A question of attribution

I went to the launch of National Cyber Security Awareness Week in Melbourne yesterday. That resulted in two stories for APC. One, about the Australian Federal Police launching an investigation into Google, has been pretty widely covered in other outlets after being strategically bellowed (there’s no other way to describe it) at the launch. The other, about how Senator Stephen Conroy currently can’t use his iPhone because his daughter has changed the settings, only showed up in APC. That doesn’t particularly surprise me — most of the other journalists at the launch were political rather than technological, so I doubt it would have occurred to them to ask, as I did, why Senator Conroy didn’t have a password on his iPhone after he cracked a joke about it during his presentation.

Actually, it’s not quite true that it only showed up in APC. One of Conroy’s iPhone quotes is also the lead item into today’s Media Diary in the Australian. The event speech hasn’t made it into Senator Conroy’s web site, so it would seem a reasonable guess that my report was the source. But in fact I don’t have to guess; Amanda Meade contacted me via Twitter to ask if I’d asked the questions at the press conference, and I replied in the affirmative. Despite that, there’s no mention whatsoever of the source of the quote in the final item.

There’s no point in being overly precious about replies made in public press conferences — anyone attending is going to use them. But it still strikes me as a bit odd to confirm that someone asked a given question at an event, and then report it in a way that completely avoids mentioning that fact. “Old media” is of course infamous for this kind of behaviour, and maybe it was in the original and got cut by the subs, but that doesn’t stop it being mildly annoying.

The invisible veteran

I spent the weekend on the outskirts of the Gold Coast, an area where Vodafone reception is shamefully non-existent. That meant basically no Internet for two days, and no stories published other than the ones on Lifehacker. It also served to remind me that people who deliberately decide they are going to spend less time online are insane.

As a result of being offline, I only found out belatedly that I’d got picked as ITJourno Of The Week on the self-same site. Yet again, I can’t resist polishing my ego by quoting the relevant bits:

In a short week that was totally dominated by the Apple iPad, there were few real stand-out stories. However, Angus Kidman combined a story that went global with a string of his usual solid reporting for Lifehacker and other outlets – enough to get the prize from us this week. Kidman’s selection is also a bit of a hat-tip to a stellar January for the veteran tech hack (yes, sorry to say you’re now officially in the veteran class, Gus) who has produced quite an incredible body of work so far this year, with dozens of reports from both CES and the Linux Conference last week in addition to his regular rounds.

And those Lifehacker stories:

  • The Lazing Around Workspace
  • DIY Giant IKEA Rat Cage
  • OnTheRoad.to Turns Your iPhone Into A Travel Journal
  • Do Woolworths’ Savings Add Up?
  • Four small and two large

    I’ve been waiting years for this to happen: SBS is producing an Australian version of Des Chiffres Et Des Lettres, the French-originating words and numbers game show that I’ve been addicted to since 1984 or thereabouts. It’s almost certain it won’t be called Countdown, as it is in the UK (where I watch it semi-religiously whenever I’m in the country). What I need to know urgently is how to enter. Now, back to work . . .

    Proving that there really is nothing like linux.conf.au to get a freelancer fired up, I got “just one more” story, this time for SearchSecurity, looking at security improvements that could be made to Google Wave. My trip to Adelaide also bore fruit for APC, with details on the forthcoming QuokkaPad.

    It seemed compulsory for every tech journo in the world to write something about the iPad, but I restricted myself to a brief piece at Lifehacker noting the lack of firm Australian plans. The Loaded column looked at Coles’ price consistency announcement, and apart from that:

  • What To Do When Your Washing Machine Floods
  • Windows 7 Free For Tech Students
  • Why Google Dumped Your Site From Its Results
  • ArtStart Offering $10,000 Grants For Artists
  • Twitter Local Trends Ignores Australia
  • Ask Lifehacker: Frequent Flyers And Loyalty Cards
  • Automate Email Responses To Google Forms
  • Microsoft Still Can’t Get Office And Windows 7 To Play Nicely
  • Yes, it’s Australia Day

    I’m spending the holiday in Adelaide with my grandmother, but the writing doesn’t stop, really (though I do get Tuesday off for Lifehacker).

    Yet another linux.conf.au story went up at APC on Monday, this time looking at Andrew Tridgell’s thoughts on patents. And I expanded the portfolio of publications I covered the conference for again, writing about a New Zealand high school’s total open source portfolio for IDG. (Technically, I wrote it for Techworld, but the first place I spotted it was, appropriately, a New Zealand IDG site.)

    On non-Linux topics, for iTWire, I covered a new Beatles iPhone app, which is as close as the Fab Four have gotten to iTunes so far. The Road Worrier column looked at the joys of the 7-day GatePass for airport travel addicts like myself. Elsewhere on Lifehacker.

  • Which Classic Movies Should You Watch With Kids?
  • Google Adds Trike To Street View Arsenal
  • Internet Blackout Censorship Protest Kicks Off Today
  • Last Week’s Best Posts
  • LCA 2010 Day 5: Podcasts and publishing

    The final day of Linux.conf.au proper proved just as busy as the others. Quite aside from racing in and out of sessions and waiting for the official, inevitable announcement that the 2011 event would be in Brisbane, I was also doing something I haven’t done since August 2008: recording a podcast. Mark Jones asked me to be a guest on The Scoop, the AFR-backed podcast aimed at enterprise managers, talking about CES. It was good fun to do, and much less work than BRAN used to be, since there was a clear host in charge, I hadn’t had to do any extra research, and I wasn’t praying that Audacity and Skype would stay active for the duration. The episode goes live on February 2, and I’ll link it here when it does. (And before anyone asks, there are no plans to revive BRAN in the near future.)

    I continued pumping out the stories from LCA, though a couple of those won’t be appearing until next week. At ZDNet, my photo gallery from the early part of the conference went live. For Lifehacker, I wrote up some observations on why antisocial meeting times can be good, and ran a post on the Brisbane venue for 2011 (which went live the second it was announced in the closing ceremony).

    LCA 2010 really has been unusual in terms of the sheer number of publications that have accepted work from me covering it. While I was writing copy for both itnews and ZDNet way at my first-ever LCA in Adelaide in 2004, half-a-dozen is a much more striking number, and one I doubt I’ll replicate again in a hurry. The reason for that is simple economics: the fact this year’s event was in New Zealand meant that no publications sent any full-time staffers to cover it, so I could easily find material for a range of publishers. With a Brisbane setting, there’s likely to be a few more journos in attendance. More fun socially, less fun economically.

    Of course, no day would be complete without the obligatory roundup of the rest of my Lifehacker pieces:

  • Lightning Timer Counts Down Five Minutes
  • Telstra Elite Offers Fast, Expensive Broadband
  • YouTube Music Discovery Builds You A Playlist
  • LCA 2010 Day 4: Aw shucks

    Once again, my output has been the subject of some interesting comments at ITJourno, the resource site for IT writers and the tech PR community. As most people outside the industry can’t get at the daily Epitome column (which had the slightly cheesy title “Gus on the run”), here’s the relevant bits:

    We all know Angus Kidman is prolific, but he outdid even himself yesterday. Kidman’s byline appeared on four different sites yesterday, and on a fifth the day prior, with his story count yesterday reaching double figures. What’s more, he achieved this, not while chained to a desk but while reporting from the Linux conference running in Wellington, right now.

    Kidman filed Linux.conf.au pieces for ZDNet, iTwire, APC and Crikey as well as his typical six stories for Lifehacker . . .

    We’ve been through a period where reporters have become increasingly desk-bound but Kidman is proving that doesn’t have to be the way journalists operate. With mobile broadband, fantastic mobile computing options and content management systems that can be updated remotely, why wouldn’t journalists physically chase the news? The ability to differentiate your work, on location, is a huge advantage compared to trying to track people down on the phone or email. One just has to master writing very quickly on the run, which clearly Kidman has done.

    The only issue not raised? How to fund being on the ground in the first place, and how to get that writing done as your battery runs down. On the second point, it certainly helps to have a decent media room, which LCA does, as pictured below. It’s worth noting that there are nearly as many Internet connections provided in this room, which is basically being used by just two hacks, as there were at one of the CES sites, where several thousand writers pass by.

    Yesterday saw a similar spread of stories across four separate titles. For ZDNet, I wrote up how several New Zealand government agencies are about to start testing Linux-based desktops. At iTWire, there was an opinion piece on whether the open source community is doing enough to communicate with the non-geek world (which was also one of the themes of my Crikey piece earlier in the week). At APC, Jeremy Allison’s observations on Microsoft and patents included some pretty choice quotes.

    Lifehacker also got some LCA love of course, with a post about open source learning resources. The Loaded column (uncharacteristically the first of the day) looked at what YouTube’s cricket deal might mean for TV sports. And as always there was more:

  • Double-Click Excel Cells To Maintain Formatting
  • DIY Tetris Wall Lights
  • Cheese Isn’t Very Vegetarian Or Healthy
  • LCA 2010 Day 3: Crikey!

    I write for a living and I write a fair amount, but it does tend to be for the same sites. Indeed, up until this week the last time I actually started writing for a publication I’d never appeared in before was when I started at Lifehacker back in May 2008.

    That’s one of the reasons I was particularly pleased that a story I pitched to Crikey yesterday got accepted and wound up in today’s email and on the site (accessible only to Crikey subscribers, sorry). I wouldn’t actually have thought of pitching anything from LCA, which is a heavily technical event, to a general-interest news publication, but Jeff Waugh suggested on Twitter that I should give it a try, and then I had one of those fairly rare Eureka moments where I suddenly saw how the story — covering the controversial ACTA treaty and the tech community’s reaction to it — should be structured. I was pleased with the result, even if it did attract the odd derogatory comment from narky readers about my writing style.

    LCA also provided a story for APC, looking at how Linux is now largely developed by professionals, and for iTWire, examining Google’s plans for Wave for Apps customers. Add Lifehacker, ZDNet and Crikey, and that’s five publications I’ve done stories for at LCA 2010 so far. The odds of anything similar happening again in the near future are, to say the least, low.

    Two of Lifehacker’s pieces today also drew on LCA material, one looking at possible uses for Google Wave and the other at the notion of antifeatures (which was a key theme in the first keynote of the day). As well:

  • Garmin Voice Studio Adds Your Voice To Your GPS
  • Next G Phones Carry Winter Olympics, For A Fee
  • Data Charges Main Cause Of Mobile Bill Shock
  • Be Alert For EFTPOS Skimmers