Thursday, April 30, 2009

Video file formats, what and when to use

Weightless. Photo CC By: Sam Pullara

Video file formats are a real nightmare! And after 10 years of amateur video production, I still don't have a clear understanding on how they work. So what I am about to tell you is what works for me, considering I try to produce video that works for many.

Sites like Youtube - or specifically Flash Video have helped solve this compatibility problem for viewing on the Internet, but its still a problem for those who like to download and perhaps even edit videos.

So what format should I use?
Here are my 3 rules of thumb - that work for me:
  1. The master copy of your digital video should be in AVI set to play at 25 frames per second, displaying a size of 720x576 pixels.
  2. Use this master AVI to export Internet ready versions in MP4, WMV and Ogg Theora, all set to play at no less than 12.5 frames per second, displaying at 320x240 pixels.
  3. Upload the MP4 to your preferred video publishing service (eg Youtube or and that service will convert your video to the Flash Video format for reliable playback on all computers.

Why AVI as the master format?

Because it is an old, long used format that is generally reliable on the widest range of computer software and players. As the Wikipedia entry for AVI says: ...the age of the AVI format, being widely supported on a vast range of operating systems and devices, and the availability of video editing and playback software ... help keep the AVI file format popular amongst amateur videographers.

Why the 3 export formats?
Video for the Internet needs to be a small file size, but not so small that it makes it unwatchable. An MP4 at 320x240 pixels gets good file compression and can play on Windows, Macintosh and Linux, not to mention iPods. A WMV gets very good compression, and is reliably played on Windows based computers including PDAs. And Ogg Theora also gets good compression, but is the only non-commercial, open standard video format that plays on Linux, and that is accepted by Wikipedia and other free and open source initiatives - who tend to have longer term, commercial free, sustainability in mind. If you offer people the choice of these 3 formats, you have all bases covered nicely.

But how do you get video into all those formats?
There are a few free to use video converters you can use. These applications can take just about any video format and convert it into any other format. I use SuperC, largely because it was one of the first to become available, and it can do so much in the one application. Its not always easy to use, so sometimes I prefer simpler tools such as Videora iPod converter, or Pazera Video Converters. Alternatively, you can upload your video to and they will convert your video on their website for you.

More information on encoding can be found on the Wikipedia entries for each format.
  1. AVI
  2. MP4
  3. WMV
  4. Ogg Theora

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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Adding an image to media wikis

Media wikis make life hard sometimes. When all the other publishing sites work wonders to lower the bar, Media wiki keeps it right up there for us. This screen recording will demonstrate how I load images into a wiki page, using Wikieducator as an example. I also take into consideration copyrights, making sure to use an image with Creative Commons Attribution license, and to give it proper attribution. Its a complex task actually, but gets very easy with practice.

Adding an image to media wikis

Media wikis make life hard sometimes. When all the other publishing sites work wonders to lower the bar, Media wiki keeps it right up there for us. This screen recording will demonstrate how I load images into a wiki page, using Wikieducator as an example. I also take into consideration copyrights, making sure to use an image with Creative Commons Attribution license, and to give it proper attribution. Its a complex task actually, but gets very easy with practice.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Digital NZ

Once again Tasmanian Roger Stack points us to an exciting project via Twitter. Digital NZ looks set to become an awesome one stop for NZ specific content, possibly enriched by becoming socially networked. The site has all the features you would look for that indicate a switched on project.. they are using RSS and Yahoo Pipes in a smart way.. they are aggregating content from big servers like Flickr, they are developing widgets for 3rd party use and distribution.. but we really need the bigger investment. We need the local storage and serving... I just emailed them this:

Hi.. great site.. lots of potential!!

I work at Otago Polytechnic. We are producing a lot of educational content with CC By licenses. At the moment we load content to Youtube,, Flickr, etc for networking and promotion, but it would be nice to capture this locally along the way.

We need a distributed uploader like, where we can continue to upload off shore to the biggies, but have the option to load to NZ archive or similar at the same time, for Digital NZ to access and use.

What do you think? Please give me a call to discuss - 021736539
This request relates to my post about high hopes for Telecom and NZ Archive working together to preserve NZ cultural artifacts that are presently pouring out the door into Youtube and all. For example, all Otago Polytechnic's open educational resources. Its not that we would want to stop loading content to the popular servers, we just need an easy way to cross upload to NZ Archive servers along the way. We need this for backup, and to explore possibilities in saving bandwidth costs for NZers, by using the offshore servers for offshore access, and local servers for local access.. somehow.. I think the Digital NZ project looks set to be the one to do that for us. If not for public downloads, then at least to send through to archive for now. is the closest thing I have seen to this possibility yet. Clearly the people building the website know what they are doing, and have big dreams too.. I hope they'll go the next logical step and partner up with the National Archive, Library, KAREN or education sector, and start positioning themselves to intercept copies of NZ digital heritage on its way out to big corporations and offshore archiving initiatives.

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Friday, April 24, 2009

Planning for a sustainable business

I am making good progress in the development of a new short course - planning for a sustainable business. Note the suggested name change, it is actually called starting a business, or starting a sustainable business.. I'm in two minds whether to make the sustainability side of things explicit, or whether it is more sustainable (captures more people, carries a stronger message) if the title did not highlight sustainability and the content said it all. I guess when the wider development team are engaged, we will discuss this and decide.

Thanks to Steve Henry pointing me to the Ministry for the Environment's Sustainable Management Fund, we have a progressed application for funding that is in the final phase of approval. In this phase the SMF support the refinement of the plan and budget towards their final decision to fund the project or not. The deadline for this refining stage is June, and I am to have a completed plan and budget as per their templates.

Here are my initial attempts at the SMF Plan template. I haven't started expanding the budget yet (it is on another template) until I get feedback from SMF on how the plan is reading and apply their suggested changes.

In short the plan is 3 fold as per initial meetings with all local stakeholders on the appropriate needs of this course (see project notes):
  1. develop a new business planning text that incorporates sustainable accounting, marketing and operations, and that is useful to other business support and education agencies.
  2. list all the seminars, workshops and community events that relate to the content of the business plan. Tax seminars, sustainable business open days, accounting workshops etc etc. Many of these events are available freely to the public and on a regular basis, so our task is to organise their dates and locations into a usable calendar for students undertaking our course, and have course facilitators direct students to this information and events as required when completing the planning text. Where there are content gaps we contract people to deliver seminars and workshops, offering them freely to the public as well.
  3. the final part is to develop a nationally recognised and accredited, not for profit course targeting students who are completing studies and considering to start a business, as well as general public, with assessments relating to the requirements of the various business support agencies who will progress graduate's ideas further.

Notes on this educational development are being kept on the wikieducator page: starting a business

Some thinking of step 1 - the tex

Last night I was thinking about step 1 - the development of a sustainable business planning text. On the project notes wiki I have been listing links to information that may be useful to this first stage. The difficulty is obviously not in finding a business plan text, we have that care of NZTE, it is in incorporating sustainability ethics, principles and methods in a usable way.

Particularly useful links have been the financial permaculture work and the Global Reporting Initiative.

The GRI work is based on triple bottom line accounting mainly, but with a lot of set up guidelines aimed at auditing existing practices, addressing ethical and organisational changes, and setting principles. The wording and layout in this document will be useful, but I think it is still too complicated for our needs, and will blow out the size and reading level of the final text we develop.

I have always been impressed with how usable and flexible the principles of permaculture are and how directly they relate in fact to documents like the GRI. I would say that the permaculture principles are very much based on things like GRI in fact, and that the permaculturalists have done great work in making them plain, accessible English.

But I think the real results will be something in between the GRI and the at times overly simplified permaculture guidelines. For example:

Permaculture sets up on 3 ethics:
  1. Care for earth
  2. Care for people
  3. Fairly sharing
If you ignore the mildly feel good language, essentially what these ethics are is the triple bottom line thinking of the GRI:
  1. Ecology
  2. Social
  3. Economy
In the text that guides people in planning a sustainable, we need it to echo these foundations through everything from the vision statement to the accounting... but how?

That's where the permaculture principles come in handy, and they too are relatable to the tools in the Global Reporting Initiative once we are able to look beyond the simple wording:
  1. Observe and interact
  2. Catch and store energy
  3. Obtain a yield
  4. Apply self-regulation and accept feedback
  5. Use and value renewable resources and services
  6. Produce no waste
  7. Design from patterns to details
  8. Integrate rather than segregate
  9. Use small and slow solutions
  10. Use and value diversity
  11. Use edges and value the marginal
  12. Creatively use and respond to change
I intend to try and map this list against what I see in the GRI guidelines and to see if these permaculture principles can help simplify the GRI guidelines. I can only go so far with this, as ultimately it is up to a recongised expert who will be contracted to write and/or edit the final text. I can only hope that person is more down this road than I am.

I think the above principles are useful in expanding the ethical framework and leading us towards methods to develop and document in the business plan, and developing the right accounting tools to measure outcomes better. The challenge is to find the right, first-step balance in developing a new guiding text for people planning a business. The text has to lead people toward having a business plan that a bank or other supporting institution will still recognise, but encompass as much sustainability thinking as possible within that format.. it will be a challenge, but I'm confident it can be done, and that it will help make a significant difference to new business practices in Otago.

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Thursday, April 23, 2009

What is sustainable practice for a teacher?

In yesterday's sustainability session we were asked to visualise what a sustainable practitioner was in the field we teach for (I teach teachers mostly) and then think of things we can do in our courses that will encourage students to become something like that envisioned practitioner.

My first problem was that I had little idea what a sustainable teaching practitioner would look like.. even after thinking about it for over a year now. Using less paper and turning off the lights, and teaching sustainability to students seemed too easy and patronising. So without a good idea of what a sustainable teaching practitioner was, I can't clearly think of things I might change in the courses, and other things I do that influence teaching practices as such...

This problem spiraled in me, and is what lead me to questioning the organisational structure and power dynamics that a teacher works in. My first visioning of a sustainable teacher therefore was one who is self determined - out from under the umbrellas, and directly answerable to their "market" - what would it be like to be the rain?

But more importantly, given that I/we are not yet sure what a sustainable practitioner really looks like, I think our teacher training needs to keep the question open, to not try to make a prescribed picture with specific learning outcomes, but to set up processes and practices in which the sustainable practitioner (what ever it may be in the future) has every opportunity to develop.

That said, I'm wondering about 2 tangible practices a teacher might develop that may lead to sustainability in the profession:

1. What if teachers documented their work in such a way that other practitioners can access, interpret and sometimes use or adapt the practices of others more? Think of the valuable teacher observation.. you've been 2 years in teacher training, but nothing taught you more about teaching than those few days you had observing the practice of experienced teachers. In a way, that opportunity to observe is a form of documentation on the part of the experienced teacher, in that at least one person can access and interpret the methods and adapt what they see in their own practice. Trouble is, simple observation doesn't scale very well.

Active documentation of our work such as what we in the edublogosphere have been doing, can lead to new self consciousness, and connectivity with other practitioners, that in turn lead to professional development such as sustainability. But reflective 'blogging' your work isn't for everyone and so it too doesn't scale very well. Publishing lesson plans could be another way, in the open educational resources vein. We can observe teachers rating and using each others materials, and in some instances this openness and sharing can lead to another sort of self consciousness, and connectivity with other practitioners, that leads to professional development. So what I mean by documentation of our work is any form of record making so that large numbers of other practitioners have the opportunity to observe and interact with your work, and critique or develop further your efforts towards more sustainable practice. I think having documentation as a core practice in teaching will improve opportunities for professional networks to connect and more sustainable practices to develop, so long as sustainability is on the agenda - just as edtech has been on the agenda in the edublog arena for the past 5 years or more.

2. The second thought I had so far is for teaching practitioners to become more accountable to the micro economics around their practice. Like the documentation practice, this could easily be used against them, so a very supportive atmosphere would need to be established first for this to work properly, and it would need to be trialed first - in the private performance appraisal process perhaps.

The idea is for the teacher to become aware of all the financial considerations that surround their practice - including triple bottom line accounting. Much the same as a small business or a consultant would manage their own books, a teacher does theirs. They obviously know their income, but I doubt they know the cost of their work station, the rooms they need to teach in, the teaching resources, the support services.. all these are financial costs or outgoings that I think a sustainable practitioner needs to know about - including ecological and social costs. Equally, that practitioner needs to know what income their practice brings. What is the per student government subsidy for each of the courses the teacher teaches on? I am amazed how many people in our organisation don't even know that much? How much do I save (or cost) by working from home a little more? What about my software choices and abilities? What about how little I print, and how little I use the IT infrastructure and support services here? How much funding do I bring in for my research? How much funding do I bring in for projects? How much is my voluntary community work worth? How much income do I generate if I plant and maintain a food garden in the living campus?

So envisioning what a sustainable teaching practitioner might look like, I'm wondering about 2 things:

1. What can a teacher do to improve collaboration and communication with their colleagues, that might lead to better professional development for them and/or others, that might lead to better sustainable practices emerging and rapidly scaling across the sector? (in the absence of a clear idea of sustainable practice at the moment).

2. How self determined and accountable could each individual in the organisation become, and how could we account for all bottom lines in such a way to be able to determine each person's sustainability, and address short falls in a constructive and inclusive way - not by firing, but through self redirection of efforts, professional development or new responsibilities, and welfare nets for those who fail first times round.

Applying this model to myself...
  1. Clearly I document my work and that has lead to tangible progress in my own and other's professional development.
  2. Regarding the accountability, I did some quick numbers and found that I am $20 000 short in my financial sustainability. I did not apply triple bottom line accounting to that, so I don't know the unit of income I might be bringing in through developing new courses for other teachers, or by volunteering to help with Living Campus and other things outside my core responsibility.

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Sustainability of leadership

If you're not the lead dog, the view never changes. Image by Icaza.

Yesterday concluded our 2 day Polytech wide professional development conference, and as always I very much enjoyed the chance to have longer-than-usual conversations with new people, focused on specific topics related to our work.

Outside my own talks, I attended sessions focused on sustainability. Its the one area of change in the Polytechnic that is outside my primary job description, but that I contribute to as much as possible.

In the session we heard Anna and Ella talk through some principles and frameworks for their change agency work, they talked about their effort to develop a model of education for sustainability, and they did a great job engaging everyone in the discussion, and including all manor of contributions.

As usual I mouthed off with opinion and challenges, and I offended some people in the room when I challenged the idea that we need leadership, specifically the suggestion to do away with the leadership team in Otago Polytechnic. Understandably some people took it personally, or fundamentally disagreed with the alternative ideas I suggested to leadership and hierarchical structures, and it seemed to some to be an inappropriate place to raise the idea.

Alarmed by the offense and misunderstanding I caused some colleagues, I have been seeing people one by one to apologise for my careless and insensitive wording and any offense caused, and to try and better explain the intent behind what I was saying if there is any chance left for discussing the intent behind my remarks.

But as a start, there are individuals in Otago Polytechnic's leadership team who are the best bosses I have ever worked for in the 4 or more tertiary education institutions I have worked at in Australia and New Zealand. My CEO Phil Ker is always accessible and willing to discuss any issue at any time with any one it seems. Likewise the deputy CEO Robin Day has been incredibly supportive when I have stuck my neck out on other occasions, and carried a lot of the stress I caused while introducing social media and open education ideas. Without Phil and Robin's support, Otago Polytechnic would not be where it is today in terms of progressive copyright policies and experimenting with open education services.

So my suggestion that our organisation doesn't need a "leadership team" was not intended to be personal, and was not intended to dismiss the work that has been done in that team. My suggestion was intended in the context of sustainability, where I think the existence of hierarchy, leadership roles, difficult to access or privileged information, several chains of command, bureaucracy, inequality in reward and the resulting politics and behavior, have an arguably adverse affect on our efforts to develop as sustainable practitioners, and in helping students appreciate and develop as sustainable practitioners.

I think the opportunity to discuss that point was lost by my poor verbal wording at the time and as a result I am having to apologise and explain myself to several people who were present.

I did propose cooperative organisational structures however, and a radical flattening of hierarchy in the organisation, along with more individual and small team accountability and opportunities to self determine. Perhaps something like Out From Under the Umbrellas, What Would it Be Like to Be the Rain - meets cooperatives.

Organisational structure seems to be a hot topic in the polytech at the moment, the boss is blogging about it, and I have since met several people with ideas they'd like to discuss where it counts. I think it would be a good thing to call an open and facilitated meeting where anyone can have a chance at proposing a structural idea, and a facilitator will help us all recognise the value of each idea and extract and use as much as possible and develop collective idea. But this is easier said than done, because I think so long as the hierarchy and current insulated structure exists, it is difficult to build a sense of ownership and genuine participation. The same problems afflicting effective progress in sustainability work.

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

4 x 10 minute audio recordings about the production of educational resources

Todays panel was really interesting. Here are the 4 recordings.

I very much enjoyed listening to the others in the panel.

  1. Its great to see Ruth Lawson being so confident in her description of using Wikibooks to produce a text for Anatomy of Animals. (MP3 2.8 Meg)
  2. I went next with the usual talk about open educational resources. (MP3 2.8 Meg)
  3. It was very exciting to see what Jean Ross has developed for the ministry of Health by way of gathering masters level work to produce a text for rural nursing in New Zealand, especially when Jean showed interest in taking it to the next level and developing a wikibook version with new additions (not in recording). (Mp3 2.8 Meg)
  4. Most of all I found Russell Butson's talk riveting! Russell covered off an important range of issues and I hope to score his slides soon too. He spoke about the tension between educational rhetoric and practice regarding "learner centredness", "self directed and llife long learning skills" and the age old didactic and preseciptive teaching practices. He articulates it much better than I can here, so I highly recomend listening to his talk. (MP3 3.6 Meg)

I wish Russell kept a blog or other web presence, but allas he does not. He is a behind the scenes guy - who helped organise the Future of Learning in a Netowrked World NZ tour btw.

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Talk: Open Education Resources

Today we are having an Otago Polytechnic staff development day. I talked on a panel about the production of educational resources, with my contribution being on open education of course (MP3 2.8 Meg). Others in the panel talked about specifics, such as Ruth Lawson using Wikibooks and Lulu to create and publish text books, Russel Butson from the University researching student generated resource lists, Jean Ross talked about producing a text for rural nurses by way of masters student work. Here are the good old slides I have used for 2 years now!

Other things I hoped to have time to point to:

  1. The Wikiversity based course called Composing Free and Open Educational Resources
  2. The Educator's Handbook for OER

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Sunday, April 19, 2009

Coorperatives taking over multinationals

About a month ago, I was listening to a local radio interview with an Otago University professor of the study of Marx and he was trying to explain that Marx believed communal systems would be brought about by capitalism. The professor was trying to say that 20th Century Communism was premature and organised on counter productive assumptions - such as the need for bureaucratic control and political party leadeship. Marx, according to this professor, believed a real communal economy would be the peak of capitalism, and that capitalists would enable it...

Naomi Klein and Avi Lewis produced The Take in 2004 for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, and I'm left wondering why it hasn't done the rounds in my network sooner! Its a 1hr 24min doco about workers in Argentina who are taking over closed factories and turning them into cooperatives.

In suburban Buenos Aires, thirty unemployed auto-parts workers walk into their idle factory, roll out sleeping mats, and refuse to leave. All they want is to re-start the silent machines. With The Take, director Avi Lewis, one of Canada's most outspoken journalists, and writer Naomi Klein, author of the international bestseller No Logo, champion a radical economic manifesto for the 21st century. But what shines through in the film is the simple drama of workers' lives and their struggle: the demand for dignity and the searing injustice of dignity denied.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Smart Classrooms Professional Development Framework

GNUChris just tweeted a link to the Queensland Government's Smart Classrooms Professional Development Framework. It is a table that illustrates the expectation of teachers to progress their ICTs knowledge, practice, values and profession relationships.

Chris isn't very confident with it.. concerns seem to be around Qld being very Microsoft based, but I can't see in the Framework any prescription to use MS products. Ignoring some of the legacy language and buzz words like Smart Classrooms, the table strikes me as easy to understand with a useful and well explained range of levels.

The progression is structured as:
  1. ICT Certificate as a base level of awareness
  2. ICT Pedagogical Licence as required before using ICTs in teaching and learning
  3. ICT Pedagogical Licence Advanced for teachers who make ICT integral and who show leadership
With some one's knowledge, practice, values, and professional relationships would be like at each level.

I'm not sure if the NZ education sector has something similar - if anyone knows its probably Derek Wenmoth, but this Qld one strikes me as both easy to use and well articulated.

Might the licence and advanced licence be an assessment standard we could use with teachers here who are undergoing our Graduate Certificate of Tertiary Teaching and Learning? Or does this set the bar too high at the present, considering the extreme range of skills now and in the foreseeable future?

I also think this way of presenting expectations of competency is a potential format for other areas of professional development, such as our work towards developing a sustainable teaching practitioner.

Comments appreciated.

Dancing to Architecture - a motion picture about This Is Not Art

Here's an open source documentary video I had a hand in creating back in 2002. Dancing to Architecture. It is made from 100s of hours of footage from a week long event, and less than 3 days in an editing studio on an old Media 100!

The producer Kristefan Minski is working on getting the historic footage archived and online. Back in 2002 we had visions of it being online like this, with a full footage log sheet linked to the original footage for others to use to mix their own versions. Back in 2002 that was kind of visionary as it turns out, but back then we didn't have the awareness we have of the Internet taht we have now.. existed, but we didn't know, socially constructed media was simply a figment of our imagination.. Youtube was a long 2 years away.. the thought that there was free and popular video servers out there that stuffed their nose at copyright and digital rights management, was too good to be true.

Now days, conciousness is radically different. And 7 years on, the footage is becoming more valuable. In 20 years it will be priceless to the archive of Australian cultural development in the age of Internet transformation and digital formats. Apart from all that, its just great memories of a young and enthusiastic time of risk taking and running by the seat of our pants on the smell of an oily rag.

Here's the blurb for the video:

Dancing to Architecture was the first open source documentary of its kind and is to date the only existing motion picture account of the phenomenal This Is Not Art festivals (TINA) - held in Newcastle, Australia every year in October. Filmed in 2002, Dancing to Architecture is essential for anyone who wants to gain an impression of what the TINA festival is like. It is rapid, chaotic, anarchic and urgent. It is dramatic, electric, technical, and socially relevant. It is Australia’s biggest event for communications, new media arts, music and activism.

If you are expecting this film to tell you what This Is Not Art is, then we suggest you stop and go look at their website instead:

If you are looking for an AV impression of TINA, with an experimental and expressive edge and subtle narratives, then you should watch Dancing to Architecture.

Dancing to Architecture was made with a budget of AU$1000 and a hell of a lot of begging. It was shot in Mini DV, Digital 8, Video 8, Hi8, DVC Pro, and Webcams, and edited in Premier and Media100. Audio was recorded in DAT, Mini Disc, cassette tape, and mini cassette tape and edited with Protools.

Basically any format and editing tool we could get our hands on was good enough, so long as we could record and log as much as possible, then edit together what we wanted. By the end of the festival we had collected over 140 hours of interviews, presentations and workshops, events, exhibitions, performances and time-lapse recordings. All of this footage has been thoroughly logged and made available online as open source to anyone who wants to watch it or even make another piece about TINA:

see DTA open source archive

So that’s where the real documentary lays – somewhere in all that 140 hours or more of raw footage. What we have made is a preview to it - an invite to look at the source material.

Dancing to Architecture is a challenge to documentary makers, a challenge to thoroughly break with tradition, confront the notion of documentary and become more creative and innovative with it. We want open source documentary, we want performance documentary, we want experimental documentary, and we want copy left documentary.

Dancing to Architecture is inspired by the early work of Dziga Vertov (Man With a Movie Camera), the conceptual framework established by Michael Snow and co (Wavelength), Ron Fricke and co (Baraka) and the numerous VJ's and performance video artists for their successful popularisation of this particular film genre.

This movie is part of the collection: Open Source Movies

Director: Lery Black
Producer: Kristefan Minski - Vital Focus Productions
Production Company: Vital Focus Productions
Sponsor: University of Newcastle, Octapod
Audio/Visual: sound, color
Language: English
Keywords: DTA, Dancing to Architecture, Vital Focus, Leroy Black, Leigh Blackall, Kristefan Minski, Minski Media, Documentary, TINA, This Is Not Art, Marcus Westbury, Newcastle, Australia
Contact Information:


leroy black
kristefan minski
ass. director and production manager:
clare lloyd
assistant producer:
antonio master
vision editors:
anya beyersdorf
jacqui kimbell
sound editor:
kristefan minski
original music:

leroy black
joshua bowyer
jasmine holm
shaye jewell
paul kimbell
clare lloyd
julia maclean
kim wall
katherine winning

sound recordists:
kim honan
stuart liddell
david mcdonald
kristefan minski
gavin weir

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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Everybody knows the good guys lost

I dunno what came over me here.. I'm out there in the garden, trying to get a handle on some climbing vines that keep over whelming some trees, I came in for lunch and to check a few emails, opened a few links and here we go...

About rent, mortgages and landlords.
Between banks, interest rates and council regulations, it all tends to feel much like paying rent to landlords. I guess having a mortgage means we are in with a chance to break away though. Its so crappy this system designed to make the rich richer. I pity my neighbour - who pays the same in rent as I do in mortgage, but who doesn't have an income the banks will consider to offer a mortgage. So his destined to make somebody else wealthy and lives on year by year leases. He is trapped in "working class" and held there for no good reason. Its the very reason we left Australia for a job and cheaper land here... now we wait for our market chance to "climb the property ladder" and into some sort of "middle class", when all we really want is to down grade to somewhere more fertile and with better community where we can live off "the grid" a bit more, build what we need and get out of the loop that pins us down.

About climate change
The counter climate change stuff is interesting isn't it.

I see the counter arguments as being part of the manipulation as well, perhaps part of a sophisticated 10 year social plan - if we can credit global PR to being that powerful. Imagine you represented development and capitalism but you were faced with growing neo socialist ideas in your market. Ideas that ran contrary to the economic model you relied on. In the old days you'd just send in economic hit men or private armies to sort it out, but it was costly and you always ended up loosing something in the process...

Where might you turn now the world is more or less homogeneous? Public Relations. Your PR firm (inspired by the work of Edward Bernays) tells you they'll set up a 10-15 year straw man campaign that will draw in the socialists (generating a brief period of new technology consumption along the way) then just at the right time, throw them all out in the cold for another 10-15 years by blowing the whistle on the straw man campaign that suckered them all in. They'll call the straw man campaign Global Warming and have overly influential celebrities talk about it. These days its not hard to stir up media rating feeding frenzy. The PR firm tells you to wait 10 years for all the socialist, greenies, and anarchists to get sucked in, then you'll whisper to the anarchists that's its all a lie, and watch them go to work in their contrarian ways, tearing down your straw man and everything else with it - thinking they were exposing the truth. Beauty of it is, no one will know it was your straw man, they'll blame each other, and their silly replaceable figure heads they call politicians and national leaders. Eventually Global Warming and Climate Change will be dismissed as another Y2K, along with it all the hippies and alternatives who are constantly trying to escape your slavery and not buy your cars and genetically modified soy beans. Not long now and you can get back to the business of cutting down trees and patenting crops so you can build your all glass beach condos (complete with vineyard holiday retreat in the hills) and stuff your wife with silicone and botox.

I'm not convinced its all a social design actually. More likely its just the state of humanity today. For ages we've referred to it mystically as the eternal thread of evil under us all. Its probably more to do with some small economic feature that enables all those wretched weeds to grow over the rest of us. Our collective darker nature being given the right conditions to flourish to the point were we'll all just have to kill the shit out of each other some day in the not too distant future just to clear some space for hope. I just want out.

And how about the truth about pirates?

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Monday, April 13, 2009

Road trip the USA?

The boss is covering my flight to Vancouver for the Open Education conference. Sunshine and I are thinking to make something of it and drive the West of the mighty USA. Here's what we're planning.

View Canada USA in a larger map

Up until just now, my geography of the US was zilch, and I haven't really paid attention to where people are for a possible visit. We have less than 2 weeks to do this in.. suggestions?

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Steal this Film

Chris Harvey tweets Steal This Film, so I watch.

A Documentary video about a Sweden based file sharing website called Pirate Bay being shut down despite no Swedish law existing to justify the police action. The story points to US pressure on Sweden, forcing action despite having no case against the group.

Wow! Imagine if the US did that to tax evaders!?

About Leigh Blackall

Leigh lives in Canberra, Australia with his beautiful wife Sunshine, their baby Eve, their dogs Mira and Lego, and cat Anai.

Leigh enjoys outdoor recreation with a passion for telemark ski touring. He also enjoys tinkering with permaculture design and living.

Leigh’s professional interest is in educational development, focused on open education using popular media for networked learning. This primarily involves social media and communication as socially constructed learning leading to formal educational recognition.

Leigh currently works with Sport Studies and the Faculty of Health at the University of Canberra.

Sunshine wants Leigh to find a small block of land by a river so he can give up work and go back to being an artist, grow vegies, run goats, and focus on raising Eve - Leigh tends to agree, and aims to get there one day.
skype: leigh_blackall

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Staff talks - Expanding Horizons: using blogs, wikis and moodle

We had 4 staff talk today about their online teaching practices, looking specifically at examples:

  1. Terry Marler - Managing learning management systems
  2. William Lucus - Blogs are for blokes
  3. Hillary Jenkins - Blogs and wikis in the tourism courses and Tourism
  4. Carolyn McIntosh - Moodle midwifery
All audio recordings are available at the Internet Archive for listening and downloading.

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Monday, April 06, 2009

NZ Telcos need the boot

Simonfj in a comment recently, dropped a link to a rather interesting communication that I only just grasp but can see in it a description of a very unhealthy media scape in NZ at the moment. This little tit bit relates to the pipe dream I have for why NZ online culture needs to be out of the hands of private telcos:

For video the killer ap is on-demand viewing. Live is an also ran. We deliver on-demand (and live) via a CDN. Most CDNs use distributed servers with caching systems and some form of route distribution to send the traffic to the closest server. A popular method is anycast routing, locating servers at Internet Exchanges and peering with everyone. This minimises your traffic charges and is extremely effective.

We simply use the same system for live streams. Its much easier to control, manage, operate, than trying to convince everyone to go multicast. Heres why....

The two biggest telcos in NZ have de-peered from the NZ exchanges. They insist that we pay them to deliver the streams to their customers. We say "no, your customers requested the stream and pay you to deliver it - you have the commercial relationship. Peer with us and get the content for free". Besides does Google or the BBC or CNN pay you ?

So instead we have a cluster of servers in San Francisco, and pour huge quantities of traffic into NZ, that originates in NZ. We have calculated its 1/4 of the cost of paying the two telcos. It also gives more efficient access to our content to international viewers.

It doesn't make sense from an efficiency point of view, but in the David and Goliath world I live in, its how we survive. If I can't get a telco to peer, how will I get them to handle multicast ?

As an aside, over the week end I found out my domain is black listed and blocked by one of NZ's top 10 companies - an airline. It seems my little P4 server (OK its got a couple of TB of video on it) can deliver enough video that causes their network to slow, or cost them more money, or whatever. So I've had a look and it appears that none of NZs top 10 companies peer at any IX.

In the case of the airline, I know there is a fiber ring in their data center that carries APE an distributed peering exchange. So they could peer and get the video for free.

So much for innovation.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Peter Greenaway: Dead cinema, live cinema

the 2 big ideas that govern our cultural pursuits are interactivity and multi media, cinema can't deal with either. Peter Greenaway 2008

"the new cinema could be in something like the VJ DJ phenomenon" Peter Greenaway 2007

The result was amazing: Greenaway rocked the crowd in Amsterdam's VJ temple "11", blending his avantgarde cinematographic imagery (taken from the Tulse Luper Suitcases movie) with the heavy movie score remix by DJ Radar. Mastering the giant touch screen the newborn 'realtime image conductor' Greenaway provided a totally new experience to the audience: Live Cinema at its best.

"Bill Viola is worth 10 Scorsese's" Peter Greenaway 2008

The Reflecting Pool

Submission to Wikimania

Submission to Wikimania
  1. Event title: Using media wikis and their communities of practice to develop free and open education at Otago Polytechnic New Zealand.
  2. Abstract: Otago Polytechnic in NZ has been using media wikis and their supporting communities of practice, to develop and make available many of its educational programs and resources as free and open education. This presentation will explain how the Polytechnic has been doing this, why it has lead to free and open education, and many of the key influences and dicisions along the way.
  3. Themes and track: Casual. Free knowledge.
  4. Information about the speaker: Leigh Blackall : leighblackall at gmail dot com : Leigh Blackall has been working with the Otago Polytechnic since 2006 and has been instrumental in developing the use of social media, open copyright licensing, and free and open courses.
  5. Submission: Otago Polytechnic started exploring the use of media wikis to develop and make available some of its educational programs early in 2006. Initially it considered 3 options: 1 - Setting up its own media wiki. 2 - Using Wikiversity. 3 - Using Wikieducator. The IT support unit at the Polytechnic who would have been responsible for setting up and maintaining the local install, was not in a position to support the trial, so work began on Wikiversity. After a few months loading content and generally engaging with Wikiversity users, it became apparent that some members of both the Wikiversity community at the time, and the Polytechnic's own departments, had concerns about the the way the Polytechnic was using Wikiversity compared to the direction some users wanted Wikiversity to move in. The Polytechnic was then approached by Wikieducator and it became apparent that Wikieducator would be a better place for the Polytechnic to further its interests in the use of media wikis. At this time it was also realised that the media wiki projects came with communities of practice, and to some extent those communities had something to offer the Polytechnic's staff development efforts. With its established support for educational institutions and its rapidly growing user base who work in the education sector, Wikieducator and Otago Polytechnic established a partnership in developing open educational resources and practices, and establishing Otago Polytechnic as a NZ leader in this field. Since using Wikieducator to raise local awareness of the benefits of media wikis and international communities of practice that come with projects like Wikiversity and Wikieducator, staff at the Polytechnic have started to become more informed and critically aware of the wider considerations such as political and economic issues behind the wiki projects generally. Some staff have gone on to developed text books on Wikibooks, others are more confident engaging with Wikipedia, and others see benefit in establishing their own wikis for specific tasks, the Polytechnic's Educational Development Centre is now offering several online teacher training courses through the wikis, as are several other schools and departments from other subject areas. This presentation will tell this story, taking into account some of the influences through out, and present some of the Polytechnic's directional thinking that is emerging as a result of these initial efforts. People who are interested in open educational resources, and the use of media wikis in educational settings - not only of media wikis to develop content, but engagement with international communities of practice for staff development purposes, should attend this talk.
    • Event type: Presentation
    • Language: English
    • Special requirements: Internet, computer, projector, audio recording of talk and of audience discussion.

About to start

Very soon, I am going to stop blogging at learnonline and start blogging here. My intention is to keep predominantly writing about education issues, but to include other things as my professional interests develop or change. The Wordpress blog will sit there as a reminder of my last 3 years of work, and Sunshine and I intend to make a printed book from it just for keepsake.

As for other interests, right now I am mentally preparing to start "painting" again. Sunshine has been urging me to get back into art, and I appreciate that encouragement a lot. So I'm stewing on a few ideas, and thinking about subjects and mediums. It could be that this blog starts to cover those considerations as well..

But never fear edu heads, there is still plenty to write about and point to in the education debates. Its not like things are going to change suddenly, if at all.

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