Hard News by Russell Brown

Special Friends

In a nutshell: National performed dismally in the special votes but not quite badly enough to shed two seats rather than one. As it was, the Maori Party picked up enough on the party vote to reduce the overhang by one seat, at National's expense. If the Greens had managed 1246 more votes, Nandor would have been back, and National would have been down to 47 seats - meaning that Labour-Progressive-Greens would have constituted a majority if New Zealand First abstained on confidence and supply. Nonetheless, Helen Clark won't be unhappy with the result.

DPF has the detail on the specials. What does it signify? It's hard to say without knowing exactly how the specials split up between late enrolments, out-of-electorate votes (ie: students) and overseas votes, but it looks like National didn't finish well, and failed to get out its soft vote.

For a little amusement, click here and scroll down to the post headed 'Why Labour Won the Election'. This is the sort of exaggerated fruitloopiness that keeps political movements out of government. I actually wonder whether a number of Western centre-right parties are facing an internal battle with a US-inspired hard right at the moment. That's certainly the impression you'd glean from the Daily Telegraph's interview with British Tory party leadership contender David Davis, who says he won't cave into demands from the "religious right", including an abortion rights rollback and a flat tax. Davis isn't even the "left" contender in the leadership battle - that's Ken Clarke (popular with the public, but his party won't let him win). British Labour spent years being ankle-tapped - and kept out of government - by its own extreme factions. I wonder if that's what the Tories are wrestling with.

Back home; if National does keep on Don Brash for the next election (and, worse, the McCully tendency) then Labour's prospects for a fourth term will be considerably bolstered. But I really don't think it will.

Adam Gifford has revived his Maori news digest Nga Korero o Te Wa as a new blog, in which he takes issue with the Maori Party's decision to hold regional consultative hui before it decides who to support in Parliament.

Google has offered to blanket San Francisco with free wireless Internet access at no cost to the city, at a minimum of 300kbit/s (the commercial operators can battle it out over real broadband service). Where's the money? In super-locally targeted Google ads. Google knows what WiFi access point you're nearest to and delivers advertising from the nearest café or copy shop. Sweet. There's a Slashdot thread.

Meanwhile, at home, the revolution begins in … Whakatane! The local café Ground Zero and website management company Klixo have combined to offer what they believe is New Zealand's first free, public WiFi hotspot.

But most Slashdot posters seemed to have wholly missed the point of the news that BitTorrent (that is, Bram Cohen and Ashwin Naven) has picked up $8.75 million in venture capital. The point being that content creators have to start grappling with the new distribution models implied by this technology: there's nothing to stop the creation and use of a customised BT client, with private trackers, to distribute free programming with advertising in it. I'm always a little amused by people claiming that the problem with BitTorrent is that it's "slow". Intrinsically, it's not. It's slow when (a) the supply/demand (essentially the same thing in the BT model) is insufficient, and/or (b) you're using a deliberately crippled connection like Telecom JetStream. On the other hand, there's something pretty exciting about watching a Daily Show torrent (because Jon said it was alright, okay?) with 3000 seeds max out both sides of my 2Mbit/s Wired Country connection, and arrive in just under five minutes. A few million dollars of venture capital to explore that future is a no-brainer.

Staying on the geek tip, it's been interesting watching the episode of Late Night With Conan O'Brien that features our own Flight of the Conchords rise to the top of the torrent lists - it seems markedly more popular than ordinary episodes of the programme, and that bodes very well for the Conchords. Further evidence of grassroots action for Jermaine and Bret: a Technorati blog search in the wake of their HBO special. Their independent fan site What the Folk has, for the first time in its two years online, had to take down audio and video content "due to extreme caning of bandwidth after the HBO show aired."

But no mind. There's an excellent 22MB AVI of their Conan appearance available here, and the audio from the HBO set here. Also, an HBO interview (text) and the Conchords' official site (with links to their BBC radio comedy programmes). And, if you're up for it (via Figwit Lives), the big ol' 185MB AVI of the half-hour HBO special itself.

And , in conclusion, an oddity: Robyn Gallagher encounters the phenomenon of "people doing stuff like sending or forwarding texts to random people" that has arisen since the introduction of free weekend texting. Bizarre.