Writings on technology and society from Wellington, New Zealand

Thursday, July 31, 2008

World Internet Project

Today on Radio New Zealand National I talked about the World Internet Project – a survey of how New Zealanders use the Internet, set in context by comparing it to other surveys around the world. The WIP was run in New Zealand by AUT University and partly funded by InternetNZ.

There are some intriguing results to the survey. Read on for my speaking notes or listen to the podcast.


posted by colin at 11:55 am  

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Wikipedia: the end of the dream?

There’s a blog post on the New York Times saying that Wikipedia might introduce a system of approvals for edits. The problem Wikipedia is trying to solve has been around for a while – people apparently go in and delete or alter chunks of material about current topics, especially politicians, usually in violation of Wikipedia’s policies such as the neutral point of view. People and companies have been caught trying to spin their entries, or paying others to do so.

Various solutions have been tried, such as locking political articles close to elections, or only allowing certain people to edit the most controversial ones. What’s now being proposed is that all edits to the encyclopedia should be approved by a member of some trusted group before they go live.

This is a shame. The core of Wikipedia was its “anyone can edit” ethos. This was a fantastic idea that has worked a whole lot better than its critics said it would. It’s why Wikipedia has succeeded in building such a large corpus of knowledge ahead of other online and offline encyclopedias. And yes, at times its authority is open to question, but it makes a great place to start researching something.

It seems as though human nature is catching up with the policy unrestricted editing that has made Wikipedia so great. I’m sorry about that.

posted by colin at 7:00 pm  

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Keeping your email secure

Today on Radio New Zealand National I talked about keeping your email secure. Nothing in email can be truly secure because its sent as plaintext across the Net, but there are steps you can take to make it harder for others to read your mail, and to make mail more usable if you travel.

Read on for my speaking notes or listen to the podcast.

posted by colin at 11:50 am  

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

NZ’s outrageous mobile phone pricing

There’s been a lot of complaining about the ongoing costs of the Apple iPhone 3G in New Zealand. The iPhone has a relatively low ‘headline’ price of $199, but only when attached to an expensive calling plan. People are expressing outrage at this.

Let’s get real. Ever since mobile services were launched in this country, networks have subsidised handsets (i.e. telephones) off the monthly line and calling charges. The iPhone is no different. Vodafone has made it clear what it costs to buy the handset without a plan (about $1,000 depending on model) which is up there, but nothing out of the ordinary for a high-end phone.

Staying real, let’s look at the issue facing New Zealanders wanting to make mobile calls. It’s got nothing to do with the cost for the latest bit of shiny kit. It’s got everything to do with the cost of mobile calling in this country. We pay over half as much again as the OECD average. That’s got to be due to the effective monopoly that Telecom and Vodafone have enjoyed until now.

Perhaps the iPhone plan costs announced after the marketing hype while serve as a way of highlighting our expensive calling charges. But it’s those calling charges that are the problem, not the handset cost.

This is supposed to change. Telecom are to launch a network that will compete directly with Voda’s 3G network – you should be able to buy a handset for one network and take it to the other network. And the third market entrant, New Zealand Communications, is *still* waiting in the wings. Please, guys, get on with it!

Adam Gifford has a good take on this over on the Herald.

posted by colin at 7:19 am  

Thursday, July 17, 2008

No radio programme this week

Because I’m on holiday with my family.

I had the best of intentions of writing a crisp, focussed, piece about technology and culture – iPhone pricing in New Zealand, maybe – but I’ve spent time with my nearest and dearest instead. And that’s no bad thing.

See you next week!

posted by colin at 8:16 am  

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Your rights on the Internet at stake

Today on Radio New Zealand National I talked about a treaty called ACTA about which its hard to find any information. ACTA is being negotiated now by countries including New Zealand, and it has the potential to curb people’s privacy and their rights to use the Internet. MED has issued a call for submissions on what New Zealand’s negotiating position should be, although it has delayed answering an OIA request for more information until after the deadline of next Monday.

Does this affect you? Quite possibly it will if some well-funded lobbyists get their way. It’s clear that some want this treaty to impose DMCA-style laws across the world. This would effectively stop innovation in its tracks except when it was done by big companies. And the last New Zealand copyright law change pandered to the interests of the big players at the expense of the rest of us. (Read to the bottom of the linked page.)

Read on for my speaking notes, and for the address to send you emailed submission to. Or, listen to the podcast.

posted by colin at 11:50 am  

Thursday, July 3, 2008

A visit to icann

Today on Radio New Zealand National I talked about my recent visit to an ICANN meeting. ICANN is the body which runs the core names and numbers used on the Internet. Read on for my notes and links or pull the podcast.

posted by colin at 11:51 am  

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Voting machines redux

Here’s a very good blog post by someone who has devoted a lot of time to looking the risks of electronic voting machines. Dan Wallach is responding a report written by the manufacturers, claiming that the machines are secure. This blog entry appears to be based on Wallach’s testimony before the Texas House Committee on Elections, which presumably gets to make decisions about how people vote.

Hat tip to Bruce Schneier’s excellent blog about security for the link.

posted by colin at 7:20 am  

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