Hard News by Russell Brown

Bringing the danah

It's been a while between drinks, but we have a new Karajoz Great Blend for you all - well, those of you in Auckland and Wellington anyway. Our star guest this time is danah boyd of Berkeley University. She's probably the leading social commentator at present on MySpace and related phenomena. There's a Wikipedia entry for her, you may well enjoy Identity Production in a Networked Culture: Why Youth Heart MySpace, her address to the American Association for the Advancement of Science in February, and her blog is here (you may care to leave a comment welcoming her to Aotearoa). She's in Finland right now.

The Wellington Great Blend is on Thursday, June 29 at the Boat Shed (the building between Te Papa and Frank Kitts Park), and danah will be speaking and participating in a panel discussing online communities with Justin Zhang of SkyKiwi and Trade Me founder Sam Morgan.

Other informative entertainment will come in the shape of Matt Gibbons, the co-creator of Starlords, who will be talking about that project and video mash-ups in general (and maybe showing some new mischief), and Samuel Flynn Scott and Bunnies on Ponies. I'll also fetch up some more video entertainment for Great Blend TV.

The Auckland event is Saturday, July 1, at the Grey Lynn Community Centre. Danah will be joined there by Justin Zhang and Peter McLennan on the panel; Matt Gibbons and his Starlords collaborator Bruce Ferguson will be in the house, Great Blend TV will screen, and SJD will round out the evening playing songs from their next album. It's likely that I'll add a panellist or two, and there may well be a surprise guest with some things to say about digital media.

As usual, the events are free, we'll lay on some free food and excellent coffee, and the drinks will be at friendly prices. I may also add another panellist or two. Capacity is limited, so you'll have to get in quick at the Karajoz Great Blend RSVP pages for Auckland and Wellington. It should be great fun.

For various reasons, this one has been a bit of a mission to organise, but it's all on now, and I'd like to thank, as ever, Karajoz Coffee Company for having the vision to make the event possible, and the New Zealand Music Industry Commission for to allowing us to bring over danah. Big ups also to the Asia New Zealand Foundation and TVNZ for helping with some travel costs, and Monteiths and 42 Below for donating some of their fine products.

Is the Herald's "premium content" gambit likely to be abandoned? That's certainly the impression I got from a senior APN executive, who was at pains to emphasise that future online revenue would be coming from advertising, rather than subscriptions. It's covered, along with other APN Online plans, in my Listener column.

There have been some questions raised as to the likely compatibility of New Zealand Freeview digital decoders with those on sale in Britain. I've checked, and the situation is this: NZ terrestrial decoders may or may not be directly swappable with British ones, depending on whether Freeview NZ chooses MPEG2 (as in the UK) or MPEG4 video, and what API is adopted. My guess is that they'll got for MPEG4, but the decision will be left as late as possible. Meanwhile, Australian DVB-T decoders will be incompatible with ours, and nearly everyone else's, because the Aussies, for some weird reason, chose the VHF band for transmission, and not UHF.

NZBC's latest mixed lollies has some excellent stuff about Joyce, whales and newspaper corrections.

Check out Graham Reid's excellent new Music from Elsewhere project, and his blog explaining what it is and why he's doing it.

The White House's Iraq PR drive has been tellingly undermined by the leaking of a cable from the US Embassy in Baghdad reporting on conditions there. Marked "SENSITIVE", the memo depicts a deteriorating environment of harassment of Iraqi staff by Islamist conservatives ("some groups are pushing women to cover even their face, a step not taken in Iran even at its most conservative … staff members have reported that it is now dangerous for men to wear shorts in public; they no longer allow their children to play outside in shorts"), widespread "ethnic cleansing", disturbing behaviour by Iraqi guards at Green Zone access points, the rise of vigilante "neighbourhood governments" ("The central government, our staff says, is not relevant; even local mukhtars have been displaced displaced or co-opted by militias …") and more. It really does sound like a developing nightmare. You can read the cable here.

More happily, thanks to the Vodafone/Mango folks for inviting me and Paul to the Warriors game yesterday. Two late tries from the Newscastle Knights made it look closer than it really was: the Warriors were just too powerful for the Knights. We sat near the Warriors' wives, who certainly know their footy, and went up to the players' lounge later on for the presentations. It was an excellent day.