Saint Shenanigans


I was born a Protestant. I will more than likely die one, too. Intense excavation into family history has shown me that my genes are Protestant for at least 8 generations on both sides. Baptised and confirmed a Lutheran, I was taught a thing or two about the most successful (not the first) split from the Catholic Church by Martin Luther.

During public school mandated “religious education”, I was taught by the local Catholic Priest. He seemed nice enough; kindly taking us through the New Testament book Romans. It took many years for me to realise that this was an attempt at turning me from my heretic ways to the true canon. If I recall, he didn’t even use the Revised Standard Version of the Bible. Yes, Peter and Paul: the fathers of the catholic church.

After travelling to Europe in 1997 and 2004, I saw enough Saints’ relics: shrunken heads, fingers, toenails and shrouds to last me a lifetime. Large cathedrals raised in the name of the Virgin or some Saint across the cities of Europe show the folly of man, attempting to reach for terrestrial god status. The veneration of Saints and other popery not only rubs me the wrong way: I am sure my ancestors turn in their collective graves.

So as Mary MacKillop has moved through the man-made process of canonisation within the Catholic Church, my genes quiver.

We hear that the church wants old and young to travel to Rome to witness the canonisation ceremony. That will fill the coffers of the Romans.

I also heard many discussions on the “brand” of Mary MacKillop being valuable. Like a product. Even our ABC both on radio and TV seems to have caught the “Mary MacKillop” fever. So much for editorial independence.

And that is exactly what this canonisation is about. Money. Never get in the way of a large corporation and money.

Luckily the Catholics re-admitted her to the church. Otherwise they would have missed out on their cash.

This tradition and hunger for money is not new. Sainthood and pilgrimages have created many a city in the world as supplicant masses crawl on their knees to assuage their mortal sins. Paying money for Indulgences, as done in the Middle Ages, and more recently with special visits to random virgin sightings.

Don’t get me wrong: I am not anti-personal faith.

But please separate Mammon from Mary. She was, and I highlight was, just a notable Australian woman who did more for the downtrodden than any group of Cardinals, Abbotts or Bishops ever did. And I would argue, ever will.

Speed, Quality, Cheap. Pick any Two.

The Hon. Peter Garrett, member of Midnight Oil and member for Kingsford-Smith is presently under-the-gun over the management of the Energy Efficient Homes Package.

It seems out of the old adage: speed, quality, cheap: pick any two that the department chose just speed.

From ABC1’s Q & A last night, members of both sides of the house marked Peter Garrett as an honourable and a decent man. His experience leading environmental lobby groups, and leading a successful band shows he can manage people. But Management in a Ministerial sense is way more complex.

Evidently, his department commissioned a legal risk assessment of the program in February 2009. This document was not seen by Mr. Garrett until early this year.

My speculation is:

  • Mr. Rudd & Mr. Swan design a large program to inject money into the economy in light of the Global Financial Crisis. Getting this cash into the economy quickly is paramount.
  • Based on a program created by the previous Government, it was seen as an easy mechanism to gain green credentials and inject fiscal stimulus.
  • Someone in the Department engages an external party to detail any risks. In large projects, there are always risks. Mitigating risk is a part of sound project management. Not all problems can be solved nor foreseen: but those that are foreseen must be managed.
  • Remember: timing is everything. Speed, speed, speed. The Department cannot wait months to create a viable infrastructure to manage all the risks, and as political pressure is on to spread the money out: nothing gets in the way of speed.
  • Conversations between Ministers is all positive and about the velocity of the program;
  • the Department keeps their risk assessment information to lower levels, in an effort to protect their Minister, the program and potentially their job.
  • The Minister doesn’t want to hear or see bad news: even worse, pass this up the chain to the notorious micro manager Rudd.

The causes for this breakdown potentially are:

  • An environment where negatives and risks are seen as bad PR. Bad messaging for the nightly news
  • An environment where speed is critical. Now, now now rather than considered policy execution
  • An environment where people fear raising bad news

Just “firing” the Minister is not going to solve the problem. Although Mr Rudd will probably reach a point where he jettisons Mr Garrett. That will be sad.

Matt Bai, US Political Blogger in Australia


Join Government, business leaders and political bloggers for Australia’s inaugural Politics & Technology Forum, brought to you by Microsoft Australia.

Quick details: Date: 25th June 2008, Time: morning, Location: Hyatt, Canberra

For the first Forum, Microsoft is hosting keynote speaker Matt Bai, author and political writer for New York Times magazine. Matt will address the rise of political movements in the internet age, with a focus on new forms of Information Technology and how they fashion or replicate the political debate and trends.

In the midst of the neverending US Presidential Primary Season, and just prior to the Party Conventions: Matt visits Australia and provides a vision of the future of politics in the age of Hyperconnection.

Seats are complimentary and strictly limited. To reserve your place, RSVP by 11 June 2008 and quote event ticket code‘BAI’.

Decimation of the Smart One Thousand

Before you get all concerned about the word ‘decimation’, read the etymology.

OK, now we see we are getting 10 groups of 100 people thinking (thanks for correcting my spelling, Uncle Mike) deeply about topics important to the future of Australia in a radio-sound-byte year (why not 2022. Nah, 2020 just sounds better)

On the internet side of this weekend in Canberra I’d like vote up six independent, smart thought leaders in the future of technology space. Cameron Reilly, Stilgherrian, Mark Pesce, Peter Black ,Laurel Papworth, Duncan Riley

Fibre to the Dunny


(original image)

With Australian Politicians using “Fibre to the Node” and “Fibre to the Home” as election ploys, I think It’s Time to raise the issue to a new level:

Fibre to the Dunny.

We should not rest until every Dunny in Australia has Fibre. Face it, that’s where the best browsing occurs.

Also, with Australia’s rising colorectal cancer, an increase in our fibre diet would also help future generations.

Australian Federal Police: Cost of Nigerian Scams

134 out of 139 people in Queensland contacted by Australian Federal Police have fallen for Nigerian Scams. Lottery scams.

They sent a little more than $18 million dollars to Nigeria. That is $135,000 per person.

Accountant, Lawyers, Doctors. Not people you would expect to fall for “get-rich-quick” schemes. I hope their tax, law and medical expertise is scientifically informed!

Keys, email management. Know who is sending you email.

(from Sky News, 2:15pm)

My comment: wisdom from my Dad: if something sounds too good to be true, ignore it.

Follow the Eyeballs. And the Money.

Breakfast Bytes

At the Hill and KnowltonSurviving and thriving in the next decade – Technology PublishingBreakfast Bytes this morning, a group of eminent panelists in picture above, from the left:

  • James Tuckerman – Publishing Editor, AntHill. New relatively magazine about ideas, money and skills. Previously more print than online, but adding new online projects later in 2007.
  • Heather Craven – Director of Marketing & Communications, Circulations Audit Board,
    Australian Circulation Bureau. Sub-committee researching digital.
  • Brian Haverty – Editorial Director, CNET Networks Australia : Readers first, video and text style publishing.
  • Tony Sarno – Editor, APC. Adding new online APC projects later in 2007.
  • Peter Roberts – Managing Editor, BRW. Part of the Fairfax group, around since 1857. Noted that relaunched this week, and closed content model AFR Access continues.
  • Andrew Kirk, Hill and Knowlton: Chair

The theme from the morning’s panel and Q&A is that “there will be a mixture of online and print” and that “online and print” readers are treated as different readers by the big-names. My perspective as a corporate online/citizen journalist is slightly different.

Like the quintessential investigative journalists: Woodward and Bernstein learnt: follow the money. In the above listing of panelists, notice where their stated investment is going. It’s online.

From a traditional publisher’s perspective, the business is about employing journalists to gather hidden facts, connect, analyse and write stories. People buy the paper (atoms) to read the stories and maybe their eyeballs will stray onto an advertisement. The marketing groups of companies buy these positions on the paper in the hope that the right eyeballs are enthralled by the product and/or service – and buy the product. The core of a publisher’s job is managing the compelling content such that a specific audience is created that advertisers value.

The web is no different, except that anyone can be a publisher, and outsource the revenue side (advertising) to Microsoft or Google. Large publishers, such as Fairfax, are unhappy that their expensive infrastructure is subverted online: Peter Roberts mentioned twice that Google made $200 million in Australia without investing in the content-side.

Peter Roberts also commented on one of his competitors, Alan Kohler’s Eureka Report, having only an online mechanism but successful business model. My perspective is that Alan’s business is successful as he is seen as a respected and independent entity within Australia’s financial community. Alan Kohler is a trusted brand.

The Gadget Guy, Peter Blasina’s question near the end summarised the morning for me: What does the future really look like? Each of the represented panelist’s organisations (maybe with the exception of cnet) have their business strategies weighted toward print, and the brand-value that print brings.

Peter Blasina comes at this with credibility as a true multi-channel brand and personality: print, online and TV – and surmised that the coming generation will change the face of the print publisher’s world. And they know it.

The future for publishers is where the eyeballs are. And eyeballs are not going to be in print, it is going to be online. Eyeballs stay longer where this is trusted value, and most importantly where there is a community. Reading a magazine is an almost high-latency feedback medium; where two-way interaction is slow if attempted at all.

Demographics of the eyeballs are changing to more online: younger readers being digitally native and older generations having more time to explore online; with more females than males desiring a community and interaction rather than passive acceptance; high bandwidth connection to permit TV, Radio and Print being equal online mediums.

Whilst I have no research to back this up, I am going to state it here. A common refrain from print publishers is that “Radio did not replace newspapers, and TV did not replace radio” as their backwards looking perspective on why online will not replace these old media. My argument is that the internet can replace the media styles: with web pages, podcasts and vidcasts. As Rupert Murdoch is quoted as saying: “Big media no longer controls the conversation” 

James Tuckerman knows his readers, and I think has a plan to create value in Anthill’s community. He understands the emotional connection that he has with his readership. James also stated there are “population lumps” at birth-years of 1949, 1974 and 1985. According to the ABS, there is another population lump in the 2005-7 range too. My suggestion is to watch Anthill as a publisher. They are starting a conversation with their community.

A Question about SecondLife, the current “craze” in Australia potentially due to a visit in meatspace by a Linden Labs persona, resulted in Tony Sarno saying that “many PBL management have visited SecondLife”. I fear it is because of the gambling dens rather than the community aspect. About 20% of the audience of largely PR and technology industry attendees had logged into SecondLife, of which most had logged in once.

So, in industry parlance, what is the tip-on for online? It’s the community. Community is the new Brand.

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