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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

UK ISP offers next generation broadband

The BBC reports that local British company Virgin Media is now offering a 50 Mbps (Megabits per second) domestic broadband service, for UKP 51 ($140) per month, with bundling offers allowing it to be had for less. Another UK ISP Be Broadband offers at 24Mbps service for UKP 17.50 ($48) per month.

Doesn't this make the broadband offerings in this country look sick?

So why are we being served up a third rate broadband service here?

Obviously the cost of international connectivity is far greater for ISPs to provide in NZ than in the United Kingdom, and this is exacerbated as British surfers are far more likely to go for UK domains than New Zealanders are for NZ ones, but my take is that it's mostly a legacy of the period when New Zealanders were forced to accept Telecom's offering of sub-megabit ADSL that was ludicrously claimed as broadband and the former government waiting an unreasonable period before forcing Telecom to allow other ISPs to offer more bandwidth.

If New Zealand isn't to be left behind in the technological world, we need to have a better broadband service and the new government needs to make this its priority.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Sensible Sentencing? How about honest reporting?

"Life means life", "Outrage because criminal released early" and similar headlines are the stock in trade of the news media in New Zealand, and it's a complete croc.

In the New Zealand penal system, convicted criminals are eligible for parole after completing a relatively small percentage of their sentence. I'm not 100% sure, but I believe for "minor" crimes (not that anyone is actually imprisoned for truly minor crimes) parole is pretty much automatic.

When a judge sentences a person to 5 years jail, it is in the full knowledge that they will be released in 18 months or 2 years, but the NZ Herald and other parts of the increasingly yellow New Zealand press insist on reporting just the headline sentence ... presumably because it sells more papers. Then when the person gets out "early" they pretend they never knew that the so called 5 year sentence was really only 2.

Working hand in glove with the yellow press are media creations like the "Sensible Sentencing Trust" - I'm not saying that these aren't genuine groups, but without the constant press publicity, they would vanish into obscurity. Just like the yellow Herald they affect surprise when a criminal is released and the news media repeats their words. None of these people are particularly stupid and it is inconceivable that they don't understand that the system is working exactly as the politicians intended.

When they say "If the judge who heard the case decided 5 years jail it should mean 5 years" they are ignoring the fact that the judge assigned 5 years in the full knowledge that the sentence would really only be two. Judges aren't stupid, and judges are required to know the law, so the judge was fully aware of the parole laws and took them into account when determining the sentence

Much as I hate to admit that their corrupt, politically manipulated, legal system does anything better than we do, this is one thing we should learn from the Americans. When a judge over there gives out that same 5 year sentence, it will be described as 2 to 5 years, and it will be reported in the press that way. Over there there is no public expectation that the person will actually serve more than 2 years. What there is is outrage when a serious criminal is sentenced to a short prison term, the judges listen to the public and adjust the real sentences accordingly. With the poor reportage here, that isn't likely to happen.

But wait, there's less.

There's another scam the press work on the public. How often do you see headlines like "Professional burglar gets 21 years prison" then when you read the article you see they got 1 year for this and 2 for that in a long list; finally there's an obscure phrase "the sentences are concurrent". That phrase says that the criminal has probably only received 5 or 6 months jail! How it works is that all these sentences are served at the same time (concurrently). This means that the effective sentence is not the sum of the sentences, but the longest single one. In theory concurrent sentencing is a good idea, if the criminal with a suspended license steals a car and drives through a stop sign, they have committed 3 offenses in only one action, so the theory says that they should receive a single penalty; presumably adjusted to allow for the multiple crimes.

Where the system breaks down comes in two parts. Firstly the press consistently misreports these sentences, the headline sentence should be the longest single sentence (and it should be the non parole period) ... imagine the public reaction if instead of saying "Criminal gets 21 years prison" they honestly reported the sentence "6 months prison for 21 burglaries" people would start asking "Why?"

The second breakage comes from the consistent misuse of the system. It's fair enough that one car theft gets one sentence, but what happens instead is a career criminal burgles a house a week for 2 years before the police arrests him. That isn't one criminal act that happens to break 3 laws, that's 108 separate crimes! The rules on concurrent sentencing should be changed so each burglary receives its own sentence and the sentences run consecutively!

Finally

Groups like the "Sensible Sentencing Trust" need to stop playing the media's dishonest game and start pressing for the public to be honestly informed about what is really happening in the courts. I'm sure an informed populace would start demanding sentences that actually fit the crime.

I believe in rehabilitation and forgiveness and as I can't agree with their hard-line "throw away the key" attitude to crime, I'd rather it wasn't the current "Sensible Sentencing Trust" but a replacement organisation that was set up to agitate for honest and appropriate sentences for crime, but right now they are all we've got.


Saturday, November 29, 2008

'Thief' billboard attracts complaint

NZ Herald:
The Advertising Standards Authority has received a complaint about a billboard which allegedly shows a thief stealing electrical transformers from an Auckland advertising company.

The article goes on to explain that the photo was taken by a witness to the theft who watched him dismantle and steal 15 transformers worth $5,000 and continues

But a disgruntled member of the public has complained to the Advertising Standards Authority, apparently over the fact that the billboard breaches the suspect's privacy by calling him a thief before it has been proven in court.

Madness! The person was seen removing the transformers, he was either legally entitled to remove them, or he wasn't. If he was legally entitled, he can sue for libel, if he wasn't then he is a thief, convicted or unconvicted, and the owners of the transformers have every right to display his picture in an attempt to recover their property.

To me, it seems another example of the growing attitude in our society to turn our faces away from nastiness until it escalates to the point where we can no longer ignore it because our noses are rubbed in it by the likes of William Bell or Nia Glassie's killers. Our society was so dedicated to pretending that nothing was going on that we left things to grow worse until it was too late

I'd like to see the name of the person who lodged the complaint about this ad revealed. They're either somehow connected to the thief, or are see-no-evil busybodies, in either case I'd like to see them publicly humiliated too.

Until we as a society can face up to the abuse and ratcheting levels of crime it will continue to get worse.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Rodney Hide, MP for Epsom

As well as being leader of ACT New Zealand, Rodney Hide is my local MP, a position he's held for just over three years.

In the lead up for the 2005 general election, the ACT party seemed finished, founding leader Richard Prebble had resigned and the party was polling well under the 5% threshold to remain in parliament, things looked hopeless for ACT unless they could somehow win an electorate seat. In an interview with the student newspaper Salient, Rodney described winning Epsom as his most memorable moment in parliament
"Without doubt, off the top of my head, it is winning Epsom in 2005. because we had such a trauma for 18 months with everyone, everyday writing us off, and then to sneak through – and it was an enormous amount of work from myself and a number of supporters."

Until a few days out from the election nobody really expected him to do it, National had abandoned the centre and was trying to collapse ACT's vote. The leafy tree lined avenues of Epsom housed one of Auckland's most blue ribbon electorates that had voted National since some time in the Precambrian, yet Rodney and his team were out there every day knocking on doors waving placards and doing everything else you could imagine to promote themselves.

On election night, Rodney had the numbers to take Epsom and the party had just enough votes to bring in Heather Roy as a list MP.

For the last three years Rodney has worked hard as our local MP, turning up at all types of community events and even becoming a "television personality" with appearances on talk shows and his spectacular run on Dancing with the stars. Spectacular mainly because he managed to survive on the popular vote for several weeks despite the judges wanting to write him off ... sounds a lot like his political life.

In the 2008 general election Rodney increased his personal vote winning Epsom by a large majority and ACT increased its party vote and now has 5 MPs in parliament. As I am writing this the new National ministry is close to being announced, possibly only hours away, and it seems highly likely that Rodney will be a minister outside cabinet.
(Update 6PM) It's been announced that Rodney and Heather Roy will both be ministers.
His job now, is to stand for the values that ACT was elected on and to effectively represent those views in parliament, but he also needs to remember that he is there, not because ACT passed the 5% threshold, but because the people of Epsom put him there. We look forward to seeing him doing as good a job for us this parliamentary term as he did in the previous one.

Originally published on Qondio





Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Nia Glassie case - another mindless knee-jerk reaction

Today's Herald reported
Abuse sentences to be reviewed "Justice Minister elect Simon Power says the new National government will consider toughening up sentences on child abusers in its first 100 days.

His comments follow guilty verdicts in the case of Nia Glassie, the Rotorua toddler whose three years of life ended in months of torment and her brutal slaying."

The facts of the case are that the existing laws were not applied. Neighbours stood by pretending they didn't see the abuse. I don't know if Nia Glassie was seen by medical services before her fatal injury, but if she was they also stood silent. In most of the recent cases of child abuse leading to horrific injuries or death to young children, those who had the power to step in to save the child chose to stand back.

There seems to be an on-going tendency for politicians to call for, or promise stiffer sentences, when there is no evidence that there is any real need for them. To the contrary, it seems that the existing law is sufficient, just not applied. Presumably they do this because it gives them the opportunity to be doing something, even if that something is completely futile.

We need a change to society's attitude, we need people to come forward and bring these cases to the attention of the authorities and we need the authorities to act. Until that happens, it doesn't matter how severe the penalties are, if the law that is set up to protect children isn't being applied, it doesn't matter how severe the penalty, that law is a waste of space on the statute books and a shame on the people of Aotearoa / New Zealand.

Of course, we need our elected representatives to earn their salaries and address the actual problems, not just make empty noises that will not make an iota of difference when it comes to protecting the next Nia Glassie.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Physical Security Maxims

Tongue in cheek list of pithy security catchphrases, that happen to be true 80-90% of the time from the Argonne Nuclear Engineering Division Vulnerability Assessment Team ... How's that for a mouthful?

The following maxims are somewhat cynical and tongue-in-cheek. Nevertheless they say important things about physical security, and are essentially correct 80-90% of the time (unfortunately).

As an example:

High-Tech Maxim: The amount of careful thinking that has gone into a given security device, system, or program is inversely proportional to the amount of high-technology it uses.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Meat feeds more climate change than food miles

With all the fuss over fuel miles affecting New Zealand's meat exports to Europe I was intrigued when I found this interesting report in New Scientist magazine's environment section.
"That locally-produced, free-range, organic hamburger might not be as green as you think.

"An analysis of the environmental toll of food production concludes that transportation is a mere drop in the carbon bucket. Foods such as beef and dairy make a far deeper impression on a consumer's carbon footprint.

"If you have a certain type of diet that’s indicative of the American average, you're not going to do that much for climate while eating locally,"
Of course as we're exporting meat, this doesn't directly help New Zealand's case, but when you couple this with the way we grow beef and lamb: free-range in paddocks eating grass and not grain, our cattle are a lot closer to carbon neutral than the factory farmed beasts in the northern hemisphere.

Let's hope someone can get the message out to the world and remember "Red meat isn't bad for you, green fuzzy meat is bad for you".

Gmail Goggles - Stops drunken emailing

Well, not quite. It's a timer based service and Google being Americans they primly describe your state on a Friday night as being "Tired", if Google understands irony it might be a reference to Private Eye's "Tired and emotional" euphemism.

Mail you send over the weekend late at night may be useful but you may regret it the next morning.

How it works is you install it through the "Labs" tab on your Gmail settings page, then before you can send an email at certain designated times you have to solve some basic arithmetic problems. Presumably you pre-set the times it's active to match your likely times for being tired and emotional.

The feature is also available for the email component of the Google Applications for Domains hosted office service.

I can see this as a great service for those who go out partying then put a hand over one eye so they can do a quick email check while they are waiting for the room to stop spinning, now I just wish the car manufacturers would install something like this to reduce the carnage on our roads by stopping people driving cars drunk.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Biting the hand

The Internet is widely known as the home of scammers, but this one just made me laugh. It's on a .com site called NZDate -- obviously a play on the well known and respected NZDating.com
NZDate has been online since 1997, and boasts over Millions of members from New Zealand. Everyday 1000s of people flock to NZDate to find a date or soulmate. Now, you too can cash in on this multi-million dollar venture by participating in our affiliate program
A quick whois check shows it was registered in 2003, but the real give-away here is the "over Millions of members" claim. Anyone who thinks about the size of the New Zealand population would have no trouble realising that that figure is way too high. Have a quick guess how many members the real NZDating site has ... I've decided I'd have no trouble believing any figure between 100,000 and 250,000 (with probably 10% of those still active) but there is no way that 1/2 our population is on a dating site.

So, what do these people think they are doing with this transparent scam? Obviously they are at least covering their costs or they wouldn't have kept it going for 5 years. The domain name is registered with Wild West Domains which is Godaddy's reseller vehicle, so may have been registered for very little, probably around US$7/year. The hosting is probably bottom of the barrel shared hosting, probably costing under $10/year per domain name, and I'll wager they have domains for quite a few countries all pointing at the same hosting and sharing the same software. So once it's going I guess they only need one of their cheapest sign-ups a year at US$39.95 a month, with the rest being profit. By comparison the non-free upgrade of NZDating is NZ$59.95 for a year.

They are even prepared to offer affiliates 40% to 50% of the sign-up fee. Again if they can find enough stupid people I guess it's money for jam, and if the affiliates can funnel stupid people at them then why not?

I wouldn't have worried too much, except I discovered this little gem while searching out New Zealand affiliate programs for a directory I'm creating. In one of my fits of originality it's called Affiliate Directory. I've built directories from scratch before, but this one is hard going, New Zealand businesses don't seem to have bought into the affiliate marketing model, and unfortunately many of those who do haven't though it through properly. I'm only interested in listing programs that are of use to New Zealand web-masters and that means they have to get paid for their efforts. Aside from obvious scams like NZDate, I'm finding apparently genuine NZ businesses who want affiliates to send them orders, and then pay those affiliates through a US plan that will only pay in US currency ... ever tried to clear a US "check" through the NZ banking system? Some banks will charge up to $50.

Other sites are offering capped commissions. Hello? Your affiliate partner is sending you additional sales you wouldn't have got. If you're prepared to give them commissions on their first few sales, why not on all of them? You're still making the same profit per sale, so why not pay the site that made those profits possible?

The webmasters in affiliate schemes are providing a valuable service for the scheme owners. They are finding ways of sending potential customers to the vendor, and as unlike pay per click, they only get paid when the prospect actually buys something, they are only trying to send qualified prospects through. There are some very serious affiliate webmasters out there who work at it as a full-time job. They work hard and they deserve to be treated as the professionals they have become.

Over the last few days it feels like I've looked at close to 1,000 affiliate scheme sign-up pages, probably only half that in reality. From these I've extracted 50 that I've added to the directory and another 20 where I've queried the scheme owner about the parameters of their scheme. Of the ones I've rejected, there are a few sites that operate under many different names, several foreign schemes that register .co.nz domains but aren't interested in paying in NZ$, quite a few shops with default osCommerce affiliates pages (i.e. no scheme), a lot of schemes that don't seem to understand that they are forging a partnership. In amongst this there are the ones that made the exercise worth while.

Update 7:30 PM

The very next site I looked at after publishing this article is a shining example of how to do it right. eNautical provide home study boating and marine courses and on their affiliate page explain the affiliate process in simple language, including projected earnings for a couple of likely scenarios.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Branding on the Internet

If you have a business you need a unique name for your business and, you need to protect it and promote it. Trademark registration does protect the name within limits and having a website is a great way to promote your business. In not much more then 12 years the Internet has gone from an academic curiosity to a mainstream business tool that allows even small business to affordably promote their products to everyone in their town or even to a world wide audience. Depending on what line of business you are in you may need anything from a simple web site you can build yourself to a complicated on-line catalogue you need to hire a professional to do.

Whatever size web-site you decide you need, you need to brand it, and a part of that branding is you must have your own domain name and one you have it, your domain name is your business' brand, you should use it for all internet communication. Your customers and prospects will recognise you by that name. If you use your ISP's url or email address such as yourlogin@ispname.co.nz, www.ispname.co.nz/~yourlogin/, www.ispname.co.nz/homepages/~yourlogin/ or http://yourname.ispname.co.nz you are damaging your business in three ways

  • You are not reinforcing your branding across to your customers
  • You are not presenting a professional image to prospects who may wonder if you really are an established business
  • You won't get any people guessing your website name and typing it (so-called type-in traffic)
  • You are spending your advertising money promoting your ISP's brand
  • If you ever want to change ISPs you have a large and expensive task moving. This will include
    • replacing stationary, signs, and signwriting,
    • informing existing customers
    • redirecting existing links to your new address.
As an aside, under no circumstances advertise a free email address (e.g. NocturnalAviation@hotmail.com) as your business email address. If you must use web based email temporarily (e.g. while travelling) your web host should be able to supply a branded one or forward your normal email to a web based service. Google's Gmail is a free email service you can configure to send emails that appear to come from your normal email address so your replies still carry your branding.

Choosing a domain name

People quite often guess web addresses for businesses and with a well chosen name they may be finding your web site. They might have briefly seen your business name on the side of your van, of a friend may have told them about you. To do this you must choose the right domain name.

A domain name is the part of a web address that does after the "www." or if you prefer the part of an email address that goes after the "@" sign.

Domain names are in two parts: The name you choose and a suffix called the extension. The extension indicates information about the registration and will be something like .com, .co.nz, .ltd.uk, .in. The two together are the domain name and the salient point here is that your domain name is your branding.

  • The extension needs to match your intended market, if you are selling in Australia you want .com.au, .co.nz for New Zealand, .co.uk for Britain, and so-forth. The .com extension is important for the US market, and also for the international market.

    In every market there are secondary extensions. These get almost no type-in and except in special circumstances they should be avoided.

  • The part you choose is very important, it is the part people will remember about your domain name, and it should match your trading name. If you trade as Mettal's Emporium, your domain name should start with one of Mettal, Mettals, Mettals-Emporium, or MettalsEmporium; which of these you choose depends on memorability, ease of typing, and your intended market. The general rule is that shorter is better, but there are a lot of exceptions.Take your time deciding and get it right.

    You are going to be running your business for a lot of years, and you are going to spend a lot of money promoting your brand. Spend a few days now thinking about the name you will use.

Having more than one domain name
As explained above, there's two parts to every domain name, and you can have variations on both parts of your name, but the reasons why you would do this differ.

You must have the most common extension for your target market, the one that your customers are used to typing. Use .com, not .biz; .co.uk, not .ltd.uk; .co.nz, not .geek.nz. Once you've got that you can also register other variations, when it makes sense. For example, if you are going to run the Hamilton Dance School and have registered HamiltonDance.co.nz it may make a lot of sense to also register HamiltonDance.school.nz and promote that as your branding. Because you own both names, anyone who types in HamiltonDance.co.nz will still find you.

If you can get it, also register the .com version of your name. Although most people will try the locally popular extension, some will try .com, and possibly in years to come you may find yourself trading internationally so why not reserve the name now? Finally, if you don't get it you may find your competition do and you can have an expensive time regaining it.

You can also register variations on your main domain name. In the example above I said you should choose one of Mettal, Mettals, Mettals-Emporium, or MettalsEmporium as your branded domain name. The other three names shouldn't be ignored, if your business will profit from having them you can register all four and arrange for the other three to redirect to your main branding. CocaCola.com and coke.com both redirect to coca-cola.com

The same logic exists for variations on your name. If you are Kawhia Raglan Plumbers ltd you should consider registering

  • KawhiaRaglanPlumbers.co.nz,
  • KawhiaPlumbers.co.nz,
  • RaglanPlumbers.co.nz,
  • probably kawhia-raglan-plumbers.co.nz; and
  • possibly the .coms as well.
If you are actually Smith and Jones Ltd trading as Kawhia Raglan Plumbers you should register the same names & probably smithandjones.co.nz.

Hyphens or not? Singular or Plural?

There's a perceived wisdom among the internet savvy that having hyphens is a bad thing because people aren't going to type them. Certainly the more internet aware members of the public don't, but there's still a large minority of the population that will type them. Personally I'd go for the no-hyphen version of the name unless it's really ugly. One thing to watch out for is can there be a second meaning to the name if you just join two words together, and even if you always spell it in mixed case, search engines will convert it to lower case. You should probably also register the hyphenated version and redirect it.

The plural versus singular is more difficult. If you are a cake decorator you sell wedding cakes, but your customer probably only wants to buy a wedding cake. On the other hand, to buy their wedding cake they may look for a site that sells wedding cakes. In short, they may try either wedding cake or wedding cakes. Logic suggests you should try getting both names, unless there is some reason in your market why only one name will work.

For this combination register

  • WeddingCakes.co.uk,
  • WeddingCake.co.uk,
  • probably wedding-cakes.co.uk and
  • wedding-cake.co.uk
(The .com versions of all these are long gone, but if possible grab them too)

Aren't we registering a lot of names?

How many domain names you register is a business decision that should be guided by the same principles as any other decision.

You know your business and how well a sale does for you. If your average sale netts you $1,000 profit, then an extra domain name only needs to bring in one more sale every few years to pay for itself. If your average sale netts you $10 profit, then that extra domain name needs to bring in 4 or 5 extra sales a year to pay for itself. Stop and think what your potential customers will be looking for and try to find the right domain name(s) for them to find then register as many money making names as your budget allows.

What if you have multiple Brands?

Protect all your brands. Market all your brands and have the domain names for them. Each distinct brand should point to a page about that brand. This page can either be a mini-site for itself, or a redirect to the relevant page in your main site.

Register now or later?

If you register your name now you've got it. If you don't somebody else may register it. Once another party has registered the name it becomes much more difficult and often more expensive to obtain it.

Every domain name authority has rules for resolving disputes between the current registered owner of domain names and other claimants. The .nz domain name registry runs a disputes service under its own rules that are similar to the .uk rules and publishes the results on-line. Because of my involvement in .nz domain names I read any new decisions, sometimes they are interesting, and can show that there really are grounds to dispute the claim, but usually it's pretty mundane: someone has registered a domain name for a well known brand (or a close approximation) and doesn't even try to file a defence.

In the most recent decision (pdf, html) the complaint was laid by a large international company that had registered its name as a trademark in New Zealand 13 years ago and acquired a New Zealand subsidiary 5 years ago. The respondent questioned why did the complainant not purchase the domain name relevant to their international branding upon acquiring its New Zealand subsidiary? It wasn't really a defence but it does raise an interesting point.

Because the complainant had a trademark and the respondent didn't have a good defence they were able to regain their name. It cost them a couple of thousand dollars to get the judgement plus whatever fees their lawyer charged them.

If you have a name and intend to brand it, register it now. In an earlier case (pdf, html) a business privately discussed registering a domain name, but didn't act for several months. In the meantime another person innocently registered the name, and the attempt to gain it failed.

In another (unpublicised) case a person was developing a business asset and discussed the name with the wrong person who then went out and registered the name. At the time of writing I have no idea if they will be able to get their name back, but the problem simply wouldn't have existed if they had secured the name when they had the chance.

Another good rule of thumb is don't tell anyone anything about your branding until you have registered the names you are going to want.

Summary

Consider your market and how you want to brand yourself for that market. Pick a domain name that supports that branding and then treat that domain name as your branding. Consider variations on the name that make sense in your market and register those names also, make the extra names redirect to your branded site. Once you decide to use a name, register it immediately and limit who you discuss the name with until you have the registration.


Copyright © 2008 Bruce Clement. All rights reserved.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Day 0, Year 0

The first post on a new blog is usually a chance to express high hopes for the future. I'm going to be a bit more restrained.

I've had another blog Bruce / Kiore an occasional diary for a while and it's ended up being a confused mishmash of personal news, my views on the world and domaining related essays.

I've decided to split it into three. The original blog will be a dear diary for personal news and revert to the occasional diary status, this blog for my world views together with philosophical and political thoughts while my domaining related posts and will be stored at Domaining NZ


The blog's name is "¿Que?", it's probably Spanish and possibly means "What?" Anyone remembering Fawlty Towers will recognise it as Manuel's favourite expression. Where Manuel used it to express is non-comprehension of Basil I'd using it more to express my amazement and incomprehension of the world.

I'll be moving the relevant postings from the old blog over here which is why there will be entries here from before I began the blog.

 


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