Sunday, July 30, 2017

Video for GovHack Entry

Greetings from  GovHack 2017. I
I have had some queries in the Canberra Coach Pit about what should be in the Video entry.

As it says in the GovHack Handbook:
"This a video pitch of your entry that tells a story of how you have reused data. The video should demonstrate your hack concept, the benefits or value the concept could achieve and where possible introduce your team. The most common method is to use a screencast, with a voice-over narration". (Emphasis added)
 To that I would add:
  1.  Get it in before the deadline (4pm AEST): It doesn't matter how good your video is, if it is not in on time it will not be considered. Making a video is a very time consuming process. Produce a rough cut well before the deadline and then polish, as it is going to take longer than you thought. Upload well before the deadline, as the handbook says: "must submit actual Video URL not link to another website". The preferred location to link to is YouTube.
  2. Explain what the problem is: The story you tell should say what the problem you are tying to solve is, as that may not be obvious to the viewer.
  3. Make the vision clear:  Don't have tiny text, or too much detail, as that will be hard to see. My tip is to view the video on a smart phone held at arm's length and see if it is watchable.
  4. Make the sound clear: Find a quiet spot to record audio. A headset microphone works well, as it gets the microphone close to your mouth.
  5. Don't worry about live video:  This is about the application, so live video of people is not essential. You can use screen capture software for a "live" demo and also still screen-shots, along with still images of the people and the problem.
  6. Say who you are at the beginning and end: Introduce your project at the start and remind the viewer again at the end.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Tom's Ten Tips for GovHack

Greetings from the Snow Centre for Education at Canberra Grammar School, where GovHack 2017 is in full swing. I am on duty n the "Coach Pit", at the top of the building, which is a little like being on the bridge of a ship. I am looking down on the old red brick buildings of the school, and a winter landscape of bare trees in the fog. Business is not brisk at present with only a few teams dropping in for advice.

Coaching a GovHack team is a skill none of the coaches is entirely comfortable with and so we had a discussion of the "Coaching Kata". 

But we are here for GovHack, so some tips for teams:
  1. Build a Team: You need people with a range of skills for your team: it is not just about technical computer skills (it is mostly not about technical computer skills).
  2. What is the Problem? You need to be able to clearly and briefly explain what problem you are solving. Practice by explaining it in a few words to people in the coffee queue (the coffee at GovHack is very good).
  3. What is the solution? With the problem identified, the solution is still not easy to explain. One way is by comparison to an existing product or service: "It is *** for ***.
  4. Who is this for?  Consider who will ultimately use the application and who might be interested in providing the service.
  5. Has it been done? A quick web search will help see if what you propose has been done before. If it has, that is not the end of the world, as you can do it differently, or better, or both. 
  6. Get Help:  There are Mentors with deep knowledge of the data provided and Coaches with knowledge of tools and techniques. Drop into the Pits or post a query via the forum, or both.
  7. Do we have a plan?  It helps to know what you are planning to do when, even if it almost never turns out that way. The GovHack has deliverables at fixed times and you need to work towards these.
  8. Do we have a clear presentation? GovHack is as much about explaining your solution s getting it to work. Keep it clear and simple.
  9. Get it in on time:  It doesn't matter how good your solution is, if it is not submitted on time, it does not count.
  10. Learn and enjoy: GovHack is not a job: you can't tell your team to do something, you can only encourage them. Remember to take breaks and have a walk around outside. This will also make you more productive and ideas will pop into your head when wandering around.

Friday, July 28, 2017

GovHack 2017 Opened at Snow Centre for Education

Greetings from the Snow Centre for Education at Canberra Grammar School, where GovHack 2017 just opened. Tonight is mainly for familiarization and team formation. The hacking proper starts tomorrow. I am a Strategy Coach for the event, which involves wandering around asking people how they are going and prompting them to think about it.

The venue is a new purpose built education facility, more advanced than most at Australian universities. The MC for the event is Matthew Purcell, Head of Digital Innovation at Canberra Grammar School. Matthew is a highly skilled IT professional, as well as a teacher. 

For the next two days the teams will think up something innovative to do with government data, try to implement it and, most importantly, explain what it is and why it is useful.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

GovHack 2017

GovHack 2017 is on this weekend. I will be going along as a Strategy Coach for Canberra GovHack. The idea is to help teams of volunteers to build useful applications using data provided by government agencies. This is also happening at venues across Australia and New Zealand.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Google Glass Enterprise Edition AR Headset

The Google Glass Augmented Reality (AR) headset, has been relaunched as "Glass Enterprise Edition". Glass never made much sense as a mainstream consumer product. It was too large and cumbersome. It makes more sense as a device for industries such as engineering and health-care. I suggest training could be integrated in the Glass headset, in the workplace. As well as looking at electronic manuals, your instructor could pop up to provide help in fixing an engine or diagnosing a patient.

MyVu from 2002
However, AR for industry and training is not a new idea. The MicroOptical_MyVu from 2002 uses a similar optical path to Glass. MyVu required a cable to a computer, whereas Glass is self-contained. For industry use, where a long battery life and additional features, such as specialized radio communications may be needed, the MyVu approach is better than Glass.

This seems to be a case where Google tried to produce a consumer product, then tried to adapt that to industry, resulting in something not suited to either. Perhaps a third party provider will adapt Glass, by adding a cable, to make it more suitable for industry.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Blockchain for Military Operations

Last week I had a call from the Australian Financial Review newspaper asking about blockchain for military operations. As noted in the article I could see some application, but was a little skeptical. Later I found a paper on it by Verma, Desai, Preece and Taylor (2017), but remain skeptical.


Abernethy, M. (2017, Jul 14) Blockchain becoming an integral part of some defence technology. AFR. URL

Verma, D., Desai, N., Preece, A., & Taylor, I. (2017, May). A blockchain based architecture for asset management in coalition operations. In SPIE Defense+ Security (pp. 101900Y-101900Y). International Society for Optics and Photonics. Retrieved from

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Fear in The Suburbs

You have only tonight left to catch the world premiere season of Phillip Kavanagh's play "Little Borders" tonight at Old 505 Theatre, Newtown, Sydney. This dark comedy has a main character "Steve" (BRANDON McCLELLAND) who looks disturbingly like a young Donald Trump. With his wife "Elle" ( LUCY GOLEBY) they feed off each other's middle class suburban fear of neighbors who don't look and talk like them.

The play won the 2011 Patrick White award and perhaps should get a political award as an allegory for the state of the western world. We have a world fearing the different, building walls, fearing those in our community and adopting violent solutions to what are social and economic problems. 

CHARLIE EDWARD DAVIS and JEREMY ALLEN's spare set helps set the brooding atmosphere. There are only two actors in this play, but the playwright paints such a vivid picture of other characters that at one point I was thinking how good their performances were (before realizing they were just word pictures).

505 Theatre is an intimate venue, but this play deserves a larger and longer outing.

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

FastMail Classic interface has now been retired

FastMail have discontinued the "Classic" web interface for their e-mail service. In place of the fast web pages, I have to wait for the slow "responsive" interface. This is most noticeable when using a slow wireless modem.

Sunday, July 02, 2017

SMPTE 2017 Sydney

SMPTE 2017 is a conference and exhibition for the video industry in Sydney 18 to 21 July 2017. 

I would like to attend, but when I tried to register for the trade show, I got a Microsoft .NET error:

Server Error in '/' Application.

The model item passed into the dictionary is of type 'Model.VisitorModel', but this dictionary requires a model item of type 'Model.PublicViewModel'.

Description: An unhandled exception occurred during the execution of the current web request. Please review the stack trace for more information about the error and where it originated in the code.

Exception Details: System.InvalidOperationException: The model item passed into the dictionary is of type 'Model.VisitorModel', but this dictionary requires a model item of type 'Model.PublicViewModel'.

Source Error:

An unhandled exception was generated during the execution of the current web request. Information regarding the origin and location of the exception can be identified using the exception stack trace below.

Stack Trace:

[InvalidOperationException: The model item ...

Version Information: Microsoft .NET Framework Version:4.0.30319; ASP.NET Version:4.7.2053.0

Saturday, July 01, 2017

Australian Defence Force Information Warfare Division

Head Military Strategic Commitments Division Major General PW 'GUS' GilmoreAn Information Warfare Division (IWD), has just been formed in Australian Defence Force Headquarters (July 2017). There are four branches: Information Warfare Capability, C4 and Battle Management Capability, Capability Support Directorate and the Joint Cyber Unit. The division is headed by MAJGEN Marcus Thompson as Deputy Chief Information Warfare. MAJGEN Thompson has a PhD in Cyber Security from the University of New South Wales. He is the author of "The cyber threat to Australia" . (Australian Defence Force Journal, 2012) and other papers on cyber security.

RAAF P-3 Orion Aircraft, photo by 'Timothy' CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia CommonsThe ABC has speculated that one target for the new unit will be the Chinese South Sea Fleet, in the South China Sea.

It happens I have been teaching Australian National University IT students using a scenario about cyber-warfare over the South China Sea. In this hypothetical, students are asked to consider the use of information warfare as an alternative to conventional military action.

 As the ABC report notes, one of the problems with a cyber-warfare unit will be attracting, retaining and paying highly skilled personnel in competition with the private sector. An option I proposed in 2013 was the use of civilian computer professionals who are military reserve officers. After brief military training these personnel would return to their day jobs, but be ready to be instantly mobilized.