Tots Corner – A Magical Place

When my wife and I first learned we were having our first son, we asked around our friends in the childcare industry for recommendations for pre-school care. The answers unanimously came back “Tots Corner” they all gave glowing accounts of the staff and the atmosphere there and, when we had our first look around we couldn’t help but agree.

Fast forward five years and #1 son has moved on to Primary school, while his younger brother is busily enjoying his time at Tots.

The staff are fantastic, the atmosphere is welcoming and the kids are loved, cared for and taught in the most amazing ways. The teaching methodology is the Reggio Emilia Approach which I am hugely interested in after seeing the incredible effect it has on our boys problem solving skills and thirst to discover. We feel like we are part of the Tots Family and, once I got over the shock that these guys had no internet presence, I decided to register the domain and, since then – we have set them up with domain based emails and a website.

I still have much to learn from the wonderful people at the center – how they engage, the teaching method and their reactions to the introduction of an online presence. I hope to write more on this as we all learn.

Notes from Barcamp Auckland 2010

Barcamp Auckland is an annual gathering of developers, designers, start-ups and social-media types. It’s a full day event held in an ‘unconference’ like style, where the attendee (see my attendee & interested folks list on Twitter) set the schedule – and people turn up to discuss topics which interest them.

The following are the session notes I took during this years Auckland Barcamp

Continue reading “Notes from Barcamp Auckland 2010”

TEDx Auckland – Session Two: Wendy McGuinness

Second to the stage was a ‘Reluctant Futurist’ namely Wendy McGuinness from Sustainable Future, an “independent think tank specialising in research and policy analysis.”
Wendy spoke on “The Danger of Now” which, in summary, was about ensuring you take into account whereabouts you (or your project/strategy) fits in the grander scheme of things. Some takeouts from the talk were as follows:
TEDxAkl - The only passable photo I have There are three types of futures:

  • Probable
  • Possible
  • Preferred

When testing a scenario or future one should:

  • Define: Parameters, Trends, Drivers, Assumptions
  • Explore: Uncertainties (and rank them)
  • Build: Scenario Worlds / Write Stories / Test
  • Use: Consider Implications / Review / Communicate

I found the talk to be somewhat disjointed, yet filled with amazingly wordy slides with paragraphs of text which may have reinforced a point if they had have been on screen long enough to read. It was always going to be tough to follow the first (very engaging) speaker – however, with some practice, feedback and basic presentation learning under the belt, this could have been a lot better received – so I hope I am not seen as being too harsh in my summary.

For another summary of the talk, click here to see what Missing Link said.

TEDx Auckland – Session One: Michael Henderson

As I alluded in my initial TEDx Redux, the inaugural Auckland event was awesome. In the next three posts I will briefly cover my perspectives on the presentations delivered at this, the first TEDx event in Auckland, New Zealand.

TEDxAkl - The only passable photo I haveThe first speaker was a fascinating guy called Michael Henderson [UPDATE: Looks like something ‘weird’ is happening with his domain,try here for his cached page in the interim] , a Corporate Anthropologist. As well as being unemployable (who want’s an Anthropologist anyway?), he is never bored – because people are so interesting to study. Some observations:

  • Organisations are the modern tribes
  • CEO – Interesting title
    • Chief – Head of the tribe
    • Executive – Head of Structure
    • Officer – Very Militaristic – Head of Strategy
  • The difference between a cult and a culture is:
    • In a cult, the leader sees greatness in themselves
    • In a culture, the leader sees greatness in people
    • Silo mentality never occurs in a tribe
  • Engagement Studies
    • Organisations:
      • Engagement = email sort
      • Worldwide ~20% of employees are engaged and 80% sit on the fence
    • Tribes
      • Engagement = contact sport
      • No tribes run engagement surveys, all members are engaged 100% as you are either learning, doing or teaching

“Why is no one teaching GenY to respect those who came before them as sources of learning?”

Executives go on a ‘retreat’ (never an advance?) then return to proclaim new company values to their employees.

  • Employees don’t hear values, they hear violations;

“Integrity, really?? Aren’t you the CxO trying to set up XYZ to fail so you can get more headcount/budget?”

“Language is the bloodline of a tribe”

His parting observation was on the two dynamic forces of organisations: Relationship versus Results

“Measure yourself on Relationship versus Result – is the win [on this point] worth more than the long term relationship?”

The interesting observation I made about his talk was that, not only was I noting the same points as one of my colleagues, these same points were also being noted by a number of other ‘corporate types’ around where we were seated.

For another summary of the talk, click here to see what Missing Link said.

Update: A TED talk on this theme of Anthropology and Tribes was posted recently “David Logan on Tribal Leadership”

Update: Domain seems to be back – have adjusted links & text

Update: September 2011 – Added Michaels new business sites and the following TEDx video…

Ideas Worth Spreading – My Journey to TEDx

TED. Three letters, a veritable treasure trove of new ideas, challenging thinking and incredible people with finely honed presentation skills.

TEDx Auckland

I first stumbled across the TED initiative in 2006 when I was shown a presentation by Hans Rosling using Gapminder to do some incredible data visualisations. From that day onward, they have been a regular both in my RSS feed readers and in my browser as I immersed myself in the site from which I have gained so much.

It was with huge excitement then that I saw that TED was not only allowing independently organised events (under it’s banner of TEDx), but one of these events was going to be in Auckland, New Zealand – my home town.

I must admit I was initially reluctant to fill out the registration form, as chest puffery and self promotion doesn’t sit well with New Zealanders. Encouraged by some colleagues, and with the knowledge that the official event attendee spots are so coveted I did sit myself down and force my fingers to the keyboard to tap out an introspective view of what I have achieved to date, and why I should be amongst those fortunate enough to sit in attendance. The exercise in itself was worthwhile as it gave me an opportunity to cast back over many years in the technology industry, and to re-celebrate a number of the awesome innovations that I had been involved in over that time. The submit button was clicked, the “Thank you for registering” page loaded – and then all there was to do was wait.

In the fullness of time, I received an acceptance email and, excitedly, I checked in with my other colleagues to find they too had secured their place – timing-wise, the TEDx Auckland event was scheduled for the day before a weekend away at TelecomONE, a FOO style “Innovation Unconference”, so I knew that we would be in for one heck of a lot of brain stretching. We made our plans to meet up and attend together, and then again we waited for the beginning of the first ever TEDx Auckland, October 01, 2009.

TEDxAkl Redux

What. an. event.

There is simply too much to type to do justice to what I got out of last nights event, so I’ll post this entry as it is, unfinished, but linking to some of the cool stuff which was discussed…

Keep up with the tweets surrounding the event here – and I’ll be summarising my notes over the weekend.

For now, check out this vid which was shown as a segway between speakers…


Education and the Future of Learning

As I gear up for this weekends unconference, I’ve been looking through my Delicious bookmarks, specifically on things around Education, which is one of the sessions I’d like to run, if nothing else – to get a different perspective from that discussed at this years BaaCamp where I was part of a similar session.

I came across this video, speaking to the one way approach many educators are taking to using the Internet as a resource. The presenter has written a supporting article (PDF) where he explains the different roles students can take to build engagement, and to collaborate with their global peers

Myths and Opportunities: Technology in the Classroom by Alan November from Brian Mull on Vimeo.

Food for thought – and a definite starter for our discussions at TelecomONE this weekend – how can we as an industry help support our educators and their students to become part of the global voice of learning?

On Goals, Persistence and Mentoring

Much has been written of late around the ‘Susan Boyle Phenomenon’ and blogger Penelope Trunk has added her twist, using the song choice as a demonstration of setting goals that are hard but achievable, the delight of the judges when they realised this lady was something special as how mentors (or potential ones in this case) enjoy the success of their charges, and finally – how when you set a big goal, you need to persist – not quit, as only those who stick at it will realise the achievement they first sought.

Most people quit. That’s Seth Godin’s point: That you have to try something big, and you have to accept that anything big and huge requires you to have a dip – a point when you are wondering if it is worth it. And that’s where most people quit. For the most part, you cannot do something big without going through this process.

Sage advice indeed from both Penelope and Seth (who is well worth adding to your reading lists). Read the article here.

Day Two of Foo

This is part two of my three part coverage of FooCamp 2009. You can also read part one and part three for more.

Again, this entry is written under the constraints of FrieNDA and will summarise only those observations which are non-attributable to anyone but myself.

After the big brain squeeze yesterday, I kicked off the day sitting under a tree and summarising my thoughts as to what shape my session on Education would take, I wanted to engage conversation early – but felt it important to frame the direction I was approaching the issue from up front so we could end the session with some definite take away points and next steps.

The rest of the day took the following format:

Renewable Energy
A inspiring gentleman who is in the process of building (and experimenting with) his ‘Eco House’ in the Coromandal took us through a great discussion around renewable energy and how, harnessing something as simple as the free energy of the sun, we can heat our homes, our water and make a real impact on our energy usage.

Out takes:

  • The installation costs are still somewhat high (could do with some governmental/power company assistance?) but the running costs are negligible
  • There is a definite case to be made for dual voltage systems in a home (low power for appliances/LED lighting, mains voltage for high drain devices)
  • The freedom to experiment in the suburbs is minuscule, truly effective eco-housing needs (currently) to be situated in a rural area.
  • There is such a thing as a device which allows you to send generated electricity (from a Photovoltaic array on your roof as an example) back *into* the power grid. Power companies in NZ that support this will give dollar for dollar. This provides a potential for distributed power generation via private citizens homes.

Hacking Government
The interesting thing I found here is that the framing of the debate is typically influenced most heavily via the use of words and the spin put around them by/via the media. As an example of this consider the use of the words ‘Theft’ and ‘Piracy’ when the issue of copyright is discussed.

A suggestion was made that it would be interesting to track the word clouds of political communications and compare them to those of lobby groups to see where the influence was coming from. This may already be being done, I just need to find some links to point you toward.

Out takes:

When communicating with a government official:

  • Have, and express your points clearly
  • Be polite and concise (email spamming the same message does NOT work)
  • Know your stuff and, if you are fortunate enough to get some face time with an elected official be able to back your position with facts/studies etc. as there will be people present who will know their stuff and challenge your points.

And most importantly.. give the decision maker a safe way out!

Recommended reading:

Real-time data
I attended this session to feed my home/consumer devices and automation obsession, and came away with even more information than I dreamt.

Out takes:

  • The XMPP protocol is hella useful here
  • Need to expose location information to users so THEY can find an application for it which they find useful
  • The value of different types of data changes over time (there’s a graph of this I could insert)
  • Caution required to not overload users with information. Context sensitive notifications
  • Being able to connect disparate data sources which pertain to similar information would extend the functionality able to be offered (example of different types of weather stations, aggregating their ‘Raining/Not Raining” information)

Things to check out:
Pachube – “a service that enables you to connect, tag and share real time sensor data from objects, devices, buildings and environments around the world”

4 Million Leaders
Tim (in his usual enthusiastic manner) tells us about his latest project (conceived, built AND launched in 10 days) ThinkSmall a “free, open community aimed at finding solutions to issues that face New Zealand”

Out takes:

  • New Zealand is disproportionately able to effect massive change of it’s own environments
    We sit alongside 200 or so other ‘small’ nations, dwarfed by the two or three huge nations
    Sign up to ThinkSmall and get involved, you will be held to account for your calls to action

Things to check out:

Broadband, a simple word and HUGE subject

Out takes:

  • Much angry shouting
  • Difficulty expressing what was desired in terms of services (fast and “[insert a big number]” is not a service)
  • People using an asynchronous technology to upload vast amounts of data have problems (they should like VDSL when it launches?)
  • General agreement that there needs to be a more collaborative approach to providing bandwidth appropriate to desired services to the people


This was a session that I led, based around a growing interest in how we as technologists, can help our kids schools and teachers. We had over 30 of the Foo attendees interested in this session and, while I can’t discuss the exact nature of the outcomes due to FrieNDA, there were some generic truths and a call to action which a number of us will take away from the weekend.

Out takes:

  • Teachers spend an inordinate amount of their non-class time in administrative duties.
  • Extra curricular and professional development also take up a lot of a typical teachers time.
  • There are a huge number of things that we as parents with wide range skills can do to assist the teachers and their schools.
    • Volunteer, seriously. Whether it’s transcribing lesson plans, scrounging up some awesome resources for a specific lesson or coaching a school team, whatever you can do will impact on the additional workload of the teachers
    • Tutor or assist – I personally will be re-offering my services to the school for any teachers who would like to spend some time learning applications, how to search the internet, or how to get kids interested in the world accessible from the keyboard.
    • Ask the school what they need, see how you can help – is your company updating it’s infrastructure, can you redeploy old PC or Wireless LAN equipment to the school campus rather than attempting a resale via disposal brokers?
  • There are some incredible schools out there, there are some amazing teachers – if you have access to either, see if you can help them help others

Things to check out:

  • Discovery 1 – “Discovery 1 is a special character, state funded primary school based in the heart of the Christchurch Central Business District. It is an innovative learning community where all key stake holders (children, parents & staff) take an active part in the creation  of a child’s learning journey.”
  • Unlimited High School
  • Digital Technology Framework

For those attendees of the session, if there was a specific point that you made and you feel can be released here outside of FrieNDA, please feel free to leave a comment or contact me directly off the FooCamp attendees list.

Section 92 – The Countdown

We had an amazing and inspiring discussion around what could be done in the last weeks before the act becomes law. To be part of that conversation was both humbling and exciting. The results of the discussion will see the light of day in the weeks following Foo.

A huge day in the company of excellent people with phenominal brainpower and an unquenchable desire to lend their expertise to resolve any issue they can… Time for some more wine, another conversation or three and then bed.

The Snowball Effect (or, how #GoTech came to be)

This morning an innocuous observation on Twitter sparked what would turn out to be (for me at least) a far-reaching discussion concerning the teaching of Information Technology and its related fields in New Zealand. For background, the statistics referred to by @littlehigh (Paul Reynolds, not the Telecom CEO) come from this NZ Herald article.

The following is something of a synopsis of the conversation to help people get on the same page – the take out on this is to lend YOUR expertise to the conversation and help us do what we, as an industry, can collaborate to entice new blood to join our ranks.

You can follow (the latter part of) this conversation via the tag #GoTech and see how things are progressing over on the GoTech website (thanks again to @SKnightly for setting this up)

The conversation started with a question asking if there was a need to get schools, politicians and the IT sector to get together to address the halving in numbers of IT graduate students over the past four years. Ben Young responded declaring the graduates need to turn into facilitators to make up the numbers and I joined in stating that prospective students need exposure to what else (other than code and screwdrivers) falls under the banner of IT, and asking for exciting stories. In parallel, Paul pretty much said the same thing.

The problem facing IT is the Geek Stereotype reinforces a sense of social awkwardness and places those in IT as outsiders. And, as Nat Torkington pointed out, the next generation is less likely to want to study IT and work for a living when society is pushing finance and real estate as the ‘easy money’ careers of choice. At about this point in the conversation, there were a couple of linking posts which drew in more of the NZ Twitter space and then things really took off.

Graduates are getting (or taking) more options in their education – more bachelor of Commerce students major in Computer Science and also take a business side to their degrees. The next evolution of quaternary production seems to be branching to both a knowledge and an ideas economy. For New Zealand to truly be successful in this space then, the whole education system needs an overhaul – currently, the focus is coming too late in the piece and looks only at Tertiary or Secondary schooling. Kids need to learn and understand programming – and they can be taught from a young age.

A bit of discussion ensued around the teaching of things ITish to primary school aged children, the result of which was – while some schools ‘get’ and embrace this, there is often little scope in the curriculum to provide this education and, teaching becoming what it has, if it’s not on the list it won’t or can’t be taught. Perseverance, patience and volunteering was the suggested approach to solving this immediate issue.

Given the noise this conversation was making in the NZ Twitter space, both Steven Knightly and Brett Roberts chimed in with suggestions of capturing these thoughts and a forum where some traction may be found.

The ‘capture this conversation’ branch subsequently went on to agree on #GoTech as a way to mark future discussions after dismissing words such as ‘Geek’ – After a bit of contention of course 🙂

The ‘what and where should NZ more to in IT’ conversation branch went on to cover such things as if we could or should try and compete against other coding countries, having a local team to implement ideas, outsourcing and/or working as part of a global team, perhaps leveraging New Zealands GMT+12 timezone difference with call centers or out of hours coding / SaaS fixes

And that is about where the conversation ended – we picked up some additional interest and offers of help to discuss and move these ideas along. The current feeling is that we need to address:

  • The audience and influencers (how and who we sell the message to)
  • The approach (current methods are just not working)
    • Getting in touch with schools, universities to visit and talk at career days etc. to highlight that there is more diversity to IT than programming and repair.
    • Anecdotal evidence from a recent graduate was 50% of his class dropped out because the content was boring and they couldn’t see the relevance, or be excited by the prospect of making IT a career.

So, where to from here? Well – the domain is setup, there is a forum currently available until the scope and direction is sorted so, respond there as I don’t want to fragment the discussion too much – so I’ll finish with by quoting the opening post on the GoTech forum from Steven Knightly:

The problem: The topic of the skills shortage in IT, engineering, technology, R&D in New Zealand has been going on for a while now, but is something that people in these industries feel passionately about. Yet the problem persists.  See the latest NZ Herald article ‘IT grads halved over last 4 years’‘.

What been done so far:

  • Some discussions about the issue on Twitter, agreeing that we need to share more real stories and reasons with people
  • The decision to use the #gotech tag to track great stories about real people with great technology careers
  • This domain and a TEMPORARY forum have been set up

Next steps/Discussion: What is the best tool to use for this website?  Sure, some of us can track discussion using #gotech tags in twitter and elsewhere, but not everyone can.  I reckon we need a website to a) allow people to post to directly, b) somehow track twitter and blog posts and aggregate them here.  I propose that this forum is only TEMPORARY, and be replaced by something better with your input.

How should this site be structured? Cool Tech Career Stories, Reasons/Arguments, The Problem, Resources (links for those that want to get into Tech)

How should this campaign roll out?  The campaign: #1 quickly agree how to structure this site, #2 brainstorm Stories & Reasons, #3 Vote for the Top 10 Stories & Reasons, #4 Challenge contributors and others to share that Top 10 with others (especially people borderline interested in tech).

My hat is off to the New Zealand Twitter community for getting behind a potential solution to a looming IT problem. Head over to the site and be part of the solution.

Edit: I do have a capture of all the Tweets which I saw around this subject if anyone thinks it’d be interesting to publish them for the sake of context.