del.icio.us bookmarks (22-Jul-2008 through 31-Jul-2008)

  • Chinese Internet Censorship Index – A little note on something cool I've been working on of late…
  • China to Limit Web Access During Olympic Games – Reporters in China note the "Great Firewall" has not been lifted for journos either, despite IOC and Chinese government pledges.
  • Amnesty poster on Flickr – One of Toby's photos used for an Amnesty International campaign – a very compelling treatment…
  • OpenAustralia – Interview with Matthew Landauer – Maxine from Web Directions interviews Matthew Landauer about OpenAustralia. No mention of the Wikipedia kerfuffles, but a very interesting read all the same…
  • We Want A Dead Simple Web Tablet For $200. Help Us Build It. – I'm excited about the prospect of this kind of device coming to market. Watch people rally to kill the idea "not enough features" etc. In fact, I'm doing that in my head now (stop it!)… I wish I had the time + skills to contribute meaningfully.
  • GetUp! End Mandatory Detention – "The Government has taken the unprecedented step of establishing an Inquiry into Immigration Detention – and we want to leave them with no doubt about how we feel about this system." Join the petition to help ensure this awful policy gets the boot.

These links are automatically posted from my del.icio.us feed.

Collaborative purchasing of eco-friendly fabrics

I’ve been speaking to Rise Up Productions about manufacturing our first range. One of the challenges is that labels need to commit to spend a lot of money up front on eco-friendly/Fairtrade textiles and fabrics – as the minimums for these are quite high (e.g. 300 m2 for a single fabric).

Rise Up is trying to aggregate demand for such fabrics to enable smaller labels, such as myself, to be able to access such fabrics more affordably, and in smaller quantities.

I spotted this press release in a trade publication the other day, but couldn’t find it online, so I’m reproducing it here to help “spread the word”.

Opportunity to collaboratively purchase eco-friendly fabrics

Rise Up Productions is looking for designers interested in working collaboratively to source eco-friendly fabrics from around the globe.

Managing director Bronwyn Darlington said she hoped designers would collectively purchase eco-friendly fabrics to secure more reasonable pricepoints.

“By buying collectively, we might be able to introduce these fabrics into the market,” she said.

And she stressed the fabric sources she used offered a high quality that could easily be sought by after by local designers.

“We don’t deal with people who are working with experimental handicrafts, we are working with those who have been supplying Europe for years,” she said.

“The fabrics perform excellently and offer exceptional printability. We are also able to specify exactly the make-up of the fabric and we look at every step in the production process.”

She stressed volume buying was essential to secure an affordable price.

“Sustainable fabrics are not the cheapest,” she said.

Darlington is also determined to build a profit-for-purpose business creating clothing labels that have a minimal environmental footprint.

For example, pyjamas in the Rise Up range are made in Australia from Fair Trade certified cotton from India and any profit from their sale will be put towards an Oxfam donation. Similarly, sales of hoodies in the collection will lead to profits going to Opportunity International.

“The concept is eco-sustainability and a minimum footprint and that we give all our profit away,” Darlington said.

She plans to soon launch a second higher end fashion label called Ayoka.

Darlington suggested the significant consumer spending dollar was larger than funds competed for by charities.

“The consumer dollar is much bigger and we need to think more creatively to channel those funds into worthy projects,” she said.

del.icio.us bookmarks (25-Jun-2008 through 15-Jul-2008)

These links are automatically posted from my del.icio.us feed.

Label progress

Clothing pattern pieces on a table

That picture probably doesn’t look like much (esp. given the crappy quality courtesy of my mobile phone’s camera), but it represents a mini-milestone that I thought was worth celebrating – with blog post at least. It’s elements of the first pattern of the first range for the label – for the dress shirt.

I’m sure this will become old hat one day – not even worthy of a blog post – but this being the first is a little victory for me, and one that I think should be celebrated in its own little way 🙂

There are more designs and patterns to come – we’re planning a February launch to wholesalers (for the summer 09/10 season) of around 6 pieces with a few variations for each – but this is the first off the ranks. It’s also the first “tangible” (i.e. “real world”) artifact that’s resulted from the work I’ve been doing on the label. (It’s also further than I ever got before, so it’s nice to be over the first hurdle.)

We’ll be using it to create a fit sample – that is, testing the basic pattern for the cut etc. – and then we’ll be developing patterns for the variations on the piece.

I’ve been speaking to Bronwyn at RiseUp productions about manufacturing. She has been working for some time to develop a Fairtrade/ethical supply chain for manufacturing clothing and textiles, and has really covered all the bases.

So the first samples (dress shirt and t-shirt) will be coming from RiseUp within the next few weeks, Murphy willing. Hopefully I’ll have more to report soon.

The research project is also complete. The final report provided a lot of clarity on where we should focus. Big props to Nat at Red Rollers for doing such an amazing job, and to the 6 research participants who shared just a little of their lives to help us along.

Big props also to Susan Goodwin (who’s designing the range) for guiding me through the process – her generosity of knowledge has been a tremendous help.

In fact, everyone I’ve dealt with so far – Paula from the Fair Trading Co, Nick at Organic Cotton Advantage, Nat, Susan and Bronwyn have all been extremely generous with their time, knowledge and have each been immensely supportive in their own way. It’s been great so far – I hope the positivity continues (although I am sure there’ll be some challenges on the way)…

I’m learning a lot, which has been great (I love learning – one of my favourite things in the world) – but I’ve still got a way to go. I’m doing a short course with RMIT on textiles in August/September which I hope will help me along as well.

Oh, and during the research period I also decided on a label name (i.e. the “Soko Loko” moniker is no more). I’m speaking to some folks at the moment about developing the visual ID, so I’ll announce the name when I’ve got a nice logo to show y’all 😉

iPhone launch thoughts

Some time ago, when it was first announced the iPhone 3G would be coming to Australia, I quietly (and sometimes publicly) hoped that the 3 network would be the network to launch the iPhone. I thought the only way we’d get decent data charges was if 3 had the phone – given how tremendously awful those charges on other networks are.

As the launch approached, I watched as telco after telco announced that they would be stocking the iPhone: first Vodafone, then Optus, then Telstra.

It’s worse than it appears

As expected, all of them have awful data plans. Optus is by far the most reasonable. Chatting with a friend the other day, they asked “isn’t 500MB enough?” in reference to the Optus plan. Given the pitiful data plans offered by carriers to date, the 500MB option from Optus seems like a good step forward, but I think that for the iPhone this is not enough for all except casual users on a device like the iPhone.

Mark Pesce in a post for the Future of Media blog: iPhail, writes:

“My guesstimate is that the average iPhone user would use somewhere between 2GB and 5GB of mobile data a month – a figure that’s bound to rise as 3G/HSDPA units reach the field.”

Before Mark published his post, I’d come to a similar conclusion. One of the new features of the 3G iPhone is “Mobile Me”, which pushes calendar, contacts and other data to the phone. That will chew up a significant amount of bandwidth. And as Mark points out, that 500MB could pretty easily be chewed up by an avid reader of the SMH.

But I think what has been missed by the telcos is the fact that the iPhone interface, especially the browser and applications (the Apple iPhone App Store also launched yesterda), changes the way iPhone users will use the phone for browsing – increasing it’s use as a truly mobile internet device.

Think about it – using Google Maps on my Sony Ericsson W880i is a “last resort” because of how small the screen is and how difficult it is to input addresses and navigate the maps (I do dig my phone, but that aspect of it is crapful). On the iPhone, I suspect Google Maps will be a “first resort” application – and it will take a fair chunk of data to support that kind of use.

Could Apple have done better?

With the launch of iTunes – which took an enormously long time only to result in a reduced catalogue at higher prices than our U.S. counterparts – Apple Australia demonstrated they had difficulty negotiating the kind of deals that their U.S. compadres could manage.

The inability of Apple to select an exclusive partner (due to legislation restricting the practice) in Australia no doubt didn’t help their cause. But the deals (especially Telstra’s pitiful efforts) are really, really poor – even compared with existing mobile broadband offerings from the same providers. Mark Pesce calls this discrepancy an “Apple tax” – and I think that’s a pretty fair assessment.

So what about 3?

Of course, the glaring omission on that list of telcos is 3. On their blog, 3 claim that Apple are not allowing 3 to carry the iPhone. I find that hard to believe – and I wonder what 3 are asking for that’s holding things up.

But, according to the SMH blogs, word is that Apple and 3 will come to an agreement by August. The general gist of the blog post is “wait” – see what 3 offers. One expects 3’s deal will be stronger than competitors to make up for the fact they missed out on the launch hype. And that, in turn, might apply pressure on other providers to rethink their offerings.

Sounds like good advice to me.

Suckered by the hype

With all this in mind, I’ve been saying to friends for the past few weeks “I’m going to wait a few weeks after the iPhone is launched before I buy one – just to see if there are any issues and to see what 3’s offer is.”

But walking past the lines at the Apple store, Optus and Telstra stores, I got sucked in and decided to at least find out if I could buy an iPhone outright and use it with my current carrier (which is 3).

I went to the Apple store, expecting that as the maker of the device they would be selling the iPhone outright. I waited until the line was a reasonable length and joined in. A friendly Apple staffer was walking the line and asked me “You’re here for the phone?”. Umm, yes. “Do you have 100 points of ID?”. Check. Yep. “OK, so you know we’re not selling the phone outright?”. Umm. No.

I find it quite incredible that Apple are only selling iPhones on plans. But the friendly staffer suggested I try Telstra (across the road) as they were selling it outright.

So across I went, into another line. I get to the (clearly exasperated) staffer. “So what are your plans?”, I ask. He silently hands me a bit of paper (clearly exhausted). Same crap plans. No mention of outright purchase. “So can I buy this outright?” Yes, I’m informed. “But the phone is locked to the Telstra network and we can’t unlock it.” What do you mean, you can’t unlock it? “I don’t know. ‘They’ just said we can’t unlock it. I think it’s something to do with the demand.”

At this point I’d spent enough time in lines to decide I should stick to my original plan and wait for 3’s offering, so I didn’t bother going to Optus and press the issue.

So on the launch day of the iPhone, I was unable to buy one outright… Seems like an odd sales strategy to me. But perhaps, in the end, I’ll be better off being made to wait. One can only hope…

Bad for industry

As an aside, John Allsopp on the Web Directions blog talks about how this affects the web development industry more broadly in iPhone in Australia – now for the bad news.

OK, in the scheme of things, this is not really a huge deal. World hunger is a big deal. But, this is not just the lament of some yuppie who wants a cheaper phone deal. To me this will actually have a huge impact on Australia’s capacity to become a serious player in the next wave of web innovation – mobile web applications and services. People simply won’t use mobile web services (except the “free” access to carriers own services – my bet is that this will come soon enough). Which means little if any incentive for local companies to innovate in this, a space with almost limitless potential. In markets with inexpensive data charges, all the innovation will take place, and when affordable mobile arrives here, those innovators will be ready to swoop on our market, with local companies in no place to play catchup.

I have to agree.

High petrol prices

Well, those of us that have been focused on the environment have known that petrol prices were likely to rise significantly, so all the hand-wringing and shouting comes as little surprise.

It’s a shame that the emphasis has been on short-term relief by the way of the government dropping the excise on petrol. Although I really feel for the folks that are finding it tough with daily commutes etc. I think that dropping the excise is a terrible idea.

Even if the petrol companies don’t see it as an opportunity to wrestle more profit out of the market (which is a likely scenario) – the price of petrol will only continue to rise, making this a very short-term solution.

Instead the government should announce that it is funneling the revenue generated from the excise into alternatives – public transport in particular, but also better planning of areas to alleviate the need for car transport in the first place.

Another area the government could invest in is building Australia’s R&D capacity in car manufacture. It’s a pet subject of mine – I’ve ranted enough on the topic here that regular readers will know my views. But in a competitive market I find it incredible that the industry, and government in general, continues to subsidise big car development for the middle eastern market at the expense of alternatives like hybrids and electric vehicles.

I did have to laugh, though, reading this article by Richard Glover a few weeks back: Here’s to high petrol prices. Some choice quotes:

HOORAY for high petrol prices. No one wants to say the unpleasant truth, so I’ll say it again. Hooray for high petrol prices. They are changing our behaviour faster than decades worth of hand-wringing over the environment.

… What’s frustrating is that there are real ways in which our politicians could help; not by making false pledges of cheap petrol but by helping us permanently adapt to this new world of highly priced energy.

… Whatever we do, we won’t be able to avoid pain. Australians of past generations showed great fortitude in the face of the global challenges of their time; they proved themselves to be resilient and adaptable.

… Will we need to make sacrifices? Of course. Will those sacrifices be as difficult as those faced by the generation who lived through the Great Depression, or World War II? Um, no.

The biggest irony, of course, is that when I viewed this article, this was the ad that came up:

high-petrol-prices-suv-ad.jpg

An ad for a petrol hungry 4WD…