On January 18 the users and companies of the internet rallied together to protest against SOPA and PIPA, bills that would censor the internet. Check out the numbers. It worked. Here‘s part of a huge list, with even bigger names on it of the sites that participated in the blackout. Google, Wikipedia, Reddit, BoingBoing and Wired are among them. Here’s the page Wikipedia displayed. The Wikipedia page about SOPA and PIPA was accessed more than 162 million times during the 24 hours the site was blacked out. More than eight million people looked up their elected representatives’ contact information via Wikipedia’s tool, crashing the Senate’s website. At one point, 1% of all tweets on Twitter included the #wikipediablackout hashtag.
It is likely the bills will be back in one form or another:
What’s the best way for me to help? (for U.S. citizens)
The most effective action you can take is to call your representatives [phone calls have the most impact] in both houses of Congress, and tell them you oppose SOPA, PIPA, and the thinking behind them.
What’s the best way for me to help? (for non-U.S. citizens)
Contact your country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs or similar government agency. Tell them you oppose SOPA and PIPA, and any similar legislation. SOPA and PIPA will affect websites outside of the United States, and even sites inside the United States (like Wikipedia) that also affect non-American readers — like you. Calling your own government will also let them know you don’t want them to create their own bad anti-Internet legislation.
Megaupload’s website was taken down a day after the protest (without trial), with related people being arrested in New Zealand, and property confiscated. Are we okay with helping enforce US copyright law which, as SOPA and PIPA shows is heavily influenced by the entertainment industry? Is this what extradition should be used for?
It appears, at first glance, that Megaupload was removing infringing material on request. Although it seems their take down procedure was molded around the way they store files–only storing one copy of it if it is uploaded more than once, but giving out a unique URL for the file.
Megaupload has many similarities to other websites, which makes this concerning. It was definitely used for legitimate and legal purposes by legitimate users.
Update 28 September 2012: This post was written before I started working for a bank (who I love dearly), and at least some views expressed in this post have changed since then (eg. case-insensitive passwords (and ASB isn’t the only bank that does this) are irrelevant when users are locked out after three incorrect login attempts–Facebook does something similar to this, accepting the actual password, the password with the first letter capitalized (to account for automatic capitalization on mobile devices), and the password with the case of letters reversed (to account for the caps lock key being on), and that a charge for a bank cheque is not so unreasonable in the context of a lot of bank cheques being for a large amount). Also some bank policies have changed since this post was published (eg. ASB no longer charges $2 for automatic payments added/amended online–progress!) There is, however, no way of getting around ASB’s $0.20 fee for a Netcode over-$500-transfer-authorization if you don’t have a token–it is charged even if you call the 0800 number and ask them to release the payment. Except for a note regarding the previous sentence, this post hasn’t been edited from the original form.
And useful (see: next day bank transfers).
I’m with ASB and they are great, however no one is perfect. Here’s some things that I hate about banks in New Zealand. Many of these problems are shared by the entire industry.
Or the fact that ASB keeps trying to convert me to one even though I’m not allowed one.
Here’s mailer number one, received the week of my 17th birthday:
And mailer two, from today:
Irrelevant: check. Impersonal: check. You know how to make a guy feel special ASB. (Case in point: I’m not 18 so they couldn’t give me my own credit card even if they really really wanted to).
This is upsetting because I have a feeling tertiary accounts have less fees than youth accounts. At least, it isn’t emphasized that service fees apply to tertiary accounts like it is for youth accounts on ASB’s fee exemption page. Service fees apply for everyone, see comment from ASB below.
Stupid bank fees
ASB isn’t the only bank that charges stupid fees, but here are some examples of theirs:
$2 to set up or amend an automatic payment or add a person you might want to transfer money to again (like the power company, or mum). Online. On the internet. Changing an entry in a database. By yourself.
20 cents for each time you use Netcode, ASB’s text verification service, which you can choose to happen on login. Google, who isn’t even in New Zealand doesn’t charge for this (see below). Probably get charged 20 cents again by your mobile service provider for receiving the text. Some sort of verification is required for some transactions that take you over a $500 daily transfer limit, or if you’re sending money overseas. Alternatively, you can ring their call center to get transactions verified for [email protected]!! I wonder if the time of the person you speak to on the phone is worth less than 20 cents?See update at top of post–20 cents is charged even if you call the 0800 number.
Alternatively you can pay $12 a year for a physical Netcode token, which you’d need if you are regularly out of cellphone reception and probably if you travel overseas. RaboDirect provides these for free. BNZ provides the NetGuard card for free.
5 cents for each email alert. For the virtual stamp. Or the person who licks it. Or something.
20 cents for text alerts and text banking. I think they charge you when they receive a text banking message from you. Plus you probably get charged to send texts to them by your service provider. In contrast, Westpac provides a certain number of text alerts free per month as long as you log in to online banking that month.
$5 for bank cheques. Plus because you probably have an “electronic” account, and if you’re not a youth/student, a fee of $3 because that’s a manual transaction.
“Please note, your password must be eight characters long, and contain at least two letters (a-z) and at least two numbers (0-9). For example, redbus73 and 8cube224 are valid passwords.”
This is ASB’s. I assume other banks are as ridiculous. Would you like a nine character password? YOU CAN’T. MUST BE EIGHT.
Microsoft’s (now defunct) password checker says both of their examples are weak. ASB lets you use both of their examples as real passwords, because security.
Here’s an entry form I picked up from BNZ’s tent at The Show:
Note the classy clause at the bottom: “By providing your details, you consent to use contacting you about our products, services and promotions, from time to time (including via text message without an unsubscribe facility).”
Once you’re in, they have you.
I guess if you rang them they’d remove you from their text messaging scheme, but really, why not let people unsubscribe via text using common keywords like stop, or unsubscribe?
Visa Debit cards
And their annual fees. $10 a year for having the card. National Bank got half of the memo and isn’t charging the annual fee if you have their Freedom account. But you have to be earning $30k+ a year and pumping it into that account. Anyway, I like the image they’re using in their ads for it (see top image).
Sure, debit cards are great if you are under 18 or don’t trust yourself with a credit card. But really, if you can, you should just get a credit card.
Banks (looking at you Westpac and BNZ) seem to love converting people to these debit cards, even if the person already has a credit card with the bank. I don’t understand. Family members have received Visa Debit cards in the mail from Westpac, even though they have a credit card with Westpac. If you already have a Visa or credit card, why would you want a Visa Debit?
It’s a bit of a have, because people naturally think this is their replacement EFTPOS card and start using it, probably not realizing that once they start using it they’re going to be charged an annual fee. If they’re lucky, maybe the fee will be waived for a year or two!
When you go into BNZ to request an EFTPOS card, the tellers like to order you in a Visa Debit card instead*, because, you know, they know best.
*May have happened just once.
Lack of security
That’s Google’s 2-step verification programme.
There’s a number of ways to use it. I have the Google Authenticator application on a couple of devices (it works without needing an internet connection), I can get a code sent to me by text (for [email protected]@) if the application isn’t working, I can use the backup codes if I have to, and I can tell Google that it doesn’t need to ask me for a verification code on the computer I’m using for another 30 days if I trust it.
It works, it’s good, it’s free. And it’s not even protecting my money.
Side note: security has to actually be built-in by design and be compulsory for it to be useful. Kerry Thompson points out that security conscious people probably have limited use for 2-factor authentication systems, because they already take precautions. The people who aren’t security conscious are also the people who don’t think they need 2-factor authentication, they think they’ll be covered by the bank, or won’t use it because of the cost (hi ASB’s 20 cent per text charge).
See also: Google doesn’t have an eight character password policy and Google gives a detailed account of recent account activity (ASB shows the last time I logged in, but I rarely look at it, and out of context it’s kind of useless).
How about encouraging people to set up an automatic payment to a savings account every pay period and sign up for Kiwisaver?
Also, you would think an application that consists of one button would be easy to set up, but Westpac’s Impulse Saver requires you to apply to use it, and makes you wait for a callback from a customer service person.
Phone banking on mobiles
Westpac and BNZ seem to be the only two banks who try to ban calls from mobile phones to their phone banking numbers. It’s trivial to get around this with Westpac, just call their main 0800 number and press one to get to phone banking. On BNZ it seems like that works too, at least after their call center hours.
Visa and MasterCard undermining credit card PINs
Visa and MasterCard aren’t banks, but whatever.
McDonald’s, in association with Visa and MasterCard has the policy of not requiring a PIN or signature for credit card transactions under $35.
How they can guarantee security, I’m not sure, because they just took away the only security of a PIN or signature. I’m not sure why Visa and MasterCard don’t make this opt-in or opt-out.
Zero liability can’t apply if you don’t realize there’s a fraudulent charge on your statement, so good luck everyone.
Next day bank transfers
Or please stop relying on a cron job for transfers.
10 years after one-off payments were introduced, they still take up to the next business day to go through to accounts at other banks. I realize this might require some consultation with the People In Charge Of The Money, but can we please get rid of this? Thanks. Also, could we please do transfers on non-business days to accounts at other banks and get rid of the 10pm cut off for not-my-bank transfers?
Jagex, the makers of RuneScape are suing Impulse Software et al. in relation to their sale of bot software that effectively plays the game for a person without needing much human interaction. It’s part of their crackdown on bots; Jagex claims using bots to play violates their rules, is unfair to other players and ruins the game.
As part of the Impulse court case, Jagex subpoenaed Google and PayPal seeking further information about email addresses, YouTube accounts and PayPal accounts.
The information provided by PayPal included personal information on 70,000+ customers who had bought Impulse’s bot software.
An “outside counsel eyes only” protective order was issued for the information PayPal provided, which meant that the information couldn’t be shared with Jagex employees. Jagex didn’t seem to be happy with this though, so in a different court (U.S. District Court for the Central District of California) and using the same legal counsel, on July, 1, 2011, they subpoenaed for the same information in a different case, Jagex Limited v. John Does, and were allowed to share the results with their employees.
[Quotes used in this post are mainly from a PDF of the case that used to be available at http://www.mediafire.com/?ba2nu8puj96tq5b]
“[The] Plaintiff and its counsel misrepresented the scope of this pending lawsuit by stating that the action involved ‘a developer and seller of Bot software.’ The Notice failed to state that Plaintiff already accused Defendants of having used one or more Bots to allegedly circumvent Jagex’s automated technological measures thus making Defendants a party to both suits.” “Plaintiff and its counsel also failed to inform the court in the Central District of California (CDC) lawsuit of this Court’s Protective Order.”
“Even though Plaintiff and its counsel were bound by the Protective Order entered by this Court and were fully aware that Defendants’ customer information was CONFIDENTIAL-OUTSIDE ATTORNEY’S EYES ONLY, using the subpoena power of the Central District of California, Plaintiff’s counsel undertook a calculated clandestine action to serve a subpoena on PayPal to obtain Defendants’ customer information and turned Defendant’s customer information over to its client who then misused the information.”
On October 25, 2011, Jagex sent out a mass email, presumably to those whose information they gained from the PayPal subpoena:
[The forum post is now gone, probably because the very fact that they have to clarify the legitimacy of an email shows that it wasn’t a very effective cease and desist notice.]
26-Oct-2011 06:44:16 Last edited on 26-Oct-2011 06:49:30 by Mod Timo
As a part of the update some people will have received the following e-mail communication:
We have strong evidence that you may have purchased and used botting software in the past, specifically ibot software.
Botting and the cheating it brings is destroying your game, violates Jagex’s rights under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), and any player that continues to engage in botting activity has no place in our community.
As part of bot nuke week we are offering you a 1 time amnesty and settlement lifeline, which is a chance to reform and change your ways. We’d like you to contribute to the community in a positive way, to compete on a level playing field as everyone else does and play in the true spirit of the game, with integrity. All of your accounts, main and otherwise, are now on our watch list and will be monitored for the use of ibot and all other inappropriate third-party software. Regardless of who you are or how long you’ve been with us, if you decide to cheat and bot ever again we will have no hesitation in: (1) permanently removing your account from our wonderful community in order to protect Jagex’s rights under the DMCA, and (2) naming you as a defendant in Jagex Limited v. John Does, which is a lawsuit based on DMCA violations that is currently pending in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California (Civ. Action No. SACV11-00969-CJC).
Please note that this amnesty and settlement offer is protected under Fed. R. Evid. 408. If you ignore our offer and instead continue use botting software, we reserve our rights to pursue statutory damages against you for between $200 to $2,500 per act of past, present, and/or future botting in accordance with 17 U.S.C. 1203(c)(3).
We do hope you make the morally sound and lawful choice of turning your back on bots. We look forward to seeing you in game having fun in a way that is true to the spirit of fair play and respectful to your fellow players.
Yours sincerely, Mark Gerhard
I can confirm that this is an official statement from Jagex to the recipient. Please note that there are no website links in the main body of the e-mail. Should you receive any e-mails that contain the above text with website links or additional information, they are likely to be phishing e-mails and should be ignored.
Kind regards, Mod Timo
Jagex cross referenced those subpoenaed email addresses with their own records, and the next day began sending the same message through the internal Jagex messaging system to individual players.
Interestingly, Jagex recently started giving an increase in bank space, where a player stores items in the game, as an incentive for registering your email address with your account (when RuneScape started, email addresses weren’t required).
Although Jagex claims RuneScape has a large adult player base, it is almost certain that minors received the messages as well. They’re full of legal jargon and are similar to the extortionate letters the music industry (or their lawyers) send. It strikes me as unethical to send threats like that to children.
If Jagex are confident in their bot detection system, how about instead of going from one extreme: no action “we’re watching you”, to another: legal action, they use their in-game powers and just ban accounts if the re-offend. Legal action seems like an unnecessary and scaremongering threat.
Privacy and a chance to response to the subpoena
“In the cases cited by Plaintiff… the individuals… were given a specified amount of time to object to the subpoena through a Motion to Quash and/or Motion to Dismiss… The first time Defendants and their customers learned of the CDC lawsuit is when their customers began receiving a copy of an email from Jagex on October 25, 2011 followed by the message post on October 26, 2011.”
The forum posts I’ve read support this.
Jagex’s counsel say “it was and is our understanding that PayPal would have notified the account owner(s) of the account(s) associated with any email address in the subpoena in order to provide that account owner(s) an opportunity to address the subpoena, prior to releasing the requested information or documents.”
“You know that PayPal did not notify my clients of the pending subpoena in the Boston suit when you served the first subpoena without first noticing Defendants’ attorneys. Therefore, to now state that Banner and Witcoff understand/understood that PayPal would notify the Defendants is suspect.”
“This lawsuit’s different”
Jagex disagree that they’re focusing on Impulse Software’s customers and say they just want to “identify [our] own customers who [we] believe may be in violation of S1201(a)”.
“Your claim that the John Doe action does not involve our clients is illusionary at best. Not only did [you]… seek to obtain permission to subpoena my clients’ records from PayPal, but the identification of the Doe’s in the Complaint filed described my clients as well.”
“Under the discovery requirements in our pending case and the Local Rules… you had a duty to inform us of the John Doe action… Even when we sent you a letter inquiring about a Press Release issued by Jagex suggesting a violation of the Protective Order, you consciously omitted disclosure of the John Doe action.”
The suggestion of the protective order violation comes from this paragraph:
“We are constantly looking into ways of making the game experience the very best possible for all of our players and as part of our on-going programme to rid the game of bots, Jagex is actively pursuing companies that support the macroing market as well as those who bot. As such we are currently pursuing various bot developers through multiple legal channels, although sadly we cannot yet disclose the full details of our actions for legal reasons. Separately, as part of normal legal process and procedure, we have also taken steps to acquire the details of all players who have purchased bots. Once we have the information regarding the players involved we will take action specifically to ensure that these players are not compromising the game’s integrity through the use of a third party programs.”
This is turning into a very interesting case. Maybe it’s not the best time for business for Impulse Software, but if they come out of this in one piece this could turn into the best advertising money can’t buy.
A television “comedian” gets drunk and comes home, his partner declines his sexual advances and goes to sleep. Later, their four-year-old daughter joins them in bed. He pulls down her pyjama pants and her pull-up nappy and sexually assaults her by way of oral sex (described ambiguously in recent news reports as kissing).
His partner wakes up to him doing this and the police get involved. The charges get shaken around in court (a charge of unlawful sexual connection with a child aged under 12 is taken off the table, along with the possibility of jail) and he pleads guilty to performing an indecent act on a child.
Things that irritate me regarding this case:
He says that he thought his daughter was his partner, which implies that this non-consensual sexual act would have been fine if it was performed on an adult (his partner had already said no earlier in the night).
He says that he thought his daughter was his partner, which implies that a four-year-old and a fully grown woman don’t have extremely obviously differences in body shape and size or that fully grown women wear pull-ups.
That the judge treats him like a victim because people know what he did. “Despite suppression orders it was widely known in his industry who he was and that had taken a toll on his career. He must have significant strength of character to deal with all of that.” She says that he’d “paid an extremely high price already”.
Alcohol being used as an excuse.
The judge felt it worth mentioning that the assault happened in front of the mother which she says is very “unusual”, as if that means it wasn’t real abuse because it didn’t happen in secret.
He gets discharged without conviction by Judge Philippa Cunningham. The Auckland Now and Dominion Post articles conflict as to if voluntary community work was imposed as a condition (and my definition of voluntary conflicts with theirs).
To add insult to injury, here’s part of her reasoning:
“He’s a talented New Zealander. He makes people laugh, and laughter’s an incredible medicine that we all need a lot of” and that the effects of a conviction “outweighed the gravity of the offending”.
What exact context these comments are in, I’m not sure, but they seem extremely stupid.
Yes, he must feel, quite frankly, shitty for doing what he did to his daughter, but to comment on what a funny guy he is and how disastrous a conviction would be for, I assume, his career…?
Is prison the right place for this guy? No. However, is being discharged without conviction the best choice? No.
Steven Price reminds complainers that the name suppression in this case is automatic and is to protect the identity of the child.
Though Graeme Edgeler points out in the comments that there is a way to name the offender while still protecting the identity of the victim, something that crossed my mind too: if the media don’t report on the relationship between offender and victim, naming the offender won’t out the victim.
Spot the differences (or more like spot the similarities) between the comedian case and this musician’s case1 (name suppression wasn’t automatic here though, and was dubiously granted).
“The man admitted a charge of inducing an indecent act but was discharged without conviction and given permanent name suppression on the grounds that naming him would affect his record and concert ticket sales.”
And of course being convicted would adversely affect the musician’s career:
“A conviction would have an adverse affect on his chances to break into international markets.” “It would also have a negative impact on musicians that he performs with.” “Naming the man could destroy the man’s chances of succeeding overseas and could have a negative affect on New Zealand music overseas.”
Preferential treatment of celebrities? Of course not.
Side note: Google is either pretty smart, or someone puts in a bit of effort to influence related search terms in order to out people with name suppression.
1. Stuff took that article down, so here it is:
Teen victim slams musician’s name suppression By JONATHAN MARSHALL – Sunday News http://www.stuff.co.nz/sunday-star-times/news/3085484/Teen-victim-slams-musicians-name-suppression
THE TEENAGE girl attacked by a prominent entertainer has broken her silence, describing the musician as a “disgusting, self-righteous pig”.
And Brittany Cancian’s mother has also spoken out, saying the musician’s permanent name suppression was “totally disgusting”.
Brittany, 17, was in central Wellington on March 5 when two of her friends were led away with the drunk man around 3.30am. Brittany’s mother Racheal, of Lower Hutt, said her daughter was attacked by the man while she was checking on her friends.
“I think he’s an animal, when I heard what he had done I thought it was animalistic. He wasn’t at all gentle about it,” Racheal said.
“What happened has absolutely been downplayed. She never followed him down the alleyway. She went to see that her friends, who had followed him, were OK. She has quite a caring heart and she wanted to check on her mates. When she went around the corner he grabbed her.”
Earlier this month the Auckland District Court heard how the famous entertainer asked Brittany and her friends to “kiss my balls” before he grabbed the teenager’s head and pulled it towards his crotch. His genitals brushed Brittany’s face.
The man admitted a charge of inducing an indecent act but was discharged without conviction and given permanent name suppression on the grounds that naming him would affect his record and concert ticket sales. The charge carried a maximum jail term of two years.
The musician was ordered to pay $5000 reparation to Brittany, who is yet to receive the money.
Racheal said police never asked her or Brittany if they wanted the man’s name suppression application opposed. Court documents reveal police maintained a “neutral” position on the matter.
“As a mother I am disgusted that he could get name suppression and I’m disgusted that he could do this to my daughter.”
Brittany said in a statement that the entertainer should have been named so other females could be “wary” of him.
Brittany and her mother’s comments come just days after the Law Commission released a report recommending an overhaul of New Zealand’s name suppression system to make it harder for offenders to keep their names secret.
Commission president Sir Geoffrey Palmer said if recommendations in the report had been adopted by the government prior to the musician’s court appearance, he “certainly would not” have received suppression.
“He would have to show extreme hardship and that is very difficult to do … that is hardship out of the ordinary, not ordinary hardship, and that is a much higher threshold than the law currently provides.”
“We all have to have equality before the law. The person who is a grave-digger has to be treated the same as a person who is an All Black.”
Asked whether families’ views on suppression should be taken into account, Justice Minister Simon Power said: “The issue of name suppression needs a very broad overhaul and I’m not closed to any suggestions.”
Racheal was reluctant to discuss why her daughter, aged 16 at the time, was out in central Wellington during the early morning.
“I don’t really want to go into that part but, yeah, she was quite naughty.”
I thought I recognized one of the photos in one of the presentations at TEDxEQChCh, and I was right. It turns out that I recognized it because it was my image. Kind of.
That’s my original photo on the left, which I posted on Flickr. The modified image on the right was used in the talk Tragedy Plus Distance (the other TEDxEQChCh talks are up on YouTube now too, and you should watch them). I’ve looked on Google, Flickr and Facebook and can’t find the modified image anywhere (if you see it let me know). Unfortunately free reverse image search engines like TinEye only index a relatively small number of images.
I don’t know if the site the modified image is on is making money or provided attribution to me. I’m not having a dig at the TEDx speaker—few if any speakers attributed the images used in their presentations and any attribution would likely point to the modified image, not my original one.
The stolen scream
Unlike mine, this is an extreme and interesting case of image plagiarism: Noam Galai‘s photo of himself screaming made it into 30+ countries, on book covers, in magazines and on t-shirts.
Watermarking photographs is an option. But an ugly one. The lesser evil of watermarking on the edge of an image rather than in the middle presents the option to someone who is determined of just cropping it off. Is a casual sharer going to go out of their way to crop an image? Unlikely. Let’s assume they would provide attribution either way. Are they going to want to share the image at all? Unlikely. The comments on this post about watermarking are worthwhile reading.
In a survey of professional photo buyers, PhotoShelter found that “an overwhelming majority of them stated that an image with a prominent watermark is less likely to be licensed than an image without any watermark at all.” Co-founder Grover Sanschagrin agrees that watermarks result in people being less likely to pass your images on to others and says that prominent watermarks send a subtle signal to buyers that you’re a difficult person to work with.
The Internet copyright conundrum
I think the interesting thing for me is that the person who modified and posted the image is probably a content creator too. They likely have at least some content they place usage restrictions on.
What does All Rights Reserved mean to an Internet user? Is personal and noncommercial use (like blogging, Tumblring etc.) of a reasonable amount of a person’s content with attribution accepted practice? Some Flickr users don’t want their photographs being shared at all. I disagree—the more people who see my photos the better. A large side goal of that is to promote my other content, which requires attribution.
Should I put my photos under a Creative Commons licence then? I’m hesitant. Among other things: some of my photos have made me money—would buyers be put off if the same photo was available for ‘free’ under a noncommercial licence? Creative Commons is essentially irrevocable and the format of the original content can be changed under any licence—attribution is not linkable offline.
I think I’m happy with the status quo. All Rights Reserved with the knowledge that because of the nature of the Internet the image will be shared noncommercially no matter the licence, but that hopefully a link back will be shared too.
A month ago, to the day, a new normal for all of us in Christchurch began. Tap water isn’t drinkable and now smells like bleach. The CBD is a wreck, something like one in three buildings will have to be demolished. The roads are covered with bumps, cracks and silt. And the game of guessing the magnitude of an aftershock has lost a lot of it’s charm. On the morning of the 22nd, school started later because of a teacher’s union meeting. Friends from school posted on Facebook that the school swimming sports weren’t going ahead that day because of the weather. It was looking like an average day.
At 12.51pm I don’t think anyone realized that the quake was going to be any different to the numerous other aftershocks we’ve had. But this one kept going. Everyone in the Chemistry lab we were in safely got under the tables. Maybe surprisingly, no chemicals were spilled or glass broken. After the shaking stopped, I grabbed my bag on the way out and we all went to the field.
About an hour later, still on the field, just after replying to someone on Twitter that they should hold off trying to get in touch with friends in Christchurch via phone because it sounded like everyone was fine, I read a tweet that the quake had claimed lives. We experienced a strong aftershock while at school near the end of last year. I think we all thought that this would be the same: that there would be no deaths, not 166+. That the city centre would be accessible in a few days if it was cordoned off at all, not in months. That boiling water wouldn’t be required at all, not for longer than a month. The 166+ people dead are our people. I completely agree with Moata that it’s unlikely that someone in Christchurch doesn’t at least know someone who knows someone who has had to attend a funeral over the past few days and weeks. No one thought we would have to adjust to a new normal.
“All of my friends and family have been accounted for, though the chances that an acquaintance or a friend of a friend has not been killed is fairly low. There are only a couple of degrees of separation in Christchurch.”
A few days post-quake, I saw an article about cyberbullying in schools relating to teachers searching phones. I’m not doubting the seriousness of the problem, but one of the commenters suggesting banning cellphones altogether in schools. Without most students having a cellphone, the task of getting everyone home from school with an adult (especially for younger students), with limited access to buildings (and their landlines) until they were checked by engineers would have been made even more difficult. Technology is something that should be embraced everywhere. The uses of it post-disaster illustrate that point perfectly. Garth Bray, a TVNZ reporter, talks about how helpful smartphones were after the Japan earthquake here.
Back at home, a few hours afterward, our place was relatively untouched. The power and water were out and silt made it’s way into the garage, but they were little problems compared to the big picture. With our cellphones, mobile data and battery powered radio, we still felt connected.
In the time it took me to get home, the IT community of New Zealand and beyond already had the EQ.org.nz map up in one form or another, running Ushahidi (I love the name, it is the Swahili word for “testimony or witness”). Over the next two weeks it complemented media coverage by mapping the locations of important resources for Christchurch residents, like available ATMs, petrol stations that were open and what the restrictions on petrol there were, where water, medical treatment and showers were available…. Within a day or two they managed to arrange the short code text service for EQ.org.nz with Telecom, Vodafone and 2degrees, volunteers to man the messages coming in through the website, meetings, a partnership with the Student Volunteer Army and media coverage (the map was mentioned in newspapers, on the TV news, on Teletext(!), Fair Go and by the @CEQgovtnz Twitter account)… If I was in charge of an emergency, I’d want to be working with these guys. The media were great. Fairfax, and in particular Reuben Schwarz liaised with EQ.org.nz and Stuff.co.nz switched from using their own instance of Ushahidi to the EQ.org.nz instance. Google and TradeMe, among others, set up pages to help too.
By now, my sister had walked home from the CBD with colleagues and brought with her the war stories of what town was like. What the Cathedral looked like, the chaos and the people. That the huge window beside her that she climbed out of had luckily burst outward instead of bursting in towards her.
Over the coming days we started to get into the hang of the new normal, which involved filling up bottles of water at my granddad’s house and using his shower. A couple of times we received wrong number calls from people trying to find out if their loved ones were okay. They responded with something along the lines of “oh, I thought you were x and alive”.
The two times I ventured into the cordon with Project7 as a photographer, everyone was friendly, including the army personnel and the other media. The feeling in the cordon was eerie and somber, but still hopeful. Silt that had emerged from beneath the ground had effectively buried cars parked on the streets. Shop fronts were shattered and fluro writing was spray painted on to mark that a building had been checked for people. Cars were crushed by falling masonry. Buildings had collapsed. About a month before the quake I was at the top of the Cathedral’s tower, which collapsed in the quake and near the top floor of the Forsyth Barr building, where the exit stairwells collapsed. I had a slight feeling of guilt that media were allowed in the cordon, but business owners that needed to get essential equipment and documentation out from their buildings were not. I know businesses were starting to be let in shortly after my last trip in, but there is still anger within the business community. I think many probably regret not grabbing some things on their way out.
I have mixed feelings about the memorial service that was held. I didn’t attend, or really watch it, but I have read that many people found it touching. On the other hand I read that some families couldn’t bring themselves to attend because their grief was still too raw. Businesses would have felt the effect of either having to close for another day, or paying employees time and a half plus giving them a day in lieu. Students missed out on another day of school. It sounds like it helped people, which is great, but I think it could have been held at a better time later on.
If the quake did anything, it made everyone stronger. It confirmed what I think everyone knew, that in a natural disaster there are many people who are kind and selfless. Our New Zealand spirit shined. CTV’s building was one of the most badly hit but the message on their channel was “down but not out”. The press conferences introduced foreign media to terms like buggered and munted. Our mayor, Bob Parker, in one of the press conferences talked about one of the main sign language interpreters being given the name “hot Jeremy” by a Facebook fan page. Forgotten time capsules were discovered in town. And a boulder that smashed through someone’s house was sold via a hilarious auction on TradeMe.
You can have a look at my photos of the quake here, here and here.