Last week of April I got a phone call from Snapper. They were getting ready to deliver a New Zealand first technology in partnership with 2degrees, a NFC-based mobile payment solution with practical use: Snapper on your smartphone, branded 2degrees Touch2Pay, and wanted to reach the Geekzone community to show this new way of paying for things.
Wellingtonians in general have embraced Snapper with impressive numbers (although Snapper is not limited to Wellington only). Over 370,000 Snapper cards have been issued, generating more than 100 million transactions across over 1000 buses, 3000 taxis, and over 500 retailers in New Zealand.
In just under a week we contacted Geekzone users in Wellington inviting them to a mystery Q&A event. We had a great response and the 80 seats available were filled very fast. On the day we had 90% presence and people enjoyed drinks and nibbles while listening to Snapper explaining why they decided to do it and what steps were taken to design the Android app, LG told the audience the dirty tech bits behind the NFC technology and 2degrees showed how all this integrated into the mobile network (including SIM authentication/authorisation).
We also had a couple of LG Android smartphones ready to go with some preloaded credit to giveaway.
In the few days leading to the event we started a discussion where I asked people what they thought would be announced. That discussion ended up having 200 replies with 15,000 views . While some correctly guessed a NFC-based mobile payment solution, others provided great feedback with their wishful thinking on new products/services. I was told by 2degrees, LG and Snapper they were following the discussion closely. We now closed that discussion and opened a new one to discuss the Touch2Pay service.
I wish other tech companies in New Zealand reached out to our community like Snapper, 2degrees and LG did. It was fun and we had high attendance of interested people... You know how to contact me!
More and more we see blog posts and Twitter links to "infographics", those snippets of information put together by a hipster graphic designer. And that was ok and fun, until the infographics started being
hijacked created by spammers.
You just have to get a small audience to soon be contacted by someone offering you "this infographic that will be interesting to your readers", in exchange of a link.
Even large blogs fall for that, as seen on Fast Company, which posted an infographic from a web site called "Online Graduate Programs" (intentionally not linking). Their blog post post started pointing out something that we already knew from way back, when a sponsored post appeared on RWW in February 2011 with the title "The cost of slow sites: visitors, Revenue and Google Rankings".
A quick look around "Online Graduate Programs" doesn't inspire me much confidence - even the topic chosen for the infographic is a bit distant from the site's topic.
Basically spammers found out that "new media" love page views. Creating infographics with rehashed information collected from different sources, regardless of how current it is, and spamming blog owners to get those published is a cheap way of getting an audience that will click through to their sites.
Yes, I know. Hard to put this concept in some people's heads. But yes, it is spam.
This is evil. A business trying to poach customers by accessing data from a competitor, and cold calling - even saying they are working with said competitor?
Since October, Google's GKBO appears to have been systematically accessing Mocality's database and attempting to sell their competing product to our business owners. They have been telling untruths about their relationship with us, and about our business practices, in order to do so. As of January 11th, nearly 30% of our database has apparently been contacted.
Furthermore, they now seem to have outsourced this operation from Kenya to India.
When we started this investigation, I thought that we'd catch a rogue call-centre employee, point out to Google that they were violating our Terms and conditions (sections 9.12 and 9.17, amongst others), someone would get a slap on the wrist, and life would continue.
I did not expect to find a human-powered, systematic, months-long, fraudulent (falsely claiming to be collaborating with us, and worse) attempt to undermine our business, being perpetrated from call centres on 2 continents.
Very bad. Unethical even. And by Google no less.
Now, it' should be obvious this is not how some companies conduct business, but most likely the actions of a rogue overachiever. I hope this person gets a well deserved boot but surely there would be controls. Someone should know what was going on. Where does the bucket stops?
UPDATE: according to The Guardian, Google admits having accessed Kenyan rival's database and apologises.
Just received this press release today, and it affects New Zealand-based media companies in general and bloggers in particular. I strongly suggest you go to the Law Commission website, download the document Review of Regulatory Gaps and the New Media and submit your comments:
THE NEWS MEDIA MEETS 'NEW MEDIA': RIGHTS, RESPONSIBILITIES AND REGULATION IN THE DIGITAL AGE
The Law Commission is seeking New Zealanders' views on the role of the news media in society and the standards to which they should be held to account.
In its latest Issues Paper, The News Media Meets 'New Media': rights, responsibilities and regulation in the digital age, the Law Commission puts forward a number of preliminary proposals for reforming the regulatory environment in which the news media operate.
It also asks whether the legal rights and responsibilities which have traditionally applied to news media should be extended to some new media publishers, such as current affairs bloggers and web-only news sites. [my emphasis]
Commissioner John Burrows said the news media, like every institution, have been profoundly affected by the internet. They no longer have a monopoly on the generation and dissemination of news.
"This Issues Paper looks at what distinguishes this special class of publisher called the 'news media' from other types of communicators.
"It asks whether, and how, the news media should be regulated in this digital world in which the traditional boundaries between print and broadcasting are dissolving, and where anyone can break news and comment on public affairs."
The Commission's preliminary proposal is to replace the Broadcasting Standards Authority, which currently regulates all traditional broadcasters, and the industry-based Press Council, which regulates print media, with a new converged news media regulator that would be independent of both the Government and the news media.
The Commission is suggesting the new independent regulator could extend its jurisdiction to any new digital publishers, such as bloggers or news websites, who wished to access the legal privileges and exemptions currently reserved for traditional news media organisations.
"The regulator we are proposing would have no impact on citizens exercising their free speech rights on the internet. It would only apply to those who wished to be classified as 'news media' for the purposes of the law," said the project's lead Commissioner, Professor John Burrows.
Professor Burrows said the Commission was also asked to look at a second question: whether the laws which deal with crimes such as harassment, intimidation, defamation, and breach of privacy are fit for purpose in the digital age. This inquiry extends beyond the news media to all forms of communication.
"Our preliminary consultation with groups such as NetSafe indicates that alongside the positive impacts of the internet there is always the potential for humans to abuse this extraordinary new technology. Our report contains many examples of how these abuses can result in serious harm."
The Commission is seeking public feedback on a proposal to establish a special Communications Tribunal, that would operate at a lower level than the courts, but which would be able to grant a range of remedies including, for example, take down orders, when content clearly breached the law and could cause serious harm.
"NetSafe tells us that many people come to them feeling defeated and powerless after attempting to have seriously offensive or damaging material taken down. What is needed is a body capable of taking swift and proportionate action when there has been a clear breach of the law."
The Commission is also proposing amendments to a number of statutes, including the Harassment Act, the Telecommunications Act and the Human Rights Act , to ensure provisions designed to prevent serious speech abuses are capable of being applied in the digital era.
It is also considering recommending making it an offence to incite someone to commit suicide, irrespective of whether or not they do so, or attempt to do so, and an offence to impersonate someone with malicious intent.
"We hope this paper, and the preliminary proposals it makes for reform, will be widely debated in New Zealand - in both traditional and new media fora. The issues it grapples with are vital to the health of our democracy."
Submissions on the paper can be made until 12 March, 2012. The Commission will also be hosting online forums to debate its proposals in February 2012.
- What is Igloo?
Igloo comes with an easy-to-install set top box with no long term contracts and no termination fees! You pay for what you want to watch when you want to watch it. This is pre-pay TV!
Igloo offers a great range of free to air channels and pay television channels, plus over a 1,000 pay-on-demand titles to choose from and live pay-per-view sporting events too.
Even if you don’t buy the 11 channel pack you can still use your Igloo set top box to watch all of the free to air channels, and you can still purchase any of the great live pay-per-view sporting events and/or rent any of the 1,000 plus video-on-demand films and TV episodes. That’s just great flexibility.
- Why do we need another TV service?
Kiwis want an option between SKY and free to air television – that’s exactly what Igloo is. New Zealanders told us that – as long as it’s flexible and on their terms – there is a market and there is an opportunity in the 50% of households that don’t currently subscribe to pay TV.
Kiwis want a lower price point, more flexibility, and they want choice in the form of additional ‘quality content' to the free to air channels that they currently receive. We think that Igloo meets all those needs head on.
Igloo is aimed at people for whom TV viewing is occasion-based; they don’t want a long term contract. Consumer research showed us that people want flexibility and choice without the big price tag. That’s a perfect description of Igloo.
For around $25 Kiwis can receive 11 channels of great content for 30 days on top of all free to air channels (in Hi Definition when available).
There is also access to a video-on-demand library of more than 1,000 titles to rent from and great live pay-per-view sporting events.
The Igloo box also comes with live pause, a handy home media player and so much more.
This is really the simplest, most flexible, no termination fees, pre-pay model.
- How many channels?
Our 11 channels are:
- BBC World News
- BBC Knowledge
- MTV Hits
- National Geographic Channel
- Animal Planet
- Comedy Central
- Food TV
- TVNZ Heartland
- Will you release more channels in the future?
Flexibility and simplicity came back time and time again in our consumer research. And we modelled Igloo on these consumer insights. We believe Igloo is exactly what Kiwis want.
- Where can I buy it?
- 8. How complicated is installation?
You should not need a technician but if you do we are happy to help.
We have put a lot of research into ensuring that Joe Public can pull it out of the box and hit play.
- And for those that fail?
And if they can’t nail down the issues then people have the flexibility to call in a third party to help them with the installation.
At launch we will have an Auckland-based customer support team ready to take calls.
- Any video on demand?
- How much to rent an On Demand title for a 48 hour period?
- Can I purchase sports?
- Will the film download to my hard drive like MYSKY?
After purchasing a film you will have 48 hours to watch it as many times as you wish.
- Can I live pause?
A USB stick allows you to live pause and also to buffer for up to four hours depending on the size of your USB stick.
- Will the system have parental locks on it to prevent children seeing inappropriate films?
- 16. Will streaming eat into my datacap?
However, to put that in perspective, a full feature film is only 2GB and, according to our research, most Kiwis have a datacap of at least 20GB per month.
- If my internet connection drops out will I lose the film?
You have 48 hours to watch the programme as many times as you want.
- Will free to air channels be available?
- Will there be an alert function where you can book programmes and the EPG will tell you when they are about to start?
- How many free to air channels will you offer?
- Will you add more pay channels in the future?
Dates are not locked in yet, but it will be somewhere around February/March 2012. We are now looking for drinks sponsors, and prize donors. Check out 2011's sponsors and 2010's list.
This year I am thinking of getting a little bigger, with 80 people attending in Auckland, 80 people in Wellington and 60 people in Christchurch. I hope we have a great event in Christchurch, since last year's had to be cancelled after the terrible earthquake.
As usual these will be open to Geekzone users only, over 18 years old (because the beer rolls free until our bar tab is gone). Similarly to last year's we will be charging a $5 booking fee. That's because we pay the venues based on number of people booked, and in previous events we found out there's a large number of people who booked and didn't show up, so we had to pay for them anyway.
Booking will again be staggered: Geekzone subscribers will receive the link first, followed by other users a day later. Users can buy an extra ticket for guests, at full price.
Keep an eye on this discussion for updated information. We will send email notifications to everyone who replied there before the registrations open.
For a few years now we have been running a blog platform on Geekzone, for some of our trusted users. The standard URL is www.geekzone.co.nz/<username>. Since the beginning I have had freitasm.com redirecting to my to my Geekzone blog. Also for years technology commentator and journalist Juha Saarinen has hosted his blog on Geekzone, and asked for it to allow third party domains.
Today I put a a few hours into it, and the result is out: The Geekzone blog platform now supports third party domain names.
This is not a world changing thing, I know. I mean some people could just as easily go and get a hosted Wordpress account. But it was a good hacking exercise to port the existing platform to a dynamic one. It also gives us the chance of creating sponsored blogs with vanity URLs (we previously ran www.geekzone.co.nz/vs2008, www.geekzone.co.nz/myfreeviewhdreview, www.geekzone.co.nz/TelecomTech and soon will start www.geekzone.co.nz/visualstudio). And any new feature we put in are automatically available to every blog at the same time. And that's geeky and cool.
(Diarist is a metaweblog app for Windows Phone, developed by Kev Daly).
With time and the help of an entire community, in special our volunteer moderators, Geekzone managed to capture a good audience in New Zealand and overseas. Numbers continue to go up, and discussions in our forums continue to attract hundreds of thousands of visitors every month. Those visitors come mainly from New Zealand, but also from U.S., Canada, Australia, the UK and smaller numbers from other countries.
I managed to make new friendships that span the globe. People who I've met over the years in our pizza evenings, coffee meetings and conferences everywhere.
When I saw we were approaching 500,000 replies in our forums, I contacted some of the local telco/tech companies and passed the hat around, asking for some prizes to distribute. The response was really good as you can see below
I intentionally did not announce there would be prizes, because we wanted some genuine post to win. Also we decided to give some "consolation" prizes to people who got close to 500,000 but not quite. So here are the winners and prize list!
- sultanoswing (500,00th - 1) will receive a Nokia 6700c from TelstraClear
- vinnieg (500,00th + 1) will receive a HTC Wildfire S from Telecom New Zealand
- lokhor (500,000th) will receive the following:
- HP Envy 100 printer/scanner courtesy of HP New Zealand
- MSDN Premium subscription courtesy of Microsoft New Zealand
- N300 Wireless Dual Band ADSL2+ Modem Router courtesy of NETGEAR
- WN2000RPT Universal WiFi Range Extender with 4 Ports courtesy of NETGEAR
- HTC Sensation courtesy of Telecom New Zealand
- Apple iPad courtesy of TelstraClear