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You Want My Money? Fuck Off Your Artificial Scarcity Bullshit.

You know who gets a ton of my money these days? Game publishers. Whilst they might not get the same amount per sale that they used to the amount I pump into the industry per year has rocketed up in direct correlation with my ability to pay. Nearly every game you see reviewed on here is purchased gladly with my own money and I would happily do the same with all forms of entertainment if they provided the same level of service that the games industry does. However my fellow Australian citizens will know the pain that we routinely endure here with delayed releases and high prices, so much so that our Parliament subpoenaed several major tech companies to have them explain themselves.

If I’m honest though I had thought the situation was getting a bit better, that was until I caught wind of this:

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I saw the trailer for Cloud Atlas sometime last year and the concept instantly intrigued me. As someone who’s nascent years were spent idolizing The Matrix I’ve always been a fan of the Wachowskis’ work and so of course their latest movie was of particular interest. Since I’m on the mailing list for my local preferred cinema (Dendy, in case you’re wondering) I simply waited for the email announcing it. For months and months I waited to see something come out until I started hearing friends talking about how they had seen it already. Curious I checked my favourite Usenet site and lo and behold it was available, which mean only one thing.

It was available on DVD elsewhere.

That email I was waiting for arrived a couple days ago, 4 months after the original theatrical release in markets overseas. Now I know it’s not that hard to get a film approved in Australia nor is it that difficult to get it shipped over here (even if it was shot on film) so what could be the reason for such a long delay? As far as I can tell it’s the distributors holding onto their out dated business models in a digital era where they have to create artificial scarcity in order to try and bilk more money out of the end consumers. I’ve deliberately not seen movies in cinemas in the past due to shenanigans like this and Cloud Atlas is likely going to be the latest entry on my civil disobedience list.

I seriously can’t understand why movie studios continue with behaviour like this which is what drives customers to seek out other, illegitimate means of getting at their content. I am more than happy to pay (and, in the case of things like Cloud Atlas, at a premium) for content like this but I do not want my money going to businesses that fail to adapt their practices to the modern world. Artificial scarcity is right up there with restrictive DRM schemes in my book as they provide absolutely no benefit for the end user and only serve to make the illegitimate product better. Really when we’re hit from all sides with crap like this is it any surprise that we’re a big ole nation o pirates?

A decade ago many of my generation simply lacked the required disposable income in order to support their habits and piracy was the norm. We’ve all grown up now though with many of us having incomes that we could only dream of back then, enough for us to begin paying for the things we want. Indeed many of us are doing that where we’re able to but far too many industries are simply ignoring our spending habits in favour of sticking to their traditional business models. This isn’t sustainable for them and it frustrates me endlessly that we still have to deal with shit like this when it’s been proven that this Internet thing isn’t going away any time soon. So stop this artificial scarcity bullshit, embrace our ideals and I think you’ll find a torrent of new money heading in your direction. Enough so that you’ll wonder why you held such draconian views for so long.

 

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My Stance on Instagram Explained.

Ho boy, rarely have I copped more flak for a post both online and offline than my piece early last year on how the general population of Instagram made me feel. In all honesty whilst I knew there were a few people it would piss off, which was one of the reasons it sat in my drafts folder for ages, I still felt like I had some valid points to make based on my observations based around the Instagram user base at large. Many people took offence to this, arguing points ranging from “Why should that matter to you anyway?” to “You’re using it wrong, there’s great communities on there”. I was hoping that the comments section would have been the end of all of it but late last week the topic came up again and I lost an hour in the ensuing debate so I figured it was time I made my position on this whole matter more clear.

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I recognise that for every example I can dredge up of someone posting a horribly framed and filtered picture of their breakfast someone else can just as easily show me something like this. My criticism wasn’t levelled at people who use the service in this fashion but reading back over the post and the ensuing comments I never really made that entirely clear, so mea culpa on that one. However I don’t feel that the general thrust of my argument has been invalidated by that as many users agree that the vast majority of stuff on Instagram isn’t particularly great. This isn’t unique to Instagram however as any user generated content site suffers from Sturgeon’s Law and honestly the mentality of users on said sites really doesn’t vary that much but Instagram hit closer to home thanks to my interest in this particular area.

I’ve also had people try to bring me back into the Instagram fold in order to convince me that there’s something in the platform for me. Now whilst I wasn’t an active user for quite some time I did have the application installed on my Galaxy S2 for the better part of the year, mostly so I could view pictures linked to me on Twitter without having to use Instagram’s then rather shitty web interface. From time to time I’d look at pictures on there and see some genuinely good ones but not often enough to convince me that it was worth investing my time to better my feed by subscribing to said users. The fact of the matter is I already have many other avenues for discovering photographers that I like, ones that share a critical characteristic with.

Our preferred platform of choice.

For me the undisputed platform of choice is my DSLR. I’ve tried many other camera systems from high end point and shoots, film SLRs and yes multitudes of cameras in phones but in the end I always end up coming back to my DSLR. The reasoning behind this is because of the amount of control and influence I have over the final image, something which I struggle with on any other platform. It may sound weird if you prefer the simplicity that’s granted to you by camera phones (something which I do understand) but I find it a lot easier to take pictures on my DSLR, to the point where using anything else just frustrates me. I think that’s because I know that whilst I can do a lot of things in post should I so desire there are some things I simply can’t unless I’m using my preferred platform of choice.

This is somewhat at odds with the Instagram community which, as far as I’m aware, doesn’t take particularly kindly to those who take photos outside of their phone and then upload them via the service. If I was going to use Instagram again that’s the way I would use it but I’d rather not antagonize the community further by breaking the current social norm on there. For now I really only use Facebook to distribute pictures (mostly because my recent photographic endeavours have involved friend’s weddings) but I’ve been a fan of Flickr and 500px for a long time now as they seem to be more my kind of people.

I’ve come to realise that even my beloved DSLR community isn’t immune to this kind of malarkey either as there are far, far too many people who I walking around with a $1000+ camera with the shocking kit lens on it shooting in auto thinking that they’re the next Don McCullin. The criticisms I’ve levelled at Instagram apply to them as well although they’ve yet to congregate onto a platform that’s as ubiquitous as Instagram has become.

After the backlash I received I set myself a challenge to try and use my camera phone to produce pictures that I’d be proud to share and the above is probably one of the dozens I’ve taken that’s anywhere near what I wanted it to be. 6 months of trying have shown me there’s definitely a lot of effort required into creating good pictures, arguably the same amount as required by using a DSLR, but I still feel like I’m constrained by my phone. Maybe that’s a personal thing, something that I could overcome with more time and dedication, but in saying that I’d propose the same thing to all the Instagrammers out there. Borrow a friends DSLR and see the world from our side. Maybe you’ll come away with an appreciation for the technology that helped give birth to the platform you so love today.

Rapid Domestication (or OMG Cute Foxes!).

I have this obsession with esoterica; things that are hard to find or to track down trigger this thing in the back of my head that just won’t go away until I find them. Most of the time its pretty harmless stuff, usually only sending me down a flurry of Google searches, but sometimes it can drive me to apparent madness like when I scoured eBay for hours looking for a copy of Uncharted 3 Explorer Edition when I found out they were no longer available through stores. One of the weirder times this desire for the esoteric hit me was back when I was researching dog breeds for a potential new puppy and I stumbled across something quite intriguing.

Back in the 1950s a Russian scientists by the name of Dmitry Belyaev began a breeding program with wild foxes. His aims were simple, he wanted to study the origins of domestication and gain insight into the differences between our dogs and their wild counterparts. For this experiment he selected the Silver Fox and began selectively breeding them for more domestic tendencies. The results were quite remarkable and within a few generations Belyaev had foxes that were nothing like their wild counterparts, even to the point of them developing different coats, curling their tails and behaving much more like your garden variety canine than anything else.

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It didn’t take me long to track down a breeder that had them available (SibFox, who appears to have shut down) and the low low price of US$6000 seemed reasonable, at least compared to some other types of dogs. Australia’s quarantine laws and a concerned wife thankfully put this idea firmly out of the realms of plausibility but I still think that a domesticated fox would make for a pretty good pet.

I just couldn’t take it out to my parents farm, however.

Interestingly enough there’s a lot of evidence to suggest that cats and dogs actually domesticated themselves, foregoing their wild behaviours in favour of living side by side with humans in order to increase their chances of survival. This has certainly worked well for them with domesticated animal numbers far exceeding that of their wild brethren and suffice to say its a much easier existence for many of them. It’s quite a recent phenomenon too, in evolutionary terms, as the first evidence of domesticated animals only dates back 9,000 years or so.

Pretty wild (ha!), isn’t it?

Merry Christmas To You All.

As I do every time this year I just wanted to wish all my readers a {SEASON GREETING}[Merry Christmas|Happy Hanuka|Happenin Kwanzza]. Hope you’re as happy as I am, in great company with a stomach full of festive treats. I don’t have much else to say so I’ll just leave you with this video of a house with lights set to dubstep since that’s what the holiday spirit is all about, right? ;)

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Hopefully this post will also let Google know that my site isn’t gone forever after I found out that my Apache server took a dive for the past 2 days >_<

Dealing With The “Skills Shortage”.

Canberra is a weird little microcosm as its existence is purely because the 2 largest cities in Australia couldn’t agree on who could be the capital of the country and they instead decided to meet, almost literally, in the middle. Much like Washington DC this means that all of the national level government agencies are concentrated in this area meaning that the vast majority of the 360,000 or so population work either directly or indirectly for the government. This concentration of services in a small area has distorted many of the markets that exist in your typical city centres and probably most notable of them all is the jobs market.

To put it in perspective there’s a few figures that will help me illustrate my point more clearly. For starters the average salary of a Canberran worker is much higher than the Australian average even beating out commodity rich states which are still reaping the benefits of the mining boom. Additionally Canberra’s unemployment is among the lowest in Australia hovering around a staggering 3.7%.  This means that the labour market here is somewhat distorted and that’s especially true for the IT industry. However, like the manufacturing industry in the USA, there are still many who will bellyache endlessly about the lack of qualified people available to fill the needs of even this small city.

The problem is, as it always has been, simple economics.

I spent a good chunk of my career working directly for the public service, jumping straight out of university in a decent paying job that I figured I’d be in for quite a while. However it didn’t take long for me to realise that there was another market out there for people with my exact same skills, one that was offering a substantial amount more to do the same work. Like any rational person I jumped at this opportunity and have been continuing to do so for the past 6 years. However I still see positions similar to mine advertised with salaries attached to them that are, to be fair, embarrassing for anyone with those kinds of skills to take when they can get so much more for doing the same amount of work. This has led to a certain amount of tension between Canberra’s IT workers and the government that wishes to employ them with many agencies referring to this as a skills shortage.

The schism is partly due to the double faceted nature of the Canberran IT market. One the one hand the government will pay you a certain amount if you’re permanently employed with them and another if you’re hired as an outside contractor. However these positions are, for the most part, identical except that one pays an extraordinary amount more at the cost of some of the benefits (flex time, sick/annual leave, etc.). It follows that many IT workers are savy enough to take advantage of this and plan their lives around those lack of benefits accordingly and thus will never even consider the lower paid option because it just doesn’t make sense for them.

This hasn’t stopped the government from trying however. The Gershon report had been the main driver behind this, although its effects have been waning for the past 2 years,  but now its the much more general cost reductions that are coming in as part of the overall budget goal of delivering a surplus. The problem here however, as I mentioned in the post I just linked, is that once you’re above a certain pay grade in the public service you’re expected to facilitate some kind of management function which doesn’t really align with the requirements of IT specialists. Considering that even outside of Canberra’s arguably inflated jobs market such specialists are able to make far more than the highest, non-managerial role in the government it comes as no surprise that the contractor market had flourished the way it did and why the implementation of the Gershon report did nothing but decimate the government’s IT capability.

Simply put the skills/labour shortage that’s been experienced in many places, not just Canberra, is primarily due a disconnect between the skills required and the amount organisations are willing to pay for said skills. The motivation behind the lower wage costs is obvious but the outcome should not be unexpected when you try to drive the price down but the supply remains the same. Indeed many of the complaints about a labour shortage are quickly followed by calls for incentives and education in the areas where there’s a skills shortage rather than looking at the possibility that people are simply becoming more market savy and are not willing to put up with lower wages when they know they can do better elsewhere.

I had personally only believed that this applied to the Canberra IT industry but in doing the research for this post it seems like it applies far more broadly than I had first anticipated. In all honesty this does nothing but hurt the industry as it only helps to increase tensions between employers and employees when there’s a known disconnect between the employee’s market value and their compensation. I’d put the challenge to most employers to see how many good, skilled applicants they get if they start paying better rates as I’d hazard a guess their hit rate would vastly improve.

The Dip Results

My Challenge Response Curve.

I’ve come to terms with the fact that I’m a challenge addict, always seeking out new technology or platforms that has new problems which I can solve. I’d be lying if I didn’t say I enjoyed it as diving deep into an unknown area is something that always gives me a thrill and is arguably what keeps me coming back. This addiction to challenge however is its own worst enemy as whilst I might have dabbled in nearly every piece of technology imaginable I really only know them to a certain point before they bore me after which I’ll dump them for the next intriguing challenge. For someone who’s spent the better part of 2 years dreaming about starting his own technology based company this addiction to challenge is highly counter productive, something which I need to work on.

Like many of my ilk I’ve been trained in the art of pattern recognition, mostly for identifying when something can be automated or a process solidified in order to make it more efficient or reliable. My addiction to challenge hadn’t managed to slip past this process and after thinking about it for a while I realised that I had a kind of response curve to challenges. Initially there’s an overwhelming sense of progress as problems are overcome at a rapid pace, you’ve got momentum and you feel like the idea you’re working on has a lot of merit. Then, after a while, the challenges start to become routine and you start question your motives. It’s at this point where I find myself looking for something new and exciting, usually finding it without too much hassle.

I’ve come to learn that I’m not alone in this kind of response, it’s called the dip:

The idea comes from a book by Seth Godin, a serial entrepreneur and author who penned a whole book about this idea 5 years ago. I’d love to say that I’ve read it but I haven’t and all the credit goes to Matt Aimonetti’s post about how us engineers typically suck at choosing jobs (which I totally agree with, if I don’t wholly agree with the reasons why we suck) for introducing me to the concept from that book. I’d been thinking about writing a post about my challenge response curve for a while now but I hadn’t really figured out how to visualize the idea and the graph above is pretty much exactly what I was picturing in my head, even if I didn’t have the axis labelled (I had no idea what they were, honestly).

This is not to say that putting endless amounts of effort behind something will always yield results though. One of the tricks I’ve learnt since discovering my addiction to challenge is that once you’re in that dip area it’s all too easy to doing “work” on something and really not get anywhere, which adds to the frustration. Typically I found this was when I would just stare at bits of code for ages, thinking about how best to optimize them. Routinely this ended with me being stuck in a loop just thinking about the same ideas over and over again without taking the dive and trying them out for fear of wasting the effort. At that point you either need to break away from that task or simply slug through and try it out. Sure you might waste some time or effort by doing something that wasn’t worth doing or not spending time on the project but that’s far better than wasting time that ultimately results in nothing.

I’m currently working yet another idea (yeah I know, I’m terrible) where I was implementing a search function so that users could discover information without having to trudge through pages of stuff they weren’t interested in. Now for small scale data sets, like the one I have for development, this is pretty easy however for larger sets, like the one I have in production, they simply take too long to run. I had mulled over the idea of how to solve this for quite a while and implemented a solution over the weekend. This solution, whilst better than the original, was still performing unacceptably and forced me to rethink my approach to the issue. That time I spent on the current solution is now technically wasted but had I not spent that effort I would still be sitting here now thinking that it was the best course of action. I guess that realisation that even “wasted” effort has value was something I hadn’t really come to grips with and I don’t think I’m alone in thinking that.

Thankfully this is one of those things that once you’re aware of the issue there’s many things you can do about it in order to overcome it. I’m not saying that my particular coping strategy will work for everyone, I know it won’t, but I do feel that the dip applies almost universally even if the curve varies from person to person. How you recognize that you’re in the dip and how you get out of it is something that I’m not sure that I can help with but I know that simply being aware of it has helped me immensely and it’s for that exact reason that I’m pretty excited about my most recent projects.

Star Wars Join The Dark Side

Disney Acquiring LucasFilm Is A Good Thing, So Stop Your Bitching.

I am, like many of my ilk, a long time fan of Star Wars. I have many fond memories of watching it with my family as a kid, not completely understanding all the themes but just revelling in the story. When I heard that George Lucas was going to be making another three I was incredibly excited as I just couldn’t get enough of the Star Wars universe. It’s at this point that my course deviates somewhat from the norm as whilst I don’t believe the prequels were better than the originals I failed to see them being as bad as everyone made them out to be. There were some pretty glaring flaws to be sure but I never really found myself being bored by them which is my yardstick for differentiating good movies from bad.

However I do share the concerns of many with the fact that George Lucas just can’t seem to leave well enough alone as with every new release of Star Wars he seems to make tweaks to them that change the story fundamentally. I probably don’t have to tell you that Han shot first (and if you’re going to disagree with me than we’ll have some words, harsh words) but that’s only the most well known of Lucas’ transgressions against his most devoted community. A quick Google search will bring you this incredibly detailed breakdown of all the changes in the re-released versions, some small some that change the characters and plot in fundamental ways. Needless to say us long time fans have a love/hate relationship with him and this is probably why recent news has caused such a stir.

Yesterday Disney announced that they have signed an agreement to acquire all of LucasFilm, including the intellectual property rights to the Star Wars franchise, for a cool $4.05 billion. The collective nerd sphere screamed out in panic, fearing that this was just the latest front in a long running assault against their most beloved movie franchise. If anyone has a reputation for plundering something for all its worth (more so than George Lucas) it’s Disney and many of them fear that the Star Wars universe will be turned into another Disney Princess, with movie after movie being churned out in order to maximise their multi-billion dollar investment in the company.

Now whilst I can’t allay all your fears in that department (it’s a real possibility) there’s one thing here that I feel a lot of people are missing. Of all the movies in the franchise the most critically acclaimed are the ones that weren’t directed by George Lucas (Episodes 5 and 6, if you’re wondering). The rest were all directed by the man himself and many put the blame squarely on his direction for the reaction that the prequels received. With the transfer of all the rights to Disney it’s very likely that he won’t be heavily involved in the process of creating Star Wars 7, much less end up the one directing it. Of course there’s no guarantee the director they put in charge of it will be any better but the track record is pretty clear in showing that a non George Lucas directed film usually ends up being more well received.

Disney, for what its worth, can make a pretty darn good movie and have shown they can run a franchise pretty damn well. You might disagree on principle but it’s hard to ignore the fact that they’ve been behind quite a few big name movies of recent times like The Avengers and other long running franchises like Pirates of the Caribbean and Toy Story. “We can’t trust them with the Star Wars franchise though!” I hear you saying but who then, apart from Disney, would fit the bill for you? Because realistically you’d find similar fault with any other company that had the means with which to acquire LucasFilm in its entirety and honestly I think Disney makes a great fit for them. It’s no guarantee that we’ll see a return to the glory days of the original trilogy but you’ve got to admit that the chances are better now than they were before.

Maybe I’m just being optimistic here but as someone who’s managed to enjoy the Star Wars universe in many different ways (seriously, The Old Republic was an amazing game) I can’t help but feel that a new head at the helm might be the kick in the pants required to get it going again. Sure Disney will milk this for all its worth but that’s no different to what has been happening for the past 3 decades anyway. At the very least I’d withhold judgement until we start to see some of the previews of what a Disneyed Star Wars looks like before we start jumping to conclusions, especially ones that fail to take into account the fact that the fans’ biggest complaint may have just been taken care of.

The Many Forms of the Dickhead Test.

I make no secret of the fact that I have a low tolerance for places of work where I feel under-appreciated. I remember being told that my clockwork like routine of finding a new job at roughly the same time every year would hurt me in the long run as how could employers trust me to stick around for any appreciable length of time? I can tell you now that that’s simply not the case and I can say that every new job that I got an interview for I eventually landed without a hint of them mentioning my apparent employer disloyalty. Interestingly for my latest job my resume didn’t really enter into it and I was introduced to the idea of the “Dickhead Test” method of recruitment.

We’re all familiar with the old adage of its not what you know, it’s who you know. As it turns out this old saying is incredibly accurate as only 20% of jobs are filled through the traditional process of someone sending in a resume, having an interview and then starting to work at said place. This means a whopping 80% of jobs are filled based on recommendations from friends, colleagues and other informal associations. For someone like me who’s gotten every job of his but one through the formal market (the first exception being my current job) I always wondered how this process would go down and strangely enough it’s not that unfamiliar.

Instead of the usual routine of sending you resume off into an unknown abyss of someone’s email inbox you’re instead invited out simply for a coffee and a chat. This initial interview is called the dickhead test and is done just to gauge what kind of person you actually are. Make no mistake, this is the time to put your foot in the door, however instead of getting blasted with questions directly related to the job you’ll likely end up talking shop for an hour or so before it concludes. You see someone who is vastly under-qualified for a position will not do particularly great in this informal situation as they’ll lack the particular skills that would require them to have the casual banter around those particular topics. It’s a pretty effective way to weed out paper cert and brain dump candidates without having to dive deeply into a mess of technical questions that they can simply prep for.

I hadn’t really drawn the parallels between that and the formal process until I read this question over on StackExchange. The question asks why they need to bother with a resume in this day and age where a lot of their accomplishments are available for everyone to see on the Internet. The top answer nails it, saying that the resume should serve as a kind of distilled version of all your accomplishments packaged in such a way that anyone could get a good feel for you with minimal time invested. Indeed the resume is just another form of the dickhead test from the informal market, something that hints towards your capability without bludgeoning your potential employer to death with it. Once you’re past those initial barriers then those kinds of things will help elevate you above other candidates so it’s not like they’re completely useless to the formal recruitment process.

For me I believe services like that are more helpful for discovery of potential candidates from within your professional circle. I can’t tell you how many calls I received from potential recruiters who’s only tenuous link to me was through my profile on LinkedIn. In that regard then these services function as a dickhead test that you don’t have to actively participate in. Whilst I myself haven’t landed any jobs on the basis of such services (although you could argue that the LifeHacker gig kinda was since they asked for my LinkedIn profile) I do know of others who have been approached informally via such services.

I guess the idea I’m describing isn’t too different from the traditional one of “getting your foot in the door” however I feel my nomenclature is far more appropriate for what the process actually entails. Most of the time your long list of potential skills is only part of the equation and the rest is based around general things like your critical thinking abilities, how you integrate with the team and your ability to show up on time when needed (why that last one is so rare still baffles me). Understanding the mechanics of these various forms of the dickhead test will hopefully enable you to be far more effective in finding better employment as I know it’s certainly helped me over the past 8 years.

Housekeeping And Heads Up For Next Week.

Just going to make a quick post housekeeping post today as there’s a couple things I want to update you guys on. If you’re a dedicated LifeHacker reader you may have noticed that my ugly mug graced the front page for a while yesterday   and yes it’s true I’ll be covering TechEd 2012 Australia for them. It’s an incredible opportunity and I’m very excited to be doing it so for most of next week I’ll probably be recapping my day on here with all the real writing appearing on LifeHacker’s site. The posts on here probably won’t be at their usual time however so if you’re looking for your regular lunch time-ish article I’m going to have to disappoint you for a while.

I’m in the middle of migrating this blog over from my old Windows VPS that’s served me well over the past couple years to a Linux VPS with a ton more capacity. I tried to make the move last night but after getting everything up and running everything seemed to go pear shaped and nothing but index.php was being served by Apache so I trashed it all and started again this morning. I’m hopeful that this migration will go along smoothly but if things disappear it’s mostly because the two databases weren’t completely in sync at the time. This post was written on the old server and will likely disappear when the real migration occurs. Once that happens though I’ll know everything has worked and I’ll be working to get everything back up again.

Also, if you’ll allow me to get a little sappy for a second, I want to give you my heartfelt thanks for reading my tripe for the past 4 years as that was what motivated me to enter the LifeHacker competition in the first place. I didn’t start off as a great writer (as I’ve been told several times in no uncertain terms) but the feedback, comments and pageviews you guys gave me were enough incentive to keep on writing and improving my craft to a point where I felt confident enough to attempt something like this. That being said the true test is going to be how well the wider public receives my writing which is making me both excited and extremely nervous at the same time. Still I have no doubt it’s going to be great and I really do feel that all of you helped me get there in some way.

Now back to configuring Apache… ;)

So I’m Obliged To Tell You I’m A Registered Non-Offender.

I’ve mentioned a couple times before that  I used to work in child care many years ago, mostly with school aged children ranging from 5 to 12 years old. What’s not commonly known about that industry is that I was in the minority as the overwhelming majority of employees in that industry are female with only a small percentage being male. That’s pretty much why I got the job in the first place as many childcare organisations try to keep a balance of numbers but the cold hard fact was that despite the near guarantee of a job for any male applicant few choose to take it up. Indeed many of my male friends ended up working in childcare for a stint since it was relatively easy work for good money but we were always outnumbered by the females working there by at least 2 to 1.

Now I don’t have any hard and fast numbers to throw at you as to why this is but I can tell you what all of us felt what the problem was. There’s a rather unfortunate perception from parents, not all of them granted but a majority, that males are somehow more inclined to molest children than a female would be. Whilst the numbers support this view it doesn’t take into account that most incidents of abuse come from family members and known individuals with the smallest population being unknowns. Childcare workers do fall into the known category but that’s still behind family members, but you don’t see everyone hiding their kids from their uncles now do you?

You can imagine then that the recent story of a man who was told to move seats on a Virgin flight due to him sitting next to 2 unaccompanied minors hit home for me. The policy itself is outrageous as it treats all men as if they’re sex offenders regardless of whether they are or not. Virgin might try to write this off as them just having the safety of the children in mind but I fail to see how that justification holds true without painting all male passengers with the same brush. If I was sitting next to a child with my wife on the other side would it be an issue? Or is it just men travelling by themselves that are a risk? However you slice it we men are seen as being a danger to children but everything would be fine if we were some how related to them (even if that meant we were more likely to molest them, go figure).

I was willing to let that go, I mean its one airline’s policy and they’re no longer my choice after they screwed me no less than 3 times in 3 flights, but it seems that this policy is commonplace as another man was subjected to the same treatment on a recent Qantas flight. The article also mentions that several other airlines have the same policy and one, British Airways, was forced to change it after a customer sued them under the sexual discrimination act. That doesn’t seem to have signalled to other airlines that it might be a good idea to change the policy so we probably need some more drastic action in order men to not be looked at as child molesters in waiting.

I figure something like a Registered Non-Offender database would do the trick. All you need to do is undergo a psych test to see if you’ve got some kiddy fiddler traits in you and should you pass the test you’ve got yourself a free pass to be near children without people judging you. Airlines then only require you to enter in your Non-Offender Number when you book your ticket and then you won’t need to worry about being embarrassed should the airline seat you next to an unaccompanied minor. Hell you could even use it when you apply for a job that involves kids and I could even see it being a requirement down the line

I hope my brutal sarcasm was obvious in that last paragraph.

Airline policies like this are really just a symptom of a larger problem: that single, unknown men are perceived as being a risk to children at large. This is just simply not the case and the real threat, which falls behind many other tragedies that can befall your child, most likely comes from someone who is known to the child. What is required is for us as a society to move on from the idea that all strangers, especially men, are in some way out to get at our children. This kind of paranoid state that we’re in isn’t doing us any favours and its about time we moved on.