Archive for the ‘Misc’ Category

Another run in with the Electoral Commission

Wednesday, September 17th, 2014

After already having trouble Electoral Commission banning photography in polling places I now get a threatening email from them.

Yesterday I made this Tweet:


and today I get the following email

Subject: Electoral Commission complaint – London exit poll posted on Twitter account

Dear Simon,

The Electoral Commission has received a complaint with regard to an exit poll being taken and then published on the Twitter account of @slyall. We understand that this is your Twitter account.

Under section 197(1)(d) of the Electoral Act 1993, it is an offence to conduct a public opinion poll of persons who have voted (exit polls). Section 197(1)(d) states:

197 Interfering with or influencing voters
(1) Every person commits an offence and shall be liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding $20,000 who at an election—
(d) at any time before the close of the poll, conducts in relation to the election a public opinion poll of persons voting before polling day

In order to assist the Commission in considering this complaint, could you please provide the following information:

1.         Who conducted the exit poll and when was it conducted?
2.         How did you receive this information?
3.         Any other information you believe to be of relevance to the Commission’s consideration.
4.         How you might remedy this matter.

Can you please provide the above information by 5pm, Friday 19 September 2014. In the first instance, to avoid further complaints, you may wish to remove the Twitter post.

Please telephone me if you wish to discuss this further.


I replied with:

I saw this:

and copied it to twitter.

I have no further knowledge of the photo or poll or the people who took it
or even if it actually took place.

and did nothing else. A couple of days later he emailed me with.

Thanks for getting back to us. The Commission understands that the original
tweet in respect of the exit poll has been removed and the Commission is not
taking any further action on the matter.

Thanks again for prompt reply which was much appreciated.

which was a little strange since neither me nor anybody else had removed anything. A little weird and one reason I don’t feel confident with these guys running voting over the Internet.

NZ banning photography from polling places

Thursday, September 11th, 2014

I just saw on reddit that the New Zealand electoral commission is banning photography from polling places under the grounds that they impeded other voters at the polling and could influence other voters who see the photos. Specifically they say:

Photography in a voting place and sharing photographs on social media

While the Electoral Commission encourages people to take and share photos of themselves with their ‘I’ve voted’ sticker once they’re outside the voting place and unlikely to interrupt or inconvenience other voters, the Commission will be putting up ‘No taking photos’ signs inside all voting places and advance voting places.

The increased interest in voters taking ‘selfies’ inside voting places raises concerns about congestion and disturbance in voting places and can breach other rules in the Electoral Act regarding campaigning on election day and protecting the secrecy of voting.

Voting Place Managers have to ensure that voting proceeds smoothly, that voters are not impeded, and that order is maintained in voting places.  Voting places are for the purpose of voting and people should not remain in the voting place for other purposes.  The increased interest in voters taking ‘selfies’ inside voting places has the potential to create congestion and disturbance and for this reason Managers will be putting up ‘no photography signs’.

Publishing anything on election day that could potentially influence another voter is strictly prohibited, and photos taken earlier in the voting period that are shared, re-shared or reposted on election day could fall foul of the Electoral Act.

If a person posts an image of their completed ballot paper on social media on election day or in the three days prior to election day this is likely to be an offence under section 197 of the Act, which carries a potential penalty of a fine not exceeding $20,000. Section 197 of the Act prohibits a range of activities including:

  • the publication of any statement on election day that is likely to influence voters (section 197(1)(g); and
  • the distribution of an imitation ballot paper on election day or the 3 days before election day indicating the candidate/party for whom any person should vote or having thereon any other matter likely to influence a voter.

It also potentially exposes the voter’s friends to the risk of breaching the rules if they share, re-share or repost the voter’s ‘selfie’ on election day.

As there are risks of congestion and disturbance to other voters and risks with publishing or distributing material that includes a ballot paper, particularly in a medium where material will continue to be published– the Commission will not allow voters to take photos inside voting places.  We will be placing ‘no photos’ signs up in voting places.  Returning Officers will still be able to give permission to candidates for filming in voting places.  Permission for candidates will only be given on the condition that there is no filming behind voting screens, no filming of completed or uncompleted voting papers, and no activities that disrupt voting in the voting place.

I found the reasons they give a little dubious and a complete ban overkill so I’ve written the following to them:


I am concerned about the recently published social media policy:

specifically the section banning all photography from polling places.

In the past two elections I have taken photos of the polling place I attended and my unmarked ballot paper and uploaded these to the Wikipedia. These photos (and similar ones) have been used to illustrate photos about elections and even cardboard furniture as well as being used on other sites. Even the official blog of the NZ ambassador to the Philippines used one.

I am thus concerned that there appears to be a new policy that bans all photographs except limited ones by members of the media. This seems to go against the openness of our electoral process and the grounds that are given for the ban are very weak.

The matter of influencing other voters can be dealt with by requesting that photos only be published after voting has closed. Similarly I’m sure there are already rules to handle people who take too long to vote when there are long lines. A specific rule against photographing filled out ballots will also address concerns about voters proving to others they have voted a specific way.

In summary I very much hope you can replace a ban of photography with a more targeted rules against specific problems.

Simon Lyall


I receive a reply back from the Electoral Commission:

Dear Mr Lyall,

Photography in the voting place has only ever been allowed with the prior permission of the Returning Officer, but the number of photos being
taken without prior permission has increased hugely this year.  I understand that you feel that people could be allowed to take photos but be
advised not to publish the photos until after 7pm on election day – but unfortunately this is not what voters were doing.

Photos within the voting place, and particularly those taken of marked ballot papers and behind voting screens, have generated a large number of
complaints to the Commission already, and as a result we have re-looked at our rules around photography.

Voting Place Managers have to ensure that voting proceeds smoothly, that voters are not impeded, and that order is maintained in voting places.
Voting places are for the purpose of voting and people should not remain in the voting place for other purposes.  The increased interest in voters
taking ‘selfies’ inside voting places has the potential to create congestion and disturbance and for this reason Managers will be putting up ‘no
photography signs’.

Returning Officers will still be able to give permission to candidates for media or campaign managers to organise filming in voting places.
Permission will be given on the condition that there is no filming behind voting screens, no filming of completed or uncompleted voting papers,
and no activities that disrupt voting in the voting place.

We absolutely encourage people to take and share photos of themselves with their ‘I’ve voted’ sticker once they’re outside the voting place and
unlikely to interrupt or inconvenience other voters, however people taking selfies while behind the voting screen is not a good idea.



Wikipedia vs Mana Party

Wednesday, September 11th, 2013

Local elections are happening in New Zealand in a few weeks. As part of it people from the parties are active online.

On September 6th a wikipedia account called “manamangerecreated a Wikipedia page for James Papali’i who is standing for Auckland city council seats on a Mana-linked ticket (Mangere is the suburb of Auckland near the Airport).

However a regular New Zealand Wikipedia editor made this edit to the article who linked back to a 2006 conviction that Papali’i had received for fraud.

“manamangere” is now asking that the article be removed since if it includes the fraud conviction it does more harm than good. In reality it will probably be removed since Papali’iis below the level of fame that usually gets an article.


Idea: Cafe magazine club

Sunday, September 8th, 2013

I was in a cafe last night that had a a magazine I used to read and I realized how much I missed reading magazines.

Up until about 5 years ago I used to spend about an evening a week at the local Borders working my way though around a dozen magazines in a row. Most of these were from the US/UK and had sticker prices of $20-$30 to buy so I couldn’t realistically afford them. However I changed jobs and Borders closed so I’ve gotten out of the habit.

These days the only magazines I regularly read are the Fortune and Time magazines that my local cafe has (they also have 2-3 other magazines I don’t follow plus the local paper). In fact since I have a choice of about a dozen cafes I can eat lunch at one of the reasons I choose that cafe is their magazine selection.

It occurs to me that reading matter is a big part of the cafe experience for some people, however investing in them is a big expense for cafe owners. So my idea is that customers could pay directly for magazines in the local cafe. One possible way would be to have a subscription, I pay say $5 per week and I am allowed to read the magazines that are on offer. I can also vote to help decide what magazines the cafe should subscribe to (I’d suggest STV for any fellow voting geeks out there). Casual readers might pay a $2 pass with their order.

Any resemblance to the Diogenes Club is not entirely accidental



Sunday, April 21st, 2013

During the manhunt for the Boston marathon bombers I did this little tweet:

Manhunt Tweet

It feels very weird to get 1200 retweets (plus a bunch manual retweets and other copies). Of course I didn’t spot the typo till after I sent it :)

Links: 8bit T2, IQ, Baby names, Low Power computers

Thursday, August 16th, 2012

Gather 2012: Middle Session

Saturday, June 30th, 2012

Making infographics that don’t suck – Mike Mike Dickison

  • Didn’t have a chance to take notes cause it was so full I couldn’t sit down

Gather on mass – featuring Rowan Simpson, Karl von Randow and Penny Hagen

Rowan Simpsons

  • Developers + designers + dictators
  • Poster Boy Dictator = Steve Jobs
  • change made by people: who care, have authority, take responsibility
  • Careful about words they use – Don’t use “they” , careful how you describe colleges, other teams, “the business”
  • Domestics – members of cycling team supporting head rider
  • Focus – we all know it is good but it is uncommon.
  • Opposite of focus – Don’t get bored, don’t flail
  • You don’t have to invent you just have to leverage these and execute
  • Innovation just one action, execution requires you to keep going though many steps
  • MVP – whatever you can sell
  • Sales – How will overcome your obscurity?
  • Be a polymath – what else are you good at? where is the intersection?

Karl van Randow

  • Focus on design – how it looks and how it works
  • “NASCAR fans” – generic term for customers
  • Team in NZ, USA and Europe. ichat and skype
  • Camera+
  • Changed from “shoot and share” to “post-processing app”
  • Lots of mockups, iterative design
  • Initial startup page had animated viewfinder, launched with but removed after 6 months
  • Custom typeface, skewed thumbnails, etc makes app feel unique
  • Release to correspond with WWDC keynote, competition to give away $10k of camera gear. Lots of public charts of sales ( with nice infographics) to attract attention

Penny Hagen

  • Design in the Wild.
  • Iterative, largely private within company/studio at the start
  • Few users at the start in house, but only a few testers.
  • Beat blurs private/public
  • Crowd sourcing – get ideas from public – cars, nightclubs, ACC ideas
  • Open Design – Normal process but all phases open to public and takes input from public – eg Drupal website redesign ( 1600 people participated )
  • Emergent Design – Initial design and then evolve final design from there. Patchwork prototyping ( start with existing software product and patch )
  • DIY Design – Ponoko – Build a platform and let end users design
  • Constant Design – ongoing conversations
  • Potential / Challenges = mass distributed participation – transparency – everyone becomes a design
  • Questions – who, how, why? – who owns ideas/IP? – who decides what is good/right – what tools? – what is designers roles? – why aren’t more people doing it?


Gather 2012: Morning

Saturday, June 30th, 2012

Automating things – Mal Curtis

babushka –

  • nested dependencies.
  • useful to define what software you need on a system as well as configuration
  • similar to puppet and chef
  • each dependency has a url to grab it from and a .app which list install defaults, configs, dependencies,
  • server config just has a bunch of dependencies listed

Vagrant –

  • Automate process of creating virtual machines
  • Runs program like babushka once machine is live


  • Code deployment


  • Continuous integration
  • hard to setup – look at “go ci” instead perhaps


Powering a Mt Eden Cafe – Nate Dunn

  • Tuihana Cafe in Mt Eden Rd
  • Runs 3bits design setup


  • Highly competative industry
  • Tight margins
  • Advertising doesn’t work very well

Get the basics right

  • Clean, bright warn environment
  • extraordinary staff and passionate staff
  • Great coffee and food with plenty of choices ( but not too many options )
  • Look after your regular customers

Clever Technology

  • eftpos over broadband, with nfc
  • naked DSL and VOIP – phone lines expensive, no need to dialup always on, have to have broadband for Free Wifi anyway, VOIP really cheap and works whereever you are
  • coffee ordering via sms, email, twitter. Twitter DM -> Custom Windows App, 2N cellular gateway on vodafone prepay -> nice printout + reply with confirmation of email/sms/twitter. SMS is most popular method. Inspired by subway’s system. Commercial SMS gateways too expensive at their scale just $10/month for prepay acct.
  • Learnt – word numbers not important, customers don’t read messages, some will register & never use, novelty for most, must-have for core group
  • NFC – visa paywave + mastercard paypass – quickest way to pay. Few people have cards or know how to use
  • Snapper not supported since they are with eftposnz and didn’t work with paymark eftpos provider
  • Free Wifi – expected by most customers, just works having codes too complicated, rate/protocol/time limited . Extremely rate limited on all ports except 80/443 , time limit to 1h. Seperate SSds for customers and staff. Powered by mikrotik
  • Google Alerts – looks for reviews anywhere, all sites. Put all reviews on our feedback page. Have a unique name so easy to find.
  • foursquare – not heavily used, has 2 offers but rarely redeemed
  • Only 150 followers, broadcast platform. DM ordering only used by a few
  • Facebook – most customers on it, best bang for a buck advertising, good analytics. Take the good and the bad facebook posts. More people will see facebook post and come in than will like.
  • custom facebook app checks twitter feed every 10 minutes and posts ( grabs photos off yfrog if linked ). People see posts of food and come in to buy
  • Blog – facebook don’t like pulling RSS feed so have custom app to pull facebook notes and post to blog


Official Information Act requests –

  • Need to be specific
  • Ombudsman office a bit slow. Some problems with lack of “case law” from them
  • Charges usually not a problem
  • Over 3000 government bodies listed, around 2000 of them schools
  • Bulk questions are discouraged, limits, has been abused overseas
  • Even the GCSB respond to OIA requests
  • Police and some govt departments require requests directly
  • Information include Police interrogation manuals!


Links: Zombies & paperwork, R2-D2, Taxi Dancers, Genetics

Friday, June 29th, 2012
  1. A New Sith, or Revenge of the Hope – Were R2-D2 and Chewie really running the Rebel Alliance?
  2. Hunting down my son’s killer – 3 years tracking a genetic disorder.
  3. Post-apocalyptic bureaucracies – The challenges  of handling a Zombie epidemic in today’s society. The post is a satire on the handling of the Christchurch earthquakes.
  4. Taxi dance hall – Fascinating history of “pay per dance” venues

Links: CS, Criaglist Spam, Bread-and-Marge, housing

Wednesday, June 27th, 2012
  1. Let’s Not Call It “Computer Science” If We Really Mean “Computer Programming” – Is Computer Science teaching the wrong thing instead of the stuff that people will actually need.
  2. Popular Craigslist Spam Tactics for Profit (and for Evil) – Examples of scams common on Craigslist (and sometimes elsewhere) with who is behind them
  3. Not by Bread-and-Marg Alone – How the food of the poor has evolved or devolved over the last 150 years.
  4. Finding Space (video) – An episode from the Canadian show “The National” on the evolution of housing. Focus on tiny apartments and laneway houses on existing properties. The main guy (starting 1 minute in)  in the 1st story has such a cute accent.