The Oxford Internet Institute publishes the map under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.
I suck at local elections. They creep up on me. One minute I’m ‘so going to do some research on candidates and be an informed voter this year’ and the next there are thickets of hoardings around town, an unopened orange envelope on my kitchen counter, and only a few days left to vote.
Which wouldn’t be so bad, except that voting in local body elections is kinda complicated.
You can’t just rock up and wing it on the day like you can with a general election where, when all’s said and done, all you have to do is tick two boxes – one for a party, one for a candidate.
In a local election you have to do homework. Because not only do you tick a box for mayor, there are also boxes for councillors, community board members, regional councillors and sometimes licensing trusts and other organisations. Then you’re asked to rank a dozen or so folk running for district health board.
Which would be fine, except I don’t know who any of them are. They are not people I come across regularly on Twitter or Facebook or mailing lists or even in the news. I’m relatively new to the area and I’ve never met any of them in person.
There are no burning issues on the homefront (our road’s in reasonable nick, the rubbish gets picked up each week and we recently got a free tree trim to keep our hedge clear of the power lines) to push me one way or another.
So with a few days to go I’m studying the pamphlet that came in the orange envelope, which turns out to have the same two- or three-paragraph blurb about each candidate as the vote.co.nz website. (vote.co.nz now directing to: https://www.solgm.org.nz/Resources/Elections)
The website, which I think is great, lets you ask questions of candidates, but few of us have and even fewer have answered them. I googled a bit too, and had a quick scan of news sites.
Not a lot to go on, really.
Nonetheless, working on the assumption that voting on light research is better than not voting at all, I tick boxes, rank candidates, and make the mailing deadline by the skin of my teeth.
Sum total of my contribution to local democracy: a few hours.
But as it turns out, that’s a few hours more than a lot of other people.
Voter turnout was really low this year (2013): only about 40% of those eligible voted. That compares to a previous low of 44% in 2007, and to general elections where the turnout is much higher – 73% voted in the 2011 general election.
The low turnout surprised Local Government NZ president and Hastings mayor Lawrence Yule, according to NZ Herald. Yule said “it was time to look at all the options, although he did not support compulsory voting. He believed a shorter voting period and the use of ballot boxes and online voting rather than postal voting would help”.
Commentator David Farrar noted there was a general downward trend in voter participation worldwide and said he supports an online voting trial: “I think each year it’s going to get much worse with postal voting because the postal system is becoming less relevant.” Commentator Bryce Edwards told Stuff he thought it had been a “business as usual election” with “really not much on the line and very little to inspire everyone”.
The Government is working on a trial of online voting in 2016 and Local Government Minister Chris Tremain has said he will “ask the working group to consider whether it could be trialled earlier so it could be offered across the country”.
I’m not sure about that. But however we go about casting a ballot, I’ve still got to find a way to get to know the 30+ people whose names will appear on my ballot paper.
Better still, those 30+ people might want to find a way to get to know me – along with a bunch of other New Zealanders who currently feel out of the loop. Surveys undertaken by Local Government NZ found that lack of information was one of the main reasons for not voting:
• not enough information about the candidates – 31 per cent
• not interested – 14 per cent (One strain of thought is that since we pay way less tax to local authorities than we do to the national government, we’re less worried about what they’re up to)
• too busy – 12 per cent
• forgot/left it too late – 24 per cent
Will I do better next time? Who knows. But I might try these things:
- Follow councils and councillors on Facebook and Twitter and Google Alerts so I’m drip-fed information through the year. Some of it will sink in
- Attend a council meeting or two or watch the webcam to get a feel for how these folks work together
- Try to meet some councillors in person or at least see them in the flesh somewhere to get a sense of them as people
- Read the pre-election report ahead of the next election
- Ask/follow questions on vote.co.nz
Can councillors help me out? Yes, I think so. By doing these things:
- Follow me back on Facebook and Twitter and wherever else
- Share what you’re reading. You must read some interesting stuff – about the environment, urban planning, infrastructure, managing people or workflows or whatever. Share it. You could be a useful source of information to me
- Routinely post the nuts and bolts – remind me when the next meeting is, post a link to the agenda, the minutes, your schedule for the week – so I can slowly but surely learn the week-to-week workings of local government
- Go to events you wouldn’t normally go to. Maybe I’ll run into you one day
- Write more about what you believe in next time you’re standing, and answer the questions on vote.co.nz
Scott Adams, creator of the wonderful Dilbert cartoons, talks to the Wall Street Journal about his new book How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life.
He says forget about passion (you’ll be plenty passionate once your business is working well) and don’t worry about goals (they can be short-sighted). What you want is a system.
Just after college, I took my first airplane trip, destination California, in search of a job. I was seated next to a businessman who was probably in his early 60s. I suppose I looked like an odd duck with my serious demeanor, bad haircut and cheap suit, clearly out of my element. I asked what he did for a living, and he told me he was the CEO of a company that made screws. He offered me some career advice. He said that every time he got a new job, he immediately started looking for a better one. For him, job seeking was not something one did when necessary. It was a continuing process.
This makes perfect sense if you do the math. Chances are that the best job for you won’t become available at precisely the time you declare yourself ready. Your best bet, he explained, was to always be looking for a better deal. The better deal has its own schedule. I believe the way he explained it is that your job is not your job; your job is to find a better job.
This was my first exposure to the idea that one should have a system instead of a goal. The system was to continually look for better options.
Nice. New Zealand writer Katherine Mansfield (1888-1923) turned up in a Google Doodle on her 128th birthday.
The Parliamentary Library became a welcome retreat from what she regarded as the crass colonial life of Wellington. She was able to gain access to the library because of the political connections of her father, Harold Beauchamp, who was a personal friend of Premier Richard John Seddon and also had connections with the Chief Librarian, Charles Wilson.
If you’re looking for an explanation of how Bitcoin works, this video might help. It filled in a few gaps for me.
Video runtime is 22:28. H/T Fred Wilson.
“Scientists at Harvard, Pittsburgh and Illinois are developing materials that will “exhibit behavior that changes over time,” writes Quartz.
At the most basic level, the objects simply change shape over time, as outlined by MIT’s Skylar Tibbits. Along with Stratasys, a leading maker of 3D printers, he is experimenting with materials that can assemble themselves once they’re printed out. All it takes is some energy-providing external stimulus such as water, heat or movement.
In the future, that could mean water pipes that don’t break in the winter, self-repairing machines or even furniture that assembles itself.
Here’s Skylar Tibbits giving a TED talk on 4D printing. (Runs 8:23)
And here’s architect Xavier De Kestelier talking about designing self-assembling buildings for space.
How will we live elsewhere in the galaxy? On Earth, natural resources for creating structures are abundant, but sending these materials up with us to the Moon or Mars is clunky and cost-prohibitive. Enter architect Xavier De Kestelier, who has a radical plan to use robots and space dust to 3D print our interplanetary homes. Learn more about the emerging field of space architecture with this fascinating talk about the (potentially) not-too-distant future.
New Zealand has 78 local authorities, with around 1600 elected members: mayors, regional council chairs, councillors, local board members and community board members.
- 11 regional councils
- 61 territorial authorities – 11 are city councils and 50 are district councils
- Six unitary councils – which are territorial authorities with regional council responsibilities
The Local Government New Zealand website has a wealth of information about local authorities and how they work, including maps such as the ones here:
Quartz’s Christopher Mims has written a piece about Blippex, a search engine which weights results based on how long people spend on a site and how many times its users have visited (as distinct from Google’s PageRank, which weights more on how many other pages on the web link to it).
Blippex’s algorithm, called DwellRank, decides relevance based on how long users spend on a site and how many times Blippex users have visited it. Researchers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst have, independently of the Blippex team, established that the amount of time someone spends on a web page or document is, not surprisingly, a pretty good measure of how important and relevant it is (pdf).
The consequence of this is that the only pages in Blippex’s search index are those its own users have visited. It has only two million pages, compared to the tens of billions of pages and trillions of links that have been indexed by Google. (There are many more links than pages on the web because most are spam, duplicates, or unhelpfully different from one another.)
The result is a search directory that’s currently only as good as the (mostly tech-focused) people who are early adopters of new web services. That means it’s great for things related to computer programming, pretty good for recent events, and nearly useless for more obscure search terms.
A couple of interesting notes in Sarah Marshall’s journalism.co.uk coverage of the 2013 Mobile Media Strategies conference in London. She quotes Chris Duncan, customer sales director at News UK, which owns The Sun and The Times. He said:
- 67 per cent of sales completed on mobile devices, with a 50:50 split between those signing up on a smartphone and those using a tablet
- “Actively encourage people to use as many devices as possible… The more devices people use, the less likely they are to churn.”
- Track customer engagement to spot if readers are likely to cancel a subscription. If they see dwell time reducing, “they are at risk of churn”.
- Newsletter bulletins sent by email result in a spike in traffic from mobile.
Read the rest of Sarah’s piece here.