Fenaughty and left a message. He got back to me very quickly on email, and I posed him 12 questions – cunningly displaying them as 10:

1: How was the final respondent group selected, including response rates etc? How did you avoid bias across the multiple dimensions?
2: What were the exact dates of data collection?
3: What were the actual survey questions used to derive these answers? especially the “wouldn’t want to find” part.
4: How were the questions asked? – e.g interviews, filled out by students etc.
5: What was the age (or school class) distribution of the responding students?
6: What percentage of students didn’t use the internet? were they included in the survey?
7: How was the “one out of two” figure derived? – can you provide a break down (crosstab) that shows the combination of sensitive information provided?
6: What is the breakdown of age (or school class) versus provision of the four sensitive informations identified in the press release?
7: What other questions were in the survey?
8: will you be making all of the coded source data available?
9: How do you define cyber bullying?
10: What convictions for cyber bullying have there been in NZ?

Quietly readying myself for a nice evisceration of the study, I noted that his reply wasn’t instant – and perhaps wasn’t ever going to come. I mulled on the state of research these days, but eventually I did get a reply almost a day later.*

It was rigorous. In fact it was an excellent reply, and I am posting it in full beneath the fold.

John sent me back complete answers to all of my questions, and satisfied my greater concerns about the study. Simply put – he is doing the best he can within the constraints he has been dealt.

I noted to myself that this is just the sort of evidence that you would want to see from a PhD student, especially as a PHD needs to be defended in front of a committee. Having sat on one of those committees before (we had to say no in the end) it is a grueling exercise for the student, but with the quality of this response John is demonstrating that he will be ready.

If you read the reply, ask yourself whether any research that you conduct or read about can be answered just as well. Are your questions tested? Are all ethical grounds covered off? Are the samples truly statistical and non-biased? and so on.

So well done John – Not only have I deleted most of the blog post I’d drafted, but you’ve even managed to turn it into a “how to respond to questioning bloggers” lesson.

Continue reading

Posted in Life, media | 9 Comments

The spectrum of blogging engagement

While I may not agree with it entirely, Mikearauz has come up with a useful way to look at the way casual interest can turn into advocacy online.

Since I don’t agree with it – I decided to have a crack at my own version. This is my take on “Blogging Engagement”  – written from my perspective as both a blogger but more importantly as a reader of blogs  (or columnists or news websites or authors).

What do you think?

Posted in Life, media

2 shots were fired

I am immensely proud to live in a country where, when faced with a well trained and armed guy fortressed in a house, the police acted in a responsible manner.

Even after the provocation of seeing one of their number shot and lie dead in the street for the duration of the siege, police fired only two shots throughout the entire event. Well done.

So if you happen to have your own stash of guns and explosives in your fortressed home, then remember this simple thing. No matter how much you provoke the police, or how much they provoke you, they will not shoot you.

This isn’t America, it isn’t the movies – it is New Zealand, and I am happy to live here.

So I fervently hope we do not over-react to this outlier incident by arming police – with either guns or tasers. Neither would have helped, but more importantly if our criminals know they won’t get shot then they are far less likely to shoot first.

And that is safer for everybody.

Posted in Life | Tagged , | 6 Comments

67 is the new magical number

photo, originally uploaded by LanceWiggs.

Posted in NZ Business | 2 Comments