The Pencil Guy: Hourann's illogical blog

Places like Armadale, Thornlie, Clarkson, Mandurah … and Clarkson

Monday 31 August 2009 at 10:26 pm
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Water, Web sites, and the World Bank

Thursday 17 May 2007 at 12:17 pm
  • My apologies to those of you waiting on e-mail from me — regular service might be returned shortly. Um, maybe.
  • On the new desalination plant, I am hesitantly supportive, although I’m scratching my head as to why building in Binningup is so much more expensive than Kwinana. I’m also at a loss to understand why yesterday’s West Australian claimed it was bad for the long-term — not being reliant on rainfall is supposed to be a good thing! (On that note, this is pretty funny.)
  • However, I agree that Maxine Murray is on to something in complaining about political influence in the public service: there’s certainly little evidence that Tuesday’s decision was made on formal advice. But everywhere I look there seems to be different opinions on whether this is a sensible solution or not, and whether it was right to “cave in to” / “acknowledge” / “finally listen to” pressure groups who didn’t want the Yarragadee tapped.
  • Deeper in the guts of yesterday’s paper lay an article about Twitter. It repeats the “X is the next MySpace!” cliché, and it muddles some terminology — but given that page 5 called Alan Carpenter the “predecessor” of Geoff Gallop, I can forgive that. It also quotes Tama, and therefore earns instant not-completely-clueless points ;-) Oh, and my take on how its owners intend to not go broke is the same as his — my four-year-old phone supports a vaguely similar service that never won much support, but Twitter could use its popularity to con phone makers into paying licensing fees for an enhanced interface or something.
  • I reserve judgement on the State Opposition’s “Plan for Perth” task force. As with the housing affordability task force of months past, there’s a chance it’ll produce interesting new suggestions and give the Liberals ammunition for the next election, but given that all we’ve seen out of them so far is cheap point-scoring that disagrees with anything and everything, I’m not holding out hope.
  • [World Bank ad entitled 'Women Empowerment'] The World Bank has been purchasing Adsense recently. (Like, WTF? A UN bureaucracy. Buying advertising. From Google?) I first saw this text ad on Pandagon, which is an increasingly-rare case of the big G’s matching algorithms working (I can imagine some readers of that blog might actually want to read their report), and a few days ago I saw this banner on PerthNorg. Is this an on-the-cheap attempt to improve PR in the wake of the ongoing scandal?
  • Finally, a geeky discovery: the Etchasketchist. I cannot begin to describe how awesome this dude’s blog and Flickr account are.
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They call this rag a newspaper?

Thursday 25 January 2007 at 9:46 pm

The front cover of yesterday’s West Australian wasn’t all that unusual by tabloid standards — an emotive and sensationalist caption that calls out a prominent State politician, a nondescript photo that could really have been anything, and a reiteration of past problems.

Not unusual, that is, until the revelation by TV journalists yesterday that in fact, the entire thing was false. The person in the picture was neither frail nor a grandmother, she had asked to rest on some hospital chairs rather than being forced, and it wasn’t for “several hours”. The Health Minister wasn’t at fault at all. So I was expecting some form of apology today — because that’s what tabloids do to retain reader trust.

But the only indication they gave that they were wrong was half a dozen words in the fifth paragraph of an article. They didn’t even print the letter from the person in the photo that had been quoted on TV. Maybe Paul Armstrong, the editor, thinks he’s on some kind of moral high-horse, crusading against a corrupt State … nevermind those pesky facts that suggest otherwise.

I’m no big supporter of the State health system — there are clearly capacity problems and management issues, and the Reid report doesn’t strike me as a particularly comprehensive fix — but this is beyond irresponsible. The Health Minister was understandably annoyed yesterday … if I was one of the parties involved in this, I’d totally be calling lawyers.

And while I’m ranting about our local daily, did I mention it’s a dinosaur that simply doesn’t get the Internet, and is therefore likely to be trounced by it in the coming years? Tuesday’s edition included an article about the Web 2.0 education software Moodle, which has a connection to Perth. All good and well … except that I remember reading about this on TechCrunch months ago. “WE get it first”, indeed.

That same edition had an article about a City of Perth committee and Perth Arena, which mentions how the West supposedly broke the news last Saturday of a plan to build apartments over the arena carpark. Which is kinda true … except that I mentioned it on this blog a fortnight before they did, my source being a picture from the masterplan that I included in that post. And better yet, I first saw that picture on the SkyscraperCity forums in December.

(Unrelated postscript #1: there’s a new compromise proposal for the commercial precinct at Fremantle Harbour, where the Rottnest ferries currently dock, which has come out of a community forum process. This one cuts back on office space a bit and offers Maritime Museum-style architecture in two buildings of six stories. While I can already hear the cries of the local “nothing over two stories!” crowd, I think this proposal is largely a good one, since it clearly has strong community support and also gives Fremantle some much-needed density.)

(Unrelated postscript #2: This is pretty cool — a searchable recording of Bush’s State of the Union speech.)


The West Online: lamez0r

Monday 9 October 2006 at 10:39 pm

Clearly freaked by News Limited’s move with PerthNow, some months ago The West Australian redesigned their web site. After a ridiculous promo on Saturday’s front page, today’s paper features a big full-pager informing everyone of how great the new site is.

Back when PerthNow was released, I dug into it for being behind the times. But guess what? For all today’s print fanfare, The West Online is even worse. Indeed, the kids at Vivid Group who built this site have clearly not used any decent online news service in the last, oh, five years or so.

Where to begin? The Community page, with its lame attempt to tell you everything while keeping you on The West’s site, reeks of a mid-90s “Web portal” play. Heck, the print ad even claimed it provides Transperth information (though I couldn’t find it) — cos you know, it’s not like that’s the job of Transperth’s own site or anything!

What’s more, the front page has a decidedly old-school design (no, we won’t show you all the stories up-front, you have to click on this silly little tab thingy!) and there’s no RSS feed. There are, however, promises that “interactive blogging opportunities” will come soon (ha!).

Meanwhile, the content still consists of only a few shovelware stories, without so much as the occasional picture to dim the monotony. By comparison, for all its still-starting-out-ness, PerthNorg already features more, and better, content than The West Online could ever hope for.

If this represents the best that can be had from a local web-dev firm, then it saddens me that there is such a big shortage of clue in this town.


How not to write about blogging

Wednesday 12 July 2006 at 10:32 pm

Newspapers around the world are putting more content online and a big proportion of them are publishing blogs, some of which are getting quite a bit of airtime. Contrast this to our esteemed West Australian, which today published an opinion article by Michele Phillips headlined “Net diarists really should blogger off” with the out-there claim that “blogging is reality culture gone beserk”.

The piece is actually about the mildly popular To Do List blog, which the headline writer seems to have missed. But the columnist leaves no doubt that she reckons the vast majority of blogs are “so inane your time would’ve been better spent watching paint dry”.

Thing is, it’s not just one columnist – the West has repeatedly shown that it doesn’t grok this whole ‘Internet’ thang (witness its recently redesigned but still buggy Web site). How long, I wonder, will it survive with its head buried in the sand when the news media landscape is changing so rapidly?

In other news: British regulators may be on to something by suggesting that the power-hungry ‘standby’ mode of most consumer electronics be banned, a survey suggests the happiest countries aren’t the most environmentally damaging ones, and Kashmiri separatists have denied involvement in yesterday’s Mumbai blasts (if not them, then who?). Also, the new Ramos-Horta government in Timor-Leste is showing signs that it might bring lasting peace through real reform … while it remains to be seen whether that actually happens, the early signs are definitely positive.

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