I’m going to Consilium and you’re not invited

I’m rather flattered to have been invited to speak at Consilium on 23 to 25 August, an invitation-only annual conference put together by the Centre for Independent Studies.

There’s a brochure [PDF]. but essentially Consilium is “leading thinkers from business, politics, policy, academia and the community” talking the “critical issues facing the world” under a modified Chatham House Rule. So I’m not sure how much I’ll be able to tell you afterwards.

I’m on a panel discussion called “Social Creatures: How social media is changing the landscape”, with Iarla Flynn, Google Australia’s head of public policy and government affairs; Nick Holder, a partner at LEK Consulting; and Cassandra Wilkinson, co-founder and president of FBi Radio, and author of Don’t Panic! Nearly Everything is Better than You Think.

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Links for 30 September 2009 through 13 October 2009

Stilgherrian’s links for 30 September 2009 through 13 October 2009, gathered automatically but then left to languish for two weeks before publication.

There’s so many of these links this time that I’ll publish them over the fold. I think I need to get over my fear of the link being published automatically without my checking them first, and my concern that my website won’t look nice if the first post is just a list of links.

Maybe I should just stick these Delicious-generated links in a sidebar? Or do you like having them in the main stream and RSS feed?

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Am I John Birmingham’s inappropriate Muse?

Photograph of John BirminghamI seem to have some really odd Special Powers. I can walk into a strange pub, buy the last few tickets for the meat raffle, and win — much to the chagrin of the regulars. I can also create inappropriate mental images which then persist.

Like “masturbating to tentacle pr0n”.

Yesterday, I made an offhand comment on Twitter to writer John Birmingham (pictured), who had the misfortune of having to watch the Hey Hey It’s Saturday reunion special last night.

This morning, his column Hey, it wasn’t that bad, quotes me by name.

It is, as I say, a Special Power.

20 years after Tianamen

Tank Man — This famous photo, taken on 5 June 1989 by photographer Jeff Widener, depicts an unknown man halting the PLA's advancing tanks near Tiananmen Square.

It’s been 20 years since the Tiananmen Square massacre. Of the many things I’ve seen commemorating it, one of the most powerful was John Birmingham’s simple blog post of that day’s diplomatic messages from the US Embassy in Beijing.

Cable, From: Department of State, Wash DC, To: US Embassy Beijing, and All Diplomatic and Consular Posts, TFCHO1: SITREP 1, 1700 EDT (June 3, 1989)

PLA MOVES ON TIANANMEN, CASULATIES HIGH. EMBASSY BEIJING REPORTS THAT TROOPS USING AUTOMATIC WEAPONS ADVANCED IN TANKS, APCS AND TRUCKS FROM SEVERAL DIRECTIONS ON TIANANMEN SQUARE JUNE 3. THERE WAS CONSIDERABLE RESISTENCE BY DEMONSTRATORS, AND THE NUMBER OF CASUALTIES APPEARS HIGH.

Please read them all and, as I did, take a moment to reflect.

According to Wikipedia, “There were early reports of Chinese Red Cross sources giving a figure of 2,600 deaths, but the Chinese Red Cross has denied ever doing so. The official Chinese government figure is 241 dead, including soldiers, and 7,000 wounded.”

NATO intelligence puts the death toll at 7,000. Some other estimates are even higher.

China has blocked access to most social media sites such as Twitter, search engines, and many others. Yes. Let’s just stifle conversation and pretend it didn’t happen. Cowards.

I’ll wager this photograph of artist Him Lo, taken in Hong Kong yesterday, won’t be seen across the Middle Kingdom either.

[Photo: Tank Man, taken on 5 June 1989 by photographer Jeff Widener, depicts an unknown man halting the PLA’s advancing tanks near Tiananmen Square.]

Welcome to Twitter, Prime Minister

[Update 13 October: Since writing this post last night I’ve written a follow-up: OMFG! Kevin Rudd tweeted again!]

Twitter avatar of @KevinRuddPM

Dear Mr Rudd, it’s wonderful that you’ve joined Twitter. Of course Mr Turnbull was here a month before you, but Twitter has been around more than two years. Even sceptical old me has been here a year. You’re both complete n00bs. May I offer some tips?

The first thing you must understand is that Twitter is about human communication. We already have more formula-driven spin-doctor-approved crap than we’ll ever need. What we want to see is you, Kevin, that smart hard-working control-freak slightly-daggy-but-endearing father of three. The guy who after a long day’s campaigning could still crack a joke with The Chaser crew when they turned up at your home.

This afternoon you walked into the world’s weirdest non-stop front bar cum water cooler conversation and said “Looking forward to communicating with you on Twitter”. Outstanding. And now 430+ people have turned around to pay attention, and quite a few have even said hello. More will join them. What happens next is a conversation. You’ll be judged on that conversation, not what you do elsewhere — though we’ll certainly want to talk about your work. And your pets.

And your tea towels.

I’m guessing that right now your Hollowmen are analysing every reaction to your tweet (singular), agonising over how you should respond. Tell them to piss off. You’re a grown man — you’re the Prime Minister for God’s sake! — so if you can’t talk with a fellow human when they say hello without someone advising you what to say, you might as well give up now.

Just. Be. Yourself.

The second thing, though, is that you will find it strange and challenging. And that’s OK. We all did.

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