A comment on our cousins in New Zealand

Well, I have cousins in New Zealand anyway. Not sure that a huge amount happens there though. The top “business” news story on Google News as I write is:


Cyclist rescued after falling down bank
NZ City – ‎3 hours ago‎

A cyclist has been rescued by helicopter from Paekakariki Hill Road near Wellington after falling down a bank. 10 August 2014. A cyclist has been rescued from a hillside near Wellington after falling down a bank.

Seriously, that’s the top business story for the entire country. What do they do when someone buys a loaf of bread? Set off the air raid sirens in celebration or something?

23 thoughts on “A comment on our cousins in New Zealand”

  1. Clive James once showed a clip of the NZ edition of Crimewatch.
    It featured lost property – sheepskin car seat covers.
    The audience laughed. But they should have wept.

  2. I was assured last night that NZ is a world leading centre of excellence in illegal file sharing, as no one can be bothered to go that far to shut down the servers. Might be something that those understated Kiwis like to play down.
    (I have no idea if that is true, btw.)

  3. My favourite new story ever was in the Chippenham edition of the “Gazette and Herald”. In its entirety it read:

    “Firefighters were called after a calf fell into the River Avon but it had climbed out by the time they arrived”

  4. I remember my local paper having a huge news story on page 3 about a cat which had been locked out of its house by a defective catflap for FOUR HOURS.

    It included picture of angry cat.


  5. bloke (not) in spain

    Compare & contrast:

    When my neighbour got herself fatally stabbed on her doorstep, the story made page 3 in the London Evening Standard.

    NZ sounds like it has its attractions.

  6. This as other commenters have implied is a classic example of why algorithmic processing of data does not produce understanding- and why indeed Google’s whole belief system (Sergei Bryn started off with data mining and has never stopped) is fundamentally broken.

    When you’re producing lots of bad output in advertising targeting, it doesn’t much matter; a few per cent better than random is an advantage. When people think that the same systems can produce sufficient understanding to “know” their users- as the scary Schmidt believes they can do- it is a genuinely broken idea.

  7. Ian B,

    It’s not “fundamentally broken”. Google’s search results are based on an algorithm and laid all the other search indexes and the likes of Yellow Pages to waste.

    Humans are generally better at analysis, prioritisation and categorisation, but they’re also much more expensive. If the accuracy isn’t that important, machines are better economically.

  8. Tim,

    Algorithms do better than random, which is why Google were better than Altavista. But it’s also heavily hand-tweaked (we never know how much so). What the algorithm doesn’t have is any understanding. That’s fine for search results, becuase they don’t matter much, like advertising hits. The hubris that algorithms can do anything deeper afflicts Google and Berners-Lee’s utopian “semantic web” project.

    Basically, algorithms are fine so long as you can tolerate a high error level.

  9. Bloke no Longer in Austria

    About a dozen years ago,I was in Halifax Nova Scotia and the big news there was a story that came straight out of Z Cars or one of those cases that kept Regan and Carter from going after the proper crooks:

    Armed blaggers had raided a supermarket, tied up the staff and stolen all the cigarettes.

  10. @Ian B:

    When people think that the same systems can produce sufficient understanding to “know” their users- as the scary Schmidt believes they can do- it is a genuinely broken idea.

    That is a good thing. It’s bad enough that Google’s kit can collect together everything you’ve ever written, or clicked, or looked at, without having it also understand and potentially object to it.

  11. Bloke in Lower Hutt

    Luke – Sadly we don’t have the bandwidth to do anything so nefarious down here, when I first moved here 8 years ago, the office of the software development company I worked at had a smaller data pipe than I had at home in the UK and things haven’t moved fast enough to catch up any.

    The sum total of our (allegedly) illegal file sharing enterprise is based around a site called MegaUpload set up by Kim DotCom, a fat German ego-maniac who rips off IP from the entertainment industry or a crusading pioneer of internet freedom and benevolent social engineer (who is fat) depending on your point of view.

    I don’t think DotCom is the name he was born with btw.

  12. “a crusading pioneer of internet freedom and benevolent social engineer (who is fat) depending on your point of view.”

    Let’s not forget owner of NZ’s newest political party!

  13. There are reasons that we moved to New Zealand when the kids were young. We live in an affluent Auckland suburb and yet the door is pretty much always unlocked, the kids cycle over to their friends’ for a play at the weekend and everyone knows and keeps an eye out for their neighbours. We had a nasty storm a month or so ago which took out power to most of the neighbourhood for a day or so – next door, who are on gas, opened their kitchen for people to cook and we had everyone charging their phones off our solar power at ours.

    The police crime report in the local rag a couple of weeks ago was “nothing to report, no crimes have been reported in the last couple of weeks, but keep an eye out for each other”.

    The old adage of “Welcome to New Zealand, please wind your watches back 50 years” still holds true!

  14. When I first moved to the UK I was surprised at how unviolent it was – stories of murders never made the newspapers.
    Then I realised it was because they were so common.

  15. Crime still very rare in our corner of the Cotswolds. One burglary a year in our village, that sort of thing.

  16. Bloke in Costa Rica

    I grew up in the Isle of Wight. There is so little news generated that the local paper, the County Press, is only published once a week. It’s absolute dynamite for news of who won the WI jam-making and how young Hayley Attrill (12) of Adgestone came third in the Wessex Regional drum majorettes’ (U14) competition (pictured here with mum Dawn (38) and brother Lee (8)). I remember one incident where three cars were broken into on Ventnor seafront and the headline was “Crime Wave Sweeps Island”. They did have an armed stick-up at a hotel once and it made the front page for three months straight. But as others have pointed out, this is exactly as it should be.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *