Island Life by David Slack

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Island Life: John Key: ambitious enough for web designers?

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  • Matthew Poole,

    Here's a question for the doubters: Would you have expected a quite-expensive-to-develop video game to be a successful recruiting tool for a physically-demanding, risky career? Because US Army is considered to be pretty good at getting gamers to look at the army as an employment option.

    Don't knock tech-based ideas for reaching out to kids, because they can work remarkably well.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2007 • 4097 posts Report

  • Danielle,

    From a distance it seems about as logical as using the 5 million to buy about 10,000 Wii, to be given out to the more obese children.

    What if it came bundled with Wii Fit? :)

    Charo World. Cuchi-cuchi!… • Since Nov 2006 • 3828 posts Report

  • Matthew Poole,

    Oh, and PS: when it comes to expenditure on health education, I'd say that it's hard to consider such a relatively small sum "waste" or "a rort". Even if it only gets some kids to eat better, and probably encourage their families to eat better, it's successful. $5.5m is a rounding error in government spending. At least give it a chance to fail before you all start bagging it!

    Auckland • Since Mar 2007 • 4097 posts Report

  • Angus Robertson,

    I am sure that John Key and Craig will put a stop to SPARC and use that $5mil + to build...

    ...sports facilities and purchase sports equipment, or at least that is what their policy is.

    Mission-On doesn’t have that head start. Of all the things you had to achieve using a website, getting kids active would surely be one of the tougher gigs. However it does stand to reason that with kids spending so much time in front of screens that would be the smart place to go looking for them. But what to do when you get their attention? There’s really no familiar territory to cover, no proven formula to emulate. There’s a lot of thinking to be done.

    Perhaps you are unaware, but there are many sporting bodies outside of the state service who have had their own websites for years. This makes the sports internet familiar territory for a whole lot of people. If the best way to get kids away from the front of a computor is to have a website, this is being attempted in dozens of different ways by a variety of sporting organistions. And mostly for less than $5.5 million.

    Auckland • Since May 2007 • 984 posts Report

  • Stephen Judd,

    Actually Matthew, America's Army is an interesting example. It is a very successful game as a game. But a cursory Google suggests that no one is even attempting to measure whether it has an impact on recruiting (an Army spokesman on Wikipedia is quoted as saying it would be impossible to tell). It also has goals in instilling particular values, but again there doesn't seem to be any attempt to measure its success as a propaganda tool.

    (Of course maybe those things are military secrets).

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 3122 posts Report

  • Subcide,

    Thanks for giving it a chance. People are often too quick to dismiss things they dont understand (especially when they're expensive).

    With Australia aparently being the most obese country now, we best be trying everything we can to not follow them too closely :)

    Hamilton, NZ • Since Jul 2008 • 1 posts Report

  • Idiot Savant,

    "A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on"

    What was the truth doing with its pants __off_, that's what I want to know...

    Palmerston North • Since Nov 2006 • 1717 posts Report

  • Idiot Savant,

    You actually rang SPARC and asked for more info???

    What a novel idea...

    Who knows? Next, journalists might be doing it.

    Palmerston North • Since Nov 2006 • 1717 posts Report

  • Rich of Observationz,

    Maybe the increased price of food and petrol will lead to people eating less and walking more?

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report

  • Kerry Weston,

    What on earth makes anyone think that kids and teens who play games & chat to their mates via computer, are going to visit the sparc site??

    Hello?? This is more spin-cycle thinking - we'll do something that looks like we're addressing the issue - instead of spending 5 mill on real stuff like sports equipment and subsidising the absurdly high fees some clubs charge for kids to play sport. Then there's uniforms & boots & transport....

    Considering not many urbanites have big back yards these days and it's way too dangerous to play tennis on the road or skate round the block like we used to, some better organisation needs to happen.

    30 minutes compulsory activity every day at school - hacky sack would do.

    Manawatu • Since Jan 2008 • 494 posts Report

  • Joanna,

    I do find it ironic that a fair chunk of the ways that SPARC tries to reach the un-exercising, is via media that aren't about exercising - computers, TV adverts etc. The message seems to be "hey you, don't watch this, bugger off outside".

    Um, if you want to reach people who aren't already outside exercising, you do need to get into the space that they're in - there'd be no point in putting up a "Hey, climbing mountains is cool!" billboard at the top of Mt. Cook, but at the bottom it might work.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 746 posts Report

  • andrew llewellyn,

    What was the truth doing with its pants off_, that's what I want to know...

    C'mon, you know, it's the __naked truth.

    Since Nov 2006 • 2075 posts Report

  • andrew llewellyn,

    Epic italics FAIL!

    Since Nov 2006 • 2075 posts Report

  • Greg Wood,

    Killer post, David. We try to explain this kinda thing aaaaallllllllllll the time, and this is a great summation.

    But... calling the client / perpetrator directly to ask them a question... isn't that illegal or something?

    Now back in Aucktown • Since Dec 2006 • 86 posts Report

  • Robyn Gallagher,

    The last time National were in government was 1999, and back then, the NZ Government website looked like this; now it looks like this.

    Back then, the internet was still pretty niche. National hasn't been in government when the internet has been an ordinary part of people's lives; when the content of website - not that there is a website - is the most important thing.

    So it's all very well for National to criticise some government department for - gasp - spending money on a website, but how would things otherwise be different under National? Would they prefer that things aren't promoted? That people just, you know, find out about stuff?

    Or is National still feeling a bit anti-internet after that dastardly hacker stole their emails?

    Since Nov 2006 • 1946 posts Report

  • George Darroch,

    I'm not convinced that it's the best way to get kids to exercise, but I'm not SPARC, and presumably they know a lot more about this subject than I do.

    I'm also not knowledgeable enough to know if a whole of Government approach is being taken to child health, looking at housing, food, transport, sport and physical activity, health, and media/television/internet etc. I know the moves of the Government to tackle bad foods in schools etc takes on some of these issues. It is, predictably, savaged by National as an act of the "nanny state".

    WLG • Since Nov 2006 • 2264 posts Report

  • insider outsider,

    When people say it is "only $5m", they seem to forget that is "only" more than a $1 per man woman and child in this country.

    Those 'onlys' soon add up, because it is not 'only' one department doing it, there are effing dozens of them all in the name of "social marketing" and done more to please the fashion sense of the policy advisors and the self interested advice of their marketing suppliers.

    Sorry I have sat in meetings with some of these people saying it is 'only x million' and it is so frustrating as a taxpayer to listen to 20 somethings with bright ideas and no experience, and no sense of budget control let loose with some of my money, only to then come back a couple of months later to find their big ideas were an effing disaster and the money has been washed down the loo with no consequence, because the next big idea is on the horizon.

    nz • Since May 2007 • 142 posts Report

  • 81stcolumn,

    I probably know a bit more about this than I have previously owned up to.

    On media based health interventions.

    The Food Dudes

    I remember when an earnest PhD student called Mike Startup (I think) proposed this in the 1990”s. I was there and I snorted with laughter at the thought. I did point out that the context needed to be right (that the cartoons employed would look lame if not done properly). Nearly 15 years later it becomes clear that there is a growing body of evidence that done in the right way, media based interventions can work - certainly with respect to eating habits. I am quietly hoping that SPARC have adopted the same model. I could post at length on this, but would prefer to be asked to do so first and allowed some time to check a few facts and research first.

    As for SPARC: I love and hate SPARC in equal measure but to be honest the one thing they don’t need right now is less money. I’ve seen the offices and they ain’t that flash once you get past the front desk. They have a few people whom I will not name who work damn hard trying to do sometimes the job of three or four people (occasionally not that well as a result). Their ability to engage resources outside of the Wellington ring is sometimes quite shocking, their lack of expertise in a number of areas is only too apparent. But these issues are not going to be solved with a smaller budget. In the same speech JK managed to smear them over pay…(How much do you earn John ?). Cowardly and unnecessary the speech outlined a plan that was as usual was big on rhetoric, but short on detail and real implementation. I loved the line about taking from anti – obesity and giving to sport (How about you stop pouring cash into a professional sport like Union instead). In fact I wish that JK would just STFU on this until he actually gets properly briefed.

    The continued politicisation of the Sport Health agenda by both Labour and National is reaching the point of doing great harm (Only athletes in the top 16 get to go to Beijing – tell me that isn’t about medals and certainly about short term returns). There is also a vicious short sightedness in the sort of research that is being funded and recognised. This is caused almost entirely by researchers and civil servants responding to the accumulated ignorance and lack of vision from politicians who really don’t get it.

    Backing away from keyboard before I put fingers through it………Rant Rant Rant apologies if this comes across as incoherent.

    Nawthshaw • Since Nov 2006 • 790 posts Report

  • 81stcolumn,

    I/O How old are you ? A good number of the people I interact with at SPARC are easily over 40.......

    Nawthshaw • Since Nov 2006 • 790 posts Report

  • Stephen Judd,

    Nearly 15 years later it becomes clear that there is a growing body of evidence that done in the right way, media based interventions can work - certainly with respect to eating habits. I am quietly hoping that SPARC have adopted the same model. I could post at length on this, but would prefer to be asked to do so first and allowed some time to check a few facts and research first.

    Please, please do.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 3122 posts Report

  • Bernard Hickey,

    It's great we're all delving into this.
    Hard to defend these Sparc websites though.
    By my measure (using Alexa) the mission-on site generates less than 100 page impressions a day, four months after its launch.
    Sparc plans to spend nearly NZ$18 million on its websites over 5 years, including NZ$10.5 million already.
    By my measure, Sparc is spending around NZ$45 to generate a single page impression. That compares with 0.3 of a cent over at, a real (privately-run) sports-encouragement site.
    I've asked clicksuite, who built the site, how much traffic it has generated. No reply yet. My comment on their blog asking for the detail was deleted soon after I left it. I've also asked Sparc to get back to me on detail. Nothing yet.
    I agree with Russel on this one. NZLive is just one of the debacles. Missionon looks like being the next. It's a lot of money. We just can't afford this waste any more.

    Since May 2008 • 12 posts Report

  • David Slack,

    Bernard, I wouldn't lean too heavily on Alexa. It's a self-selecting tool eschewed by many prudent users. A better approach might be to find out the number of kids signing up and track their use and activity. I'd say the gold standard for IT waste remains INCIS, with that Lands thing an ignoble second.

    81st Column, do please feel welcome to compose something as lengthy as you like. My address is just over there on the left.

    Devonport • Since Nov 2006 • 599 posts Report

  • 81stcolumn,

    This is the point where I am likely to get into trouble....

    The existing SPARC websites are difficult to defend and there are some on the inside willing to admit this. However from my POV the problem in some part lays with a lack of expertise on the inside. Contracts are tendered for via GETS.

    i) Quite frequently you only have two weeks to put together a proposal - this in itself is problematic. The peole whom you would want to do this don't usually have the resources to operate within this sort of timeline.
    ii) The specifications sometimes are poorly written in a way that reflects a clear lack of knowledge with respect to any new media amongst other issues. From my own experience specifications have been often been impossible to meet or ridiculously vague. Hence a proposal quite often involves a degree of client education and a fair bit of guesswork.
    iii) I am of the impression that there is a whole industry based entirely around the GETS tendering scheme most of it based in Wellington. Not all of these folks are best of breed it would appear (This is however only my impression). Breaking out of this may require time that those at SPARC rarely possess, as it would probably involve assemmbling teams/consortia and managing them appropriately.

    IMHO they need time and better institutional knowledge in this regard. They also might be guilty of mis-managing some of the resources they have.

    Not to diss the folks at clicksuite too much but why make the most prominent feature signing up ? I want to play.......... The site seems to be based around a mixture of social networking ideas and activities information. The kind of modelling that would support behaviour change just isn't there. No surprises here, because clicksuite's core business is about making people look good, which is not quite the same as changing behaviour. I might add that the Flash is very pretty and loads well on my browser.

    There are people at SPARC who know the differences between marketing and behaviour change, but I don't believe from what I have seen that they are either consulted or listened to during the implementation of these projects. I also suspect that SPARC lacks the resources to appropriately interrogate the evidence base behind some of these interventions.

    Nawthshaw • Since Nov 2006 • 790 posts Report

  • Kyle Matthews,

    Um, if you want to reach people who aren't already outside exercising, you do need to get into the space that they're in - there'd be no point in putting up a "Hey, climbing mountains is cool!" billboard at the top of Mt. Cook, but at the bottom it might work.

    I guess it feels more putting the billboard on the inside of the bus going up the mountain.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6243 posts Report

  • Joanna,

    When we (you) talk about $45 per page view, are we counting the people reached via offline campaigns and the impact that has?

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 746 posts Report

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