It was a year of privacy issues, award-winning excellence, social media embarrassments, continued copyright calamities and finally some hope that faster Internet was coming for all.
Track of the Year by Records
The second decade of the third millennium began with global success for New Zealand. Our wire to the world brought us creative awards, such as a Titanium at the Cannes advertising festival for Orcon's Iggy campaign and financial windfalls, with offshore investments in NZ technology companies such as the sale of Hyperfactory to a US media giant.
Orcon was named Creative Business of the Year locally for their bold campaigns, a big deal for a business operating in the ISP market, now far from the darling of the business scene it had been during the ISP wars of the ‘90s.
The relative youth of the Hyperfactory founders and news-friendly nuggets, such as one of the duo pre-booking a flight aboard Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic space flights, added to the feeling of revived buzz around Internet-plays locally.
While the wire was bringing fame to some locals and demonstrating internationally the quality of our creative and technology communities, it was bringing infamy to others. Breakfast TV host Paul Henry's antics made their way onto YouTube yet again, this time for mispronouncing Chief Minister of New Delhi Sheila Dikshit’s name during an interview broadcast on Indian television.
The nation quickly took to social media, taking sides on whether Henry should be censured by TVNZ. Facebook pages were created called ’Bring Back Paul Henry’, ‘TVNZ sucks for suspending Paul Henry’, ‘I am boycotting TVNZ until they sack Paul Henry’, liked by thousands and giving an illusion of democracy to his eventual dismissal.
All of this attention was sure to put a strain on our wire and, in 2010, a group of local visionaries and investors announced the first serious alternative to the Southern Cross Cable, that carries most of our Internet data to and from the world, Pacific Fibre.
A notable international investor in the cable was Peter Thiel, PayPal billionaire and early Facebook investor. He seemed to take a shine to New Zealand investing in 2010, also ploughing money into local cloud-based accounting success Xero, which continued to enter new markets.
With some hope for a faster link to the world on the horizon, ensuring we could get data quickly to the regions and finally to our businesses and homes, was even more of a hot topic than before. Luckily 2010 was the year that a lot of talk about Ultra-Fast Broadband finally started to see some results.
Crown Fibre Holdings, charged with making best use of the Government's $1.5 billion, announced the first set of successful tenders aimed at providing 75 per cent of New Zealanders with access to Internet services at speeds of at least 100 Mbps (Downstream) and 50 Mbps (Upstream), considerably faster than the average 2.97 Mbps revealed in 2009 when we were ranked 22nd of 45 countries.
Those people bidding for the contracts put significant effort into publicity, releasing TV commercials that bemused the average punter who really just wanted ‘faster net now’. Telecom went as far as promising further operational separation of its business in an attempt to win a lion's share of the work. At the end of 2010, the full list of successful tenderers still remained unknown but some work in select regions was underway.
Back overseas, the big stories of the year were hidden truths and half-truths. Wikileaks rose to prominence as it spilt further ‘secret files’ onto the Internet. By the end of the year, even New Zealand was involved at more than a voyeuristic level, with leaked diplomatic cables from the US embassy describing some of us as ‘other worlders’ and in other unflattering ways.
In the half-truths camp, 2010 was the year of Facebook – not just because every second local story made mention of it and every second of some of our friends’ lives was spent on it, but because Time magazine named founder Mark Zuckerberg as Person of the Year and The Social Network, the movie about the site's making, was released.
These events had the effect of legitimising social media in some way locally, but no amount of tweeting could win Jack Yan, whose campaign was based around social media, the Wellington mayoralty. Social media would however see prominent blogger Whale Oil convicted for blogging suppressed information. As well as seeing another local man convicted for posting naked photos of his girlfriend to her Facebook profile in a sad tale of rejection and revenge.
While the same patterns of over-disclosure and businesses ‘just not getting it’ were repeated throughout social media, some more practical uses, such as ASB opening a full service, virtual bank branch on Facebook, were launched. And when a devastating earthquake hit Canterbury in September 2010, social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook were an invaluable communications tool and rallying point for both showing support and organising practical assistance.
In the minutes and hours after the quake social media channels were the first to report details and provided a communication link for those concerned with loved ones in the area. On Facebook groups like the "UC Student Volunteer Army" organised students to provide help in the aftermath and mapping tools were repurposed to help locate people and detail the devastation.
Social media activism brought to light – globally and locally – Google's privacy fails with Street View cars capturing more data than they should as they cruised our streets and the search giant's Buzz networking tool auto-opting us into over-sharing with our friends.
Up 500 on the 2008/09 period. Enquiry topics that stood out during the year included Google's collection of WiFi and other data during its Street View activities and New Zealand Post's competition and survey activity.
Incidents like this resulted in a record year of complaints for the Office of the Privacy Commissioner. To tackle these attacks on privacy, many of which came from global rather than local corporations, New Zealand became a founding member of the Global Privacy Enforcement Network (GPEN). Allowing our privacy agency to cooperate with others to raise concerns and settle disputes.
The (potential) effect of international law also looked likely to impact on our freedom with secretive Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) talks doing their rounds and making an appearance in Wellington in April. In response, a campaign dubbed PublicACTA was set up to expose what was actually known about the secretive attempt to foist restrictive copyright laws on nations such as New Zealand – and the Wellington declaration petition was issued.
On a related note, local copyright laws were in the news again in 2010. The Section 92A copyright changes that had been squashed in 2009 through a social media revolt reared their ugly head in a new form, diluted, but still with much of what people objected to, termination of the Internet being a potential penalty.
The local web community was able to celebrate early in the year with a new initiative from the founders of the Webstock conference, The Onyas. The first of these annual awards for online excellence was given out in February – the winners kick-start Down to the Wire's ‘best sites’ section below.
Sadly, 2010 also saw the loss of two notable local netizens – Internet commentator and visionary Paul Reynolds and Dennis Dutton, philosopher and founder of the influential Arts & Letters Daily website. An outpouring of tweets, blog posts and mainstream media stories recounted their lives and illustrated how both would be missed on a personal and professional level.
NZ On Screen is a unique collaboration between a multitude of broadcast content creators, broadcasters and archives. It's quietly unlocking a treasure trove of NZ screen culture for all - a very hard job, done in an informed, idiosyncratic and witty manner. And its technology is awesome - deceptively simple for users. [NB - I'm a trustee and funder so of course biased in favour :) ] [ View Site ]
Top website at this years Designer's Institute of NZ awards ( http://bestawards.co.nz/ ) - an innovative showcase of the Christchurch Gallery's extensive collection and numerous events & exhibitions. [ View Site ]
Highlights how collaboration and social network sites, affect people, especially to those living in New Zealand. [ View Site ]
Winner of Most outstanding website, Best user experience and Best web application at the 2010 Onya awards. [ View Site ]
Winner of the Best visual design at the 2010 Onyas. [ View Site ]
Winner of Best HTML & CSS and Best accessibility categories at the 2010 Onyas. [ View Site ]
Winner of the Best content (personal) category at the 2010 Onyas for Zef Fugaz's site. [ View Site ]
Best Content (corporate) category winner at the 2010 Onyas. [ View Site ]
Most Innovative category winner at the 2010 Onyas. [ View Site ]
Winner of the Best mobile application category at the 2010 Onyas. [ View Site ]
Winner of Best mobile website or web application category at the 2010 Onyas. [ View Site ]