Online Insights on FIVEaa, Sunday, February 08, 2009

February 8, 2009

Country Fire Service
I have never profiled the CFS website and, in fact, it wasn’t until this weekend with all the fire warnings in place for Saturday, that I actually visited the website.

It is a very simple website which is probably the right approach for an emergency service that needs to ensure its messages are accessible to the widest audience possible. However, many, many, many points are lost because when you click on those stories, they download as PDFs. Whoever runs this website needs to see me ASAP. This is a silly state of affairs. PDFs often take longer to download than simple HTML content and are still confusing for web newbies. My advice would be to make those headlines click onto a standard, fast-loading web page where the text is available in full and from that page make a PDF available. The current state of affairs is plain silly!

Technical issues aside, some of the current highlights are:

  • A busy stream of news updates on the home page – messages about fire risks, volunteer deployments, angle grinder safety (yes, angle grinding and welding on rural properties account for about 50 fires a year)
  • An appeal for people in the Mitcham area to be part of a fire siren trial
  • You can watch the latest tv commercial (the most recent one was better than previous attempts – I hope this is a sign that the government is no longer treating the CFS as a poor relation and is helping them fund some proper communications)
  • Bushfire action plan

It was the action plan that made me go to the website. It is a handy document with plenty of ideas and suggestions for what to do. Ultimately, you have to decide what to include and exclude from your plan. Personally, I find the “go early” option the most attractive. At first I was thinking “stay and defend” sounded good, then I read in the detail for that approach that one of the things you need to be able to do is leave your property if it catches fire. Huh?

In the “join us” section there is an interesting article on a day in the life of a volunteer. It captures what goes on inside the mind of a volunteer and is good reading – only takes a couple of minutes.

One last helpful comment – I hope. The site mentions to travellers and others to listen to local ABC and 5aa during a fire – someone needs to add the frequencies available – especially for travellers because waiting until you are swamped by flames is not the ideal time for scrambling around to find a radio station. Visit the site at

This service is a short video service allowing members to upload video comments and then reply to other people’s comments with new video. Picture Facebook/Chatrooms etc but with video. It is purely addictive.

Once you have your webcam set up, you hit record and then post. Simple as that. Your video can be made private but the best choice is to leave it public. I did my first test video this afternoon and within an hour, two people had replied to me. And the video in question was not a controversial one with a clever title, it was just my simple video profile in which I was just testing out the system and sharing a mild gripe about the Australian government’s stupid and shrewd plans to censor our internet access and put a virtual handbrake on our internet speeds. I have an American man respond first, then a woman from Europe. And I am sure the conversation is just getting started.

I guess one way you could describe it is – talkback video instead of talkback radio. So, dear listeners, while you are waiting to chat on the air, why not upload your own comments and start a conversation stream of your own with a worldwide audience!

You can join at and you can see my profile at

On borrowed time
This is a bio-diversity interactive created in partnership with the CSIRO. It is based on David Lindenmayer’s book, On Borrowed Time. As the introduction says, “the resource has four inquiry-based teaching and learning units and two decision-making interactives which allow students to reflect, consider and make decisions relating to Australia’s biodiversity.

The fun thing here is that you get control of a farm or a forest for five years.

On the farm you need to make decisions regarding vegetation management, stock, firewood collection, water management, and pest management. It is great fun. After you make your decisions for each year, you get a report on your property and a bank report.

In the forest, you need to decide what style of logging to choose to strike a balance between maintaining jobs and biodiversity. You work the forest in 50 year cycles.

I managed to destroy the farm and wipe out numerous species in the forest. Can you do better?

Visit the site at On Borrowed Time.

Obama Icon Me
Barack Obama is now US President. His campaign has left a mark in the field of online/social marketing through his use of social media and social networking sites.

One phenomenon worth noting was how many people changed their avatars (their little pictorial representations of themselves) to look like Obama during the business end of the election period. This flurry of creativity was inspired by Los Angeles-based street artist  Shepard Fairey, who created a striking portrait of Obama with very strong and simple colours. It became one of the most iconic representations of the president-to-be and if plagiarism is the highest form of flattery, then Shephard Fairey is the most flattered artist in the States!

But it is not over yet. You can now use a simple tool to help you create your own Obamaesque profile at ObamaIcon.Me, dubbed “post election fun” on the host website, Paste Magazine.

It’s not only fun, it is simple to use. Snap yourself in your webcam or upload a portrait shot, play with the colours, add your caption – President, Hope, Freedom, or your own – and add it to the gallery. Or just save the image and plaster it wherever you want it to be.

I have created the Steve and Sean campaign posters, as you can see.

Other people are being very creative such as:

  • Kermit the frog with the caption – Frogress
  • George W with the caption – Fail
  • A little baby with the caption – Obaby
  • And a blank poster with the caption – WMD

Have a look at the site at – you can even upload the application to Facebook.

Steve as Obama  Sean as Biden