Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Melbourne Anti-censorship Event on March 6th

I accidentally got myself in the middle of a fight between several factions trying to organise some kind of anti-censorship events across Australia on March 6th. I promoted a Melbourne event that was being advertised as a protest, when most factions, including one that has some Pirate Party members, had decided to go for an informal picnic or barbecue approach.

It was my own fault that I didn't know about the change of direction that some of the groups had taken, as I hadn't read the emails (they'd been filtered out of my inbox automatically). Once I'd realised my mistake, and caught up on my reading, and worked through the aggressive abuse that was hurled my way for my mistake (very productive, that was), I started trying to calm things down.

I won't be naming names or organisations in this post, despite my aim for transparency, as things committed via email and facebook tend to escalate well beyond where they would go over phone or in person, and I think that it has pretty much been a case of frustration boiling over for everyone involved in organising these events.

Anyway, so I started getting involved in working on compromises for the Melbourne and Perth events, as the organisers of those had started organising protests due to the lack of any other events being planned, and not having been told about the picnic plans of the organising groups from the other states.

I started with email, but quickly realised that it would be an ineffective means of communication to really make good arguments that would be heard. So I picked up the phone, and pretty soon, the Perth organiser had compromised on some the the plans for the Perth event, to a point where the other states' groups should have been happy. They weren't.

Then I got involved in the Melbourne planning, getting compromises and format changes so that other than not actually having a picnic, the format seemed to be almost the same as the other states. All the people I have spoken to from Melbourne and Perth have seemed to be nice, reasonable people (though I've only spoken to one organiser from Perth). I was pretty proud of myself about getting these compromises, I must say. I felt like a real deal-maker, and all it took was speaking calmly, having logical arguments and being polite: almost the opposite of most online communication conducted between strangers.

But no matter what I have managed to do to get Melbourne and Perth to compromise on their formats, issues kept coming up with the organisers from the other states either not believing me about the format changes, or just not listening. No matter what I promised about the events, old quotes and badly-written zdnet articles kept being used, over and over to imply that Perth and Melbourne were going to have angry street protests, which was not, and is not, at all the case.

It has resulted in the Melbourne event being ignored by the other groups, and without the endorsement of these other groups, the word is not being put out there effectively. I'm really quite mad about how obstructionist these groups have been. There are a lot of details that I just can't go into here, mostly because if I start, I won't be able to stop.

And to top it all off, the groups from the other states, which had the "perfect" plan about how these events should be run now seem to be imploding, with nothing to show for all their fighting and arguments.

Anyway, the details of the Melbourne Anti-censorship event can be seen on Facebook. At this stage, it is still going ahead, with or without the endorsement of these factions. And no matter what, there will not be a street protest.

I'm going to take a step back from the organising, I think (which I've only helped with a bit so far anyway), as it's not a Pirate Party event and I don't want keep stepping on people's toes.

There will probably be people who are angry at me for even writing this piece, despite so many of the details not being mentioned, though if I am to be transparent in my role within Pirate Party Australia, it's not all going to be pretty, and the mistakes aren't all going to be mine.

Disclaimer: Some of what I have written about is based on rumour, and the state of things is likely to change frequently, as it has been for the last week, so if I have said anything wrong, it is unintentional, and if you plan on quoting me, you'd better get decent confirmation and make sure that your quotes are accurate at the time of printing them. I'm looking at you, zdnet.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Attempting to increase transparency

Hello out there,

I'm going to start using this blog to give updates on what it is I'm doing for Pirate Party Australia. I'm not yet sure of the scope, as to whether I will just stick with my actions, or whether (and how much) I will go into my thought process, so we'll see how it turns out. I'll also talk about some of the work that other people are doing, when relevant to the running of the party, but my main purpose of this is to increase transparency in the office of President of the party, and to communicate with everyone about what I am doing, as that has been a major (deserved) criticism of my leadership so far, and now that I know about it, I want to rectify the situation going forward.

So, recently:
  • iiNet won their court case against AFACT, which was great. We worked on preparing press releases a week in advance, for either outcome, just in case. I wasn't too happy about the fact that they were both sent out to our media contacts the night before, which led to some professional embarassment, however mistakes happen and it was hardly disasterous. The Founder and Secretary, Rodney Serkowski got to do a bit for SBS, complete with dramatic shots of him walking down the street from the courthouse, however we're not sure if it ended up making it to air, which is a shame if it didn't. I did a couple of interviews in the leadup, one for zdnet and another for AFP (not the police).
  • I was woken up at 7am yesterday by Sarah Dingle, who was looking for confirmation of protests being planned for 8am. I hadn't heard of anything, so I got on IRC and Google and started to do some research and found out about Operation Titstorm. Operation Titstorm turned out to be a planned DDOS attack on Australian government servers, perpetrated by Anonymous, a group set up to protest against Scientology. They have a strong focus on anti-censorship issues in general, but their methods are not always the most productive or legal. I spoke to Sarah again shortly after and filled her in on what I learned, which resulted in my being interviewed that morning on ABC's Radio National. The interview can be found at I spoke about what I assumed to be their methods and that Pirate Party Australia doesn't endorse them, and then spoke about some general censorship and copyright-related issues that I believe has led to the frustration they feel, which has been expressed poorly.
  • In a contentious move, I did an interview this morning with Australia Live TV. The issue itself wasn't with the organisation conducting the interview, so much as a perception that we didn't know enough about the subject matter (the $1.5M Nintendo settlement) to speak authoritatively. I believed that I had the required information to speak in generalities about the case and to then move the conversation onto general policy discussion, so I made the decision to go ahead with the interview. It can be found at, and I think it went very well, though I need to work on using a more impressive interview voice, rather than sounding like a software engineer, which I am.
  • I've also done some other interviews such as for Great Southern Stand and Radio Adelaide. The Radio Adelaide one caused a fair amount of tension with the SA branch of the party. I intended to tell the SA members about it as I received the request by phone on a Friday afternoon and couldn't remember the name of the station afterwards (being a Melbournian), and got no email confirmation, so I ended up doing the interview when I should have put in more effort to pass it off to the SA branch so they could handle it. It's a pretty weak excuse, I know, but that's what happened. It was a decent interview, but I effectively denied the SA branch from being able to speak about more local issues and events. It wasn't intended, but it happened, so I'm sorry.
  • One of my main goals has been to get our store up and running, as a political campaign costs a lot of money, and that is felt even more when working without federal funding, and working to protect civil liberties and to reform copyrights and patents, which is an uphill battle all the way. The store sounds simple in theory. In fact the technical side of things has been handled by our IT team brilliantly. A request is made for what should be a complex system, and they plug a few things together, patch the kernel, and stuff starts working. Much of the delay has come from finding a decent supplier and getting the artwork together. I should have organised artwork long ago, but I didn't, so that is the current hold-up. I didn't put enough thought into it in advance that we would need to get precise imagery done that would be appropriate for the items we want to sell. We have really talented graphic designers, but there's no point them just doing anything if they don't know if it will be appropriate. So I've given better specs now, and I hope to get the store open soon. It will be through this store that we will allow people to redeem swag that they have effectively pre-bought as part of the deal for donating $50+ (including membership fee) when signing up. I'm not really sure how to handle distribution at this point, but I know that I want to batch up orders on the store so that we can place orders with our supplier based on approximately known requirements for our stock. This will prevent us getting a whole heap of XL t-shirts for example when everyone is a medium. Initially, it has been suggested that we get a volunteer in each state to act as a distribution centre for orders placed in their state. This probably won't scale, but it seems reasonable to do this for a while until we have data to suggest a better plan. I'm also running a bit of a survey to decide on which artwork is preferred by members to be turned into posters to stock in the store. Send me a message or comment if you want to know the procedure for voting.
  • Communication procedures have been pretty weak within the party so far, so there is a lot of wasted effort spent coordinating instead of doing. Brendan Molloy has come up with a good procedure document that will need to be supplemented with a code of conduct soon, but for now, it helps to clarify some definite procedures for things like approval of press releases, as well as requirements to lead committees and requests for funding. This document will go into effect shortly, once any issues that people might find are discussed and ironed out.
  • I plan on running a Reflection Meeting, similar to how we do them at my workplace. I will invite all the members of committees, though any general members are welcome to join us, so email me or add a comment if you want to attend. The procedure I intend to follow is that we will go through the participants one at a time to list something that they think is either good, bad or an idea. We will keep going until there is nothing left. I will then compile the list of items and get people to vote on what they think are the most important goods, bads and ideas.
    The purpose is to get everyone to look within at how we are all working together as a party. It should allow people to vent about issues, think about what we have achieved and give us a set things to work towards to move forward in our agenda as a party. It will be at 7pm on Tuesday 23rd of Feb, so as I said, contact me if you want to take part.
Sorry for the big blocks of text. Hopefully I'll do more frequent, smaller updates moving forward.
I think this will do for now. I haven't been sleeping much lately, so I'm off to get my languorous 6 hours.
Please send me an email (my full name @ hint: I have no middle name) or leave a comment if you have any feedback or enquiries.

Thanks for reading.