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The Importance of Social Media at the Local Level

Social media is changing the ways that businesses talk to their customers and in a good way.

In days gone by (read before the internet) just about the only way to communicate to your customers when they weren’t standing at your front counter, was either through the letterbox with a leaflet drop, on the radio or TV.

TV and Radio campaigns were and still are, broad-based and not able to be targeted to individual stores within a group, such as a large franchise group.  The message is generally a national or state one and it is talking to not only current customers, but it is trying to gain new customers as well.  This isn’t a bad thing either and is very necessary.

The letterbox can be localised but can be costly as print runs with only a few thousand leaflets is cost-prohibitive.  As with TV and radio, it too is talking to current customers and trying to get new customers as well.

It’s 2012 and there is a way of advertising which is not only very cheap for local businesses (franchisees generally) it is also just about the only way a brand can talk directly to the local customers and potential local customers.

Social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and Foursquare allow local franchisees an opportunity to talk directly to their customers.  The customers who part with their hard-earned over the counter.  The customers who the local franchisee gets to know by name and recognises as they shop in the same supermarket.

I’m not discounting the need for there to be a national presence for a brand.  Far from it.  Quite often the national pages on social media can deliver clear, national messages, like the launch of a new product or advertisement or a national competition or offer.  What the national presence can’t do or won’t do is talk to the customer who has just tweeted that they loved the service at their local store and that customer recognises that the person talking to them online is the same person who talks to them face to face as well.

Quick Communication

The local franchisee can also quickly communicate to their customers about a happy hour special or deliver some great news about something a team member has announced such as getting married or winning an award etc.  You know, stuff that is personalising the message at the local level.  Or for some reason, there is a lot of product left over due to a slow day so the local franchisee sends out a status update or email to the LIKERS/FOLLOWERS etc that there is a special being run this afternoon between 4pm and 5pm.  The national franchisor is not going to send out an offer which will only benefit a small portion of their follower counts.

This leads me to an important point.  If a local store wants to run a special, eg a Friday Free Upgrade or a cheap Tuesday, the national franchisor cannot advertise this as it may cause confusion with followers going to another destination asking for the offer which is not available there.  This will not only annoy the customer but also the other franchisee as they feel pressured to honour the deal that another store has going.

The other important factor is local community involvement.  The local page can assist with letting the local community about a fundraiser at the local school or sporting club.  It can even donate to the local fundraising effort by offering a special deal with the proceeds being donated.  The local page can put up a photo of a local student who is representing the local area somehow.  This builds loyalty and community involvement and customers will reward the local franchisee through time.

Through the local store, the overall brand can earn a reputation of caring about the communities it has its brand presence in.  This is so important for ongoing success, no matter the size of the organisation.  McDonald’s, as an example, is still holding McHappy Days each year to assist with the Ronald McDonald House charity.  They still sponsor local sporting teams.  They are one of the biggest companies on the planet yet they still have a very important local presence.

Guidelines

If a franchisee does have a local page then it is important that there are guidelines set up by the franchisor which will need to be followed.  This may include the banning of obscene language and images, incorrect use of the logo, promotion of non-core products, etc.  The local pages can be monitored by the franchisors marketing team and the marketing team can send out core messages which they recommend be used on the local pages.  The marketing team should also provide professional food shots for use on local Pinterest pages as well because we all know a picture tells a thousand words.

If after training, the local franchisee is not operating the page as to the guidelines then remedial training or the closing down of the page may be considered.

It is important that the franchisor rewards those who are doing it right by allowing local pages, instead of implementing policy based on the few who may not.

The End Game

At the end of the day, the use of social media is to grow a loyal following of customers and potential customers.  If used correctly, social media should assist in growing sales and revenue and therefore profits to the franchisee and royalties and therefore profits back to the franchisor.

The local page does not replace the national page but together they exist in a symbiotic relationship, both feeding off of each other with the same goal in mind…GROWING SALES.

When You Go Offline and Don’t Come Back – Where is Melissa Stanford?

Friendships in this modern era take on many different forms but still the most popular form of friendship is the face to face, physical friendship.

In real life when someone you know dies or gets seriously ill, it only takes a few hours for that news to spread.  If you weren’t that close to someone but you knew of them, you may find out eventually but generally you will find out.

In this new era of the internet and Twitter and Facebook new types of friendships are formed.  Many of these people do not meet and do not have mutual friends.

What happens when you are friends with someone online and all of a sudden, they disappear?  This person who has disappeared offline is usually someone who would tweet a lot or update their blog a lot or post regular Facebook status updates.

One day they just stop all activity online.

Why?

What has happened to make this happen?

In some instances it is because the person has grown tired of this particular activity.  They get bored and move onto something else but usually they will tell their online friends that they are going and wish them well.

There are other reasons though such as someone dies or is incapacitated.  Some people’s online lives are secret to their friends and family.  Or if friends and family are aware of their online activities, some do not know their password to log in and tell their online friends what has happened to them.

The reason I am writing this today is because there is someone who I knew online who just disappeared and I am left wondering what happened to her.  This person had been sick but had not disclosed what ailment she had.  She had a successful travel blog about her desire to come to Australia (she’s American).  She tweeted regularly and updated her blogs Facebook profile often.

Then it all stopped.

Immediately.

No warning.

No goodbye.

Nothing.

Her accounts are all still active but there is no activity on them.  It is like she has disappeared off of the face of the earth.

Ok some people go offline for a few days or maybe a week or two.  Most often because they need a break or are away and cannot access the internet as much as they would want.  But this person has not updated in over 6 months and I gotta tell you I am a little worried about her and I am not the only one.

A mutual online friend has tried to make contact with her as well with no luck.

Her name is Melissa Stanford and her Twitter user name is @melissa_abroad and she hasn’t tweeted since September 21, 2010.  Here is her last tweet

In this tweet below, she tweeted about not being well but she did say she was getting better.  Then nothing.

About 10 days earlier she tweeted this;

You know from this that something was up.  I’m just not sure what it is/was.

Melissa’s twitter profile was pretty busy. She followed 431 people and was followed by 617.  This is a pretty good number for a non celeb.  She had tweeted 2,296 times which makes her a moderate user.  At this rate of tweets and followers you are considered to be a regular tweeter and you generally don’t just stop.

Her Facebook page has not been updated since August 25, 2010 either.

Her website, www.theinnocentabroad.com has recently been unavailable but when I last checked to see if Melissa was around about a month ago it was still up and running albeit with no new activity since August, 2010.  It is possible that Melissa has closed it down but why didn’t she also close down her Twitter and Facebook pages?  I think the reason the webpage is no longer accessible is because the account has not been renewed and the ISP has closed it.  That’s my gut feel.  Twitter and Facebook are both free so with no bills to be paid there is no need to close them down.

I asked a mutual Twitter friend @brookeschoenman if she had heard from Melissa and she said she hadn’t either but would send her an email as she had her address.  As of today, which is a month later, still no reply.

Melissa’s other online profiles are untouched as well including LinkedIn and Digg.

Melissa has dropped off of the online planet and she did it rapidly.

I am usually an optimistic person but I am afraid the worst has happened.  I have no evidence to prove otherwise but my gut feeling is that Melissa has passed away or is totally and permanently incapacitated.  I really hope I am wrong.

So if anyone who is reading this knows Melissa Stanford from Nevada in the United States, can you please shed some light on what has happened to her?  Sure we aren’t face to face friends, but we are all friends in a different form and we want to know what has happened to our lovely friend, Melissa.

____________________________

UPDATE (2 May 2011)

Great news. A friend of Melissa’s saw this post and made contact and provided Melissa’s new email address. 

After corresponding via email, and in accordance with Melissa’s request, all I can say is that she is alive, which is the best news possible. 

Many thanks to everyone who has made a comment or forwarded this post around in an effort to find out what happened to Melissa.  Luckily this time, the outcome is a positive one.

Jack

_______________________________

Floodageddon 2011 – Through Jack’s Eyes

As I write this post, over 28,000 homes in South East Queensland have been severely damaged or destroyed in the worst flooding to take place in Queensland in over 30 years.  In fact, over 75% of Queensland has been declared a disaster zone. To put this in perspective for my northern hemisphere mates, that is the size of Texas in the United States or the combined size of Germany and France.  That’s a whole lotta area, under water.

That’s all I will write about the actual problem.  Queensland flooded and flooded in a bloody major way.  It’s like someone forgot to turn off the world’s biggest shower and 3 months later realised it but by that time, the bath was full and the water was flowing over the sides and flooding the entire bathroom.

Yep, stupid analogy but you get the gist.  It rained a lot and it kept on raining.

You’ve all seen the footage and seen the news and read the papers and online about what happened in the South East corner of Queensland which has so far claimed 20 lives, not including those who died in December in the central parts of Queensland.

No, what I want to write about in this post is my own personal experience.  Of what I have felt and seen and witnessed since 10th January.  My story is an easy one.  I am nowhere near the Brisbane River or the Bremer River in Ipswich.  I am a couple of hours away from the Lockyer Valley region decimated by the Toowoomba inland tsunami.  I know only one person who came close to having their house flooded and he avoided that by living on the second floor of an apartment building in West End.  I have suffered no loss and no one I know has suffered or loss either.

So why do I even care?

Well I hope that question will be answered in the following words.  Join me, won’t you?

Along with millions of other Aussies, I watched the devastation of the floods in central Queensland.  Towns I have visited such as Emerald, Rockhampton, Bundaberg, were all being inundated by a brown, liquid monster.  We looked on as our country brothers and sisters dealt with the disaster the way we know Queenslanders do.  With humour and good grace.  Images of people, always blokes actually, walking waist deep in water with the pub slowly receding behind them and a carton of beer on their shoulder and a smile on their face was common.  A pub with a hastily built dirt levee built around it and renamed the Flotel instead of Hotel.  Kids on esky lids swimming in crocodile and snake infested waters without a care in the world.  Humour is a big part of our society and we would need to call on it many times to get through the days and weeks ahead.

Queenslanders love their beer and so of course you save the pub before saving the schools! It doesn’t matter if the school goes under anyway. It’s the school holidays and there’ll be plenty of time to dry it out and get it up and running again before school resumes.  But we must not run out of beer!  This is a crisis and the only good way of handling a crisis is by looking at it head on – through the bottom of a brown stubbie that is!  That’s Queensland and we wouldn’t change it for anything.

Yes it is fair to say that Queenslanders handle things with a relaxed attitude but don’t let that fool you.  The job still gets done.

Not understating it but there were thousands of people displaced and evacuated.  Hundreds of homes and businesses were flooded and after weeks of vision on the news and websites and newspapers, Channel 9 decided to hold a telethon to raise money for the regional centres of Queensland.  It was hastily arranged and broadcast live from Brisbane’s Southbank Piazza on Sunday, January 9.  The piazza is open air to a certain degree and the millions of viewers across Australia could see the monsoonal rain that was continually pelting down over Brisbane as entertainers such as David Campbell and Tina Area sang their hearts out.  I am sure the sight of this never ending curtain of rain contributed to the telethon raising over $10 million that night alone but no one knew that night, that the following afternoon would see a terrifying flash flood hit the towns of Toowoomba and the Lockyer Valley towns of Murphy’s Creek and Grantham which would claim at least 18 lives.

This wall of water which destroyed whatever was in its path was still speeding down the range and Ipswich and Brisbane were in its way.  With the Wivenhoe Dam, built to prevent Brisbane from flooding as badly as it did in 1974, releasing two Sydney Harbours worth of water daily to avoid it collapsing and joining together with the water from the flash flooding in Toowoomba, Brisbane and Ipswich and all suburbs in between were about to get wet.  Very wet.

Then the call went out for volunteers to help the council and SES fill sand bags.  A lot of them!  On the Tuesday night, it was still pissing down in Brisbane.  It hadn’t let up and by this stage the governments had advised that low lying areas of Brisbane were going to flood and we were warned that the devastating floods of 1974 were nothing compared to what we were going to see in the coming days.

One of the many sangbag volunteers. Here is Erin Louise Tate from Brisbane’s Southside getting ready to volunteer. @erinlouisetate via Twitter

I love Twitter.  People knock it for whatever reason and they can but a call went out across Twitter (as well as other mainstream media) on that Tuesday night and boy didn’t the people respond.  People who I follow on Twitter, who I have never met but legends still the same started to head out into the rain and the dark of the night to fill up sandbags.  People were heading out at 10pm to lend a hand.  Let me make a comment too that these people were in no danger of their houses being flooded, so they weren’t making sandbags for themselves but for total strangers!  My wife was not home that night so I couldn’t head out but I was on the Twitter #qldfloods feed trying to send out as much information as possible.  What else could I do?  I felt a strong desire to help.   Earlier that day I was out and about and had my journey north to Morayfield interrupted by rising flood waters in Burpengary.

Another flooded road which is damaged at Burpengary. Flood waters at Burpengary. Photo by Jack McClane.

So while watching the news and my Twitter time line I saw the volunteer army that was about to take over SEQ takes its first steps.  I was about to say, first, tentative steps, but it wasn’t tentative.  It was absolute.  It was brilliant and I felt a sense of pride in my fellow Queenslanders that was only going to multiply over the coming days.

I updated my blog to try and centralise the mammoth amount of information that was out there.  Information on how and where to donate, road closure links, emergency services links, how to volunteer etc as well as links to videos and some photos as well to show the people of the world what Queensland was up against.  It was only a small thing but if one person got the relevant info from it and if someone else donated because of it, then good, it did its job!

Wednesday came around and residents in the low lying areas were still packing up their houses as quickly as they could and get their possessions to higher ground.  Sandbag volunteers were still in full force throughout the day and the media kept us up to date with what was happening in Ipswich as the Bremer River neared its peak of 20 metres.

The Brisbane River peak was coming Thursday morning at 4am.  So predawn, the morning news shows fired up their cameras and lights and went to air with the on air guys such as Channel 9’s Karl Stefanovic, himself a Queenslander, crossing to reporters at places where the water was already overflowing the banks of the river.  The river didn’t hit the predicted peak but still thousands of homes and businesses had been destroyed.

Then we saw an image of a 300 metre, 1,000 tonne section of the famous Brisbane Riverwalk which had broken free, floating down the river towards the 12 lane Gateway Bridge. Well the Sir Leo Hielsher Bridge to be accurate but the newly renamed bridge was back to its former moniker for the duration of this crisis.  The Riverwalk was travelling at a very fast speed and who knows if it would have caused any real damage to the bridge but one man and his tugboat didn’t want to take that risk.  While listening to his radio and hearing of the runaway piece of Riverwalk, Tugboat skipper, Doug Hislop and the smallest tugboat I have ever seen called Mavis, headed out into the fast moving Brisbane River just in time to manoeuvre the Riverwalk into a parallel position and guide it through the massive pylons of the Gateway Bridge and to safety at the mouth of the river.  Doug and Mavis gained instant fame and hopefully fortune and a new hero was unearthed.  In his interviews afterwards he was very humble and said that he just did what anyone would do.  I thought that Doug must have been on standby with orders from the government to intercept anything that could be considered dangerous.  He wasn’t.  He just stepped up when he was needed and joined the long list of volunteers that Queensland has seen over the few weeks.

The waters started to recede.  Brisbane had been spared the consequences of a peak equal to or higher than the disastrous 1974 floods.  While thousands were affected, many more thousands were spared.

But still people needed help.  A lot of help.

With the receding water levels, the images started to emerge from the murky brown water.  We at home, and when I say we, I mean all viewers, were shown images of houses completely devastated.  Water had gone over the roofs of many homes and to the ceilings and beyond in most others.  Whatever the water touched, it destroyed.  These poor, poor people. Most are uninsured because most insurance companies will not cover for flood damage, were re-entering their homes to find nothing left.

The clean up was going to take a huge effort.  The army was called in by the federal government but a bigger army formed.  The volunteers!  50,000 of them registered online to assist.  Many more just hit the gridlocked streets to lend a hand.  That Friday afternoon I asked my twelve year old daughter, Michaela, or Mick as I like to call her, if she wanted to help out on Saturday.  Before the words were out of my mouth she said yes.

Saturday morning we prepared for a hard day’s work.  We went to Bunnings to get some supplies.  Top of the list was gum boots.  Driving into the carpark I saw an awesome sight.  People!  Everywhere!  Bunnings is normally always busy but this was nuts.  People were walking out of there with gumboots in hand.  Brooms, shovels, gurneys, scrub brushes.  There was the usual sausage sizzle and it was doing a roaring trade.  The sign on the BBQ said that all proceeds were going to the flood appeal.  We quickly found what we needed and headed to the checkout spending about $100 on what we needed knowing that I would have spent double that if I had to.

A mate of mine, Mark was organising a BBQ in Graceville and asked me to assist with getting some bread rolls.  Working for Bakers Delight I was able to quickly get a stack of bread rolls donated.  Thanks to Bakers Delight at Windsor and Aspley for the kind donation.  We picked up the Aspley ones and headed to the western suburbs of Brisbane.  This area of Brisbane is my old stomping grounds.  I grew up in Toowong and I know the back streets. We’re taking the back streets because the radio is advising us that the roads are packed.  They’re packed not only because of the volunteers and general commuters but also because of the bloody rubber neckers or flood tourists as I called, them heading into the flood zone to take some pictures to put on Facebook and to tell their grandkids that they were there for the great flood of 2011.  Idiots.

Mark rang me and said he was almost out of sausages and could I get some more.  We made our way to Woolies at Toowong and bought all of the snags we could – about 88 – and a slab of bottled water and some ice and proceeded on the journey.  Taking more back streets after seeing the gridlock we eventually couldn’t avoid the congestion as the tiny bridge that links Chelmer to Indooroopilly, the Walter Taylor Bridge, was struggling to cope with the volume of cars.

We couldn’t go the way I wanted into Graceville thanks to a couple of police roadblocks but eventually I found a way in and after explaining to another police officer that I was in fact there to help and not a rubber necker he waved us through.

A typical scene in flood ravaged Graceville. Photo by Jack McClane

That’s when we saw the destruction for the first time with our own eyes.  By this stage we had been on the road for about 3 hours and it was near 1pm.  A lot of work had happened.  The kerb was full of rubbish.  Well rubbish now.  Prized possessions a few days earlier.  It was stacked so high and as a wide as each house.  It was endless.  Then I saw a sight which filled me with so much pride.  The street, a normal suburban street was a hive of activity.  There were people everywhere.  Covered in mud and yuk.

We drove up the street and found Mark.  We dropped off the supplies. Our original plan was to drop and run and head to Goodna, one of the worst affected areas but the struggle it took to get into this flood zone was enough for us, so we parked and donned our gum boots and gloves and with buckets and spades and brooms and sponges we set foot down the road to help where we could.  We went house to house and asked if they needed a hand.  Each house said no thanks, we have all the help we need.  I shit you not, each house had heaps of people in them.  They weren’t kidding, they did have all the help they needed.  One man told us to go and find an elderly gentleman who kept on walking past with a wheel barrow full of rubbish.  He wasn’t sure where he lived but it appeared that he was doing plenty of hard yakka on his own.  We searched for him but couldn’t find him so we eventually returned back to the BBQ area and it was there that a dump truck turned up and we just started loading it with the debris on the side of the roads.  There must have been twenty people loading those trucks each time.  A truck would pull up and get filled and leave.  No one was in charge.  No one needed to be.  Everybody knew what they had to do.  We got filthy dirty and we tried to be careful not to scratch ourselves.  We avoided the nails hammered into now unrecognisable pieces of furniture.  We picked up big pieces and small pieces.  Everything went into the truck.  There was no discrimination there in the streets of Graceville.  Everything was destroyed.

This one bloke, Joe, was up in the back of the truck pulling the rubbish into it as the people below lifted it to his position.  The truck filled quickly and Joe, with his long straggly hair caked in mud and sweat just kept on lifting heavy objects into place.  At one stage he slipped and his side went thundering into the side of the dump truck.  You could tell that it hurt him. He grimaced in pain. I was sure he had cracked a rib such was the force of the fall.  He gave it a rub, took a deep breath and got back to it.  Later on while waiting for another truck, Joe came over and got an ice cold can of coke from Mark and I asked him if he was ok.  He said he was but I doubted it.  I asked him which house was his.  He said none of them.  I asked him if he knew anyone in the street.  He said he didn’t.  He said he just couldn’t watch anymore of it from home and that he had to do something.  His wife was watching the kids and he came here to help out.  Like so many others.  He was willing to crack a rib for total strangers.  He wouldn’t have cared if he did.  None of us would have if we were hurt.  A cracked rib is nothing compared to those who lost their lives in this flood or the loss of treasured possessions.

We helped load debris into the back of trucks. Photo by Jack McClane

Mick and I went for a walk around the corner and we found ourselves next to the river.  We were that close.  We saw many people working in their homes.  Using hoses and gurneys and brooms to get rid of the muck. This one guy was sitting out the front of his house gently cleaning old number plates which a few days earlier, probably adorned his garage wall.  It seemed strange to me at the time that his efforts were being utilised on a mundane item but then I realised that while it was a mundane item to me, it meant the world to him and that is all that matters.

People everywhere were doing the best they could to clean up.  There is no instruction manual or pamphlet to tell you what to do and what order to do it in after a flood.  There also didn’t need to be.  Judging by what we were seeing, people were getting the job done.  It didn’t matter if they started with the smaller stuff first.  If that is what it took them to get the job done, then so be it.

We came across an army roadblock.  There was a group of soldiers clearing a shitload of mud off the road to try and reopen it.  There were about four cars waiting to get through.  They wouldn’t for a while.  I heard one of the soldiers tell one of the other soldiers that a couple of girls a couple of houses up and made them an offer.  If the soldiers washed their cars for them they could also wash their boobs!  It made me laugh.  There was that Queensland spirit.  Even in times of crisis, the chicks just love the Aussie soldiers and they were cracking jokes about it.  I was about to ask which house and was getting myself into car cleaning mode when I remembered that Michaela was with me still.  Bugger!  I’m kidding!

The Army was called into service and assisted with removing debris in their Unimog’s. Photo by Jack McClane

I asked the soldier how long the road block was going to be in place.  He said he didn’t know. So I told him I would tell the now considerable long line of cars that it was closed off.  So we started walking back to our position and I told each car to do a Ubolt.  There were no complaints other than one dickhead who argued with another army jeep that pulled up alongside him.  I said to the guy that it wasn’t their fault and we continued to walk back and tell each car.  There were probably 20 cars that went back in the direction in which they had just come.  No probs.

During this walk we also came across many different volunteers who approached us and asked us if we would like a sandwich or a cold drink or a biscuit.  It was incredible the amount of people who were offering food.  We declined each time as we had brought our own food and drinks and the stuff they had was better suited to all of the other volunteers.  It’s strange, even though we had worked hard as well, I didn’t feel like I was a volunteer.  I wasn’t a victim.  I was just me and that people who really needed that stuff were inside their homes doing it tough.

Mark and Annette fed the masses all day. You can see a destroyed Convenience store behind with the sludge and mud all over the front area. Photo by Jack McClane

Mark who had a smile on his face all day while feeding hungry volunteers had set up the BBQ with his beautiful girlfriend, Annette.  Their spirits were high, even being out in the hot, humid sun and as another volunteer or helper walked past, they offered them a sanga on bread or an ice cold drink.  They had coke and lemonade and water and juice and poppers.  They catered for everyone.  They also had sunscreen and hand disinfectant so that people could wash their hands and kill off the germs before eating.  They thought of everything.

Next to their car I noticed a whole heap of supplies including toilet paper, tissues, long life milk and assorted tinned foods.  It turned out that the council had dropped off these essential supplies so that residents could take some if they were needed.  I thought how good was that!  The different governments involved in this crisis, being the federal, state and local had performed brilliantly throughout this whole crisis.  The information was unbelievable and the fact that council had organised for these emergency supplies to be made available was unreal.  As it turned out no one really wanted the supplies as most people were not staying in their homes.  Most of the homes were unliveable and therefore these items would just be sitting in empty homes.  Annette had a great idea to make up some care packages and hand them out.  So we did and with the last few we loaded them into my car for when we were leaving and found some people who would take them down the street.  Michaela handed them out with so much empathy.  I am so proud of Michaela as well.  She didn’t hesitate to volunteer when I asked her and during the cleanup she turned to me and said, “Dad I am so happy I came.  I feel like I am helping”.  She was helping and doing a bloody good job too!  She’s only 12 but she showed that kids of today care about their world and their neighbours.  She asked if we could come back and volunteer as well.  What a special kid she is.  I thought she would get a valuable life lesson from this and that is why I asked her.  She’ll never forget and I am sure it will make her an even better person, if that is at all possible!

Michaela delivers a care package to a local resident. Photo by Jack McClane

There are so many sad stories in that street alone.  One resident was telling me that he had no insurance and that he lost everything.  Luckily he was only renting but as his lease was almost up he would not be returning.  He was upbeat and positive and would just get on with starting again.  Similar stories were being told up and down that area.  There were no tears or arguments.  In fact it was just the opposite.  There was plenty of laughter.  People were upbeat.  There was an air of confidence in the street.  Yes they were down but they weren’t out.  They would start again.  They would rebuild.

I mentioned earlier that the governments have been terrific in this crisis.  During the height of it, Queensland Premier, Anna Bligh conducted bi-hourly press conferences to keep the public informed.  Brisbane Lord Mayor Campbell Newman was front and centre with shirt rolled up to his elbows, not a tie in sight, and informed the people of exactly what was coming.  Our Prime Minister, Julia Gillard nodded and agreed with what was being said and promised to provide money where needed but she really didn’t have much to offer as the lower levels of government did that job superbly.  Only a few short weeks ago Anna Bligh was on a hiding to nothing and would likely lose the next state government election.  Now she is Superwoman and infallible in the eyes of the Queensland public and while I am no fan of hers, she has been bloody brilliant.  At one stage in a press conference she stood before the cameras and the journalists to give another update and to inform us of another confirmed death. She said while holding back tears:

“As we weep for what we have lost, and as we grieve for family and friends and we confront the challenge that is before us, I want us to remember who we are.  We are Queenslanders. We’re the people that they breed tough, north of the border. We’re the ones that they knock down, and we get up again.”

I had a lump in my throat and held back the tears.  She was 100% right.  We are Queenslanders and we are tough.  What a speech to say to her people who have relied on our leader to LEAD and she has done that in spades.  Congrats to Mrs Bligh.  Unlike your namesake, you will not be the subject of a mutiny and I hope that when the finger pointing undoubtedly starts, that people will realise that this was an act of nature and that the government isn’t to blame.  I know there are people who will argue that Wivenhoe should have been released earlier and I am sure the inquiry will determine whether that is what should have happened or not but if it was, the fault is in procedure but not in a person or people.

I am so proud to be a Queenslander!  I wasn’t born here but moved here from Adelaide when I was seven in 1979.  I’ve been here long enough to call myself a Queenslander and I am damn proud to do so.  I have welled up plenty of times over this last week or so.  When I saw people like Erin, volunteer to go out into the rain and fill sandbags was one time.  Another was seeing the long lines of volunteers at the Brisbane City Council registration points, ready to go into battle to fight for Queenslanders. I’ve welled up seeing images of people sandbagging and helping each other out.  I cried when I saw a sign some young girls were holding at the T20 cricket match at the MCG last week saying “We are with you QLD” even as flood waters began to encroach into Victoria.  I welled up when I saw a couple in Brisbane CBD, the day after the peak had damaged inner city businesses, they were walking down the street, covered in mud but walking hand in hand.  Despite the damage to their business, they still had each other.  It was a beautiful moment but one I wished had never had to happen.

An exhausted couple, walk hand in hand in Brisbane’s CBD during the clean up. Photo by Jack McClane

Yes, there is a spirit in Queensland.  I can’t quite tell you what it is.  It is something you need to experience yourself.  As our mighty State of Origin team has shown over the past 30 years, you can never write off a Queenslander.  And when Billy Moore proudly called out that iconic call of ‘Queenslander’ during a State of Origin match in 1995, a new rally cry was born and when Queenslanders are down and fighting, just hearing that yelled out will add strength to any given situation.  I am proud to say I have heard that call a few times this last couple of weeks and every time I do, the hairs on the back of my neck stand up and I know that everything will be ok.

We still need plenty of help. There is still work to do.  Please continue to talk about it and donate and volunteer where possible.  I still have the information on my blog and you can access that here.

I want to thank Australia for giving a damn about Queensland.  Seeing my great country pull together has been awe inspiring.  We certainly do live in the lucky country!  I also want to point out the great work that the QLD Police Service has done providing timely information to the citizens of this great state.  Their Facebook page is great and the inclusion of their Flood Mythbusters has been invaluable to quash rumours and not cause a panic.  Of course a special thanks to the SES and emergency services who risk their lives to save ours.  Well done.  And of course to the many volunteers either directly in the flood zones or in the many evacuation centres or those who are baking or cooking or behind the keyboard sending out vital information via social networks like Twitter and Facebook.  A special mention to @meshel_laurie who has been an awesome provider of information.  She wasn’t the only with so many of the Twitterati pitching in. I won’t mention you individually because I don’t want to offend anyone by leaving them out.  You know who you are and a job well done.

Normally the media need to sensationalise to make a story more interesting than it actually is.  This story was so big that for once they didn’t need to invent stories.  I think the media reported this story brilliantly.  Most of the networks had rolling coverage throughout the day and night.  They did a great job.  Well done to the media for once, telling it as it had to be told.  Truthfully!

As I finalise this post, the time is 9.40pm, Thursday, 20 January 2011 and it is absolutely bucketing down outside.  With a king tide due tomorrow there is more risk of flash flooding.  Mother Nature can be a total bitch sometimes as she has demonstrated in Queensland over the past couple of months.  She can destroy homes and property and roads and buildings and cars and trucks.  She can come screaming towards you with nothing but destruction in her eye but there is one thing she cannot take and that is the resilience and the strength and the attitude of Queenslanders and Aussies alike.

Queenslander!

p.s.  The fundraising continues.  With a damage bill likely to top over $30 billion we need all we can get.  There are plenty of celebrity auctions on and every street corner has a fundraiser going.  The Barnes family have released an album on iTunes call Floodlight for only $4.99 and you can also buy “Love You Queensland” for $1.69 at iTunes.  It’s a great song, re-recorded just for this occassion.  Check it out.  Those goosebumps are back!

UPDATE:  12 months later, I wrote again about the floods and the now famous, Queensland spirit. I hope you enjoy it. Click here to read it.

FB T.rolls

As Australia receives home our 17th casualty in the fight against terror in Iraq and Afghanistan, a Facebook tribute page set up to honour, Private Nathan Bewes is the latest tribute page to be desecrated by serial pests, known as ‘trolls’.  The trolls post obnoxious and quite frankly rude and disgusting comments on a site which is meant to be a place for family, friends and a grateful nation to express their sympathy to a man who gave his life in the pursuit of freedom so that we can have, amongst other things, the right to freedom of speech.

I heard on the Michael Smith afternoon show today on 4BC Radio here in Brisbane, that a tribute page set up to honour Private Bewes had been attacked by trolls on the day that Private Bewes’ body arrived back in Brisbane. Private Bewes died last week in Afghanistan after being killed by an IED (Improvised Explosive Device) while on patrol.

Here is an example of the disrespect on the wall of the tribute page

….and it continues with more idiocy which I won’t show here.

So as you can see, some lowlife scum, has set up a fake Nathan Bewes profile and pretended to be him, even using a photo of Private Bewes and his girlfriend.  How low can someone go?  The idiot on the other end of that keyboard has absolutely no respect for the hardship and sorrow, Private Bewes’ family and friends would be going through right now.  They would be on Facebook gathering strength from all of the positive messages from people right around this great country, to then come across this sort of garbage, well to me is just heartbreaking.

It’s not just one or two idiots who troll these sites.  On the very same tribute page for Private Bewes there are these two fools who continue the attacks.

If you click on the profile of Khoul Storibro – which is meant to sound like, Cool Story Bro, I assume – you will see that this idiot has over 200 friends and his information page has his employers listed as ‘Trolling Industries, Inc’. So for this guy, trolling has become a hobby.  In his ‘Likes and Interests’ info he is also a member of ‘RIP Jade Goody’ and “RIP Cheryl Tweedy’ and who knows what sort of messages he has left on those tribute pages.

There is something seriously wrong with these idiots.  I would like to see their reaction if someone close to them died and a Facebook tribute page was set up and see how they like the comments being sent their way.  They wouldn’t like it one bit.  But then again, people who are affected by death usually have feelings and emotions and compassion. Something these idiots clearly lack so perhaps they wouldn’t care.

In February this year, a school boy, Elliott Fletcher, 12, was murdered at his school at St Patricks in northern Brisbane and a tribute page was set up on Facebook.  Earlier that month, 8 year old Trinity Bates was murdered in Bundaberg and also had a Facebook tribute page set up in her honour.

However, within hours, the trolling had begun on both pages and what was meant to be a celebration of life for two very young children, tragically taken too soon, was embroiled in controversy as the trolls started to leave disturbing messages and in the case of Elliott Fletcher, links to child pornography.  Thankfully, the sick bastard who posted the child pornography was tracked down and arrested and hopefully will have the book thrown at him.

This leaves us with a conundrum.  Private Bewes and all of the other diggers who have fought and died and those who are still there or were there fighting for our freedom were fighting for our way of life and one aspect of that way of life is our right to the freedom of speech.  I am able to write this post today without fear of censorship or discrimination by our government.  Do we have a right to expect the administrators of Facebook to delete such trolling?  Do we expect the government to pass laws to outlaw such insensitivity on what are obviously tribute pages?

The people who set up these tribute pages do have the right to delete any comments which they do not want to show on the page, but for some of the pages where the death of the person being immortalised, the comments can be in their hundreds and during this difficult time of grieving, well should the administrator of the page even have to moderate?  Surely they should be able to set up the tribute page in good faith and not have the trolls attack it.

The trolls seem to thrive on the feedback they get from people who go to the site to leave genuine messages.  People hurl abusive attacks back at the trolls calling them insensitive and cowardly, and of course, they are exactly that.  But it is like a drug for them and they keep on trolling and feeding off the high the come backs are giving them.  And I am guilty of contributing towards it.  Just today, I challenged one of the trolls to make contact with me so we could arrange a time to meet so that I could teach him some respect.  Of course this idiot will never meet me, or anyone else for that matter, because they are safe and secure in front of their computer in an anonymous world.

So what is the best course of action?  Ignore them.  The more I think about it, the more I am convinced this is the only way.  We cannot expect our government to alter the freedom of speech rules.  The trolls statements are mostly idiotic and not hateful so there is not really a lot the government can do.  The administrators of the tribute pages can report the trolls and once blocked they cannot leave any more messages on the particular tribute site.  They will continue however to troll other tribute sites and continue their idiotic campaign.

If you are reading through tribute pages and you come across a troll, you can report them to Facebook by clicking on their profile and reporting them.

I think it is the only way but I fear we have just seen the tip of the iceberg.

It’s a sad time that I even have to write about this.  Can’t the days of decency and respect to others please return?  It’s at times like this that I am utterly guttered that this is likely done by an Australian.  We aren’t like that.  We don’t do this to our mates, whether we know them or not.  It’s un-Australian.

What do you think can be done to stop the trolling?  Is it the government’s role or Facebook or the community as a whole?  Keen to hear your thoughts.

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Daylight Savings for South East Queensland?

It’s time and those who are not in favour are about to be ousted at last.  At least in the South East corner away.

The Queensland Premier, Anna Bligh indicated via her Twitter feed that the possibility of Daylight Savings (DLS) for SEQ could be on the agenda via a referendum to be conducted at the next state election.  Before then, a trial may take place over the 2010/2011 summer period.  This is what the Premier tweeted on Wednesday:

“Independant MP introduces Bill for vote on Daylight Saving in SEQ only & I’m wondering-after 18 yrs, is it time to give people another say?”

Then 4 minutes later

“Qlders have never had a say on daylight saving in SEQ only, a split time zone, maybe we should consider-what do you think?”

The issue of DLS’s has been a decisive one for years.  Firstly, you have your city folk who are all keen for it and then you have the regional folk who don’t want it.  The regional folk made up of dairy farmers etc don’t want it because it will affect when they milk their cows and reap their harvests.  The city folk want it because after a long day at the office there is still some daylight left for a surf or a swim at the beach.  Both groups have different priorities and each group is entitled to them but isn’t it about what is good for the majority?

For too long, minorities have been getting the nod in favour of the majority. When any decision needs to be made, there are always pros and cons.  The issue of DLS should be no different.  Let’s examine the Pros and Cons and see if we can get to the bottom of the debate.

Pros:

More time for outside leisure activities including swimming, running, playing, golfing, flying kites etc which therefore reduces health costs to the government as people are active more in daylight therefore reducing obesity related illnesses.

Better for tourism with places like Dreamworld, Wet ‘n’ Wild and Seaworld staying open later.  Add into this many different attractions and this means more jobs.

Better for business people who commute between Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne.  No confusion and better time efficiencies.  More people commute between these cities than they do to North Queensland major cities like Townsville and Cairns.

Program scheduling.  With delayed telecasts of TV shows from the southern states including ‘LIVE’ sporting programs, and with modern social media applications like Twitter and Facebook broadcasting live scores, you need to be careful what you are watching so you don’t hear the score or have someone blow the twist ending on a popular show or know who gets voted out on The Biggest Loser or Survivor etc.

Cons:

I can honestly only think of a couple:

Harder to get the littlies to bed. Which it isn’t.  I lived it with my kids and I know that it isn’t.

Farmers have to milk the cows later, or is it earlier?

I could never understand this point. In DLS time, the sun actually rises LATER than normal.  So if cows are milked according to the sun rising, doesn’t this mean that the farmers get to sleep in an hour later than normal?  A clock shouldn’t really come into it.  In Brisbane On Dec 22, 2009, which is the longest daylight day of the year in the Southern Hemisphere, the sun rose at 4.50am.  If DLS was in effect on this date, the sun would have risen at 5.50am.  A full hour of darkness is the net result in the morning and therefore more sleep.

On the same day, the sunset at 6.43pm.  I’m not sure about everyone else, but if I finish work between 5pm and 5.30pm (on a good day) and it takes me 30 – 45 mins to get home in peak hour traffic I am left with no more than just over an hour of daylight.  By the time I get changed out of my work clobber and have a drink it is even less.  There is no time to go to the park or the beach as it will be dark soon enough.  I would love that extra hour to get outside and do stuff with the kids.  They would love it too.

Some of you reading this have never experienced DLS, at least not over a long time period.  Between 1999 and 2006 I lived in Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia where DLS is adopted each summer.  It is great!  I love the lifestyle that comes with it.  I’ve missed it since moving back home to Brisbane in the winter of 2006.  And before any of you say that I should have stayed there then, DLS is not the be all and end all and I would never base my decision on where to live based solely on that but if I can live in the best city in the world AND have DLS then why the hell not.

The only contentious issue I have is separating the South East corner from the rest of Queensland.  I would prefer to see the whole of Queensland adopt DLS to avoid any confusion.  We live with the confusion now as we don’t follow the lead of our southern state neighbours.  It would be fantastic if the whole East Coast of Australia was on the same time all of the time.  If it comes down to NO to all of QLD or YES to just SEQ then I go with the YES for just SEQ.

Obviously I am keen for it.  I set up a Pro DLS Facebook page last year which you can join by clicking here

The Premier has also set up a survey asking for your opinion.  You can access that by clicking here

So what do you think?  Are you scared the curtains will fade?  Are you worried about getting the kids to bed?  Or are you in full support?  Would you prefer to see DLS adopted across the whole state or is just SEQ ok with you?  Cast your vote via my poll below or leave a comment.