We need more knowledgeable, reflective tech journalism in New Zealand

 

Too often an exclusive is nothing more

Tech journalist Bill Bennett wrote recently about how few tech journalists there are working in New Zealand and how even those few don’t write exclusively about New Zealand or for local publications. Like the rest of us, they go where the money is.

You can count the number of full-time technology journalists writing for New Zealand audiences on your fingers. Experienced local journalists are as likely to turn up on overseas publications as on local titles.

It means we no longer tell the best stories about local technology companies. We don’t report the ways New Zealanders deal with technology. A lot gets missed.

Bill scrolls through the main tech publications and tech sections of mainstream media and notes how many people are working at each publication and the pressures they are under – in a nutshell: not many people, they mostly wear two or three hats, the commercial realities are hard, writers are under pressure to produce a lot of content every day and “there’s not much time for reflection”.

This… explains why the IDG sites [Computerworld, for example] are full of overseas filler material. It keeps the pipeline full at no extra cost to the publisher. The stories seem to be picked at random. No thought is given to whether a story serves readers.

Amen to that. I’ve recently unsubscribed to some of these publications for that very reason (along with the fact that there’s a lot of repetition of stories across IDG titles).

Bill’s piece is well worth a read and it chimes with feedback I’ve been hearing for the past few years from developers and tech entrepreneurs in New Zealand. The following sentiments are typical:

You can send a press release in and they just run the whole thing, word for word. It’s bizarre.

Someone needs to do some decent reporting around cloud apps. I get a couple of sentences in to stories and think ‘that’s a press release’ and give up. That’s not what I want to read.

Some of the things they run are just wrong. I don’t mean a bit off, I mean just completely wrong. I know, because I was there.

I don’t mean to bag on tech journalists here, they get some good work done under difficult conditions and many of us remain regular readers of their stories.

But I think Bill makes a very good point when he says that the absence of a thriving tech media is not just bad for readers, it’s bad for the tech industry:

Leaders of New Zealand tech companies need to be aware of what is going on in their industry, not what someone’s promotional output says. They need intelligence, not propaganda…

Because overseas news feeds dominate the agenda in New Zealand, people buying here are more likely to hear about an overseas supplier than a local one. Investors will put their money overseas, skilled workers will look for jobs overseas. This is already causing problems.

The lack of balanced, impartial and thoughtful New Zealand technology journalism creates the impression there’s not much going on here.

But there’s a lot going on here:

I haven’t researched the market and don’t know the size of the opportunity but I hope it’s sufficient to prompt someone to take a tilt at generating fresh, well-rounded tech journalism and making it pay.

Bill hints at having an idea about exactly that in his post. So if you have any thoughts, fire them his way.



 

What’s happening in New Zealand’s Parliament this week: 25 Nov 2014

New Zealand’s Parliament is sitting again this week (Tuesday – Thursday) and will try to make progress on:

The Education Amendment Bill (No. 2)

The Parole (Extended Supervision Orders) Amendment Bill and

The Public Safety (Public Protection Orders) Bill

An urgent debate was held on Tuesday in response to the report of the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security. And, under urgency, the House debated the first reading of the Countering Terrorist Fighters Legislation Bill. The bill has been referred to the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee and will be reported back to the House on December 2.

You’ll see some of what happens in the House on news sites and the TV news. But there’s a lot more you can see for yourself:

 

Watch Parliament live on parliament.nz or on TV at  Freeview 22, Igloo 25, Sky 86, Vodafone 90 (2pm-6pm and 7.30pm-10pm)
See what happened on parliamenttoday.co.nz and watch video highlights on inthehouse.co.nz
Read what happened last time the House was sitting in the Journals of the House
Read a transcript of debates in the Hansard
Find Order Papers, advice on How to Read an Order Paper and subscribe to email alerts on the parliament.nz website
Find Bills on legislation.govt.nz

Parliament.nz has a rundown on what’s happening in the House this week. Parliamenttoday.co.nz is also helpful for a quick read on what’s happening on a given day:

RSS Parliament Today Feed

  • Questions For Oral Answer November 27 November 26, 2014
    QUESTIONS TO MINISTERS 1. Hon ANNETTE KING to the Prime Minister: How many times this year, and on what dates has he had communications with Cameron Slater? 2. JOANNE HAYES to the Minister of Finance: What progress has been made towards meeting the Treasury’s Budget forecasts for job growth in the economy over recent years? […]
  • Match-Fixing Bill November 26, 2014
    Match-fixing will be debate in Parliament this afternoon. After Question Time, MPs are scheduled to first appoint members to the Parliamentary Service Commission in a motion without debate. This will be followed by the second reading of the Crimes (Match-fixing) Amendment Bill and the committee stage of the Education Amendment Bill (No 2). ** ParliamentToday.co.nz […]
  • House Rises After Progress On Second Readings November 25, 2014
    The House rose at 10pm interrupting the second reading debate of the Immigration Amendment Bill (No 2). Earlier the Commerce (Cartels and Other Matters) Amendment Bill completed its second reading on a voice vote and the Animal Welfare Amendment Bill completed its second reading by 107 to 14 with the Greens opposed. ** ParliamentToday.co.nz is […]

Later, you’ll find a brief summary of progress made on the day’s business on parliament.nz and another on Parliamenttoday.co.nz, who also have a useful 5-minute podcast on the day’s events.

Below is the Order Paper (a kind of rolling agenda) for Wednesday 26 November 2014.

Order Paper for Tuesday 25 November 2014.

 


 

Award for OIA site, Reprioritized news, journos basically like the job, NZME delays float

Site that helps with OIA requests among 2014 NZ Open Source Awards winners
National Business Review

The Open Source Software Project award was won by fyi.org.nz, an open source tool for submitting and sharing requests under the Official Information Act. The site has already processed 1500 requests, and now serves over 5000 unique visitors a month, contributing to transparency and accountability of our government. Other finalists in this category were Koha and Loomio.

Reprioritized news service prepares to launch with focus on global big-issue stories with suggestions for how readers can help

Reprioritized is a curated list of articles presenting useful and actionable information focusing on the following fundamental issues facing humanity:

  • challenges to our environment (particularly climate change)
  • childhood development and education
  • eliminating poverty

Reprioritized aims to break out of western mainstream media’s information bubble by drawing from sources in non-English speaking countries as much as possible.

Magazine readership and circ: weeklies continue to burn, but some good news in other categories
Damien Venuto | StopPress

In continuing an ongoing trend, the latest figures from Nielsen again hit the weekly publications the hardest, with each of the publications surveyed suffering significant year-on-year dips in readership.

Survey of New Zealand journalists: They enjoy the job, despite everything
Dr Grant Hannis, Dr James Hollings, Dr Karl Pajo, A/Prof Geoff Lealand

This article reports the results of a survey of New Zealand full-time journalists. The workforce is relatively young, primarily of European ethnicity, and receives average pay. Although the workforce is predominately female, men outnumber women in senior management. New media is increasing in importance, but conventional media still employs three-quarters of journalists. Although respondents believed ethics was an important element of the job, they acknowledged there were times when controversial methods were justified… Most respondents said they became journalists because they enjoyed writing, meeting people and making a difference.

Fairfax NZ has no paywall plans for news
stuff.co.nz | Tom Pullar-Streckar

Fairfax Media has no plans to put general news on Stuff behind a paywall but may charge for some specialist content, New Zealand chief executive Simon Tong says… While Fairfax needed people to “pay for content that they value”, paywalls typically required people pay before they had seen what was on offer, and there were many other sources of content people could go to, he said.

Fairfax sold an app that provided access to articles from Cuisine and could put business news behind a paywall, he said. “In business, if we have a really strong proposition there might be something there, but we have got to be cognisant that the majority of people will say ‘I can get my daily news anywhere I like’,” he said.

“Our general approach [will be] to invite people in and let them have a look around and they can make their own decisions as to what they want to pay for.

“I think personally there is a risk in saying to people ‘there is a toll to come in the door’.”

NZ Music SalesInfographic: Kiwi musicians now make more revenue from digital than physical sales
StopPress

According to data released by Recorded Music NZ, Kiwi musicians made more money from digital album sales than physical records for the first time in 2013, and, if numbers are anything to go by, this trend is set to continue over the next few years.

Between 2012 and 2013 the proportion of revenue contributed by streaming tripled from three to nine percent, and Damian Vaughn, the chief executive of Recorded Music NZ, says this upward trajectory isn’t slowing.

“I looked at the figures this morning, and we’re probably tracking around 20 to 25 percent this year, which just shows the astronomical growth of streaming services in this country and how important it is for our industry,” he says.

APN delays NZ float
stuff.co.nz | Tom Pullar-Streckar

APN News & Media has indicated it will not float its New Zealand media business this year but has denied it has shelved the possible float entirely.

The Australian publisher issued a stockmarket statement this afternoon addressing what it said was “incorrect media speculation” that the partial float of its New Zealand business, NZME, had been cancelled.

APN stands by NZ newspaper titles despite cutting their value by $54m
Radio NZ

APN News and Media is backing its New Zealand newspaper titles, despite cutting their value by a further $54 million.

The company has revealed the drop as its tests the market for floating its re-branded New Zealand arm, NZME, which includes the New Zealand Herald and a network of commercial radio stations.


Matt’s guides to Google Analytics and the value of informative file names

Matt Lane has done a nice job explaining how Google analytics works in two nicely illustrated posts over on Medium. I particularly like the way he explains (and shows) what the snippets of code look like and how and where to add functionality.

The first piece, An Idiot’s Guide to Google Analytics, looks at the basics, starting with images of the source code for a webpage without tracking code and with tracking code.

The second, Supercharge your Google Analytics, walks you through how to get more information out of analytics, including demographics, filtered views, time-spent-on-site calculations, and tracking search, downloads and external links.

Screengrab of tips on useful sample size

I want to endorse Matt’s advice on giving the views you create in Google Analytics informative names – so that anyone in your organisation can see the name and understand what the view is going to show them.

 

Examples of well-named files

Giving files, images, folders, views – anything you create – useful names is the best of habits to get into. The small amount of extra time you take to give your file a useful name (that you or anyone else will understand today, next month or a year from now) will spare you hours and hours of time and frustration later.

Matt gives a couple of examples of well-named views:

www.domain.com (UNFILTERED)

www.domain.com (EXCL. <orgX> and <orgY>)

I like the tips offered by the people over at ustwo on naming systems for web design/development workflows. In their fantastic Pixel Perfect Precision design guide they suggest the following system for naming design components:

A good approach is to base your naming on a hierarchical system, which starts off with a broad identification of the component and then progressively adds more information. So you might end up with a structure like this:

type_location_identifier_state

The type refers to the category the component belongs to, such as:

bg (background)

btn (button)

 icn (icon)

img (image)

The next step is to add the screen or location where this component appears:

bg_help

btn_home

Then add the unique identifier, as an example, buttons on the home screen which create and delete documents would be called:

btn_home_new

btn_home_delete

Finally, if the component has multiple states then add them to the end:

btn_home_new_default

btn_home_new_highlighted

 

Naming System Visualisation

Designer Kerem Suer has shared a naming convention for Photoshop files (and their various iterations) on Dribbble:

filename platform direction iteration

For example:

ContactMob1a.psd

You’ll see other people’s suggestions in the comments on Suer’s piece, and some more here.

Kerems File Naming Convention

Jill Duffy makes some good points about file names on PCMag. She says file names need to be:

  • unique
  • indicative of what the file contains
  • in line with how your business thinks about information
  • scannable (with the human eye) according to how you and your employees find information
  • naturally ordered alphabetically
  • consistent!

Just think of how much more productive you and your colleagues could be if you knew with high certainty what each file contained before you opened it.

She gives the following examples:

date code context description

For example, for a photo of a market in Montreal taken in September 2010:

1009bg_montreal_market.jpg

If there are lots of market images she’ll add more detail to the name:

1009bg_mnrl_mrkt_peppers01.jpg (image of peppers taken in market in Montreal in September 2010)

Righto. That’ll do for now.


 

I voted for Fairy Tern as New Zealand seabird of the year

I voted for the Fairy Tern as New Zealand seabird of the year. You?

The fairy tern is New Zealand’s most endangered bird – only around 10 breeding pairs survive. Not surprising, given they nest in small depressions on sandy beaches. Forest & Bird is working to save the fairy tern in several ways, including by using decoys to lure adult fairy terns to new, safer nesting sites. You can do your bit by not driving on the beach. – See more at: http://www.birdoftheyear.org.nz/#sthash.HJuxKIgx.dpuf

Sea Birds