Toolkits from the Tactical Technology Collective


I received a late Christmas present in the mail from the Tactical Technology Collective today, as a follow up to the Participatory Design Conference seminar I attended a few weeks back on turning information into action. The TTC support NGOs, human rights advocates, independent journalists and community associations involved with advocacy projects around different issues.

My first impressions of the toolkit samples are that I love the attention to detail in the presentation – I think it highlights the thought and care that has gone into preparing the information that these toolkits contain.

I’ll describe them in more detail when I get the chance. However, in the meantime you can also access these materials online.

Imagine this – The NBN will be much more than simply faster broadband

After reading the NBN business plan it’s actually a bit hard to remain aloof and unexcited. This is a magnificent, awe-inspiring undertaking: there has never been anything like it, not in this country and probably not anywhere in the world.

Let me be clear, I’m in the pro-NBN camp. The main arguments against the NBN appear to be based on economic foresight that:

  • Not enough people will want it; and
  • The technology will be obsolete before it turns a profit.

I’m less worried about the technology – fibre optic isn’t a new technology but we are far from exhausting its capabilities… unless of course we can commercialise faster than the speed of light matter transmission in the near future.

But the issue of demand is something different. I remember the difficulties of explaining to business and consumer users back in the early 2000s about the benefits of moving from dial-up to plain old DSL. At that time, many people just could not see the point of a faster, always on Internet connection either.

Cost of course is always an issue, but it is also very true that people can’t always imagine the benefits and value of a new technology. Trying to work out what the NBN will bring in the future by simply thinking in terms of what we do today with broadband, but doing it faster, is a mistake. The NBN will be much more than this.

Hat tip Delimiter.

MyHospitals (again) – is health care a journey or a transaction?

We are not providing real time information on how many parking lots are available or the current length of elective surgery waiting lists. For such information, they should contact the hospital or their doctor respectively,

I commented on MyHospitals the other day, but only just came across this related coverage.

My immediate thought in response to this quote from Alison Verhoeven, Senior Executive at Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), is: but why not?

Don’t factors like access to parking also affect the patient and the patient’s carers, friends and family as they move through the health system? It leaves me wondering exactly who the ‘My’ in MyHospitals is.

“Mostly Harmless” – Wikipedia’s first 10,000 edits (from Boing Boing)

Joseph Reagle, author of the excellent history of Wikipedia, Good Faith Collaboration (review coming soon) sez, “When I wrote my book on Wikipedia’s culture and history, many sources, such as emails from founders, Nupedia-l archives, and (most sadly) the early days of Wikipedia contributions were lost to bit rot. But thanks to a recent discovery of some old log files by Tim Starling, I’ve been able to roughly reconstruct the first 10,000 edits to Wikipedia (about 6 weeks).”

There is probably some good behaviour data to mine here, for those wanting to kick off their own encyclopaedia-style or knowledgebase wiki to imagine what their first 10,000 edits might look like.

Looking at the entry for Australia I was reminded of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

To wiki is obviously human.

What’s on your desk?


I love Xplane’s visual meditations but this one caught my attention today because it reminds me of a simple ethnographic approach I like to use in my consulting work.

For many people, their desk represents the intersection between their physical workspace and their digital workspace. So, this make it an interesting place to directly experience and observe as part of the user-centred design process.

However, where this isn’t possible maybe sketching your desk could be an alternative way of engaging with people about the people, places and things they interact with?


Better hospital information for Australians

Nationally consistent, locally relevant

MyHospitals presents data on individual public hospitals throughout Australia. It has been set up under the National Health and Hospitals Network Agreement. It also includes information on many private hospitals.

MyHospitals is based on the latest available information provided by state and territory health departments and private hospitals to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

Over time, the contents of the website will be expanded to add further information.

I’m never one to criticise any movement in the right direction, but lets face it – the MyHospitals site is just a fancy online brochure. Instead of flicking the pages, you can search directly for the hospital you are interested in.

The site’s copyright and terms of use are also very restrictive (alas, no hint of Creative Commons).

There is no data API, no news feeds to keep you updated, no social sharing options. Even the opportunity to include a map of the exact location of the hospital was overlooked.

And finally, statistics is one thing, but where are the stories [PDF] behind this data?

In that respect, I also wonder if issues of data quality might be improved if the AIHW applied some Gov 2.0 principles to the site and the process behind it. What do you think?

Chromaroma – the gameification of public sector information

Pick up Items.
Complete Collections.
Take on Missions.

The city is vast, and there are many ways
to play it. From ambient play which enhances
the journeys you already take, to more
exploratory fare that will take you to places
perhaps you didn’t know existed.

Gov 2.0 app building competitions that build on transport system time table data are one thing, but how about an online social game that uses your journeys as the currency?

Well, this is this idea behind Chromaroma. It utilises the data collected by users as they move through London’s public transport using their smart card travel passes.

For more of an overview see this Guardian piece or listen to this episode of their Tech Weekly podcast.

Chromaroma’s creator, Toby Barnes, also make some good points about gameification and how there is more to it than simply “points and badges”.

As a side note, I wonder if we’ll ever have the guts or initiative to try something like this here in Australia?