Monday, April 30, 2007

What I've Done - Linkin Park



Linkin Park's new video for What I've Done touches on themes of war, environmental destruction, protest, nuclear weapons, global warming, hunger, fascism and general fucking up of our people and our planet - and how ultimately, we are all responsible. It's bloody good!

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Saturday, April 28, 2007

Taking back the blog!

Take Back the Blog! April 28 2007. It's been few weeks since Kathy Sierra cancelled her speaking engagements and stopped blogging.

And a couple of weeks since Kos opened his mouth and really put his foot in it.

I wrote a pretty full-on post about it at the time, because I was shocked at the high level of ignorance demonstrated by some people, who appeared to either not understand or not believe that some women are subjected to serious sexual harrassment (and worse) online.

And now here we are, at Take Back The Blog! Blogswarm...

...in support of the rights of women to participate fully in all aspects of our society, including specifically online in the world of blogging but indeed everywhere and at all times, day and night, without fear of harassment, intimidation, sexual harassment, online stalking and slander, predation or violence of any sort.

My original blog post about Kathy Sierra, misogyny on the web, and the Blogger's Code of Conduct was written as a response to Kos's insensitive comments, and it really made me think about how I interact with people online.

I'm finding this post particularly difficult to write (I've chucked it all out once already and started again), and I think it's because I just don't know how much personal information I should include.

I want to tell you about the fact that I'm webweaver (or variations thereof) all over the internets, and have been for a long time now. I want to talk about all the online communities I've been a part of over the years, and how I've never been harrassed on a single one of them.

I want to tell you about my blogging experiences and how I've never yet had to reject a single inappropriate comment. I blog about all sorts of subjects - including geeky web stuff, and American politics (and I'm pretty full-on in my loathing of George Bush), but I've never been given a hard time about what I write.

I work in a male-dominated industry (I'm a web developer), and although often I'm the only female coder in the office, my gender doesn't seem to have held me back at all. I'm in my dream job, working for the best web design company in the country. I think I'm doing OK.

And yet...and yet... the whole time I've been trying to compose this post I'm thinking that just because it hasn't happened to me yet doesn't mean it's not going to happen. I'm worrying about writing this as I write it because I'm afraid that even saying it hasn't happened is going to make it happen.

I do censor myself on my blog - and in other places too. I worry I'm giving away too much personal information sometimes. When I first meet someone who knows my screenname before I know them well enough to trust them, I worry. I worry that a simple Google search will lead them straight to my blog, and from there they'll be able to find out a whole lot about me that I'm not too sure I want them to know all at once.

And then I tell myself that it's my choice to have a blog, and it's my decision what I write on it. Which is true. But I guess most of you blokes out there don't worry about some woman you've only just met reading all about you on your blog. Sometimes I really wish I didn't have to always second-guess the consequences of my writing.

And more importantly just because it hasn't happened to me doesn't mean I don't believe the overwhelming evidence that misogyny is alive and well - both in the blogosphere and beyond. Take a look at my blog post about Kathy to see some pretty compelling examples of it all over the internets.

The reason why I'm taking part in this blogswarm is firstly to show solidarity with all the women out there who have experienced negative attention (and worse!) online, and secondly to admit that, yes, the fact that I am a woman does colour what I write and how much information I share online. I'm somewhat careful. Just in case. And I'm hoping like crazy that I'm not tempting fate by writing this post.

UPDATE 30/04/07: I just want to thank Bruce Godfrey at Crablaw's Maryland Weekly for making the blogswarm happen, and for including this post in the (now considerable) list of blogs taking part. It's a real honour to find myself in such great company. Company including: Tales of Taromeet, Majikthise, Real True Honest Love, Harvest Bird, wednesdayview, Fitness for the Occasion and Yellow Peril at Public Address (with awesome comments thread).

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Blogger beta- automatic Technorati tag creator

I love blogging, but there are a couple of tasks that really, really bore me. The most time-consuming one is creating all the Technorati tags at the end of my posts. I know they are incredibly useful, and they bring me a LOT of visitors, but boy, do I hate having to code them all by hand.

Today I realised that there was a far easier way of doing it - by installing Improbulus and phydeaux3's Magical Sheep Greasemonkey userscript for Firefox. It looks like this:

Magical Sheep create post screen.
Basically, it adds an extra tool to your Create Post screen in Blogger beta. You type your Technorati tag words into the tags box, click the green Append Tags button next to it, and your Technorati tags appear, magically encoded for you, at the bottom of your post. Genius!

But wait! There's more!

Heaps more functionality in fact - which I'll get to in a minute, but first let's back up a second and define some terms: like Greasemonkey, userscript, and Firefox, for starters...

Defining Firefox is easy - it's the browser you should be using, and you're mad if you don't. I know many of you use Internet Explorer, but really - give Firefox a try. It's sooo much better (and as a web developer, I know what I'm talking about).

One of the best things about Firefox is its hundreds of extensions. These are widgets of all kinds, which you can download and add to the browser to give you more functionality. Firefox uses open source code, so anyone can build a nifty extension and submit it to Firefox's website for everyone to use. This widget will only work in Firefox, by the way, because IE doesn't have extensions.

One of these extensions is Greasemonkey, which to allows you to change how your favorite pages behave and look, by downloading userscripts such as Magical Sheep that modify the behaviour of specific webpages. And what Magical Sheep does is to add the tags box and Append Tags button to your Blogger Create Post page - as well as the backend coding which automatically encodes the Technorati tags for you.

Magic Sheep - additional features.
There are some nice additional features, too. You can choose to have your tags open in a new window (rather than open in the same window) when they're clicked. You can point links to your Technorati results page, so only your posts using those tags show up, and not everyone else's.

You can set up a list of Frequently Used Tags (FUTags) - tag words that you use often, which you can select directly, instead of having to type them out each time you use them. You can also create a set of MeTags, which are always automatically added to your tag list. MeTags are unique tags you've decided on for yourself or your particular blog - so mine, for example, are WebWeaver's World and webweaver.

You can also choose a separator other than a comma between tag words, and give the whole list of tags your own title (mine is Technorati tags). And you can style your tags if you want to.

Nice! In fact the only other thing I'd quite like is the ability to add a title to each link (I use them to increase the accessibility of my blog). Ideally the title would automatically use the same word(s) as the tag itself, which I could then change in the code if I wanted to.

Anyway - if this sounds like something you'd like, head on over to A Consuming Experience: Updated multiple word Technorati tag creator for Blogger and get it for yourself! The instructions are easy to follow, and it works like a charm. Thanks to Improbulus for creating the original version, and phydeaux3 for helping to make it even better.

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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

On Anzac Day - we will remember them

Peace poppies. Anzac Day - 25 April 2007.

They shall grow not old... as we that are left grow old
Age shall not weary them, nor the years contemn
At the going down of the sun, and in the morning, we will remember them

from For the Fallen - Laurence Binyon


I confess, without shame, that I am sick and tired of fighting - its glory is all moonshine; even success the most brilliant is over dead and mangled bodies, with the anguish and lamentations of distant families, appealing to me for sons, husbands, and fathers... it is only those who have never heard a shot, never heard the shriek and groans of the wounded and lacerated... that cry aloud for more blood, more vengeance, more desolation.

What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
Only the stuttering rifles' rapid rattle
Can patter out their hasty orisons.
No mockeries for them from prayers or bells,
Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs -
The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells;
And bugles calling for them from sad shires.

What candles may be held to speed them all?
Not in the hands of boys, but in their eyes
Shall shine the holy glimmers of good-byes.
The pallor of girls' brows shall be their pall;
Their flowers the tenderness of silent minds,
And each slow dusk a drawing down of blinds

Anthem for Doomed Youth - Wilfred Owen, 1921

HAVE you forgotten yet?...
For the world's events have rumbled on since those gagged days,
Like traffic checked while at the crossing of city-ways:
And the haunted gap in your mind has filled with thoughts that flow
Like clouds in the lit heaven of life; and you're a man reprieved to go,
Taking your peaceful share of Time, with joy to spare.
But the past is just the same - and War's a bloody game...
Have you forgotten yet?...
Look down, and swear by the slain of the War that you'll never forget.


Do you remember the dark months you held the sector at Mametz -
The nights you watched and wired and dug and piled sandbags on parapets?
Do you remember the rats; and the stench
Of corpses rotting in front of the front-line trench -
And dawn coming, dirty-white, and chill with a hopeless rain?
Do you ever stop and ask, 'Is it all going to happen again?'

Do you remember that hour of din before the attack -
And the anger, the blind compassion that seized and shook you then
As you peered at the doomed and haggard faces of your men?
Do you remember the stretcher-cases lurching back
With dying eyes and lolling heads - those ashen-grey
Masks of the lads who once were keen and kind and gay?

Have you forgotten yet?...
Look up, and swear by the green of the spring that you'll never forget.


Aftermath - Siegfried Sassoon


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Monday, April 23, 2007

You are welcome

Sign outside a church, somewhere in Wellington:

You are welcome into this sacred space for prayer and meditation,
Or simply to shelter from the rain.

Just beautiful.

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Sunday, April 22, 2007

Blogger beta - your blog's Technorati ranking

My blog's Technorati ranking. Here's another neat little widget from PurpleMoggy - a way to display your Technorati ranking on your blog. Technorati has had a Link Count Widget for a while now - which you add to your template to display the number of links to each of your posts.

Technorati didn't have a widget to display your ranking, though, so Purple came up with his own. You can see it in my sidebar.

I'm currently around 118,000 - which seeing as Technorati claims there are 71 million blogs out there - is pretty darned good! Surely there can't be that many blogs... can there? And surely Technorati isn't ranking all 71 million - are they? It's not the highest ranking I've ever had - a few months ago I was up to 50,000-ish - but I guess I've been overtaken over the past few months! Must.try.harder. Heh!

Anyway, if you'd like to proclaim your Technorati ranking on your blog for all to see, here it is - Display Your Technorati Rank.

Thanks Purple! I love it!

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Saturday, April 21, 2007

Blogger beta - year and month breadcrumbs

Screenshot of my breadcrumbs widget in action. Following on from the calendar archive widget I blogged about the other day, here's another nice addition to your blog post displays in Blogger beta - year & month breadcrumbs.

I found the breadcrumbs on PurpleMoggy's Blog - together with very clear instructions on how to put them on your blog. They show up at the top of each individual blog post (although they aren't visible on your blog's homepage).

The vast majority of my visitors arrive on my site via a Google search, which means that they generally start off on an individual blog post page, rather than on the homepage. The breadcrumbs show you where you are in the hierarchy of the site, and they also show how each post fits into the archive (by month and by year). I think it's a nice companion to the calendar widget, because both the calendar and the breadcrumbs display in different ways the location of each post within my blog.

The breadcrumbs also let you view all posts from that month (by clicking on the "month" link), or all posts for that year (by clicking on the "year" link). And - because there's also a "home" link - you can easily get back to my homepage if you want to. Nicely done!

I needed to make a couple of alterations to Purple's CSS styling for this widget. Originally the styling looked like this:

.breadcrumbs {
border-bottom:1px dotted $bordercolor;
margin:0 0 0.5em;
padding:0 0 0.5em;
}

Which I changed to this:
.breadcrumbs {
border-bottom:1px dotted $borderColor;
margin:0 0 0.5em 0;
padding:0 10px 0.5em 10px;
}

The variable $borderColor is part of Blogger's WYSIWYG editor (in the Font/Color page) - basically what it's doing is going off to find out what colour is being used for the border in your particular template, and replicating it beneath your breadcrumbs text. You'll see I've changed $bordercolor to $borderColor (with a capital C) because that's how it's defined earlier in the template, and Blogger beta wasn't too keen on the all lower-case spelling when I did a preview before saving my template.

The other change I made was to add 10px of left and right padding to the breadcrumbs style: padding:0 10px 0.5em 10px;. As my Blogger template uses coloured boxes with curved corners, the breadcrumbs were bumping right up to the edge of the box on either side, which didn't look so great. A bit of padding on either side pushes the breadcrumb text away from the edges of the box, which looks a lot nicer in my template.

I think it's a great little widget - kudos to PurpleMoggy for coming up with it! Now go get one of your own!

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Thursday, April 19, 2007

Blogger beta - archive calendar widget

Archive calendar widget. I've been wanting a calendar widget for my blog post archives ever since I saw them on Wordpress. I thought it was such a cool graphical way to display the archive - but I also wanted to retain a list of my posts as well.

I love the way that my blog posts for the past month can be displayed to show the days I wrote and the days I didn't. I like the fact that you can roll over the "writing" days and get the title of the blog post - and that you can click on the day and go straight to the post.

I like the fact that all my post titles for this month are still listed beneath the calendar - and that I can select the month I want to view on the calendar - and that changing the month automatically loads the list of posts for that month.

I also like the fact that I can style my calendar so that it matches the colours of my blog. That matters!

I've been periodically googling for a calendar widget that works in Blogger, and finally I spotted one on the very wonderful phydeaux3's blog. It's been up on his blog for a few weeks now, and I've been waiting with baited breath for him to post the instructions - which he's now done.

As always with phydeaux's Blogger hacks, he's written fantastically clear instructions to go with the widget - and in fact I don't think I need to add anything to them at all. All I need to say is - go forth and get your calendar widget! And thanks a million to phydeaux3 for the way he continues to create new tricks and widgets for Blogger - you rule, phydeaux3!

Oh - and if you see any styling in my version of the calendar that you'd like to include in yours, feel free to ask me in the comments and I'll endeavour to help!

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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Knut the polar bear has a BLOG?

Oh yes - he sure does! Gee I'm such a sucker for baby animals...

So they were talking on the news about how Knut the baby polar bear at Berlin Zoo (the one who was abandoned by his mum so the keepers moved in and took care of him instead) has his own blog - so went off and googled it - and here it is!

I came upon it via this page - so that's the one you can start on too - Papi komm´wir wollen spielen... Daddy come play with me...

Come on - you know you want to... there's video...

Knut's blog.
Too cute!

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Sunday, April 15, 2007

WOMAD March 2007, Taranaki, New Zealand. Part three - Sunday.

The WOMAD crowd at the edge of the lake that surrounds the Bowl Stage. Here's my review of day one of WOMAD, and day two of WOMAD - in case you haven't read them already.

Sunday began with rain. Rainrainrain. Bugger! We sorted through our daypacks back at the house, trying to decide what to take. "Lose the sunhat. Lost the sunblock. Lose the sunnies. Lose the lovely blankie I bought at WOMAD on Friday night - it'll be too wet for blankies. Add the waterproof ski pants. Should I just put the ski pants on now over my jeans??? No - I'll be too hot. Should I maybe wear my summer pyjamas instead, with the ski pants over the top??? Naaaa..." (Glad I didn't do that!)

By the time we'd got our sh*t together, the rain had eased off a bit. Actually the rain has eased off a lot. And then the SUN CAME OUT! Jason said "oh look - the sun's come out" and I said (at the last minute just before we got in the car) "Hmmm. Maybe I will take my sunhat and sunnies after all". Which I am very glad I did - as you will see.

Considering ourselves to be WOMAD "old hands" by this stage, we immediately went off in different directions on arrival at the site. Everyone who had seen them on Saturday afternoon had told me that Celenod, from New Caledonia, were really really worth seeing, so I headed off to the Gables Stage and got myself a place to sit on the grass and wait for them to come on.

They were a bit late in starting (because of the rain yesterday the stage needed cleaning and drying, and so did all the sound gear I guess) and while we were waiting... it started to rain again. On went the raincoats, up went the umbrellas, I got out my waterproof pants and wondered whether I should put them on, but decided to sit on them and wait until the rain got really bad... and then the rain stopped and the sun came out. Off came the raincoats, down went the unbrellas, on went the sunhats and the sunnies (SO glad I took them with me!) - and on came Celenod.

They were GREAT! Such a happy group of people! Here's what it says on the WOMAD NZ website:

Traditionally, the music of the Kanak people of New Caledonia is based on the rhythms of their dance.

For the past 20 years, the modern form of this music has been known as kaneka - a mix of dance percussion (bamboo, leaves and wood percussion), acoustic guitar arpeggios, polyphonic vocals inherited from religious choirs and recent instruments such as drums, bass and keyboards.

...Celenod is a six piece band comprising two singers who play acoustic guitars, one lead acoustic guitar, a percussionist and a rhythm section (drums and bass). The sole electric instrument - the bass - is quite discreet and retains the acoustic mood of the music.

Like Hun Huur Tu yesterday, I found many of their melodies and rhythms very familiar, in a never-heard-it-before-but-I-know-it kind of way - and their music was so happy and infectious that I (like many other people in the audience) just had to get up and dance. It was just lovely, dancing in the sunshine, everyone doing all the hand movements that went with their songs, feeling really quite joyful.

One of the songs they did was about making the rain go away, which we all helped with, brushing it away with our hands against the sky. It worked, too! Not another drop of rain fell for the whole of the rest of the festival! Maybe they should give the Gyuto Monks a few pointers (I kid, I kid!).

Here they are with a song about a bird, which they did (again) for their encore:



After Celenod I decided to go meet up with Zef, Sarah, Toki and the kids at the Pagoda stage, and we sat around in the sunshine for a while, just enjoying being there. I was feeling very mellow about who I wanted to see, and I didn't have anywhere in particular I wanted to run off to, so I was happy just to hang out and soak in the atmosphere.

Kid's parade. At 5.00pm all the kids who'd been hanging out in the Kid's Zone all weekend, making stuff, got together to do a massive parade right through the Bowl Stage area. I happened to be right next to it as Sarah, Eesha, Esther, Toki and Zef came parading by, with the kids proudly brandishing the beautifully colourful flowers they'd made, so I joined in and paraded around with them. Total fun! It was such a lovely atmosphere - everyone in the crowd was madly applauding the kids as they marched past, we were accompanied by the Samba band Batacuda from Welli (I love those guys!) so we were all dancing along with the rhythms, all of us with great big smiles on our faces. Lovely!

Etran FinatawaAfter the parade I decided I'd go check out Etran Finatawa again (not having given them my full attention yesterday), so I headed off to the Brooklands stage. Like Celenod, they were just awesome. The same happy, joyful atmosphere, the same everyone-up-and-dancing thing going on, the same I-know-this-music feeling. Wish I'd taken anoher video of them, but sadly I didn't. You'll just have to make do with a picture instead - "borrowed" from the WOMAD NZ 2007 gallery. Thanks, guys!

There's more...

After Etran Finatawa I decided to head on down to the Bowl Stage to catch the All Star Gala, with Bill Cobham as musical director. Here's a 180 degree view of the crowd watching the show - you can hear my old friends Wai singing in the background. Hi, Mina and Maaka!



One of the nicest things about WOMAD (in addition to everything else!!) is how safe you feel leaving your gear somewhere. I bumped into Sarah, Eesha and Esther on the way to the Bowl Stage, and Sarah had the pushchair with her. The Bowl Stage sits at the bottom of a pretty steep slope which provides the amphitheatre-like setting, and it's not particularly pushchair-friendly. No worries! We just parked it at the top of the slope on the path, grabbed what stuff we wanted, leaving the rest in the pushchair - and headed off down the slope, safe in the knowledge that the chair and all it contained would be right where we left it when we came back.

Here's a sweet little video of the bubble man playing Pied Piper with all the kids during the All Star Gala. I have no clue who's singing during this bit - anyone recognise it?



Eventually the music just got so compelling, and the crowd dancing behind the mixing desk so energetic, that I just had to go down and join in. I left my stuff with Sarah and the kids, and leaped into the fray. God it was fun. Mad dancing in the sunshine, surrounded by this crazy mixture of people - from squealing teenagers jumping around pretending they were doing the haka (and paying more attention to each other and their cellphones than to the music) to old ex-dance party dudes like me, who were all getting on down like nobody's business, sharing the same secret smiles with strangers that we've always shared on the dancefloor. Bloody brilliant.

Zef really wanted to go see Guo Yue (he'd been doing family stuff all day and hadn't had a chance to see anyone he really wanted to see), so they txtd me (reluctantly) away from the dancing zone and we headed off to the Gables Stage. No sooner had I sat down than I got another txt from Lou and Jason, wanting to meet up so I could give them the car keys back. I'd borrowed them earlier so I could pick up the kitē I bought yesterday, and take it back to the car for safe-keeping. We'd been trying to meet up again all day, but we'd kept on being in different places and wanting to stay there for the duration of whoever it was we were watching.

By the time I met up with them and handed over the keys it was a bit late to make my way back to Guo Yue, so we went for food instead, before heading over to the Bowl Stage for Mariza. We'd loved her so much on Friday night, we just had to see her again, and she didn't disappoint. Golly! That woman has an INCREDIBLE voice! We were sitting quite close to the front, but it still wasn't close enough. Next time maybe we'll attempt to get right to the water's edge...

Here she is during the encore, giving her own rendition, fado-style, of the classic song Summertime:



And so to our final show of WOMAD - Mr Scruff. Those of you who've been paying attention (and I know you have!) will remember that my Mr Scruff experience of the previous night was sadly cut short by the fact that it was very late and Lou and Jason were very tired, and we all just needed to go home.

So we promised ourselves that we'd go and see the first half of Mr Scruff's set on the Gables Stage before catching the Mahotella Queens and then the Closing Ceremony on the main stage. It didn't quite work out as we planned, though...

Dancing to Mr Scruff. ...because Mr Scruff was so bloody BRILLIANT that we just couldn't leave halfway through - we had to stay until the very very end...

Blues, jazz, funk, and 60's R ‘n’ B, disco, boogie, house, reggae, ska and rock-steady, dancehall, electronica, hip hop, African, Latin, and drum & bass - he played it all and we danced like maniacs. Off came the raincoat with warm inner jacket. Off came the new blankie I'd bought that evening after feeling a bit nippy during Mariza. Off came the ever-present cardi (I love me cardies!). Off came the warm woolly hat. In Jason's case, off came the shirt to reveal the sleeveless vest and bare arms beneath. Oh yeah! We were on FIRE!

It was The Gathering all over again - dancing madly in a field, grinning exultantly at total strangers, all inhibitions gone (actually I think they went long ago!), whooping and hollering and having a fab old time. There was a guy near us who was in a wheelchair, and he was having such a great time too. It was lovely. Lou and Jason did some pretty excellent tango-ish dancing to some of the Latin stuff, and I - well I just danced around by myself, just like I always used to. Brilliant!

At one point Mr Scruff played the TV ONE theme, which was very funny - I don't know if he realised it was the TV ONE theme, but it went down pretty well with this Kiwi crowd. And as an encore he played Bob Marley, which was the perfect end to a perfect day. He told us it had taken him 33 hours to fly from the UK to NZ, and that WOMAD Taranaki was the most beautiful WOMAD venue he'd ever played in - and that he'd come back in a heartbeat if he was invited again. Awwwww!

Here he is. Yes I know you can't actually see anything much in this clip - sadly my camera couldn't handle this level of darkness, especially when I'd focused on the stage lights to begin with, but hey - listen to the grooves instead, OK?



After it was all over we whizzed down to the Bowl Stage for the Closing Ceremony - and missed it by a whisker. Ah well. Never mind.

Lou, Jason and I loved WOMAD Taranaki so much, that we've already booked our accommodation for next year. If you want to go, you should probably do the same. Now. Places fill up VERY quickly for WOMAD weekend, and now that it's becoming less and less of a secret, and more of a must-see event, accommodation's going to be even harder to find.

Things we decided you might want to take to WOMAD
  • A warm and waterproof jacket.

  • Something to sit on. If you're an old bugger, you might want to take a folding chair, but please don't bring one with legs on! It means the rest of us behind you can't see! There are some really good low camping chairs out there, with the seat only a few inches above the ground, which is all you need, really. Or you could get a foldout chair with no legs at all, and a back which is held up by straps attached to either side of the base. Perfect! And if you can't be bothered carrying a chair around, get a squashy waterproof cushion like we did - they're perfect! A warm and dry backside is a beautiful thing...

  • Maybe waterproof pants, but honestly, when you're walking around and dancing so much, I think they're too hot really. Best stick to the waterproof jacket and accept that, if it rains, your legs will get a bit wet, and then they'll dry out again because of all the walking and dancing you'll be doing.

  • A warm woolly hat for when night falls and it gets cold (or when it rains!)

  • A camera and lots of memory sticks/film. You'll need it!

  • A water bottle - they have water taps all over the site so you can easily fill up again. It's thirsty work, all that walking around and dancing about!

  • A blankie. It's nice to have something to snuggle up in when you're sitting down watching a band at night.

  • Some cash. Some of the market stalls take EFTPOS, some don't. Ditto the market food stalls. There is an EFTPOS point on-site I think, but we didn't find/need it. Better to stick a little cash in your pocket so you won't get caught short.

  • Layers of clothes so you can take things off as you get hot and put them back on as you cool down. Kiwis know this. We're always having to layer up and then layer down again.

  • A sunhat. You know how vicious the Kiwi sun is, even in March!

  • Sunblock. Ditto.

  • Sunnies. You'll regret it if you don't bring them! 12 hours is a long time to be outdoors each day without 'em!

  • Make sure your first layer of clothing is a cool T-shirt or shirt. Even if it's not warm and sunny first thing in the morning, you know it'll probably get that way at some point during the day, and you'll want to strip down to something cool if it does get hot.

  • If you're with a bunch of people, a picnic blankie (or two) is a really nice way to gather everyone together. One with a waterproof backing is perfect, especially if it comes in its own little bag so you can fold it up and put it away when you're not using it.

  • If you are REALLY organised, you could get hold of a tarp, poles, string and pegs and set up your own little rainproof domain in the Bowl Stage area, and leave it there all weekend - you can see them in some of today's videos.

  • Please don't bring an umbrella. I know you want to keep dry, and I guess they are a pretty good way of doing that, but they block the vision of everyone sitting behind you, and that ain't nice!

  • A bloody great waterproof daypack to put it all in. Or a pushchair, with or without kids ;)

See you at WOMAD 2008!

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Saturday, April 14, 2007

Kathy Sierra, misogyny on the web, and the Blogger's Code of Conduct

Kathy Sierra. I saw Kathy Sierra speak at Webstock last year. She was funny, fascinating, inspirational and passionate. I wrote a pretty glowing review of her presentation - because it was absolutely excellent. Kathy took the time to read it, and then sent me a comment thanking me for it. Very impressive!

So who is this Kathy person? Until recently she wrote a blog called Creating Passionate Users, which had a Technorati rating of around 60. Sun Microsystems have formally recognized her as one of their top three Java instructors in the world. Kathy founded Javaranch.com, one of the most successful technology sites on the web. She has co-authored a whole bunch of books over the years - bestselling technology books on topics including Java, HTML, and software design patterns. So she's a pretty well-known online person, and a popular blogger, but hardly a controversial one.

Recently things have not been going so well for Kathy, as many of you will already know. For some unknown reason (professional jealousy? spite? mean-heartedness?) she's recently become the target of some pretty nasty online harrassment (okay, that's too weak a word for it - she's been getting death threats, and threats of violence including graphic descriptions of sexual violence against her), which began in the comments section of her own blog, Creating Passionate Users.

These then spread to a number of other blogs, where the vitriol and misogyny got very nasty indeed, and included some pretty horrible photoshopped images of her - one with her head next to a noose, and another of her being suffocated by a pair of panties. An anonymous person also published Kathy's home address in the comments section of her own blog.

You can read her own account of what happened here: Death threats against bloggers are NOT "protected speech" (why I cancelled my ETech presentations). Kathy contacted police, who took her concerns very seriously. Then she cancelled her upcoming presentations at ETech. Now she's stopped blogging. She's trying to figure out what she should do professionally, trying to find a solution that will allow her to continue exploring her thoughts on usability and software design, while at the same time giving herself a much lower public profile.

I think one of the things that was most worrying was that the blogs where the nastiest comments appeared were run/owned by prominent bloggers and people in the same industry as Kathy. People who in some cases she knew (or knew of), and people who were likely to be attending, or speaking at the same conferences as her. In other words, her peers.

There have been a range of responses to Kathy's revelations on her blog. Follow me below the fold...

The first (and worst) is that it has resulted in an even more intense level of online vitriol against her, with her social security number and other personal info being published, along with a whole bunch of lies about her, and yet more abuse.

The second is that a number of her peers, and some people in the wider blogging community (who should know better) have chastised her for "over-reacting" to the death threats. They've basically told her that as a blogger she should expect this kind of stuff, that she should grow a thicker skin, and that "if she can't stand the heat, she should get out of the kitchen".

Since when has it been mandatory to have flame-proof skin, just because you happen to be a thoughtful, intelligent person who has something to say about - whatever - and you choose to say it online? Do the people who made these comments truly believe that if you can't handle online death threats, you shouldn't be allowed to blog - or that you should accept this as the norm, as something that "goes with the territory?"

What if you don't have the skin of a rhinocerous? Or what if you do have pretty thick skin, but threats of sexual violence towards you are a step too far for you? Does that mean you should just step back into the shadows without a word, or that you should stop doing that which you're best at - because you're not tough enough to handle death threats?

The third response to Kathy's experience has been from a large number of other women on the web, who have come out and said "yes - I've experienced my share of online sexism, misogyny, and personal attacks on me because I'm a woman - and it is accepted by many as 'the norm' and it is NOT OK". People like Joan Walsh on Salon.com who wrote a piece entitled Men who hate women on the Web. She writes:

I avoided writing about the mess for a day or two because I had mixed feelings about it. Ever since Salon automated its letters, it's been hard to ignore that the criticisms of women writers are much more brutal and vicious than those about men -- sometimes nakedly sexist, sometimes less obviously so; sometimes sexually and/or personally degrading. But I've never admitted the toll our letters can sometimes take on women writers at Salon, myself included, because admitting it would be giving misogynist losers -- and these are the posters I'm talking about -- power. Still, I've come to think that denying it gives them another kind of power, and I'm trying to sort that out by thinking about the Kathy Sierra mess in all its complexity.

People like Jessica Valenti, editor of Feministing.com, who wrote about How the web became a sexists' paradise in The Guardian. In it she writes:
Last year I had my own run-in with online sexism when I was invited to a lunch meeting with Bill Clinton, along with a handful of other bloggers. After the meeting, a group photo of the attendees with Clinton was posted on several websites, and it wasn't long before comments about my appearance ("Who's the intern?; "I do like Gray Shirt's three-quarter pose.") started popping up.

One website, run by law professor and occasional New York Times columnist Ann Althouse, devoted an entire article to how I was "posing" so as to "make [my] breasts as obvious as possible". The post, titled "Let's take a closer look at those breasts," ended up with over 500 comments. Most were about my body, my perceived whorishness, and how I couldn't possibly be a good feminist because I had the gall to show up to a meeting with my breasts in tow. One commenter even created a limerick about me giving oral sex. Althouse herself said that I should have "worn a beret... a blue dress would have been good too". All this on the basis of a photograph of me in a crew-neck sweater from Gap.

I won't even get into the hundreds of other blogs and websites that linked to the "controversy." It was, without doubt, the most humiliating experience of my life - all because I dared be photographed with a political figure.

It's clear that there's an issue here - and there's research that clearly shows it. Michel Cukier, professor at the University of Maryland's Center for Risk and Reliability, authored a study last year where:
...automated chat-bots and human researchers logged on to chat rooms under female, male and ambiguous screen names, such as Nightwolf, Orgoth and Stargazer.

Bots using female names averaged 100 malicious messages a day, compared with about four for those using male names and about 25 for those with ambiguous names. Researchers logging on themselves produced similar results.

You read it right. 100 malicious messages a day if you have a female screenname, 4 if your screenname is recognisably male. 100:4 - so you are 25 times as likely to get hassled in a chatroom if you are perceived to be female, than if you are perceived to be male. Niiiiice. Here's a more detailed article about the research from ScienceDaily - Female-name Chat Users Get 25 Times More Malicious Messages.

And then there's this piece from the Washington Post - Harsh Words Die Hard on the Web about a widely read message board on AutoAdmit, run by a third-year law student at the University of Pennsylvania and a 23-year-old insurance agent. The piece details the online harrasment experienced by a number of women at law school who had nothing to do with the message board - until they found their photos being posted on the board, accompanied by comments about their looks, their character, and speculation about what they'd be like in bed, what commenters would like to do to them in bed, and encouragement by some commenters that others should take photos of these women at the gym and post them on the board.
The law-school board, one of several message boards on AutoAdmit, bills itself as "the most prestigious law school admissions discussion board in the world." It contains many useful insights on schools and firms. But there are also hundreds of chats posted by anonymous users that feature derisive statements about women, gays, blacks, Asians and Jews. In scores of messages, the users disparage individuals by name or other personally identifying information. Some of the messages included false claims about sexual activity and diseases. To the targets' dismay, the comments bubble up through the Internet into the public domain via Google's powerful search engine.

The piece in the Washington Post was followed up by a poster on Feministe, Jill, who wrote this piece - Hi, I’m Jill, and scummy law school sleazebags have gone after me, too which includes the following:
The WaPo article is about AutoAdmit, a law-school-oriented message board that is, essentially, a massive toilet of racism and sexism (not linking to the site - google if you’re interested). I've written about AutoAdmit before, when I found out that they were posting numerous pictures of me, making comments about raping and hate-fucking me, and debating whether or not I was fuckable or a stupid fat bitch. I'm hardly the only person they've gone after. While many of the threads on the message board are about law-school-related issues, they're mostly obnoxious in some way or another. There's an obsession with "prestige," and commenters regularly disparage lower-tier schools, and use the term "TTT" to denote anything they consider not good enough.

The website ReputationDefender has since been set up, both to shine a light on the nastiness at AutoAdmit, and also as an attempt to balance out the fact that many of the sexist and misogynystic comments at AutoAdmit show high up in Google search results for these women.

It seems as though Kathy's experience, and her response to it, and others' responses to her response has acted a something of a catalyst within the blogging community. Sara at Orcinus writes about it here - Virtual Hate Crimes - where she says:
And that's what concerns me here. Metaphorically, the Web is analogous to a public street or meeting hall, and most of us adhere to the same social conventions that we'd use in real-world public places. Women may get whistles and cat-calls (which are every bit as annoying online as they are on a city street -- and, fortunately, as ignorable as well); but by and large, we reasonably expect that men will let common courtesy govern their interactions with us.

But if you read her blog, it's obvious that Sierra's attackers weren't adhering to anything like the town square behavior code. (To make the point: if a gang of men had surrounded her and threatened her with rape and murder on a city street, she could have called the cops and had them put away for a long, long time.) Instead, everything about these attacks suggests that those responsible assumed they had a war zone exemption, which suspends accountability for even the most extreme forms of violence against women. Which tells me that, somewhere in their minds, these guys no longer recognize the Web as a community, or the women they meet there as legitimate and equal members of that community. Instead, they see it as a battlefield, where violence is the expected norm. In this imaginary war zone, any woman who's out in public without male escort has already forfeited any claim to dignity or life.

And finally we arrive at the response to Kathy's response that has garnered absolutely the loudest jeers, put-downs and cries of "free speech!" and "no censorship!" and "it's my blog and I'll do what I damn well like!" - Tim O'Reilly's Call for a Blogger's Code of Conduct in which he suggested the following guidelines:
  1. Take responsibility not just for your own words, but for the comments you allow on your blog

  2. Label your tolerance level for abusive comments

  3. Consider eliminating anonymous comments

  4. Ignore the trolls

  5. Take the conversation offline, and talk directly, or find an intermediary who can do so

  6. If you know someone who is behaving badly, tell them so

  7. Don't say anything online that you wouldn't say in person

I would agree in principle with most of these suggestions, except perhaps for the eliminating anonymous comments one - many people online have perfectly valid reasons for wating to remain anonymous - and I certainly agree with his last point about saying nothing online that you wouldn't say in person.

Tim's initial post was misunderstood by many in the blogging community, who took it as an attempt to limit their freedom of speech and to set up a kind of "blogging police" who would march around in cyberspace shutting down blogs that didn't conform to the guidelines, or suing blog owners who didn't remove offensive comments from their blogs. Tim attempted to clarify his initial post with another entitled Draft Blogger's Code of Conduct, but in some ways it just made things worse (read the comments and the linked-to posts about his post). Finally he posted Code of Conduct: Lessons Learned So Far. I like what he has to say in the comments section:
Here's how the "code of conduct" would have helped the Kathy Sierra thing:

Social mores are the prevailing values of a group. One of the "values" of the internet is that unfettered speech is better than any restriction. This keeps people who might have spoken up sooner about a conversation getting out of hand from saying anything. If the prevailing value is that you can say what you want to say without being insulting, and comments that are offensive in various ways are deleted, the general tenor of conversation becomes higher.

The point is that we tolerate on our blogs a style of conversation that we would never tolerate from people in our physical presence. Taunting, bullying, nastiness are not OK, and the fact that they are happening in comments on a blog or on a mailing list doesn't make them OK.

I'm trying to change the general perception of what's OK.

I have little faith that a Blogger's Code of Conduct would, in itself, stop the nutjobs out there from doing what they do. People who are determined to go online and deliberately hurt people (or worse, go out there in real life and deliberately hurt people) aren't going to be put off by some "let's all be civilised about this" set of online guidelines. But I do agree with Tim that it's time we took another look at our perceptions of what is and isn't OK, and made a concerted effort to change them.

It's not that many years ago that the "N-word" was an acceptable word to use when describing a person of colour. Now it's not. Not in general conversation, anyway. And no, I'm not saying the fact that the N-word is now frowned upon has eliminated racism. What I am saying is that it's no longer acceptable to be openly racist - and that anyone who still espouses racist views is immediately recognisable as such - because much of the background noise has been eliminated. It will take many more years (if ever) for racism, sexism, homophobia etc to be completely removed from our society - but does the fact that it's not easy mean that you shouldn't try?

What has happened to Kathy, and the damage it has done to her ability to pursue her career, shouldn't happen to anyone - online or offline. If there's a silver lining to her experiences it's that - at last - people are talking about the harrassment, negativity, sexism and misogyny that some women have had to deal with online. And some people are trying to figure out how to reduce this, and how to reduce the level of online nastiness in general. We may not get it right straight away, and we will need to refine and improve on our ideas before we get there, but at least we're thinking and talking about and debating the subject. And that can only be a Good Thing, IMO.


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Sunday, April 08, 2007

Organisations supporting the repeal of Section 59 of the Crimes Act (the "anti-smacking bill")

If you wanted an expert to give you advice about your garden, you'd go to a gardener, or a horticulturalist, wouldn't you? They'd know a thing or two about gardening because it's their focus, and their area of expertise. You could trust what they had to say.

This is a list of the organisations (both national and local) who have come together to support the repeal of Section 59 of the Crimes Act. They know a thing or two about children, about domestic violence, and about the effect it has on the family and on society as a whole. It's their area of focus. It's what they do. And they ALL want Section 59 repealed.

I've linked to the websites of as many of these organisations as I can find. Ones with a * are linked to info specifically written by the organisation about Section 59 and why they want it repealed. Take a look.

National Organisations


Northland

Auckland

Waikato

Thames-Coromandel
  • Hauraki Safety Network
  • Te Whariki Manawahine O Hauraki
  • Thames Women's Resource Centre

Bay of Plenty
  • Challenge Violence Trust Te Ahu Whakatika
  • Eastbay Rural Educational Activites (REAP)
  • Te Awhina Support Services

Taranaki

Wanganui

Manawatu

Kapiti Coast

East Coast-Poverty Bay
  • Te Ruru Resources

Hawkes Bay
  • Central Hawkes Bay Support and Counselling Services
  • Dannevirke Family Services
  • Dove Hawkes Bay
  • Napier Women's Refuge
  • Parentline Hawkes Bay

Wairarapa

Wellington
  • Mana Social Services Trust
  • Naku Enei Tamariki

  • Parent Help Wellington
  • Wellington Community Law Centre
  • Zealot Press

Nelson

West Coast
  • Family Focus Services

Canterbury

Otago


Thanks to Barnardos for putting together the original list, and for their ongoing work in this area. Thanks also to every organisation listed above.

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