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January 22 2012


Australia: APN News & Media takes stake in online start-up Friendorse

The Australian :: APN News & Media has joined with technology business incubator Pollenizer in two investments, including taking a 25% stake in online start-up Friendorse. APN said the investment followed a successful trial of Friendorse, a neighbourhood-based community recommendations web service for local businesses.

[Matt Crockett, APN:] Part of APN's strategy for our regional publishing businesses is to provide more services and useful local information relating directly to those communities.

Continue to read Sally Jackson, www.theaustralian.com.au

December 28 2011


Australia: newspapers argue against regulation of media, free press 'needed for democracy'

The West Australian :: The West Australian newspaper's editor-in-chief Bob Cronin has strongly argued against any form of Government regulation of media at today's Perth hearing of the media inquiry. Mr Cronin told the hearing, headed by chairman Ray Finkelstein QC, that regulation was irreconcilable with our system of democracy. The inquiry is considering whether there should be Government regulation of the print media by the introduction of a statutory complaints tribunal.

Continue to read Kim Macdonald, au.news.yahoo.com

September 16 2011


Driving the Digger Down Under


Henare here from the OpenAustralia Foundation – Australia’s open data, open government and civic hacking charity. You might have heard that we were planning to have a hackfest here in Sydney last weekend. We decided to focus on writing new scrapers to add councils to our PlanningAlerts project that allows you to find out what is being built or knocked down in your local community. During the two afternoons over the weekend seven of us were able to write nineteen new scrapers, which covers an additional 1,823,124 Australiansa huge result.

There are a number of reasons why we chose to work on new scrapers for PlanningAlerts. ScraperWiki lowers the barrier of entry for new contributors by allowing them to get up and running quickly with no setup – just visit a web page. New scrapers are also relatively quick to write which is perfect for a hackfest over the weekend. And finally, because we have a number of working examples and ScraperWiki’s documentation, it’s conceivable that someone with no programming experience can come along and get started.

It’s also easy to support people writing scrapers in different programming languages using ScraperWiki. PlanningAlerts has always allowed people to write scrapers in whatever language they choose by using an intermediate XML format. With ScraperWiki this is even simpler because as far as our application is concerned it’s just a ScraperWiki scraper – it doesn’t even know what language the original scraper was written in.

Once someone has written a new scraper and formatted the data according to our needs, it’s a simple process for us to add it to our site. All they need to do is let us know, we add it to our list of planning authorities and then we automatically start to ask for the data daily using the ScraperWiki API.

Another issue is maintenance of these scrapers after the hackfest is over. Lots of volunteers only have the time to write a single scraper, maybe to support their local community. What happens when there’s an issue with that scraper but they’ve moved on? With ScraperWiki anyone can now pick up where they left off and fix the scraper – all without us ever having to get involved.

It was a really fun weekend and hopefully we’ll be doing this again some time. If you’ve got friends or family in Australia, don’t forget to tell them to sign up for PlanningAlerts.


OpenAustralia Foundation volunteer

July 28 2011


BBC iPlayer goes global with iPad app launch in 11 countries

Guardian :: BBC Worldwide has launched its global iPlayer service, via an iPad app that will be made available in 11 countries in Western Europe. The US, Canada and Australia will follow later this year, as part of what is intended to be a one-year pilot.

The service will offer a limited amount of content for free, supported by pre-roll ads and sponsorship, but its core business model is subscription, with users paying €6.99 a month or €49.99 a year.

Continue to read Stuart Dredge, www.guardian.co.uk

June 11 2011


YouTube EDU - Google's plan to build "Global Classroom"

Beet.TV :: Having launched just over two years ago as a hub for college and universitie YouTube channels, YouTube EDU has become a destination for education, providing an index for a broad range of topics and campus activities, says Angela Lin who manages the education program at YouTube. The YouTube EDU site integrates content from 400 colleges and universities in the United States, Canada, Europe, Israel and Australia.

Watch the video interview Andy Plesser, www.beet.tv

May 19 2011


The Conversation, the startup Australian news site, wants to bring academic expertise to breaking news

What would happen if you had close to 1,000 academics available to contribute to the breaking news cycle? Would it change the course, and the discourse, of news?

Andrew Jaspan thinks it will.

Jaspan, formerly an editor at The Age, the Melbourne-based newspaper, founded The Conversation, an Australian nonprofit news site, in order to combat problems that are just as present there as in other news environments: shrinking newsrooms and a sound-bite driven broadcast culture.

But The Conversation’s approach is a novel one: While the site uses professional journalists as its editors, it uses academics to provide the content for the site. The goal, says the site’s charter, is to provide “a fact-based and editorially-independent forum” that will “unlock the knowledge and expertise of researchers and academics to provide the public with clarity and insight into society’s biggest problems” and “give experts a greater voice in shaping scientific, cultural and intellectual agendas by providing a trusted platform that values and promotes new thinking and evidence-based research.”

As Jaspan explained: “Our model is not so much to use the university as a source of news, though we do report research findings as news. What we really try to do is use academics and researchers to analyze live news events, like the killing of Osama Bin Laden through to the Fukiyama earthquakes or whatever [other] complex news stories…. We are using people who are experts to give greater depth to the understanding of complex and live issues.

The Conversation offers a number of surprises to those looking for a more in-depth approach to issues in the news:

  • Academics are writing about the “now,” within the news cycle, in areas related to their expertise
  • Taking experts to the people, instead of selectively filtering their expertise. Want the big voice on climate change? Then read what he or she has to say directly — rather than through a few sample quotes in a story
  • Readability. The site is set — mechanically, within its content management system — to make the stories easy (enough) to read. Using the Flesch-Kincaid readability index (set to the reading level of a 16-year-old for maximum readability), the CMS can actually tell academics when they’ve veered into jargon…and an editor can help steer them back
  • Real-time news updates filed twice a day — once in the morning and once in the afternoon
  • Coverage of business and the economy, environment and energy, health and medicine, politics and society, and science and technology

And, as the site’s tagline promises, “academic rigour, journalistic flair.”

As an academic myself, I was a bit skeptical of the idea. After all, some of the most bombastic and opinionated folks reside in academia — so I wasn’t exactly sure how Jaspan’s site would deliver on a promise to provide more in-depth coverage without the rhetorical flourishes that often seem to come with American academic publishing. And what about the political implications? Academics, after all, as a group, tend to be more liberal than the population at large.

Jaspan had three counterpoints to my concern:

First, “every author has to fill out a profile, so the reader knows who the person is and their education. And there is the additional requirement of a disclosure of any potential conflicts which might color their judgment.” Second, in response to the political question — after noting that my academics-are-liberal assertion might be a bit loaded — he replied that what The Conversation is ultimately doing is putting people in touch with “academics who are usually better informed than the general public because of their depth of knowledge and their sense of the complexity of the issue.”

Third, and most important, Jaspan sees The Conversation, true to its name, as leading to public debate. “One of the key things we want to do with a public-facing media channel is to make sure we have a range of views on something like the execution of Osama Bin Ladin, and that we have different interpretations of what happened and whether or not the means in which it was done were judicial.” The main goal, though: “We want to surprise our readers. We don’t want to give them the usual explanations, alternative insights, and viewpoints — and that will lead to lively conversation with readers.”

Jaspan’s backers come from both the nonprofit and for-profit realms. The Conversation is backed by Ernst & Young, among other corporate supporters. And from academia, he has drawn on some of the top Australian research universities, in addition to Australia’s Department of Education. To find the academics, Jaspan and his staff did a “census” of academics based on their areas of expertise. Then, by word of mouth, they asked participating academics to recommend colleagues who would make good contributors to the site.

But, again, the skeptical academic in me had another question: Why on earth would a busy academic take time away from publishing (ahem) to write for The Conversation?

Part of the answer has to do with Australia’s current approach to university promotion. Research and teaching form part of the core methods of evaluation, but a third arm of assessment is an academic’s quality of public engagement and social impact. According to Jaspan, Australian universities are putting a new stress on the third.

And since The Conversation gives each writer a dashboard to measure his or her own metrics, the academic can then use those data for his or her professional promotion and evaluation, actually measuring his or her social impact in a quantifiable way for university administrators — based, say, on retweets or traffic for a particular story. The academics don’t get paid for their work. Instead, though, they might pick up speaking engagements or consulting gigs.

There’s also the instant-gratification factor. While traditional academic publishing generally makes academics wait a year (or more) to see something in print, Jaspan said that some academics relish being able to