Archive for Politics

Election Leaflets Australia – a new tool to ‘keep the bastards honest’

The eDemocracy project Open Australia Foundation just launched – which lets people upload election leaflets they receive, or search to see election materials in their electorate (or any electorate). This is the latest project from – a non-party political eDemocracy group.

The purpose of this project is to shed light on local campaign stunts, and hold our politicians up to to national and media scrutiny.

It got written up in the SMH/Age today. Dirty Tricks Police.

They’re also sharing their archive with the National Library – so this stuff wil be permanently archived – very cool.

Please consider uploading (or emailing, or posting) any leaflets you receive to the site. Thank you!

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OpenAustralia, eDemocracy and education

I’ve been a volunteer with OpenAustralia for some time now, and I don’t think I’ve talked enough about why I admire this project so much, and why I think it’s so important. It’s because I believe in transparent, accountable and accessible government. It’s because I believe in removing the obstacles which keep people from participating in their government. And it’s because I believe in enabling and encouraging greater use of technology, especially for education. OpenAustralia supports and is informed by all these beliefs. It empowers people to use technology tools to educate themselves and participate more fully in their own government.

We’re lucky enough to have a pool of volunteer developers across Australia who are busy working on improving and extending the functionality of the OpenAustralia website and its underlying software. For example, there’s now a mobile version of OpenAustralia, and there are also a couple of nifty new features which make it easier to share and republish information from the website. You’ll now see a “Share this” button next to every speech on the OA website, so you can easily share it via social networking sites. And, for WordPress users, there’s now a PoliPress plugin that lets you easily import speeches to your wordpress blog for commentary or discussion. See the OpenAustralia news post “OpenAustralia goes mobile and gets social” for further information.

I also wanted to mention a very cool school outreach program which was developed by the Victorian Electoral Commission, called Passport to Democracy. It’s aimed at Year 9-10 students, and it’s a program which teachers can use to teach students about how the election process works, by getting students to identify and research issues that they care about, then getting them to vote on which issue they want to take local action on. I love this program for many reasons. It encourages students to think about how they can take action locally on something they care about, rather than removing them from the process by encouraging them to send a letter to their MP and sit back and wait for someone else to take action on their behalf. It is getting them to vote for ideas they care about, rather than a more abstract notion of a political party or official.

If you are a Victorian teacher (or want to recommend this program to your local teacher or high school), then visit the VEC’s Passport to Democracy page, or go to their Edublog, where you can get more information about the program, and read some feedback from a teacher at Strathmore High School.

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Bye Bye Conroy – Three predictions for 2009

Last night on Byte Into IT‘s first radio show for 2009, we made predictions for the year ahead in tech. The podcast will be online soon, but I thought I’d share mine here. Let’s count them down…

3. This is the year that Microsoft’s browser domination will finally end. Internet Explorer’s market share will drop to 65%, having its lead eroded by two open source browsers  – Firefox (which will stay about steady at 20%) and Google’s Chrome (launched late last year) which will claw 15% of the market away from IE by the end of 2009.
(This prediction inspired by a conversation with Rusty Russell last week at LCA.)

2. The awesome philanthropic venture, One Laptop Per Child, will become hardware independent in 2009, meaning that it won’t be sidetracked by arguments or politics about hardware (or software, for that matter) and won’t be limited by the number of its own XO laptops it can produce. So the folk who create and support Sugar – software designed to be a tool for kids to learn, even if they’ve never used a computer before – will be able to get on with taking this awesome learning tool to kids who need it, everywhere in the world.

1. The Australian Minister for IT, Senator Stephen Conroy will resign in 2009. He’ll resign to take up a posting as the ambassador to China, where he’ll be a special attache to the Ministry for Internet Censorship. He’ll be replaced in his IT portfolio by Deputy PM Julia Gillard, whose first announcement as IT Minister will be that the Rudd government is going to make good on its promise to fund laptops for *all* Australian secondary school kids – and will be extending the program to include primary school kids too. The government will also announce it is working with OLPC to ensure that kids in remote and poor areas of Australia won’t be left behind. 

2009. The year we conquered the digital divide. 

We can hope. 🙂

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RRR tonight – discussion of Australia's ISP filtering "plan"

I’ll be making one of my semi-regular appearances on RRR radio’s technology show, Byte into IT tonight from 7pm-8pm. We’ll be talking about the ISP filtering debacle with our resident legal expert Andrew Fish, so it should be a good one. If you’re in Melbourne, tune into 102.7FM, or you can stream it on the interwebs at

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Olbermann on Prop 8: This is a question of love

Olbermann has weighed in on Prop 8 – the vote in California to repeal the right to gay marriage in that state which was only granted in June this year. I only wish he’d broadcast it before the vote, instead of afterwards. 🙁

“You are asked now by your country, perhaps by your creator, to stand on one side or another – not on a question of politics. Not on a question of religion. Not on a question of gay or straight. You are asked now to stand on a question of love.

All you need to do is stand and let the tiny ember of love meet its own fate. You don’t have to help it. You don’t have to applaud it. You don’t have to fight for it.

Just don’t put it out. Just don’t extinguish it. Because while it may at first look like that love is between two people you don’t know and you don’t understand, and maybe you don’t even want to know, that love is in fact the ember of your love for your fellow person. Just because this is the only world we have, and the other guy counts too.


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LOL President meme, World of Warcraft style

Probably only hilarious if you play World of Warcraft, but I certainly LOLed. 🙂

Achievement Unlocked: President of the United States (and i loved the name of the album: “dps the skull ffs”, which again, you’ll only laugh at if you’re a dirty warcraft player like me).

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The US election 2008 – what worked on the web

Of course now that the US election’s over we’re in post mortem mode. As an online journalist, I was pretty blown away by the depth of news, analysis and polling information available online, and the increasingly sophisticated ways people are pushing and sharing election news online.

Here’s a brief look at what tools worked best for me as I followed the election, as the web editor looking after Crikey’s US election coverage. I wrote it in response to one of Fairfax’s tech journos who was arguing that people still rely on “mainstream media” as their first point of call for political coverage of things like the US election.

I can only assume that you didn’t just spend the last x number of months knee deep in the incredibly awesome political blogs covering the US election, as I had the good fortune to do.

While Australian political blogs tend to be analysis rather than newsbreaking, there are a number of US blogs with the resources to actually have reporters on the ground. Politico is just the first one that springs to mind.

Blogs plus aggregators like Real Clear Politics and lately Daily Beast were my first port of call for US election news. They would always point to any “MSM” stories I needed to see.

On election day I found Oliver Burkeman’s live blog at the Guardian more useful than CNN. The only time I went looking for a newspaper site specifically was when I went to LA Times because I figured they’d have the most up to date polling figures on the Prop 8 vote.

Blogs and aggregators aren’t just about analysis, they’re also becoming increasingly important in pointing people towards the news they want, fast.

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Going to election 2.0? Don't forget to take your parents.

The other day I sent my parents an email with links to Barack Obama’s speech accepting the presidency of the USA, as well as John McCain’s concession speech.

I did this because I asked if they’d seen Obama’s speech, and they’d only seen a very brief clip on the TV news. I thought the whole 17 minutes was worth watching.

Later my dad called me to ask why the YouTube clips would start playing, then stop. I explained that the video needs time to download before you can watch it without it pausing. So I suggested he start it playing, then pause it until he could see that the “loading” bar was almost finished. It’s a simple thing, but one I wouldn’t have thought to explain until he asked. Just another example that you shouldn’t assume knowledge when you’re teaching people tech stuff.

(For fun, I also included Don’t Vote, a Steven Spielberg YouTube ad encouraging people to vote, which I adored because it stars Harrison Ford being all righteous and refusing to say “Don’t vote”.”I can’t do it. It’s not true, I don’t believe it. 537 people decided the 2000 election and you want me to tell people that one vote doesn’t count?”)

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Fox Force Five is go!

Welcome to my new net home, My name is Sarah Stokely, I’m a tech writer, editor and nerd. This blog will talk about Australian politics and culture (digital and otherwise) and probably a smattering of commentary on US politics as well.

You may know me through my personal blog (blithespirit over at LiveJournal) or from my open source blog, The Open Source Report. But this is going to be my main home now.

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