Living local for 7 days

I’m taking the challenge to live local for a week starting next Wednesday.  This seems like a good way to build consciousness of the various choices I make on a daily basis that have an impact on the environment. There will be some tweets from me, @frombecca & others – they’ll be tagged #livelocal.

Why not take the challenge yourself?

Here’s the brief:

Your challenge is to live local for a week – seven days – and to document your efforts to do so. You can do this anytime.

What is living local?

To live local is to make the most of your community.

  • meeting your neighbours and the people who work in your community
  • eating delicious food grown as close to where you live as possible
  • minimising use of fossil fuels, especially for transport*

* This will be the hardest one for a lot of people. Walking, bicycles and public transit are good ways to reduce (and to keep you closer to your own neighbourhood!). But this challenge is about experimenting and being creative, not about absolutes. See rules #2 and #3 below.


  1. Send an email to info AT livelocal DOT org DOT au and tell us when you’re starting or post a comment here. (You don’t have to do this, but we’ll offer you love and support if you do.)
  2. You can’t be disqualified or fail. You are merely trying, and thinking about how hard and/or easy it is to live locally.
  3. If you HAVE to drive a car somewhere, we’re more interested in you discussing the factors that led to that. If you’ve gotta fly to Melbourne, what reasons made this necessary? And when you do manage to avoid driving or flying, what compromises did you make?
  4. Document! We want people to share in and get inspired by your experience and your victories and trials and tribulations. Blog, Twitter, call your friends, talk about it during meals.
  5. Or, why not add an experiment to tell the stories about some or all of your adventures?

There is lots more info at Live Local

Epic brand fail & scantily clad women?

It was interesting to see the Prime Minister weigh into the debate around sporting team’s attitudes to women, especially since there has been so much discussion of issues related to the treatment of women over the past few days:

“It’s very plain that it’s very important for sporting organisations across the country to show leadership in demonstrating proper respect towards women,” Mr Rudd told reporters.

In the light of this comment, and after discussing the (relatively tamely clad) NetRegistry nurses & some gender issues yesterday, I went for a walk with Jonathan Crossfield & Stilgherrian today. I was seeking out the other booths at CeBIT that I’d heard about with so-called “promo girls” who far outclassed the nurses in terms of scantiness of their attire.

The funny thing about this was that it was actually hard to find the booths in question because, while people could remember seeing the “promo girls”, nobody could actually recall the brand they represented nor the location of the booths.

Eventually a security guard was able to direct us to the correct locations. There were four booths that had women dressed in a sexualised fashion, making the nurses quite pale into insignificance. What I saw really did take me back to IT trade shows back in the last century. I had hoped we’d moved on from the objectification of women to promote technology. But clearly I was wrong.

There’s a bit of puzzlement on my part:

  • I’m not sure why an IT exhibition is considered a place for women to dress in this manner?
  • I’m not sure how many people would display images like this of women in the workplace?
  • I really don’t understand how this actually worked as a marketing exercise.
  • The fact that brand recall was so low that I had to ask a security guard indicates that it was not very effective as a marketing exercise.
  • Perhaps the “promo women” encouraged some attendees to take brochures?  I do wonder how was this linked to ROI?

Most of the exhibitors were happy to let their products be assessed on their own merits. Why did these four brands choose to take such an old fashioned approach? Did they think that women are not technology decision makers? Did they think that it was all in good fun? Would it have been in good fun if it had been well oiled young men wearing tight Lycra pants? In fact, why were there no such men in evidence?  At least that would have indicated gender equity!

BTW: this article by Karen Willis from the Rape Crisis Centre is worth a read

Nurses, naughtiness and women in IT

NetRegistry have raised some ire in some parts by having women dressed as nurses on their stand at CeBIT in Sydney.  In some ways this all takes me back to the bad old days when IT was a blokey world and scantily clad women were commonplace at conferences and exhibitions.

I had a chat to Jonathan Crossfield earlier today.  He explained that their booth at CeBIT has a medical theme.   I do not imply any malice, nor any intent to cause offence with this stunt.  It simply looks like the team thought it would be fun to dress up as medical folks while they worked the booth at CeBIT.  Funnily enough one of my first questions was “is the doctor a man?” and he admitted that the person dressed as a doctor was indeed a man. This made me wonder about unconscious sexism in our society.

The unconscious sexism & misogyny that remains prevalent in our society continues to fascinate me.  And I think that the automatic (and probably unselfconscious) assignment of roles in this case is an example.

But let’s consider a few other things …

  • We are currently in the midst of revelations about systemic demeaning behaviour towards women – especially in relation to rugby league.
  • There have been ongoing allegations of demeaning behaviour towards women by male sporting team members.
  • The calendars featuring scantily clad women and similar that used to decorate workplaces have disappeared.
  • Conferences & exhibitions are places of business to which women have free access nowadays.
  • Governments and volunteer organisations have put enormous effort into encouraging women to enter the ICT industry, and to retaining those already there.

I don’t think this kind of marketing exercise is a good idea in general, nor in particular for a conference/exhibition (doesn’t pass the Mum test).  Further, the day after the Four Corners program about the alleged sexual abuse of women it was bad timing (probably unintentionally so).

But, for the record, there were similar poster in the NetRegistry booth at CeBIT – is there a pattern here? It makes me ponder what the outcry would be if this was an equivalent racial depiction?

Social networking & your career

I had the pleasure of speaking, along with Karen Ganschow from Telstra, at the FITT CeBIT lunch today in Sydney.  We had a great turnout and there were even a few men in attendance.

It’s FITT’s 20th anniversary this year – a big milestone for a volunteer based organisation that was working to encourage women into ICT careers before it was trendy.

Here are the slides from the presentation …

Authenticity versus narrative?

One of the most interesting observations about the recent Social Media Club Sydney event came from the esteemed Servant of Chaos (a.k.a. Gavin Heaton) in his post  Social Media Club Sydney Kicks Off.

Gavin noted that the theme of narrative (“storytelling and satire”) came up with each of the speakers at SMC Sydney. This is interesting because in social computing in general, and in social media in particular, much has been made of the virtues of authenticity. But are the two – authenticity and narrative – interlinked in important ways?

Lately I have become conscious of how much power authenticity achieves when it is placed within an effective narrative framework. Being authentic but dull or repetitive becomes boring.

A key element of powerful authenticity is personalisation of a story to create the feeling of  connection. And other key elements seem to be time and consistency. We need to see consistent appearance or message over time, or at least a consistent evolution over time.

A great example of this is Nick Hodge, whose recent Red Cordial Catharsis really got me thinking. As Nick has revealed more about his motivations and underlying ideas within a narrative context & this self revelation has made his ustream shows much more powerful.

This raises a lot of other interesting questions:

  • How do we demonstrate authenticity?
  • Why is it so compelling?
  • How do we know it when we see or hear it?
  • And, why are we so angry when we feel that authenticity is faked?

These are some of the issues that I’m thinking about at present, and I suspect there’ll be more on this topic later.

Future Summiteer

~ next week I’m off to the Future Summit in Melbourne on 18-19 May.

The theme for 2009 is Priorities for Australia in the Crisis and Beyond, and there is a really diverse line-up of speakers (pdf list here).

This conference is run by ADC (Australian Davos Connection) & brings together leaders from business, government, the public sector, academia and the broader community to improve their understanding of key issues affecting Australia.

I’m getting excited because it sounds like we’ll be addressing some interesting issues. It should be fun as some buddies are also heading down to the Future Summit.

You can expect to see a bit of tweeting under the hash tag #futuresummit & some official kind of tweets from @futuresummit.

Some of the Twitter folks heading along include: @liubinskas, @bronwen, @duncanriley, @mspecht, @eskimo_sparky, @rosshill, @jjprojects, with @stevehopkins as the conference community manager.

There are currently unconfirmed rumours of a pre #futuresummit tweetup in Melbourne on Sunday 17th.

Do we need robotic technology rules of engagement?

In a recent post I discussed a talk by Dr Peter Singer about robotics and 21st century warfare.  This use of technology raises some very big moral dilemmas, especially in the area of law, rules of engagement, and the personal effects of this kind of warfare on both combatants and civilians.

For instance there is no current agreement on which body of law would govern the use of robotic devices in war.  Who is to blame for any errors?  Is it the operator, who is potentially sitting a continent away?  What if there is a software glitch?  What happens when the device cannot determine the difference between a child or an old person and an enemy human target?  What is the machine equivalent to manslaughter?

These are not trivial questions and, rather than developing complex legislation akin to the Income Tax Act, do we need a Star Trek like ‘prime directive’?  This is not science fiction, it is not the future of war – it is already here and operative today.

As Singer said “the fog of war is not lifting, we are still seeing mistakes”.  We need to figure out accountability for “un-manslaughter” – he used the example of a drone problem that killed 9 soldiers in training exercise. Armed autonomous systems are becoming commonplace and some big questions remain unanswered. What about war crimes? What about errors? How can the machines distinguish between innocents & combatants?  None of these questions mattered when we were just using robots to build cars, but now they do matter.

As Matthew rightly points out in a comment on my previous post, the creation of increasing distance between the killer and the victim makes killing much easier.  Killing with a knife or bayonet is so much more personal that pressing a button to dispatch a device to destroy a school (which may or may not have schoolchildren in it at the time) that is being used to house munitions for insurgents.

This continued depersonalisation of killing makes it easier and easier to undertake offensive action.  If your own soldiers can sit safely in an office at home and simply use the equivalent of a computer game to attack, then the social and political cost is very low.  But what is the personal cost to the soldiers involved?  Is  killing any less the delivery of death if you do it at a distance?  Is going home to eat dinner with the family after dealing death all day at the office even more stressful than being on the ground in a combat zone?

We’re entering some uncharted territory with this technology in terms of its impact on society and upon our warriors, not to mention upon our enemies and upon civilians. As nation states continue to act against non-state actors (such as various insurgent groups or “terrorists”) the dilemma of what happens to innocent civilians will become even more problematic as the element of human judgement and compassion on the ground is removed from the equation.

Further, we do not know if the use of this technology will simply shift enemy action away from their own territory and to our own territory. This last is entirely possible because, if they can no longer kill our soldiers, how else will they seek to make their point and cause us damage?

Some other interesting articles about robots:
Robots Take To The Stairs – This Is Just The Beginning
Robot sub aims for deepest ocean
How to Make (Robot) Friends and Influence People

Social networking for your career

I’ll be talking about social networking from a career perspective at the FITT lunch on 13 May in Sydney.

This is very topical now with the global financial crisis starting to hit Australia. Our personal & business networks will be critical, not only for staying in touch with people, but also for finding work.

In the past we sat down the Saturday newspaper and circled jobs of interest (or the Tuesday IT section of the Australian for the geeks). Now the job ads have moved online. But there are other avenues for job search, and social networks are a critical component in this shift.

There are also some important issues about boundaries between the personal and public, private and business that need to be considered.

Event details are on the FITT website, but the basics are:

Topic:  How to make the Net work
When:  12:00pm – 2:00pm, Wednesday, 13 May 2009
Where:  Harbours Edge, Level 2, Harbourside Darling Harbour, NSW, Australia