Sunday, January 31, 2010

Little brother is watching

I shot a video clip at a local school fair that showed police cars careening around a field. It happened a year ago. I have kept the footage all this time because initially I didn't know how to get the material off the phone and onto my computer. Bluetooth connection between the two devices just wasn't happening. I solved the problem with a little memory card, downloaded it, then forgot all about it. I have been shooting and editing video recently so I was reminded that I had it on file and decided to post it.

The clips show two police patrol cars driving at speed on the school field. Aboard are children who have paid for the joy ride.

During the incident the cars drive at speed in a confined space between an ice cream truck and a inflatable bouncy castle. Children line up for ice cream and play without concern.

I have no malicious intention or axe to grind. Some commenters imply I am biased for some reason (I have since disabled comments because of vitriolic and threatening remarks). I have no bias and only the highest general regard for Police who perform their duties, which are often appalling (and, no, I wouldn't change places with them). That doesn't mean they always get things right though, they are humans, like the rest of us.

Some comments on YouTube implied that, because police are trained drivers my observation is fatuous. Who knows, they might be right, but without information about who was driving and their level of skill at the time it is impossible to make an informed comment about that. In principle one could reasonably argue that an experienced, skilled and trained driver would be circumspect about engaging in such a demonstration. Things go wrong, even for the most skilled people. Just recently a New Zealand Air Force pilot, a senior member of the aerobatics squad, was killed during a routine manoeuvre in training.

Yesterday a journalist from the Dominion Post called to ask about the clip. It is in the paper this morning.

The article said the police would be requesting the original footage to determine whether it had been tampered with. "…Police National Headquarters spokeswoman Debbie Corney said police in Waitemata district would be requesting the original footage to establish its authenticity and "speaking to staff to determine exactly what happened" The comment is telling - the initial reaction is to lash out - is it authentic? It is just as you see it. Crudely shot, in low resolution but all the footage is complete and joined together simply from it's raw form. Nothing has been sped up or altered. As for speaking to staff to determine what 'exactly' happened? Well, once again the, the video speaks for itself. Staff will only be able to subjectively interpret events like anyone else, myself included.

In part I regret posting the clip, I am not interested in bagging the Police generally and I accept that some people feel that I have been unfair. I simply recorded and commented on the event.

But it has been instructive in a sense. People in the public eye need to be aware that cameras are everywhere. I often have three cameras with me (while my old Samsung phone - that I shot this footage with is pretty rough, I also have point and shoot HD). I never know when something interesting will become material to be shared. Most times the material I do share is mundane and barely warrants a notice. Who knows, footage you or I capture might solve a crime one day?

This is the era of social media. You and I have access to our own private channels - this blog, Posterous, Twitter, YouTube, Facebook… did I say channels - I meant networks. It is a fact of life.

Sometimes the mainstream media will pick up the story. I have had photos of other observations picked up in the past - such as candyfloss in the fruit and veges section of the supermarket - media voraciously consume 'content'.

Curiously enough even mundane material is deemed more 'important' when it is in the newspaper or on TV then buried amongst the millions of clips and images on YouTube. My clip would have been ignored if the journalist hadn't been listening out on Twitter and it would only have been part of the conversation in my limited networks. I'm not interested in leading a crusade (unless it is to improve men's health)

This morning other media outlets have been contacting me through Twitter and Facebook. Interestingly the clip isn't news. It is an artifact, a year old, something to discuss and think about. I am not interested in being drawn into an antagonistic conversation about the police generally.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Flying by the seat of your pants.

Air New Zealand has just launched new seating concepts, to be introduced on long-haul flights in November of this year.

The significance of the press event seemed to me to be less about the actual design of the seats—handsome and innovative as they are (and I think they will certainly impress the travelling public)—and more of a reinforcement of the significance of Air New Zealand itself to the New Zealand economy and our national identity.

Seats symbolise the airline business more so than wings or smiling cabin crew. Seats are the carrier’s inventory. An empty chair on an aircraft can’t be stored, repriced and sold at a later date. The complex inter-relationships of, not only seats sold, but also at what price margin is as significant as the variable cost of fuel and the cost of the funds (paid in US dollars). There are other factors, but these will determine how much profit or loss the business makes.

There are also functional requirements for convenient timetables, attractive destinations and favourable rates/landing arrangements at airports around the world. Who’d want to be in the airline business? Many operators have made a small fortune (usually out of a large one—even Air New Zealand has experienced its share of turbulence in the past).

Airlines are also notoriously difficult to differentiate from competitors. All of the above factors are common to all; no one escapes the operational complexity. Combine that with simple fact that most airlines on long haul routes buy or lease the same aircraft types and have limited ability to reconfigure the cabins. Aside from colour schemes and cabin crew uniforms most passenger jet experiences are interchangeable.

As Air New Zealand’s CEO, Rob Fyfe points out, the inflight experience drives the airline’s investment in the new cabin configurations, seating, entertainment and service. It is this experience that defines the passenger’s impression of the brand. In-bound holidaymakers represent a much higher percentage of travellers with Air New Zealand than business travellers and because the distances covered are far greater than most other national carriers, the opportunity is to turn a potential negative into a category leading positive. As the national carrier there is the added responsibility to predispose travellers to New Zealand long before they even set foot on our soil and reinforce their experience on the journey home.

The process of redesigning the long haul cabin experience has been a long haul in itself. General manager of the international division, Ed Sims, says the process began four years ago. Internationally-renowned design consultancy IDEO was commissioned to guide the company through the early stages of development. IDEO rapid prototyping and anthropological approach to useability and function are something of a legend in the design community. Some might find it curious that an international firm be commissioned to lead the process, but the stakes are sky high. The result seems worthwhile so far. By including four leading local structural design firms to assist in the design implementation the cross pollination of ideas and expertise adds value to the design community.

Air New Zealand says there is an opportunity to license the designs to other airlines. Hopefully that policy will be judiciously deployed. It would make little sense to diminish hard-won competitive advantage by offering it to rivals on the same routes you travel.

The initiative is a significant one for the airline. It could pay-off in spades. It doesn’t take much to get me to hop on a plane; I’d probably travel in a cabin with passengers who have brought livestock aboard (I have, long story). But the prospect of experiencing a much more comfortable journey, with great, simple food and happy, proud cabin crew takes the promise of a long-haul flight to a whole new level.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Divertimenti 1

As I am on holiday this post is a simple diversion. I have to confess my admiration for folks who take the time to conceive, plan and impleiment this kind of artwork. It's a clever triple entendre mashup of iconic music, graphics and the once ubiquitous Rubik's Cube (which I never did solve).


Via Simon Grigg's blog