Seriously, Australia? SERIOUSLY?

I recently bought an Internet radio gadget that lets me listen to Australia’s Radio National while sitting and knitting on my back porch, away from my computer(s). This afternoon I was doing exactly that when I heard a lengthy interview with the creators of a Melbourne-based art project called Wayfarer. (It doesn’t look like the audio’s available online for download, though it will air again a couple of times over the next few days if you want to listen live online.)

Anyway, in this interview, the creators, Kate Richards and Martin Coutts, said that Wayfarer v2 is a “world first” because it is a “hybrid” event, mixing real-world activities (people running round making videos) with online participation (uploading to Youtube, commenting via Twitter.) To which I can only say:


Listen, you ignorant blowhards. Just because you’ve never heard of it before doesn’t mean you’re the first to come up with it. It just means that, like almost everyone in Australia, you are seriously out of touch with global Internet culture. Have you not even heard of the Star Wars Fan Movie Challenge that’s been running since 2002? Let me break it down for you. The SWFMC gets teams to:

  1. Create home-made films, then
  2. Upload them to the Internet, where they are
  3. Voted on by the community

Sound familiar? Yeah, great “world first” you’ve got there, Wayfarer.

I’ve been ranting about this to anyone who’ll listen for a while now, though I will admit I got particularly frothy around the chops at the recent Vegemite iSnack 2.0 travesty.

Apple’s iMac was launched in 1998, and people were making parody iEverything products within minutes. Even before that it was eEverything and NetEverything, and you’d better believe that each generation of InterSuperCyberSurfing products — most with no relation whatsoever to Internet technology — looked tireder and sadder than the last. Even toaster manufacturer Breville beat you by 8 years and trademarked iSnack in 2001, then didn’t manufacture anything with that name, presumably because someone there actually uses the Internet or at least knows someone who does and thought to ask them.

As for the “2.0”, Tim O’Reilly coined the term back in 2004, and has moved on these days to Web Squared. Plenty of people are talking about Web 3.0, too, though those who work in the field (I’m one of them) usually roll their eyes at it — to be honest, it was a bit passé by early 2008. Web 2.0 is hardly the hip new thing the kids are using anymore: even the Liberal Party of Australia and the Commonwealth Bank are on Twitter these days.

And don’t even get me started on the parochialism displayed around the Hey Hey blackface incident, which demonstrated on so many levels how disconnected many Australians are from global culture. The best bit? Australian media’s apparent surprise that people outside Australia would notice and comment. Because this Youtube thing’s a bit groundbreaking, you know? A world first! It’s like living in the future — if you’re from 2003.

People ask me why I left Australia, and whether I’m planning to go back. Sure, I plan to go back, but until I find a way of dealing with wilful Internet cluelessness like the above without tearing my hair out, I won’t be able to work there.

17 thoughts on “Seriously, Australia? SERIOUSLY?

  • Nicole Jenkins

    Please don’t tar us all with the same brush: there are clueless people everywhere, just as there are plenty of us in Australia who cringed at the iSnack debacle and the rest of it. Unfortunately, the media gets more excited about the idiots that it does about those of us who hide in the corner and wait for the kerfuffle to die down.

    All the same, I’m shocked about the Wayfarer thing: I wish people would do a little research first, especially when they’re going to bandy about terms like “world first”.

  • Skud Post author

    Yeah, obviously there are pockets of clue (including many of my friends, who must have far more patience than I do) but for the most part the people who are even remotely up to date with Internet stuff are being ignored by Australian business and media.

  • Nicole Jenkins

    What can I say? We’re an outpost – I’d like to say that coping with it involves patience but it’s probably more resignation. The price we pay for the good stuff that living here can entail. Reading the daily paper can sometimes be horrendous though.

    Not that I haven’t ruled out living overseas again, mind. Just my work is here for a while…

  • Skud Post author

    Hee! My wordpress setup uses Gravatars for those who have them, or generates a MonsterID for those who don’t. The monster is generated based on your email address. If you get yourself a Gravatar it will appear here and on other sites that use the same system, thus avoiding the mutant potato look ;)

  • Alec the Geek

    Parochial is the word I’m afraid. I’ve lived in AUS for over 10 years and I really like it here, but the constant navel gazing is bloody irritating. For example it seems that no world event is worth discussing unless an Australian is involved in some way.

    I’m reduced to reading the BBC to get a world perspective (not perfect, but better than local resources)

    However there are lots of great geeks here with a world community view and that’s great!

  • Skud Post author

    Weirdly, every time I turn on Radio National they’re talking about California. The first day I got my Internet radio, I turned it on thinking “Ah, time for some Australian radio” … to listen to a story about California’s budget crisis, followed by an interview with a Californian academic about crack cocaine.

    When I was in Australia I largely ignored newspapers and TV news, in favour of a mixed bag of blogs and international news online. Here in SF I still do the same thing, and it seems like the majority of people I come in contact with do likewise, which was not my experience in Australia!

  • Brendan

    Hi K, as another escapee, I have to remind you that it’s a cheap shot to aim at local newspapers about the “shock” news that new technology was actually invented several years ago — when I was living in SF I remember a few obvious stories in the SF Chron and there are loads in the London press.

    Just because a few media outlets don’t understand the medium to the level of someone who has worked around it for ten+ years doesn’t mean you should write off a whole culture — well you shouldn’t write a off the whole culture based on those reasons alone, anyway…

    Brendan (listening to some dirty three via spotify right now so I’m a little nostalgic)

  • Skud Post author

    If there were a single major Australian newspaper with a working RSS feed of their articles, or a single Australian department store with online shopping, or a single notable Australian company offering RESTful APIs to interface with their online offerings, or if some of the largest Australian companies could figure how to configure their DNS and/or webservers like we do here in the 21st century, or if I could buy technical books online for less than three times the US price and in less than three weeks, or if I could file my Australian taxes online without using Windows, or if my erstwhile employer’s website (one of the most popular in Australia) didn’t look like an explosion in a banner ad factory ca. 2004, I’d might feel a little more remorse for my cheap shots.

    (And if you tell me any of the above have changed since I last looked, and I’m missing something, I’ll be delighted!)

    EDIT: I see News Corp have RSS feeds on their central website, but not on the pages of most of the individual newspapers.

  • Skud Post author

    Yup, the ABC is one of the ones doing a pretty good job — not up there with the BBC (who are very pro-mashup, semantic web, etc.), but on par with the CBC in Canada and, say, NPR in the US. That’s why I said “newspapers” specifically ;)

  • patspam

    “if I could file my Australian taxes online without using Windows”

    For fun a few weeks back I submitted that as a bug to the ATO. Blog post of the ensuing dialog coming soon :)

  • Mark Aufflick

    Oh c’mon Kirrily – Australia may be a bit parochial (some would say delightfully so), but we’re nothing compared to Californians.

    True story – on a voice conference with a Californian colleague earlier this year (who probably thinks California is a country):

    Californian: so what are you all doing for your summer holidays
    Australian: no, it’s winter here
    Californian: but it’s summer here?
    Australian: yes – when it’s summer there, it’s winter here
    Californian: OMG, how weird!

  • Skud Post author

    Sure, it’s easy to offer examples of people in other places being ignorant, but unless you can offer me examples of Australia being really highly clued up about Internet technology or culture, my point still stands.

  • Polly Morgan

    The mainstream Australian media is extremely conservative and parochial – and not just on IT issues. Although there was a lot of decent coverage of the Shuttle Columbia tragedy, there were also articles like this:
    And here’s an illustrative quote:
    But the eight “spidernauts” and all seven astronauts, were destroyed today when Columbia disintegrated as it re-entered the atmosphere 160km south of Dallas, Texas, after a 16 day orbit of outer space.

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