Greg Barila

Journalist. Editor. Social Media specialist.

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Social media in the news

Why social media is not a toy  -  Greg Barila The Advertiser,

Victorian Premier uses periscope to talk to voters, Greg Barila, Herald Sun

Joe Hockey gives Australia's first Periscope interview (via BuzzFeed)

New York Times Issues Social Media Guidelines for the Newsroom.



Everything you wanted to know about social media... but were too afraid to ask

YOU’VE got a Facebook page. You’ve dabbled with LinkedIn. Hey, you’ve even logged into Twitter once or twice (but you didn’t inhale).

C’mon admit it! You probably think you’ve got a grip on social media, don’t ya?

But if you still think a Meerkat is just a curious and furry desert creature and the only place to find a Periscope is on a submarine….we hate to break it to you. You may need a little social media refresher.

To borrow from a well-worn phrase, there’s a social media network born every minute.

But which ones are likely to follow the pioneering path of Facebook and change the way we connect and communicate for years to come and which are bound to be dead, gone and forgotten by next week?

We’ve put together this handy cheat sheet to help you navigate the minefield that is social media.


The microblogging service set up in 2007 has always struggled to build a user base as big and sprawling as its rival Facebook. But with more than 280 million active users and users firing off 500 million tweets per day, Twitter is here to stay. The platform has been criticised for being too ‘noisy’, making it difficult for people to find interesting people and conversations to follow. But the company says it’s working on a bunch of improvements that will allow users to more easily filter the vast amount of content being published to the network. Despite its shortcomings, Twitter remains a powerful tool for breaking news, being first to break dozens of big stories from the death of Osama bin Laden to the 2008 China earthquake.


Launched in 2011, Snapchat is the fastest growing social app of 2015 with more than 100 million active monthly users, many of them teens and millennials (gen Y). The app allows users to send picture messages and short videos or “snaps”, which dissolve and disappear after being viewed – a key selling point of the app. Some pundits were initially sceptical about the ephemeral nature of the app but the feature was truly revolutionary. Unlike any other social app, a key part of its success, especially among younger users, is that it allows them to communicate freely without worrying that mum and dad will find that lewd or embarrassing photo or video.

Recently, Snapchat partnered with several major news publishers, including, to launch a new feature called “Discover”, which allows users to read news stories and watch video story packages, which it hopes will broaden the app’s appeal to older users.



If smartphones killed the landline, apps like WhatsApp have helped to drive a nail into the coffin of phone calls and even SMS. Apps like WhatsApp (Kik, Facebook Messenger, Line, Viber, HeyTell and many more) are apps that allow users to message each other – just like sending a text – but using the internet, not a phone provider, to do it. Users can also send photos, emojis and voice clips and because messaging is free, use of these kinds of apps has exploded in recent years. So popular have these services become Facebook forked out a staggering US$19 billion to acquire WhatsApp in 2014.


With topics like terrorism and internet metadata dominating the national conversation in recent months, more of us have been looking for ways to keep our private and personal conversations secret and safe from prying eyes and probing governments. And it turns out some of our pollies share the same concerns. Last month, in an article in The Australian, Federal Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull revealed he’s been using a ‘secret agent-style’ messaging app called Wickr, which encrypts messages and causes them to be “forensically” wiped after they expire.


Online dating isn’t new but Tinder takes the game to a whole new level by recognising that most young singles are heavy users of mobile devices and social media and folds all the elements into a single product. The app scans a user’s Facebook page to find compatible candidates based on their location, mutual friends, hobbies and interests. Users can then browse possible candidates and swipe left for “not interested” or swipe right if they’re as keen as mustard.


One minute you’re hot, the next minute you’re not. Just ask the guys at Meerkat, makers of an app that literally no-one had heard of just a few weeks ago and which, for at least a few days, was all anybody was talking about. The app is simple. Just login with your Twitter account, start a new event and suddenly you’re a walking TV station, streaming live video to your followers and to the world. Sadly, for Meerkat, the app never really gained traction with users and Twitter used the launch to fast-track the launch of its own live video streaming service, Periscope. It’s hard to see Meerkat recovering from here.


Acquired by Twitter just a few months ago and launched just last week, Periscope is a personal live video streaming app that’s just like Meerkat, only better. The app has exploded globally since its launch, with everyone from Hollywood A-listers to your next door neighbour signing up to start broadcasting their lives to whoever cares to watch the show. Socially significant, culturally exciting and downright dangerous, this is the one and only social network to watch right now.

RELATED:Periscope explained: How Twitter’s live streaming app is delivering news and views in real time


Set up in March 2014 as an ad-free alternative to social media behemoths Facebook and Twitter, Ello fizzled out almost as quickly as it arrived on the scene. As new social networks do, Ello generated plenty of buzz and plenty of press and built-in exclusivity by giving new users a selected number of tokens to invite friends. The network made a selling-point of its simple design but it failed to get traction. It lacked any truly unique or original features and being so minimalistic it felt like being alone in a big, empty room. The network still exists but the buzz is gone.

This article was first published in The Advertiser and on


Why Jay Weatherill is overdoing the whole decision-making by consensus thing

JAY Weatherill rose to office on a promise to break up the “announce and defend” culture of the old Rann Government and replace it with a fresh new plan to “debate and decide”.

The centrepiece of Weatherill’s strategy has been a website (bureaucrats probably call it a portal) called yourSAy (say, SA, get it?), which invites ordinary Joes like you and me to have their say on a smorgasbord of policy areas affecting daily life here – from waste management and public transport, to aged care and time zones.

The brand also extends to social media and the Government says the strategy is all about “bringing the community’s voice into government decision-making”.

Asking the punters to give feedback about various policies and issues isn’t new.

But on the highly contentious issue of bike laws, the government went further, setting up a Citizens’ Jury, not just to give people a say on the issue, but to actually put forward ideas for ways to end the escalating road war (and it is a war) between cyclists and motorists.

The recommendations, which included letting cyclists ride on footpaths, a 40km/h speed limit trial in the CBD and laws forcing drivers to leave a 1m gap when overtaking riders, went to the Government in November, were backed by the Premier in January and could be passed into law any day now.

The Weatherill Government should be applauded for seeking to fold public opinion into the democratic process, and for using digital and social media to do it.

Participatory democracy is a beautiful thing.

But you can overdo this kind of decision-making by consensus.

By leaning too heavily on its “debate and decide” model, Labor is essentially contracting out the core business of government, which is to make bold, sometimes unpopular decisions and articulate a strong vision for the future of our state.

It’s not hard to see understand the Government’s motives. It is a shrewd strategy. Because many of the issues out for public consultation – time zones, libraries, waste management, aged care – are benign, boring or touchy feely.

And together they create the illusion that the Government is really taking care of business and bringing you along for the ride, all while SA’s economic situation grows ever more parlous.

At the same time, the Premier has already said he’s prepared to go it alone to make tough decisions to “turn South Australia around”, and when pressed on ABC radio about the contentious Gillman land deal, he said “if you think this is controversial … you haven’t seen anything yet”.

“We are going to be putting in front of South Australians some very big changes which I think will cause them to gasp a little”.

Just what big changes the Premier was referring to are anyone’s guess; the nuclear industry Royal Commission? The $610 million revamp of Festival Plaza?

But his tough talking only serves to confuse the message around the Government’s approach and sounds awfully like the old “announce and defend” model he tried so hard to distance himself from.

The Government needs to pick a path. Bring ordinary voters into the tent to work on the really tough and urgent issues facing our state.

Or develop a clear blueprint for the state and stop pretending South Australians have any real power except to tinker on issues around the edges.

Adelaide needs a good dose of crazy, an openness to weird ideas and alternative lifestyles

LAST week Advertiser food editor Simon Wilkinson captured touching video of an old bloke dancing without a care to the blues riffs of a street musician on Hindley St.
But if there was anything wrong with the moment it was the fact that something so sweet and innocent stood out as something so strange and remarkable in a city of 1.2 million people.
It is not the kind of thing you see here every day and yet, why not?
I think it says something about Adelaide.
That we’re a city still evolving, a city becoming cautiously more confident about letting its hair down but a city still more at home … well, at home.
I reckon Adelaide needs a good dose of crazy; a new spirit of openness; more characters who feel comfortable to express weird ideas and alternative lifestyles.
We like to boast about our socially progressive history and all the positive reforms of the Dunstan era and rightfully so.
Rundle Mall identity Johnny Haysman at a Test match at Adelaide Oval in 2001.
But for all the ways our society has become less stuffy, Adelaide remains sufficiently conservative that the sight of a fat bloke in a Wonder Woman costume happily strolling down Rundle Mall would still turn heads and feature on every TV news bulletin in town.
(We’re also still very iffy about certain kinds of art and have been known to rise up against silly T-shirt slogans).
I miss the madness of big cities such as New York where a person might have bats sticky-taped to their eyelids and no-one would bat an eyelid.
Some cities, such as Austin, Texas, have moved to fully embrace their offbeat culture, adopting the “Keep Austin Weird” slogan to help support local businesses and plastering the mantra on T-shirts and bumper stickers.
Websites curate weird weekend adventures in cities such as Baltimore, home to Edgar Allan Poe, the guy who patented the Ouija board (his headstone is a Ouija board) and the grandaddy of all things weird and gross, director John Waters.
Of all the cities in Australia, Adelaide, where it’s still possible to see men wearing happy pants, is the place to take the culture fully weird.
State Governments have spent much time trying to make SA like all those boring cities on the eastern seaboard.
It’s time to play the freak card and give our state a real point of difference.
And while they may be few in number, the city has had its share of offbeat pioneers.
Remember the gentle, fiercely individual, leotard-wearing Johnny Haysman?
How his legend grew with every rare sighting and how, just by being himself, he made Adelaide a more interesting place?
Remember when South Australia had a premier who actually wore pink shorts? When a giant tin spaceship weirdly broke up the uninspiring drive on the Port Wakefield Highway?
When Adelaide had a one-way freeway and giant poo mountain?
More, please.
I expect this column will force the Tourism Commission to convene an emergency midnight meeting to get the ball rolling in a weird direction.
Forget uranium, SA should be running on freak power.
Get it right and we’ll all be dancing in the streets.
Greg Barila is The Advertiser’s social media editor

This article first appeared in The Advertiser and on

In the ghetto: slumming it in Adelaide’s eastern suburbs

A street in Hackney, Adelaide. Photo by Bianca De Marchi

“ON a cold and grey Chicago morn / A poor little baby child is born …. in Hackney”.
*Sound of needle ripping on vinyl.
That’s right. If The King hadn’t checked out on the throne way back in 1977, and wanted to update his 1969 hit In The Ghetto, the song wouldn’t be a lament about the squalid living conditions of The Windy City, but about the desperately underprivileged settlement of Hackney, in this very city.
As reported in the Eastern Courier Messenger, the wretched citizens of Hackney are living in fear that their already-God forsaken suburb is about to be turned into a “slum” and “ghetto” if a housing plan on the old Sanitarium Weet-Bix site, next to St Peter’s College, gets the go ahead.
TAKE HEED: A shanty town in Rio, Brazil. Or, Hackney in a couple of years.
Those are serious, emotive words but break down it down by definition and I think you’ll find the residents are on the money.
Ghetto n. quarter of city inhabited (historically) by Jews or by minority groups.
Slum n. dirty squalid overcrowded street, district.
The old Weet-Bix site. Photo by Bianca De Marchi
It’s almost as if Mr Oxford had Hackney in mind when he scribbled down those definitions.
The agent managing the sale of the land predicts the project will be at the “upper echelon” of Adelaide’s property market, while the council’s planning rules set out that developments in the area should be “compatible with the established character of the area”.
In other words, the development would be tasteful.
C’mon. You and I both know that’s code for “slum”.
And worse, a slum for dirty no good renters *shudder*.
As several pundits on rightly asked, why do we even need this new abomination? What’s wrong with the status quo?
“I’m sure an abandoned Weet-Bix factory looks so much nicer than modern housing”, reader Marty rightly observed.
And why settle for a boring old apartment complex, anyway?
What about something less ho hum, something more visionary, something befitting the former production centre of a company that sits on practically every Australian breakfast table.
“How about just putting a giant Weet-Bix on the site, modelled on the old Magic Mountain,” reader Sid demanded to know.
“That’d look nice”.
It surely would. It might even inject some much-needed tourism dollars into the area and save poor old Hackney from the certain penury it currently faces.

Is it time to rethink the Great Australian Dream and change home ownership expectations?

AUSTRALIA has spent decades trying to get taken seriously on the international stage
But with Aussies off waging holy war in the Middle East, alleged terror plots being hatched on home soil and the PM squaring off with aggressive superpowers, maybe we should be careful what we wish for.
Some commentators declared the Sydney siege as the day Australia “changed forever”.
They’re wrong about that.
But Australia is growing up. And that means we’re maturing in ways that we may neither like nor want but which we cannot stop.
One of them hits close to home.
The Great Australian Dream is dying.
I realised it as I drove back to Adelaide during the holidays, listening to a property guru wrap up the year in real estate on Melbourne radio.
When the discussion turned to prices my ears pricked.
More than $600,000 for a house out in the burbs?
The median price closer to the CBD was more like $1 million, the guru said, putting Melbourne up there with Sydney and London on the league table of Cities Where You Should Pretty Much Forget About Ever Trying to Afford Your Own Home.
I took my stunned surprise to Twitter where Melbourne-based former Adelaide journalist Melissa bemoaned the extortionate state of the local housing market.
“Don’t remind me,” she tweeted, ending her thoughts with the hashtag #WhyDidIMove.
I don’t know Melissa’s reasons but maybe she upped sticks for the same reasons so many young South Aussies have waved goodbye at the border – for better job opportunities and the fast energy of a big and interesting city.
And therein lies the rub.
While housing affordability is a national problem, the barriers to entering the market remain considerably lower in Adelaide where the median house price is a full $200,000 less than in Melbourne and about $300,000 less than in Sydney.
Of the capital cities, only in Hobart is it cheaper to get into your own home, which sounds like a great story for SA to tell ... until you think about it.
Tasmania and South Australia remain among the worst performing economies in the country with SA’s jobless rate above the national average and industries closing left, right and centre.
A Deloitte report from October 2014 declared, “South Australia’s economy is in the slow lane” and that “more pain is on the horizon as it stares the closure of car manufacturing in the face”.
This must be why so many young people have decided the price of greater job prospects and the cultural sophistication of a big city is a million dollar mortgage.
And that the price is worth paying (or attempting to pay).
But if it is, is it time to rethink the Great Australian Dream?
Time to change our expectations about home ownership?
In the big cities of Europe, the UK and US, many young people spend precious little time worrying about affording their own home, so unrealistic and out of their reach is the goal.
Circumstances here already seem to be forcing young people to accept a similar fate, with recent news reports revealing some couples have already given up on their dream of ever owning a house.
Is this what we want?
To be a nation of renters?
What would our priorities be then? More travel? More dining out at fancy restaurants? More time to volunteer in our communities? Would it bring its own kind of freedom? Or a new kind of bondage?
If the Great Australian Dream continues on its nightmarish trajectory, it’s a conversation we’d better start having sooner rather than later.
Greg Barila is The Advertiser’s social media editor.

The burghers are bitter about Hungry Jack’s

Residents have helped block three Hungry Jack’s outlets in Adelaide in the past 12 months
FOR years, a popular fast-food chain has boasted proudly in TV ads that “the burgers are better at Hungry Jack’s”.
But if you live in SalisburySouth Brighton or St Peters you’ll just have to take their word for it.
Because the burger giant has attempted to hang its shingle in all these suburbs in the past 12 months and every time the people have said, ‘‘Not so fast’’. Suburbs starting with an ‘‘S’’ unite!
Cheesed-off locals have railed against the chain because they fear the foul aroma of frying burgers and worry about extra rubbish, traffic, noise and around-the-clock trading.
In South Brighton, some residents have said they also worry a new junk food joint would send the wrong message about healthy eating to all the kids at nearby schools.
The people have pushed petitions against the new outlets and rejoiced at every decision to halt their progress.
Yes, the burghers are bitter about Hungry Jack’s.
“I live right next door to where the Hungry Jack’s was proposed and if this went ahead … it would’ve completely destroyed our lifestyle, Alexander Paschero told the East Torrens Messenger after the St Peters application was flame-grilled by the local council.
Aasha Shaw, who runs an organic market at Somerton Park, said she and her neighbours were looking to lead healthy, active and sustainable lives and “I don’t believe Hungry Jack’s fits in with our philosophy”.
Poor old Hungry Jack’s isn’t the first burger business to get into a bun fight with the public.
In 2010, locals mounted a successful campaign, with support from Maggie Beer, to slap down plans for a McDonald’s at Nuriootpa, on the basis that the restaurant might threaten the Barossa’s reputation as a mecca for gourmet food.
Advertiser reader Scott of the Barossa called the decision what it was — “ridiculous”.
“It’s another victory for the affluent, arrogant, selfish upper-class of the Barossa”, he wrote.
It’s hard not to see this kind of resistance as snobbish, narrow-minded and an attack on free choice.
Hipster burger joints with funny names and fancy logos are popping up all over town. So far, no one’s felt the need to sharpen the pitch forks and run them out of town.
It is also, I think, symptomatic of a broader cultural cancer in which we must ban everything we don’t like.
I say this as someone who lives close enough to a KFC I can smell the chicken cooking every Saturday morning.
And here’s the thing. Yes, sometimes wayward burger wrappers and milkshake cups find their way to the verge outside my house (I’d rather they didn’t). And sometimes (can you keep a little secret?) I buy a cheeky burger there myself.
Fast food isn’t a new concept in this country and chain restaurants have somehow managed to coexist in the cities and ’burbs for more than 30 years.
There are no fewer than 57 McDonalds outlets in South Australia, 37 KFC stores and more than 40 Hungry Jack’s and, like it not, South Australians patronise them.
But that also keeps hundreds of local people in work and this state needs every job it can get.
If fast food isn’t your bag, it’s easy, don’t eat it.
Oh, and have a nice day!
Your say: Do you live near a fast food joint? Do you have a problem with it? Should the government be looking for different kinds of business investment in the suburbs? Have your say below, on The Advertiser’s Facebook page or Tweet with Greg @GregBarila

Please, no more empty promises at Port Adelaide

Tourism Minister Leon Bignell says Port Adelaide Enfield Council is “lazy” on local tourism. Photo: Tom Huntley
FOR the better part of a decade, a sign at the gateway to the historic township of Port Adelaide cautioned visitors to hang on to their hats because…. “It’s happening”.
It’s important not to get too cynical in these matters.
Because if you’re talking about an ad hoc programme of ugly residential development and court action ending in the shelving of the first major crack at rejuvenating the area, it’s hard to argue it hasn’t all been happening down at Port Adelaide in recent years.
Something else has been happening down on the waterfront.
A council, according to Mr Bignell, that hasn’t once bothered to pick up the phone and inundate the government with a bag full of winning ideas to flood the Port with cashed up tourists.
Port Adelaide Enfield Mayor Gary Johanson says Mr Bignell is welcome to pop down to the Port for a meeting to talk about the issue.
“It’s a lazy council,” he told The Advertiser.
The local council may well be bereft of good ideas to rejuvenate Port Adelaide.
But for a senior member of the Government, the Tourism Minister no less, to try to shift the blame for the missteps and chronic inaction that have held the Port back for more than a decade on the local council, isn’t just passing strange, it’s breathtaking in its hypocrisy.
Because a vibrant Port Adelaide doesn’t just depend on a few sexy weekend attractions, but a sustainable community that people actually want to live in.
There the government has a major responsibility and there, so far, it has failed.
They built it and they came. Hart’s Mill, one of the green shoots of optimism in Port Adelaide.
In October 2012, the government pulled the pin on the controversial Newport Quays development, a decade after it was approved by the then-Planning Minister Jay Weatherill.
Weatherill admitted the project (first announced by the Liberals) was ultimately “flawed” and seemed to suggest Labor only pushed it through so as not to send the wrong message to investors.
“Imagine if the first thing we did within weeks of coming into office was to cancel a tender process,” Mr Weatherill told the ABC at the time.
“Imagine the message that would have sent to the investing community”.
That same year, the government scrapped plans for another project, crucial to any hopes of a Port revival, an extension of the tram network to Port Adelaide and Semaphore.
The measure saved the Budget $35 million.
But even had the project gone ahead, it would have been 2019, a full five years from now, before the first trams would be ready for the run to Port Adelaide.
In other words, it’s likely another decade will pass before a tram ride to the Port becomes more than wishful thinking.
And yet amid all the reasons for pessimism, there are green tendrils of optimism to be found.
As Mr Bignell rightly points out, the markets at Hart’s Mill “are going well”, thanks to a $2.5 million Government investment.
And the Minister’s comments supporting a major, Sydney-style fish market are encouraging and exactly the kind of project the Government (and the local council) should be working to see
happen at the Port.
The Government’s latest rejuvenation plan, released in January, with its plans for a marine precinct at Fletcher’s Slip, public marina, high-density living and the promise of an influx of thousands of new people are similarly hopeful.
But we’ve heard it all before.
“We’ve been saying for 25 tears we need more residents”, Railway Hotel owner Fred Hiscock said in response to the latest vision.
Port Adelaide needs a lot of things.
One thing it doesn’t need is yet more empty promises.
What do you think should happen at The Port? Share your ideas below

Watching a dying business try to pretend the carnival isn’t over is one of the saddest scenes

Vale the Brickworks Markets. Bulldozers demolish buildings to make way for a $38 million Woolworths supermarket and speciality shops.
RIGHT to the end, the ribs, grilled beautifully over an open pit, were worth the trip alone.
But on those last few visits to the old Brickworks Markets, we sat there licking greasy fingers and watching a few stragglers wander aimlessly around a ghost town – past faded signs and broken railings, quiet beer halls and shuttered market stalls.
Watching a dying business try to pretend the carnival isn’t over is one of the saddest scenes there is.
Just take a drive out to the Junction Markets at Kilburn if you don’t believe me. Actually, on second thoughts, don’t.
The Brickworks operated as a market for 30 years and were such a fixture of my growing up, that it’s hard not to feel emotional now they’ve finally given way to a huge Woolworths, grog shop and speciality stores.
And I know I’m not Robinson Crusoe there.
“Ahh the Brickworks. What a great day out it was with mum & dad,” Alan of Henley Beach wrote in a comment on
“All that great food ... especially that outdoor BBQ with the char-grilled ribs.
“It was the main rival to Magic Mountain and our preferred place to spend a Sunday afternoon.
“From the age of 6 to 16 I’d say we spent 100 Sundays at the Brickworks”.
Yeah, I know, progress and all of that.
But it’s hard not to ask how and why a place that once thrived for three decades as a weekend family attraction could have wound up dying such a miserable death.
It’s also not the hardest question to answer.
It was there in those last depressing days, in the smutty T-shirts, tacky merchandise, dusty bric-a-brac and faded infrastructure.
The Brickworks was great in the ’80s. And there it is.
Adelaide moved on and the market did not; didn’t invest in the future, adapt to offer products people wanted to buy, offer experiences they couldn’t get at their local Westfield.
And it’s a great pity because the Brickworks, with their beautiful tunnels and heritage-listed kiln and chimney, are unique and should be one of the city’s major selling points.
The Government has done much to promote the regions to the rest of the country and world.
But when it comes to transforming historic gems in the heart of Adelaide, like the Brickworks, the old Islington railyards, the tunnels under the city, our tourism officials have apparently been M.I.A.
Don’t even get me started on the missed opportunity that is Port Adelaide.
But anyway, the bulldozers have done their work and a mega-supermarket complex is happening apace.
Huge concrete walls are rising quickly where once, and for decades, they made bricks.
The best bits of the market – the fresh fruit and veggie sellers, the butcher, the Indian grocer, the fish shop – have all been displaced to a shed on the corner of South Rd and Manton St.
But with a major expansion of South Rd around the corner, who knows what will happen to them?
There’s talk of the traders coming back when the Woolworths is finished in the next few months.
And I’m not the only one with fingers crossed the markets can be revived somehow.
Adelaide needs a lot of things, but a vanilla-flavoured shopping centre isn’t one of them.
“Would LOOOVE to bring this experience back to life,” Alan of Henley Beach wrote.
And bring back the barbecue ribs.
Greg Barila is Social Media Editor at The Advertiser.

Move over Big Brother, it’s time for My Council Rules

Blake and Louise from the reality TV show, The Bachelor Australia. Still: Channel 10
IN Asia, and the Middle East, and all the places in the world where the people have to fight for it, it’s reasonable to look at the struggle for political freedom and ask — “What price democracy?”
In those places, who can say?
But if you live in a particular borough of Adelaide, the answer is about $900 a week.
That’s how much the good ratepayers of the City of Prospect have apparently been shelling out for the council’s weekly meetings to be video recorded and uploaded to YouTube for anyone who should want to keep an eye on the inner-workings of their council without actually having to attend.
The outrage was revealed in a staff report and those around the council table were suitably shocked and troubled.
According to the report, they’ve been doing it for a massive weekly prime time audience of about 30 people a week! (Or slightly better ratings than Songs of Praise on the ABC).
“My council doing similar with audio recording — not much interest, unfortunately,” Marion mayor Felicity-ann Lewis (and past president of the Local Government Association) lamented in a tweet.
Here’s the thing — councils like Prospect and Marion should be applauded for at least trying to take democracy to the people, even when the people can’t (or have never been so moved) to come to it.
But $44,000 a year? C’mon, it’s 2014.
There’s a long list of free, or relatively cheap, and easy-to-use platforms on the market (Google Hangouts, Ustream, Spreecast) that let you broadcast live via the internet, and capture your results for playback later.
But even if our councils can get their costs down, clearly they are suffering from an audience engagement problem.
Luckily, I’ve got an idea to get the masses tuning in. Let’s turn weekly council meetings into a reality TV experience, with all the most compelling bits from the genre — a weekly rose ceremony, election immunity for the most popular councillors (as voted by you!) and weekly cost-cutting challenges to balance the budget.
Councils are already accustomed to expelling rogue members from the chamber. Hello??? Live eviction.
But what to call it? “My Council Rules”? “The Shire”? (already taken) “The Block — Planning Approval Edition”?
I don’t know about you, but I’d watch the pants off that.

Australians love their digital devices - and we’re happy to be always switched on

First in line in Adelaide for the new iPhone 6. Abdullah Asghar, 18, of Adelaide and Parteek Singh, 19, of Marden. Photo: Tait Schmaal
IF somehow you could build a time machine, and turn back the clock just a decade, here’s a list of the popular social networks you’d wipe off the map just like that; Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest, Vine, Snapchat, Foursquare and Tumblr.
You’d also erase the first generation iPhone, the iPad, Samsung’s Galaxy series of smartphones and the Amazon Kindle.
Go back 20 years and you obliterate the iPod and the internet.
Twenty years is a speck in human history, but in just two decades, Australians have done more than just sniffed and kicked new media’s tyres.
We’ve jumped into the driver’s seat, spun the tyres and sped off down the Information Super Highway, letting new technologies revolutionise every facet of our lives, from how we connect with friends, to how we shop, stay across the news and watch TV.
Deloitte annual media survey of more than 2300 people this year found Australians are becoming ‘digital omnivores’, with more of us owning at least three devices.
And tablet sales, particularly among “matures” – people aged 67+, who are finally catching up with the early adopters – are driving the trend.
“We’ve gone tablet mad,” the Deloitte report says.
According to research firm Telsyte, tablet sales doubled in Australia in 2013 to almost five million units, taking total usage to around nine million, with predictions tablet penetration will overtake the reach of desktop computers “sometime during the middle of 2015”.
We haven’t stopped snapping up smartphones, either.
Smartphone ownership is now over 80 per cent, in line with the explosive rise of mobile worldwide.
According to figures from GSMA Intelligence, half the world’s population now has a mobile phone – 100 million of them just since April. That’s 750,000 new mobile users a day, a staggering nine per second.
Our device addiction, Deloitte says, is causing us to “multi-task like it’s going out of fashion”, with 79 per cent of us reporting we now bury our heads in myriad tasks – thumbing through Twitter and Facebook, writing text messages, sending emails, following breaking news – while watching TV.
The buzz word is “second-screening”.
And while TV is still Australia’s number one source of entertainment, the Deloitte report says we’ve finally reached a critical “tipping point” and the internet for social and personal use will overtake TV as our preferred source of entertainment as soon as this year.
According to a 2013 Nielsen study, Australians now spend the equivalent of a full day, 23.3 hours, online every week, fuelled by the availability of portable devices and our voracious appetite for apps – particularly social and “utility” apps, for stuff like banking and weather.
Nicola Alcorn, co-author of the Deloitte report, says how, and when, we use our devices depends on the context. Are we at home, on the bus, at work or on the couch?
“We know that our banking clients for example are seeing a real surge of smartphone traffic via apps during the morning and evening commuting periods,” Alcorn says.
“So, when people are going to and from work, there tend to be short, sharp interactions, sort of tied to transactions, paying bills,” she says.
“They see stronger tablet usage in the evening, from 7pm, so that’s when you might have a user who’s watching television or multi-tasking doing several other things.”
The mass migration to digital has also revolutionised news, with 35 per cent of those surveyed by Deloitte saying they prefer to read news in a digital format, and 32 per cent listing breaking news as one of their top three reasons for using social media.
And while print newspaper sales have dipped in recent years, the explosive growth of digital technologies means newspapers are now reaching more people than ever before.
“In the six months to March 2014, the total newspaper media audience across print and digital platforms has grown by 600,000 readers,” a 2014 report by The Newspaper Works found.
“This has been driven by the move to digital products but it also means more people are reading newspaper content,” the report stated.
The Advertiser’s digital editor, Michael Owen-Brown, says the data clearly shows readers increasingly are moving across multiple devices through the course of a day to keep up with the news.
“Early in the morning we see a surge in smartphone traffic and tablet app visits as people get up to speed with the big stories of the day,” Owen-Brown said.
“After 9am, the desktop site rapidly gains momentum as people browse the net from their office computers. Traffic peaks around lunchtime and people visiting the site between noon and 2pm typically stay longer and read more stories.
“After 8pm it’s ‘me time’ and it’s obvious that many people are casually browsing Facebook on their smartphone or tablet as they lie on the couch.”
In other words, it’s evenings when Digital Omnivores, like Tom Williamson, 32, Head of Social at Clemenger BBDO, are truly in their element.
Williamson’s device day starts the moment he’s woken by the alarm on his iPhone and doesn’t end until he’s surfing the web while watching his favourite TV shows at night on the couch.
Between those bookends he’ll check his sleep pattern using his “Jawbone” wristband, scan the day’s headlines on his phone over breakfast, download key metrics from his ride to the office using his Garmin device, and move between three screens on his desktop at work.
“When I get home I’ll be checking emails from the day, from mum and dad, or people who want to email me after hours.”
Williamson is virtually never off the grid but being constantly plugged in comes at a price – separation anxiety.
“Since I’ve had my iPhone and iPad, so probably in the past six years, I’ve been without both for four days.
“There’s never really an off time.
“But it’s been part of my life for such a long time now that I feel lost without it”.

There’s a Christmas tree on top of the new RAH - know why?

Christmas tree on top of the new RAH for the traditional "topping off" ceremony. Photo: News Corp. Australia.

Accidents involving cranes, union troubles and fears the project could run over schedule have dominated news headlines in recent months.
But the new RAH reached an important milestone last week. It happened so quietly without fanfare you probably missed it.
I learned about it in a curious tweet.
“Can anyone explain why there is a Christmas tree on top of the new Royal Adelaide Hospital building?” Alison Kershaw tweeted, along with a picture of – well, exactly like she said – a Christmas tree sitting on top of the hospital between a pair of cranes.
You can almost set your watch by stories trumpeting the arrival of Christmas ephemera in our supermarkets in September – but on top of our buildings? That’s a new one – or maybe not. About half an hour after her first message, Alison followed up with a second tweet, with a link to Wikipedia.
“Thank you internet, there is a tree on the Royal Adelaide Hospital building site because of ‘topping out’”.
Apparently this is a real thing; ‘topping out’, also known in the building trade as “topping off”.
TELL US: Do you know of any other peculiar industry riturals? Share them below.
The ritual was well described by John V Robinson, a US writer specialising in bridges and “heavy construction” – how one man can handle so much excitement I have no idea.
“Topping out” is the term used by ironworkers to indicate that the final piece of steel is being hoisted into place on a building, bridge, or other large structure,” Robinson wrote.
“The project is not completed, but it has reached its maximum height.”
“To commemorate this first milestone the final piece of iron is usually hoisted into place with a small evergreen tree (called a Christmas tree in the trade) and an American flag attached.”
If the project was big and important enough, the ceremony was sometimes rounded out with a “topping out party” in which the construction crews are treated to food and drink”.
Robinson said one reason workers observed the custom was simply because they were first to the top.
“I guess the impulse to commemorate the achievement is similar to that of mountain climbers – or astronauts landing on the moon for that matter”.
A lengthy article in the New York Times, in 1984, tried to reach back further to find the origins the peculiar custom.
While some details remain sketchy, many of those quoted in the article agreed the tree ritual dated back to Scandinavia 1300 years ago, “perhaps symbolising bringing life to the building”.
“We do have solid evidence that about 700 A.D, the Scandinavians were the first to be using trees to symbolise the topping-out,” William M Lawbaugh, the editor of Ironworker Magazine was quoted as saying.
“The mythology in Scandinavia suggests that man might have originated from a tree and the soul of man returns to the tree after death”.
Fascinating. And rather poignant concept for the top of a hospital. A spokeswoman for the new RAH joint venture said an “official topping-out ceremony” would be held in the next few weeks.

While it’s hanging on someone else’s trees, consider it forbidden fruit

Crop theft might make for quirky headlines but for farmers it's no joke. Photo - News Corp. Australia.
“Holy guacamole! Thieves strip avocado crop!”
“Cops in a pickle over cucumber heist”.
The headlines make for quirky reading but there’s really not a lot to joke about when veggies vanish and melons go missing.
Last week, thieves somehow managed to strip an avocado crop from a farm near Barmera in the Riverland, making off with about 1.5 tonnes of fruit, apparently without raising an eyebrow.
The police will sort out how they did it. But it doesn’t take a detective to figure out why.
Avocados can sell for anything up to $3 each — and that means last week’s haul could have fetched as much as $18,000 at retail, about $11,000 of which should have gone into the grower’s pocket.
And last week’s heist was just the latest in a series of big crop and stock thefts in South Australia.
Last month, The Advertiser revealed how authorities were investigating the theft of up to $1 million worth of livestock from several producers in the South-East over five years, allegedly using forged electronic ear tags to evade detection at sale.
In 2011, veggie bandits made away with $4k worth of tomatoes from Virginia and in 2009, about$10,000 worth of cucumbers were stolen from glasshouses all over the northern suburbs.
You wouldn't steal a car, so why would you steal someone's livelihood? Photo: @GregBarila
All theft hurts.
I can’t imagine having a new car nicked from the driveway would be much fun.
But imagine how heartbreaking that loss would be if you’d not only poured thousands of dollars into buying the car itself, but also bought every bolt and screw and made the whole thing from the tyres up.
That’s what crop theft feels like.
As Con Poulos from Citrus Australia SA Region told The Advertiser after the avocado job, “Farmers are already doing it tough. This guy’s put in 12 months’ sweat and tears … there’s high costs with water, fertiliser, electricity and you don’t know if it’s the bulk of his production.”
… And then some bastard comes along and steals the bread out of your mouth, just like that.
Crop theft is a low act. I know something about what it’s like.
I grew up on a citrus farm, with mandarin trees lining the boundary running parallel to a quiet dirt road — perfect conditions for orange grabbers.
In mandy season, we listened for idling engines and the illicit thud of fruit bouncing in buckets.
The only time we enjoyed it was when we had time to creep up stealthily, part the tree from the other side and shout, “Oi! Whadda ya think you’re doin?”.
Most thieves satisfied themselves only with as much fruit as their hands or a turned up jumper front could hold.
Once my father busted a bloke who’d almost finished filling every square inch of his car with mandarins and building a mandy pyramid in the boot. He had some splainin’ to do.
It should go without saying, but evidently it needs pointing out: taking someone else’s property without permission is a crime, whether that property is Omo or oranges.
There seems to be some warped idea that stealing is something that only happens in a shop and that plucking a few bags of apples here, a few boxes of apricots there is no big deal.
As the public service announcement on those old video rentals cautioned on film piracy, “You wouldn’t steal a car ...”.
And you wouldn’t steal somebody’s livelihood.
Most farmers are decent people. Ask and ye shall receive
But while it’s hanging on someone else’s trees, just consider it forbidden fruit.

Activism or ‘Slacktivism’? Can the #IceBucketChallenge really change the world?

South Australian Treasurer Tom Koutsantonis, taking up the Ice Bucket Challenge. Photo: News Corp. Australia.

IN years gone by you might have been persuaded to give to charity by a letter in the mail or a kind stranger with a rattling tin. Nothing much has changed, except the tin is now social media and the strangers rattling it are Oprah, Bill Gates and Justin Bieber. But is social media activism a legitimate way to change the world? Or just a cheap way to make ourselves feel good?
You’re an alien just touched down on planet earth. Here’s what you see. The earthlings are filling buckets with icy water, drenching themselves with the frozen slush and filming the whole strange ritual on their electronic devices.
You’d have to be from another planet to have missed the online phenomenon currently going ‘viral’ on social media and populating (or is that polluting?) our Facebook news feeds and Twitter timelines, every time we log on — the “Ice Bucket Challenge”.
The challenge calls on people to dump a bucket of icy water over themselves, post the photo or video on social media and nominate two or three other people to take up the challenge themselves.
The campaign is to raise awareness (and money) for the neurodegenerative disorder ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease after the famous US baseballer, who was a sufferer, and more commonly in Australia as motor neurone disease.
The icy water appears to have no particular significance to ALS, apart from serving as an invigorating wake up call to take notice of the disease.
As The Wall Street Journal reported, the concept had a “low key” start among professional golfers, as a way to support their favourite charities.
It’s been anything but low key since, attracting the support big Hollywood names like Stephen Spielberg, pop music stars like Justin Bieber, billionaires like Bill Gates and even the king of social media himself, Mark Zuckerberg.
The campaign has also been in the news for entirely different reasons.
In a tragic and bizarre turn of events, one of the pioneers of the ALS challenge Corey Griffin, 27, tragically drowned last week in a diving accident, after attending an event raising money for ALS.
Griffin was a friend of former Boston College baseballer Peter Frates, whose own battle with ALS helped the Ice Bucket Challenge take off around the world.
And despite the fact ALS, as an acronym, is little known in Australia, the campaign has taken on a life of its own here, with everyone from players from the Port Adelaide Football Club and Premier Jay Weatherill copping a bucket of freezing water in order to raise cold hard cash.
The social tools being used to wage a war against ALS — Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram — maybe relatively new, but the idea of encouraging people to take some action, even a small action, to make the world a better place, isn’t.
Earlier this year, people around the world, from Michelle Obama to David Cameron, joined a social media campaign under the hashtag #bringbackourgirls to force the Nigerian terrorist group Boko Haram to return 200 schoolgirls it kidnapped for the purpose of using them as slaves and selling them for sex.
The issue struggled to get the world’s attention before the germ of a global campaign was seeded in a few angry tweets.
The whole notion of ‘social good’ was popularised in the 2000 film Pay It Forward, starring Haley Joel Osment.
In the film, seventh grader (Osment) starts a movement to change the world for the better by encouraging anyone who receives a favour to “pay it forward” by doing a favour for someone else.
In Adelaide and elsewhere in Australia, several cafes have introduced “suspended coffee” programs, which let people buying coffee for themselves pay for an additional cup, to be redeemed down the track by someone in need.
It’s not world peace, but a hot cup of coffee on a cold night makes a world of difference if you’re sleeping rough.
But can a silly, frivolous idea like the Ice Bucket Challenge actually make a difference?
At least some commentators have wondered whether the campaign is really ‘activism’ — positive actions to achieve positive outcomes — or just another example of ‘slacktivism’ — a token way to get involved in causes that probably won’t achieve much anyway.
But the numbers already suggest remarkable success.
The hashtag #icebucketchallenge has reportedly been tweeted more than 118,000 times since the campaign began on July 15 and, according to Facebook “the challenge has reached almost every country in the world”, engaging more than 28 million people and generating 2.4 million videos.
On a list of the 10 countries most active in a Facebook conversation about the challenge, Australia was second on the list, after the US.
But the campaign has done much more than raise awareness — the American ALS Association has raised almost $US23 million — about 20 times the money raised over the same period last year.
The money has been flowing in here, too.
Carol Birks, Executive Director of Motor Neurone Disease Australia says the association has received about $50,000 in care and research donations in just over a week.
“I know people out there are saying that it’s not such a good idea, but it is,” Ms Birks said.
“It’s raising awareness and it’s raising donations and more importantly people with MND have been reporting what it means to them.”
Dr Karen Nelson-Field, Senior Researcher at the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute of the UniSA, is not surprised at the campaign’s success, saying it hits at least a couple of sweet spots that drive people to share content via social media.
“It’s got what we call ‘personal triumph,’ which is about overcoming adversity and it’s often linked to inspiration,” Dr Nelson-Field says.
“On top of that there’s a level of hilarity in that a whole bunch of celebrities get wet.
“The other thing that’s driving this is the ability for it to get reach. The celebrities that it’s managed to touch have a huge following, so what it means, essentially, is that video gets in front of more eyeballs than if you just put it on my Twitter account.
“It’s like an art performance. If one person claps, quite often no one else does. But if it starts to get a standing ovation, then more people do it. The more reach you get, the more people will share.”
But what happens when sharing becomes oversharing, when a good cause becomes just another irritation in your news feed?
“Yes, there’s always going to be that point of saturation, but so what?,” Dr Nelson-Field says.
“In this case the legitimate outcome was donations, so we could be talking here for 10 hours about the success and the science behind the sharing of this video.
“But are people donating? Yes.
“Do you know what disease (the Ice Bucket Challenge) is for?
“Yes, motor neurone disease.
“To me that’s a success.”
The Advertiser’s Chief Football writer Michelangelo Rucci will take up the Ice Bucket Challenge on Friday night at Adelaide Oval before the Port v Carlton clash. To donate to Motor Neurone Disease Australia, go to

Public Relations 101, don’t do a Zoos SA

Like so many South Australians, Independent SA Senator Nick Xenophon wasted no time getti
Like so many South Australians, Independent SA Senator Nick Xenophon wasted no time getting behind Adelaide’s local iceream company when it was dumped by the zoo. Picture: Keryn Stevens
ZOOS SA has finally gotten the monkey off its back.
But somewhere, a university is writing up the Golden North/palm oil imbroglio as a cautionary tale for the next edition of the Public Relations 101 handbook. Well handled this whole thing was not.
When news broke of the Zoo’s decision to dump the hometown hero in favour of rival conglomerate Streets, which uses palm oil in its products, it didn’t take long for the sprinkle of shocked reactions to snowball into a full-blown PR snafu.
South Australians let their anger show, on Twitter and on the Zoos SA Facebook page, where inmore than 1000 comments, people pleaded with the organisation to reconsider its position.
And to its credit, last Friday, it did just that, announcing plans to continue its partnership with Golden North, whilst retaining its newly inked agreement with its Giant Twin, Streets.
“Zoos SA is a member-based society and we respect the opinions of our members and supporters
and acknowledge the feedback and genuine concern that’s been raised,” Zoos SA said.
“We have listened to this feedback”.
With at least some people threatening to boycott both the Zoo and Streets, it’s hard to see how they had any other choice.
Common sense prevailed, but it took a full nine days for the Zoo to reverse its decision.
And only the Zoos SA board can say how, or why, such a ridiculous decision came to be made in the first place.
The Zoo has had its share of financial problems in recent years, and no doubt its decision to partner with Streets was dictated by the hard realities of running a not-for-profit.
But surely the board now must be wondering if the terms of the Streets contract were worth all the bad press.
As someone who works at the coalface of social media, it never ceases to amaze how often individuals and organisations can get it so badly wrong when it comes to making decisions that not only affect the bottom line but also their most important assets — their brand and reputation.
And worse, how many simply fail to suture a wound quickly, cop the blame and make amends when things go horribly pear-shaped.
No one has been left more disappointed by all this the folks at Golden North.
But what the company initially lost in pure financial terms, it more than recouped in the outpouring of support and brand goodwill.
And there, as BRW put it, Golden North “is winning the public relations battle”.
The company was savvy to engage a local PR firm toset up a Twitter account the day after the news broke and has spent a week personally responding to dozens of messages of support.
It attracted thousands of new Facebook fans and sales of Golden North ice cream in Foodland
supermarkets reportedly were up about 25 per cent on the two weeks before.
“That really has been fantastic,” Marketing Manager Trevor Pomery told me, adding that the public reaction was proof the company’s decision to go palm oil free was “absolutely” the right decision.
Meanwhile, on the Zoos SA page ...
“The people have spoken and no matter how you try to justify it with patronising rhetoric you have clearly made a big mistake. Turn your back on SA and SA will do the same.”
All they had to do was put local ice cream in the freezer, but the public put them in there instead.
And the sad thing is the whole thing could have been avoided.