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Brislen on Tech

Paul Brislen, Editor. 22 May 2020, 1:59 pm

It's a diary, stupid

Of course, it's not really a contact tracing app. It's a diary of locations, so useful if someone does need to trace your contacts but it's not the be all and end all of such things.

The government (well, the Ministry of Health) has launched its first generation COVID-19 contact tracing app and just as they promised, it's not flash. It doesn't use Bluetooth to track users, it doesn't report back to the mothership and alarm the citizens with its intrusion, it doesn't take your temperature and it certainly doesn't track who you're hanging out with.

What it does do is let you check in and out of locations (if they have the QR code) and so when you get the call from the health care professional you least want to hear from, you can accurately check in your diary to see what time you were at choir practice or work or on the bus or in that café and thus be ruled in or out of needing to take the stick-up-the-nose test.

Picture it like this: you get a cough and a sniffle and get tested. While they wait (and you're a possible because that's the category they've put you in) the MoH personnel ring you up and ask where you've been in the past two weeks.

For those of us who can't remember what we had for breakfast yesterday without checking with our wives, this will immediately pose a problem.

But with the app we can reach back through the mists of time and age and accurately report our movements, thus giving the contact trackers something to work on.

This is a really good thing because we don't appear to have much in the way of community transmission in New Zealand and we are opening things up so we want to track people when we need to.

The app is so manual at this point you can't just say "yes, take my data", you actually have to read it aloud to the MoH tracker so they can re-key the data.

That's deliberate, by the way. The MoH team want to encourage uptake and not get bogged down with privacy concerns so Version 1.o has a totally restricted approach to such things: if you don't want to share you don't.

Version 1.1 will, I hope, allow users to hit a 'transmit' button and share with the MoH if required because my life isn't that interesting to me the first time round, let alone being read aloud as a narrative to a complete stranger while I'm feeling poorly.

Version 2 might have the newly deployed Google-Apple shared API and Bluetooth handling capability thus freeing us from the tedious job of remembering where we've been and ensuring that the smartphone continues to take IQ points off its user and add it to its own stockpile. But by then we'll either be well clear of the bug or need an app for those times we travel to other bug-free or bug-reduced locations, so we may not feel the need to spend the money.

Stuff - What our coronavirus contact tracing app looks like

NZ Herald - Government's contact tracing app 'insufficient for businesses' - developer

Reseller News - Ministry of Health releases COVID-19 app standards for third-party developers

Stuff - New Zealand's Covid-19 Tracer app won't help open a 'travel bubble' with Australia anytime soon


NZ Covid Tracer


Mano a mano

It intrigues me when social media giants decide to step on each other's toes. For a start off, social media giants have devastated huge tracts of the economy around them, sucking value up like a Dyson V11 vacuum cleaner on max suck and leaving behind a trail of devastation that would leave even the captain of a commercial fishing supertrawler with a tear in his eye. Google has search and email, video and browser sewn up. It harvests data at such a rate that it can barely process it. Search for your own name and you'll find a tweet you posted less than 30 seconds ago. It is untouchable and unstoppable.

Similarly Facebook has laid waste to the professional media landscape, scoured the earth free of all competitive walled garden applications (remember AOL and Vodafone Live, MySpace and all the others? Me either) and cleansed the world of the need to send TXT messages.

Likewise Amazon has blistered the retail environment with its cleansing fire, making it easier to buy goods online and have them delivered to your door for less than the cost of getting into your fuel efficient car and driving to the mall. Nobody remembers what shops were like any longer, as we all become extras on the real-life remake of Wall-E, totally dependent on our floatation devices for mobility.

For the most part they've carved out their niches and they're relatively happy to stay in them. Sure, Google tried to do Circle (is that what it was called?) and had to slink away with its tail between its legs. Sure, Twitter took out a chunk of Facebook's potential by doing whatever it is Twitter does quite successfully although nobody really knows how the company makes money (hint: it doesn't). But generally speaking they're happy enough in their lanes.

Except now Facebook wants Amazon's lunch and thinks it can spot an opportunity.

Enter Facebook Shops which allows business users to sell products and services via Facebook and Messenger and of course Instagram (which frankly seems to mostly be ads for those contraptions you'd find in that weird catalogue everyone's parents get. You know, the one with the singing trout, the weird Christmas decorations and the kneeler thing for gardeners).

That's on top of Facebook Marketplace which deals in second hand goods and which hopes to nobble eBay and Craig's List.

Will the Zuck be able to take on the might of Bezos? Zuck has the reach but I suspect Bezos fights dirty and he's got a space force now so it could get messy.

And as with all things social media related, we edge ever closer to being but a chapter in a Robert Heinlein novel. Probably the one where Acapulco gets nuked by Coca Cola.

Techblog - Can Facebook get shopping right?

The Guardian - Facebook launches shopping feature as pandemic pushes businesses online


So long, and thanks for all the fish

Why it doesn't seem like five minutes since I handed the reins over to Divina Paredes so she could run CIO Magazine properly, instead of as a part-time slash second full time job the way I had been for three months.

It's a long forgotten fact that I was editor at CIO Magazine. It came at a time of great uncertainty in the media landscape (snort) wherein one editor had moved on and I was on hand. That I was already editing Computerworld was not given much consideration, and for three months or so I made a stab at juggling both jobs.

Reader, it was not pretty.

So I was delighted when Divina arrived on scene to take over and made it her own. And how - now, nearly 15 years later, Divina is hanging up her boots for a well-earned rest.

What a time it's been. Do you remember 2006? PlayStation 3 was the hot Christmas stocking stuffer (complete with BluRay technology!) but only if you couldn't find a Nintendo Wii, and the future of home theatre was touted as being all about projectors (never mind the cost of replacement bulbs). Apple was using Intel chips (oh the sacrilege) and users could run Windows apps on them, if you used a thing called Parallels. Stories in CIO that year included questions being asked about whether Microsoft was capable of being Web 2.0 savvy and the worrying news that Dell would miss its quarterly earnings target for the first time in years.

I'd share what the CIO conference looked like because I found it on the Wayback Machine (CIO's own archives do not stretch back that far FOR SHAME) but in order to protect the innocent, I'll leave well enough alone.

Divina, you've seen more change and turmoil in your 15 years than I suspect the IT sector had seen in the prior 50 years and that's before we consider the impact on the media landscape.

It won't be the same without you, but it's great to see former Computerworld editor (and soon to be former Techblog contributor (dammit all)) Sarah Putt stepping in to take over.

Best wishes to both of you.

CIO - End of an era


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