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Archive for May, 2011

Unemployment vs Not in the Labour Force

Wednesday, May 11th, 2011

The Australian Government often refers to an ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics) figure called the Unemployment Rate. Everybody goes on about it, but nearly everybody I speak to has no concept of what it really means.

Essential reading for understanding the problem of Australian men outside the workforce is a Staff Working Paper published by the Australian Productivity Commission in January, 2007 – Men Not at Work: An Analysis of Men Outside the Labour Force by Ralph Lattimore. In particular, I would encourage journalists to read Men Not at Work so their commentary moves from the general perception of unemployment toward a role of educating the public about the true meaning (and obfuscation) of the unemployment statistic.

Lattimore used a simple pie chart to contextualise the unemployment number provided by government. There are two categories:

  1. Those who are participating in the labour force (employed + unemployed)
  2. Those not participating in the labour force (pensioners, stay at home mums, retirees… neither employed nor unemployed)

Lattimore's chart for unemployed, employed and not in the labour force

The figures aren’t that different today so we’ll stick with Lattimore’s pie chart for the male demographic: (1) 68 per cent of men employed + 4 per cent of men unemployed – all participating in the labour force; and (2) 28 per cent of working age Australian men classified as ‘not in the labour force’. Number 1 is refered to as the ‘Participation Rate’ (grey and white in Lattimore’s pie chart).

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Adrian Pickett was Tortured in Tasmania

Monday, May 9th, 2011

In 1984 a prisoner named Jamie McCrossen received 12 months in the Tasmanian prison system. He spent at least a decade within those walls, mostly in isolation and brutalised. Tasmanians were silent. And at this very moment Adrian Pickett is being held in similar conditions – we need to address the practice of torture in Tasmania’s prisons.

In the early 1990s I ran into Jamie McCrossen on the lawns outside the Risdon Prison psychiatric wing during a fire drill. In a real sense, he had disappeared from the general population in the same way Stalin had disappeared everybody he disagreed with from the public record. McCrossen had entered the system in his late teens nearly 10 years earlier, at that stage, and so I offered him a cigarette. He told me where he’d been.

Jamie McCrossen had spent around 3 years of solitary confinement in the isolated S Wing within the Risdon Prison Hospital. The guards slipped McCrossen’s meals under the door. His room had a toilet, a sink, a plastic covered foam mattress on the floor and a psychiatric blanket (a sheet sewn to a woollen blanket to prevent suicide). Most often, McCrossen had no clothes. He told me he would regularly be beaten during the night because he’d rub shit around the walls.

I asked why he did that. “Why rub shit around the walls when you know you’re going to get a beating?”

He said “because I’m lonely and it’s my only human contact.”

McCrossen told me about the abuses, the weeks and months he’d spend strapped to a hospital bed wearing a nappy – to stop him wiping his shit on the walls in a cry for human contact… and to keep him quiet. The beatings. The humiliation. The tears in the darkness as they attempted to send him crazy; a result that post-justifies the prison’s original mistreatment.

So reading an article by David Killick in The Mercury about an old friend of mine, Adrian Pickett – Inmate’s prison cell hell – chilled my spine. Justice Helen Wood, in the Supreme Court of Tasmania, has agreed that Adrian has endured nearly five years in Risdon Prison’s notorious Tamar Unit spending 23 hours per day alone in his cell, eating sub-grade food in meagre quantities and enduring arbitrary punishments on a daily basis that are intended solely to humiliate and degrade him as a human being. To break him. To break a wild human being the authorities were afraid of or couldn’t control.

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The Internet Archive Bollocks

Thursday, May 5th, 2011

Step right up, step right up, ladies and gentlemen of the Internet. The frantic effort is underway to archive the Internet warts-and-all so that future digital archeologists can turn back time and rediscover our 2011 web design rock stars in way-forward 2070. Or, more modestly, so people like Jeremy Keith can still find their social networking identities long after Zeldman has left the building.

Jeremy Keith tells me Pruning is Bollocks

Here’s my premise::: I would suggest that the biggest problem we have with archiving anything substantial from the Internet isn’t mass archive. Our problem is digging out what should be archived & what should be let to fade away gracefully into the vacuum of history.

Jeremy Keith, in a tweet, says “That’s utter bollocks… in my humble opinion.

Somehow I doubt that opinion is humble on the subject of Internet archival and I’d humbly reply that in my opinion, regardless of my lack of rock star conference speaking and book authoring status, when Jeremy Keith says it’s about archiving everything (culture) then bollocks to that. Double bollocks. The problem is bigger than bookmarks, LOLcats or relying on businesses stupid enough – like Delicious – to think their business model of FREE was going to take them anywhere in the long-term.

But I have a number of comments and questions regarding the arrogance of a total archival of the Internet (which we’re really synonymously using to mean the World Wide Web, an application that runs on the Internet). Let’s start with the value of information.

The Quality & Value of Information going into an Archive

My comment about sifting out the crap to find the value relies on a scientific fact of life – any repository of data (and therefore information – data + context) is only as valuable as the quality of the data. Any business knows that data becomes outdated because people move addresses and telephone numbers change. Hey, people even lie about stuff – so there you go with more crap into any repository. My suggestion that pruning is a part of any challenge to archive the Internet is based on that premise… a big load of rubbish pushed into an unordered box without pruning would have limited value. It would be information soup.

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About the Author

Steven Clark Steven Clark - the stand up guy on this site

My name is Steven Clark (aka nortypig) and I live in Southern Tasmania. I have an MBA (Specialisation) and a Bachelor of Computing from the University of Tasmania. I'm a photographer making pictures with film. A web developer for money. A business consultant for fun. A journalist on paper. Dreams of owning the World. Idea champion. Paradox. Life partner to Megan.

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