Can you really find love online? 15 years ago, falling in love with someone you first met on your computer or phone screen would have seemed downright odd. These days it makes perfect sense. I chatted on Radio Live with Trak Gray from Love Your Condom, Louise Compagnone from Find Someone and Auckland psychotherapist Kyle MacDonald. Enjoy!
I woke just now, oddly, to the soothing voice of my good friend Paul Brislen in my ear. He was on the radio, mercifully, talking to Marcus Lush about politicians and Twitter, in the wake of Trevor Mallard’s and Jan Logie’s tweets in the last week or so catching speaker David Carter’s eye.
So, naturally, There Is To Be An Investigation.
(Meanwhile Winston Peters uses parliamentary privilege to compare former colleague Brendan Horan to a sex offender, but it wasn’t on Twitter so move along, nothing to see here…)
Here’s my take on politicians on Twitter.
While press releases, speeches and advertising might present a well-spun version of how a politician wants us to appear, Twitter gives us the real deal. You can’t fake who you are for every one of 10,000 tweets. Twitter will expose you. If you’re someone we should vote for it will expose you as that. And if you’re someone we should set adrift off Raoul Island in a small open boat it will expose you as that too.
And I like that.
I like that I get to see who I’m voting for. And that my mother does. And that my sons will.
So please, please, please, politicians, keep tweeting. And if you do want a rule to tweet by, consider the one Russell Brown from Public Address runs his community by: don’t be a dick.
Unless you are one, in which case go right ahead.
(Image via stuff.co.nz)
This is the transcript of tonight’s interview with Green MP Mojo Mathers on Radio Live. Listen here for the audio version.
My guest tonight will never hear this interview. Not because she isn’t interested, or because she’s too busy (although she is) but because Green MP Mojo Mathers is New Zealand’s first and only deaf member of parliament.
Mojo Mathers was elected to parliament on the Green Party list in 2011 after running unsuccessfully for the Rakaia electorate in 2005 and 2008 and is currently 14th on the party list, Mojo thanks for coming in
When you’re a female politician, everyone asks you about women’s issues, when you’re a Maori politician you get asked about Maori issues and when you’re a disabled politician the focus is often on that disability. So let’s come back to being deaf later and talk instead about why you entered politics
What are you most passionate about?
I entered politics because I’m passionate about the environment. I have a Master’s degree in conservation and forestry, and when my family and I moved out to a rural area we discovered that the local valley was under threat of flooding from an irrigation scheme and I became co-secretary of the dam action group and became politically active in that way. And that led me to join the Green Party and stand for the Green Party. So my first passion, first and foremost, was protecting the eonvironment.
And what is your focus in Parliament at the moment? What have you worked on in the last three years?
My portfolios include animal welfare, disabilities, food, natural health, civil defence. My two primary areas of focus are animal welfare because of the Animal Welfare Amendment Bill and because of animal testing being hugely topical at the moment with the psychoactive substances and also disability, of course, because of the huge demand from the disabled community. They’re just so delighted that they have someone who they can relate to, to represent them in Parliament.
Let’s talk about that disability portfolio in general… depending on how you define it there’s a huge number of New Zealanders living with a disability of some sort. With the whole world moving online, especially government, are there any groups who are being left out because of their disabilities? And if there are, what are we doing about that?
We’ve just been having an inquiry into the accessibility of Parliament, and among the many submissions was the difficulty of being able to access some information online, and being able to do things like make submissions online for people with vision impairments, because the security code is really difficult, so they can’t use it. That security code is designed to stop spam, but it’s also shutting out legitimate users from sending in submissions online. So their number one plea was to remove that code.
You’re talking about the KAPTCHA code where you see some blurry text and have to decode it… I have pretty good vision and fail those half the time. On some websites, I don’t know about New Zealand Government ones, there’s an audio option. Is that one of the things we’re doing?
I’m not sure, but I know they were encountering difficulties with that.
One of the things that has opened my eyes as a social media user over the years is that disability can to a degree become invisible. So I have on several occasions met people in real life who I know from Twitter or Facebook and it’s not until I meet them that I realise they’ve got a vision impairment or a hearing disability. Is social media a great enabler? Is this an entirely good thing for people with disabilities?
I think it’s totally up to the individual whether they choose to disclose it or not. Many people do just want to be seen as any other able-bodied person and don’t want their disability to be the number one identifying mark about them, other people choose to disclose because people need to interact with them differently.
Just going back to your former question about social media and disability, the other (?) I see is videos on social media when they’re not captioned, and it’s hugely frustrating for that community, particularly in politics and so on because you can’t access what everyone else is talking about. So I make a point when I share a clip on social media to only share it when there’s a transcript available or if it’s captioned.
This is one of the many issues that’s a difference between mainstream media and social media… in broadcast television, for example, it’s achievable to say to the broadcaster we want everything captioned, or at big public events we want a sign language interpreter but on YouTube where there’s millions and millions of clips uploaded all the time how do we solve that? Are there technology solutions you know about that automatically translate the dialogue into text?
On YouTube there is an automatic captioning software but it’s very poor quality and actually can produce garbled nonsense that has no relation to what the person is actually saying. That’s because it relies on voice recognition software, and voice recognition software has to be keyed in to the individual user to work effectively.
So I use a piece of technology called Captel Phone where there’s an operator also online who is using voice recognition software but it’s keyed into that operator and works very well. But just being able to randomly translate what anyone is saying … there’s still a long way to go.
So there is an opportunity for technology to solve the problem but it’s not doing anything useful at the moment.
There’s still a long way to go, but my understanding is that for people who want to put captions on or have a transcript there’s now a technology that makes it a lot easier and much more rapid to do that. So as long as people putting up clips are committed to captioning them, there are software packages that make that easy.
So there’s an opportunity for human power to do a better job than the human power? For the community to get involved to solve the problem…
Now before this interview I asked my friends on Twitter, of course, what questions I should ask you, and one was whether deaf people can actually access radio content? Is there any way in?
Unless the transcript is provided, no.
So there’s no software that will turn a radio interview into a stream of text?
Well I suppose if someone wanted to they could use voice recognition software keyed into the speaker, but I’m not aware of any radio show that automatically puts up transcripts of all their interviews. It would be fabulous if they did! But at the moment that’s not accessible as far as I’m aware.
I want to return to the issue of the deaf community engaging through social media. From my limited contact with that community, that word community is very very true. There’s an actual community, not a virtual one, an actual culture, almost a world apart and proudly so. Is there a risk through social media where that identity disappears that that feeling of community becomes diluted?
Not at all. I have a very large number of deaf followers on Facebook particularly, and we often discuss issues relevant to the deaf community, and that might be the ability to access sign language interpreters, it might be about captioning, it might be about their frustrations with being able to access employment or a particular job, or how great certain technology is, it might be to promote an even where they’ll have sign language interpreting, there’s all sorts of ways in which it’s used, and a sense of shared interest in that access.
And a good place to share jokes about sign language interpreters at Nelson Mandela’s funeral?
Absolutely, there was lots of conversation about that on Facebook, yes.
As an MP the beginning of your career was not exactly smooth. You faced some challenges in doing your work in the debating chamber. Tell me about that.
OK, so what happened is because I’m deaf and trying to follow the debate in the debating chamber, it’s simply too loud and there are too many people for me to lip read. So I always knew that in order to participate I would need to have electronic note takers. The media storm that erupted was around how they should be funded, with the Speaker arguing that it should come out of the support fund of the Member of Parliament gets to do their work, and me arguing that that would disadvantage me and that I would not be able to do my work with my constituents on an equal basis with other Members of Parliament. And also I argued that the only reason I would need note takers is that Parliament Television is not captioned, so Parliament is not accessible for hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders, not just myself, and I played an important role in representing these people in Parliament. So what happened was that when it went live we were having this argument around the funding and there was an incredible social media storm that erupted and what was incredible was the amount of overwhelming support for me. Because normally, politicians that ask for more money to support their work are heavily criticized, and yet this was the opposite… people got innately that this was about the future of what Parliament looks like. It was about representation for disabled people, and they got that this was about support for disabled people to do their work.
So from that point on social media has been an incredibly powerful tool for bringing about change. There was an online petition calling for Parliament TV to be captioned and as a result it will be. They’ve been investigating that for the last two years and in about 2015 that will become a reality.
I was reading on the National Foundation for the Deaf website that there are about 700,000 New Zealanders with a hearing impairment of some kind. So this is not just so you can participate in the debate, it’s so 700,000 people can watch Parliament TV and get really really bored…
(laughs) Well it depends on what you define as boring… some people are absolutely fascinated by Question Time and want to be able to follow that.
On social media one of the things politicians do other than listen to constituents is engage with other politicians. Who do you like? Who do you think is entertaining, or interesting, or challenging?
Well I enjoy Tau. Tau is awesome. When the debate around my trip to a radio interview in Masterton and the criticism from the Taxpayers’ Union was happening he tweeted in support of me and told them to back off and I very much appreciated that.
As a list MP your constituency is more virtual than physical so social media is a great way to connect with all those people. What tools do you use as an MP to connect with people around the country?
Facebook would be the number one tool for interacting with the disability community because it has more scope for extended dialogue and so on. You’re not as constrained as you are on Twitter. Twitter I find more useful to make a comment about what’s happening in the debating chamber or to put an insight of mine out there but for actual dialogue I find Facebook far more useful. Also there’s no substitute for face to face meetings so I travel around the country meeting up with groups and individuals to understand on a face to face level what is happening in their lives.
With the election coming in September are you running in Rakaia?
I’m actually running in Christchurch East
Damn Wikipedia! What are your plans to use digital and social platforms to get people to vote for you?
Well I’ll be seeking the party vote, not the individual vote, like all Green MPs. I will be using social media but I will be doing door knocking and getting out in the community because at the electorate level that’s what’s really important. People get to see you, get a sense of you as a person. So I’ll use a combination of both.
I hear this again and again from politicians from every party, yes they will use social media but they’ll still go out and walk and knock on the doors. Is that because it seems to the voter like you’re trying harder? It’s easy just to send a tweet but it’s hard to walk around and knock on a door.
It think it’s more a significant proportion of the population are not online and don’t use social media and we need to be able to interact and communicate with them as well.
Also there is a significant portion of the population that is online and does use social media but does not vote. And I’m thinking particularly of younger people, those first time voters 18 to 20. You’ve got children in that range, and I’m sure they vote or they’re in deep deep trouble with their mother, but speaking to them and speaking to young people around the country, what do you think is stopping them from voting and does technology and social media have a role in changing that attitude?
I think that what stops young people from voting is often disillusionment. They get so many conflicting messages around politicians that they become quite cynical, they don’t believe politicians are sincere, politicians get a really bad rep a lot of the time and there’s a perception out there that politicians are only in it for themselves and the only way to counteract that is to make yourself as accessible and as available as possible.
And that could be physical or digital?
That’s right, absolutely.
So as a parent, setting aside the politics, one of the challenges is keeping them safe online, teaching them good behaviour and stopping them using your credit card to make in-app purchases… how have you done that?
Basically we have a very open dialogue in our family around what is an appropriate level of use of social media and so on, and I think the bigger issue for us has been about how much time we spend on social media as opposed to time interacting with the family or reading or doing other activities that you would do if you weren’t online. So we have a discussion around what’s a healthy amount of time to spend online.
Are you friends with your children on Facebook?
Yes I am, all three of them.
That’s quite an achievement! Tell me about your personal online life. You’ve said you use Facebook and Twitter. What other sites and apps do you use a lot?
Well I have the New Zealand Sign Language Dictionary App on my iPhone, which is fantastic because you can look up any word and get a video of someone signing, which is useful because I can practice a certain sign if I want to use it in a conversation. Obviously I have the news apps, Stuff and the Herald and so on that keep me up to date with breaking news… these would be the main ones I use.
And if there was one app you couldn’t do without?
Mojo Mathers, thanks for joining me.
It just so happens that megastar Graham Norton is a fan of their Sauvignon Blanc, and has served it on his show for a couple of years. Tim and Rob at Invivo were pretty chuffed about that, but wanted to take things to the next level.
Designing a cool label for a special bottling was an obvious way to go, so we did that and it looks awesome (says me!). You can catch a glimpse of it at the end of the video.
But then we thought, what if we got Graham to actually help us make his own wine?
So that’s what we did. If you didn’t see the Campbell Live piece on 24 April, here’s our movie. Cheers Invivo!
Thanks to: Tim and Rob at Invivo. Jonathan and team at Design Dairy, Daryl, Candace and Quentin at Spoon, Nigel at Sale St, Marise and team at Campbell Live and in London Glen Williams and Red Banana.
Photograph by @sonjayelich via @gemmagracewood
I want to talk a bit about Lorde.
And the reason I want to talk about Lorde is not because I’m a fan of her music, although I am, but because of the criticism she’s received this week around a handful of tweets she sent the day she arrived back from conquering the world.
You might remember the tweets. There were only four or five of them, and they basically said, well, the arrival at Auckland Airport was a bit of a downer because of all the media jostling, fame isn’t all a bed of roses and the whole thing made her return to New Zealand a bit disappointing, all in all. A bit sad, I think she said.
So that night I was discussing this with my 14 year old son when the phone rang and by coincidence it was a major New Zealand media outlet wanting to discuss just that thing.
Did I have, the nice reporter asked, anything to say about the “barrage” of angry tweets Lorde had sent?
Well, first off, I told her, five tweets isn’t much of a barrage. I’ve sent something more than 50,000 in my time and I saw last night someone I know tick through 100,000. Lorde herself has sent about 1400. But she’s been pretty busy.
And as for angry, well, I thought they were more honest than anything else.
This wasn’t what the reporter wanted to hear, so I didn’t end up being quoted.
But if I did, here’s what I would have said. The beauty of well known people using social media, the whole point, its entire appeal, is that it gives us a glimpse into the real lives of our cultural, sporting and even political heroes.
No spin doctors, no speech writers and, and I think this might have been what’s really been ruffling media feathers, no need for media.
So when Lorde got in a New York taxi and heard her song playing on the radio, we knew how happy that made her. When she got photographed in a friend’s apartment with Eleanor Catton, we knew about that. And when she felt a bit down after getting a fright from the media attention after a 12 hour flight back from conquering the musical world, we knew about that too. It’s the good and the bad and that’s the point.
And the last thing I would have told that reporter had she chosen to quote me is that asking a guy in his 40s to pass judgement on how a 17 year old is using social media is nothing short of absurd.
Just in case you missed this morning’s show, have a listen here.
This Summer, I was lucky enough to be invited to host three one-hour episodes of my own radio show, Sunday Social.
I’ve been on radio quite a few times before – I’ve been doing a guest spot with Marcus Lush for over a year now, and before that with Glenn Williams on Kiwi FM. In fact, my break into advertising was via radio… when I was still a pilot in the air force I wrote an ad for Caterpillar Boots, which won a competition on Auckland student station bFM. As part of the prize, the station recorded my ad, and I took that cassette to More FM to see if they’d hire me. They did! For two weeks. Someone had left, and their replacement didn’t start for another fortnight, so in I slotted.
The job market was pretty buoyant back then, because before that fortnight was up I had an offer from Primedia – a radio company that looked after a bunch of stations including Hauraki, The Breeze and some others. Then they got bought by The Radio Network, and next minute I was writing ads at ZB.
As a writer, it taught me an awful lot about effectiveness and speed. We made a lot of ads each day, and part of the way we got through so many was by spending each afternoon working with the engineers to produce the ads we’d written that morning, often with ourselves as voices.
So I’m pretty comfortable around radio stations, and especially Radio Live. There’s always a buzz in the newsroom when I turn up on a Friday morning and Marcus and his producer Cliff always seem happy to see me.
This time, though, I was in the hot seat, with an hour or so (less ads) to fill, people up and down the country driving their cars, doing the dishes after dinner, or maybe tuning in from who knows where online to entertain.
I think we pulled it off, in the end, me and my lovely, clever, generous guests.
In order of appearance (as they say) I was privileged to be joined by:
Kim Dotcom: surprisingly frank about his father’s alcohol issues and even more so about what he gets up to in his dreams (not all of that made it into the final edit)
Paul Brislen: a panelist on all three shows and full of wit and actual knowledge
Anna Connell: clever, funny and warm, Anna from BNZ was a panelist on two shows
Helen Clark: talking to her made me feel like the whole PM thing was just the prequel to whatever comes next for her at the UN. Warm and fun to talk to.
Simone McCallum: 10 minutes wasn’t nearly enough to talk about blogging with Simone – I’m sure we could have filled a very enjoyable hour.
Hazel Phillips: editor of Idealog magazine, tramper, author and very good fun on the radio.
Neil Finn: I love that we live in a country where you can send a tweet to one of our most famous musicians asking him to come on the radio and right away he responds with “yeah, OK”
Urzila Carlson: some cars look fast standing still; Urzila Carlson is funny even when she’s not telling jokes.
If you listened, thank you and I hope you enjoyed it. If you didn’t, I’ll add audio links to this post on Monday.