Going to vist Auntie Helen


In less than a week, the family and I are heading off on our first family “OE”. We’ll be spending four months in NYC, living in Brooklyn.

For me, this is a working holiday. As it happens, I was contacted by the UN to help redesign their intranet, so I’ll be taking a short sabbatical from Xero. The funny thing is, I’ll be working under former Prime Minister Helen Clark, aka Auntie Helen. Aotearoa represent!

Our kids have never been to the US, so this will be the first time they’ll experience a proper Halloween, Thanksgiving, and fingers crossed, a white Christmas. Plus, it’s the first time they’ll see some of their grandparents, who live in nearby Philadelphia.

Thanks to Google maps, planning this trip online has been awesome. We literally hit the streets and could walk around the neighborhoods with Street View to see which areas were kid friendly. That made a huge difference in our final decision to choose a place in Fort Greene. We could also map out the commute for me to the UN and for the kids to school – with multiple subway routes and commute times. We could also pinpoint nearby restaurants and grocery stores.

Even though I work with this technology all day, every day, that still blows my mind.

Just a few more sleeps until we’re in the Big Apple.

Then, before we know it, right when it’s getting painfully cold, we’ll be back home – just in time for summer.

Designing a game changer

I’ve always drawn inspiration from game design – it’s an obvious way to make interactive experiences that people enjoy.

For the inaugural Wellington Web Meetup I did a presentation on how game mechanics and the human need to play can be applied to interaction design to transform tasks that are painful and dull into experiences that are fun and addictive.

Here are some more great materials I’ve been collecting on the subject…

Please hook me up with your links on the topic…


  • I went back to the USA for the first time in 7.5 years – I had an awesome trip!
  • I presented at the Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco
  • Xero won two Webby awards
  • I turned 40
  • I’m sporadically Twittering
  • I’m addicted to Word Scramble on the iPhone
  • I’ve been on a roll reading good books with a common theme: non-fiction, history, mostly about the American northeast (where I grew up), many about epic pioneers of industry overcoming impossible odds, usually involving some element of thrilling suspense and murder
  • We’re doing some long overdue renovations to our house. In the clean up, I found a box of mixtapes that I’m now dubbing to MP3. Reminds me of this article about the Walkman. Some of the tapes I found go back to my high school days!
  • I still need to upload my predictions for 2009 that I presented at the start of the year. I’ve already nailed some of my biggies!
  • Coming up: I’ll be speaking at WordCamp in Wellington and Web Directions in Sydney.

Seeing the connections

This demo of Parallex, a plug-in for Freebase, shows multi-faceted searches which you can visualise on a map or a timeline. The narrator snidely comments that you can’t do that on Google, but actually you can with Google Experimental, as well as the Google Visualization API. Nevertheless, it’s still pretty impressive.

Freebase Parallax: A new way to browse and explore data from David Huynh on Vimeo.

Adobe User Group meeting

I’m going to be doing a condensed version of my Skyrize rapid prototyping in Flash workshop at the upcoming Adobe user group meeting in Wellington. Should be good fun.

Make sure to register here http://wellingtoncsug.eventbrite.com/

When: Tuesday, 3 Feb, 5.30pm
Where: Modica Group, Level 4, Anvil House, 138-140 Wakefield Street, Wellington

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I predict 2009…

Theoretically, I hold the title for ‘Visionary of the year 2008′.

How well did I do? Can I hold my title? Will Kiwis re-elect a tall poppy? Come along to this year’s Unlimited Potential ‘Blogger’s Predict 2009′ event.

Price: FREE (price includes free pizza and beer!!)
When: Tuesday 29 January 2009, 5:30pm
Where: Wellington Chamber of Commerce, Level 28, The Majestic Centre, 100 Willis Street, Wellington

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1996 calling

I never thought I’d see this again!

Net Cafe, a TV show in the 90′s, did an episode on music and the web with a really good interview of my old friend Dan Prothero, along with a cringe worthy interview of my brother Peter and me.

The clip of my brother and me starts 7 minutes in. Way back machine, indeed.

Lego Pinball

As a present for the kids for Xmas I came up with this idea to create a pinball machine. I wanted them to be able to design their own ramps, tunnels and traps and the boys LOVE their Lego.

I’m no builder (quite the opposite) but I found this incredibly easy to build. And it’s incredibly fun to design, play and perfect.

lego pinball - under construction

Friends forever

I’ve never been a fan of Facebook, but suddenly I’ve been reconnected to a whole bunch of old friends from high school, university, even summer camp, all thanks to Facebook. Some of these people I’d completely forgotten about, some I still can’t remember (!) and some I’d thought about every couple years and even googled, with no results.

This has created a really odd and somewhat unnerving phenomenon for me. People I considered a distant memory now tell me about their daily minutia. Friends from different parts of my life mix together in a schizophrenic cocktail party filled with small talk. Memories long forgotten are resurfacing.

To me this is interesting because it represents a generational turning point. My generation is reconnecting in a way previous generations never experienced. Long lost friends and acquaintances are reuniting from across the years and across the world.

Meanwhile, the current generation were ‘born connected’. They will always be connected, they can never lose touch. Is it a burden to carry around all that baggage? In different phases of my life I’ve had the chance to discover different aspects of my personality and form very different relationships. I wonder how that works when all the people you have ever known are observing and commenting on your every step?!

Key to nowhere

In response to some great comments in my last post about the US and NZ elections…

Auntie Helen and Cullen made some highly unpopular but incredibly smart decisions by conserving cash in anticipation of lean times ahead. Despite being labeled as lefty socialists, they’ve acted as true fiscal conservatives, while so-called conservatives wanted to give tax hand outs to people that didn’t need them.

Meanwhile, they presided over one of the best periods of economic growth in NZ history. When I arrived in NZ in 2001 Kiwis welcomed me to the 3rd world, wondering why I moved from America to scrape by on the Kiwi-Peso. Helen and Cullen don’t necessarily deserve all the credit for the boom, nevertheless Kiwis did extraordinarily well during their administration. The vast majority of people who whinged about not getting tax cuts were simply being greedy and selfish.

An esteemed colleague of mine says we need to grow the pie, not just slice it up. Helen did both. I doubt John Key will do either. Like self-proclaimed fiscal conservatives in the US, they say one thing and do the complete opposite as beautifully portrayed in this cartoon and this brilliant NY Times interactive chart.

In his speech John Key begrudgingly managed to squeeze in a few obligatory comments about the rest of the country that didn’t vote for him. But he was completely snide in his manner. Ironically, I think that’s what so many people disliked about Helen and Cullen: their manner. Many people voted based on the personalities of the candidates, not their policies.

I don’t think that John Key is the worst person for the job. Brash and English would have been far worse. And it’s not like he’s as evil and devastating as Bush. However, I don’t trust Key. He has contradicted himself far too many times – in shamefully transparent maneuvers to secure votes, never as genuine epiphanies. He brings no new ideas to the table, every idea he has is either old thinking from the bygone century or stolen from Helen. He has no nuance, he see things as black or white, good or bad, and therefore responds with blunt instruments when surgical precision is required. To add insult to injury, he’s partnering with ACT, a party with a truly primeval worldview.

In a time when world leaders, particularly key allies like the US and Oz, were undermining the fundamental tenets of democracy and raiding their economies for the benefit of corporate profiteering Helen defiantly and vocally opposed these tyrants. She defined New Zealand as a bastion of independent spirit and thoughtful leadership in a world gone mad. A special place of enlightened people.

Now that these same allies have finally come to their senses and leapfrogged ahead with brilliant leadership, NZ has arbitrarily reverted to choosing a mediocre, unoriginal, uninspired leader who has no true convictions and no real direction.

It’s a damn shame.