In June 2006, many Kiwis found themselves watching a teenage girl broadcasting video from her bedroom. It would be September before most were willing to admit to it.
The freedom of recording on his own equipment at home opened up a whole new world of possibilities for Chris. What and how he recorded informed how he wrote songs and developed ideas. The limitations and restraints of working this way coupled with an abundance of creative ideas produced a new sensibility that was increasingly echoed at home (check out the Flying Nun 25th anniversary Box Set for multiple examples) and abroad. - Roger Shepherd
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Track of the Year by Records
It wasn’t just Kiwis, but a large portion of Internet users that found themselves caught up in the day-to-day dramas of teen video blogger LonelyGirl15 in mid-2006.
Many had their suspicions along the way, but these weren’t confirmed until September when Jessica Rose outed herself as a 19-year-old New Zealand-born actress rather than the 15-year old American she was playing in the YouTube videos.
In 2006 it was amateur, and purportedly amateur online content such as LonelyGirl15, that got us hooked on watching Internet video. And when we weren’t watching video online, we were online talking about what was on the television.
…Which was frustrating for the many New Zealanders still without broadband. These Kiwis in the Internet slow lanes could at least enjoy the latest viral craze – LOLcats – pictures of cats with misspelt captions that to some, made for major amusement.
So in a year when Telecom’s Xtra was hit with so much spam that in September some emails were taking days, not minutes, to deliver, it was emails from our actual friends that were often the most annoying.
It wasn’t until the next year that the government signed off on the Unsolicited Electronic Messages Act (2007) that sought to put a stop to spam by making it illegal. Sadly, the Act had no power to stop our friends from forwarding us inane images via email.
In 2006, a Shortland Street extra was banned from future appearances on the show when she leaked plot information to the ‘Street Talk’ website that many of the country’s Shortie fans flocked to. Then, in what was becoming typical Internet fashion, she became a flash-in-the-pan online celebrity in her own right when it was revealed that she had also been a notorious contestant on NZ Idol and appeared in a local porn magazine the year before.
This was all great promotion for Throng Media, formed in 2006 around a growing collection of TV show-focused communities. Starting as a single blog focused on the NZ Idol show in 2004, there was soon a Shortland Street community and, in a few short years, the Throng site would be living up to its tagline of ‘New Zealand’s TV watching community’.
In a local first, the TV adaptation of Margaret Mahy’s Maddigan's Quest was made available for free download online. Though it was not until 2007 before services like TVNZ’s OnDemand made catching up on broadcast TV online simple. Or 2008 until NZ on Air launched NZ on Screen to present archived video footage, such as music videos, TV and documentaries to the public for free.
Maddigan’s Quest was the only show ‘freely’ available at the time – but that didn’t stop those obsessed with American TV franchises from using tools like BitTorrent to watch the very latest series of shows such as Lost, while TV3 lagged behind in the episodes they showed on the small screen.
Apple launched its iTunes store in 2006, giving music fans a convenient way to load their iPods. But online TV shows were still as absent as they are today.
All this downloading of music and large TV shows meant that Xtra’s release of their unlimited data plan ‘Go Large’ was a godsend for many in Godzone. Until then, the reality proved to be less than compelling due to greedy users and technical issues and the plan was shelved – except for those who had been lucky enough to get it while it was offered and were able to keep it for years afterwards.
The Internet was hardly limited to fans of TV in 2006. Sports fans in particular were starting to be well-catered for by various ‘virtual’ or fantasy sports leagues for the main codes such as soccer and rugby released in the mid-2000s.
And for more passive fans, sites such as Stuff were starting to package up video from games with written commentary and stats. A single All Blacks versus France test had its 10-minute highlights package viewed 65,000 times in November 2006. Music fans were rewarded with a growing number of music videos, old and new, being uploaded to places like Youtube - meaning fans were no longer limited by the programming of our few music TV channels.
Much more active Internet fans were being labeled by some as members of ‘Generation-C’. Rather than referring to a specific age such as Generation X/Y, the ‘C’ stood for anything from content to creativity to community. These fans were becoming visible in 2006 for their remixing or mashing-up of content from their favourite TV shows and musicians to create humorous, political or just plain fresh content.
Unlike in the USA, New Zealand has no fair use clause in its copyright statutes that allows for satirical use of copyright content, so every remix risked raising the ire of rights holders. With the growth in activity by Generation-C and those in academia and government who wanted to give their content away, the push to get Creative Commons licences ‘ported’ to make them New Zealand-friendly began in earnest – and was completed in 2007.
It was still a couple of years before the Internet really got onto our mobiles via devices like the iPhone, but in 2006 it made its way at least as far as our living-room TVs with the launch of third-generation consoles, the Xbox 360, Playstation3 and the Nintendo Wii.
While these would all feature some form of Web browser, it was the other aspects of Internet connectivity they supported – downloading new games, and playing cooperatively, or competitively against friends – that were the main selling points. Since the ‘90s, hardcore Kiwi gamers had been able to play games against each other online on PCs using dedicated servers at some ISPs, but the consoles brought online gaming to the average user.
Telecom CEO tells analysts that the government is far too smart to ‘do anything dumb’ like unbundling. Then in May, a rogue parliamentary messenger leaks the news – the government has proposed to pass new telecommunication regulations.
Finally, in the year we took our fandom for things onto the Web, we took our fandom for the Web offline. 2006 saw the first ‘Webstock’ in Wellington – a Web technology conference.
Co-organiser Natasha Hall promoted the first event saying, “I see the vision of the conference as not just about the Web. It’s about getting people inspired to create blogs and to pursue other community-creating activities through the Internet”. The event would become a must-attend for those in the New Zealand Web community over the next few years as it gave an often virtual community a tangible touchpoint.
From a community of dotcom party kids to adults looking to mentor the next generation less than a decade later - in 2006 yMedia was one of the organisations that launched in the later-half of the 2000s to connect marketing communications and online professionals with youth to work on charitable projects. The Internet was really growing up.
Tomorrow: Accusations of teenage murder, pleas of innocence, and heartfelt imploring for a girl to leave the teacher she had run away with – very private dramas were played out in public in 2007.