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Yesterday in Hustings – 5/3/14

YESTERDAY IN HUSTINGS candidates for LGBT Officer, School of Management Officer, Environment and Welfare Officer, Women’s Liberation Officer and Council answered questions, some better than others.

The Environment and Welfare Officer position was where the evening really begun, with the LGBT Officer role only having one candidate, Taz Gibbins-Klein, and the School of Management hustings being split into two because one of the candidates was late.

Zakerias Haileselassie and Rosemary Ellingham are both currently part-time officers and played upon this experience. Haileselassie was slower to warm up than expected, with him committing the cardinal sin of reading off his manifesto in his opening speech but once the questions started he used his incredible oratory skills which would usually destroy any other candidate. Ellingham, though, proved an equal match with no clear victor.

Their roles as either Black and Minority Ethnic Students Officer – Mr Haileselassie – or as LGBT Officer – Miss Ellingham – did begin to make the debate somewhat polarised. At points it seemed like they were just expressing what they have done leaving a huge gulf where they could have explored what they want to do in the role, something which when they did do they both did on a far better scale than any of the candidates of the evening by some margin.

Then the potential Women’s and Liberation Officer. Current officer, Steffy Bechelet, against Diko Blackings and Samayya Afzal.

This debate followed a similar trend of clichéd questions that anyone could have written. But there were some that were suspiciously written, almost as if they were planted. For instance, a 24 hour hotline question which seemed suspiciously like it is central to Miss Blackings’ campaign and was by far the best answer she gave all evening. I’m sure it’s just a pure coincidence that this question came up, though.

Miss Bechelet was the surprise winner of the evening. Past public speaking engagements have proved to get the better but it seems when the pressure is on she is a capable performer and the only candidate with perfectly timed and performed opening and summation speeches. It wasn’t the evening for Miss Afzal, though, who didn’t seem to be able to match the other candidates strong performances.

The cringe-induced bloodbath of the evening came with, as you would expect, with the nominees for Council Lay-member. A role that has historically been filled with sub-par, wannabe politicians forced into it by their society under the delusion that it expands their influence. Like years gone by, the event failed to disappoint and the candidates were lined up against the wall and committed what would in a functioning democracy be career-suicide.

One question was “who do you want to represent?” which should illicit a rather obvious response. Everyone wants to, shockingly, represent everyone. One candidate, though, must have been so startled by the flash of the newspapers camera that they forgot where they were and started talking about events that they want to hold.

“I want to hold tailor made events, not just for, but for like everyone even post-grads and errm, international students”, one candidate drivelled on about … perhaps it should be worth informing her that the Media and Entertainments Officer hustings were yesterday.

The repetitive drivel continued with one candidate answering and then the majority of other candidates parroting what was just said. “Buzzword, buzzword, students, buzzword, vote for me” was the formula of the day.

The public humiliation only got worse when the comparatively difficult questions were asked. Firstly, how would they reform council? The first person declared that she alone could make it more efficient, and then mumbled about making more publicity for council. Guess what the next answer was. “I’d like to … can you repeat the question … I’d like to make people more aware of what the council is wand what we can actually do for students on council”. And then the same. It went on. Most of the panel who will become your councillors fail to understand the conversation that has gone on in council regarding reforms, no candidate with a clear plan and about two candidates who have the ability to act properly within council.

In the same barrage of questions, one about how to increase the transparency of council. One candidate didn’t understand what transparency meant. A majority of the others ignored what was said and answered their own questions with only one expressing how maybe the union should release the minutes publicly, something they have failed to do for the past year.

Laughing at the complete and utter incompetence is a somewhat childish pursuit once you realise these are the people that are meant to be representing you in what is meant to be a legislative body and is part of a mechanism that holds the Sabbatical Officers to account. It’s completely outrageous that two candidates completely failed to submit a manifesto and is perhaps more egregious that they are allowed to continue in the election.

Hustings, historically known for its coma-inducing nature, became more interesting yesterday. There was more than one candidate in some of the positions, which is always nice for a democracy, and the usual public humiliation of wannabe politicians which always brightens the mood.

Today candidates for NUS delegate, Community Engagement Officer, Disabled Students Officer, International Students Officer, International Students Officer, Academic Affairs Officer and Development and Democracy Officer will be taking selected questions from the floor. 

Yesterday at Hustings – 4/3/2014

YESTERDAY IN HUSTINGS a candidate for Mature Students Officer, a candidate for Black and Minority Ethnics Student Officer, a candidate for Chair of Council, two candidates for Media and Entertainments Officer and, in case voters had the audacity to believe they might have a choice in an election, a candidate for Sports and Societies Officer.

Peter Kerr, candidate for Mature Students Officer and current holder of the office, was the first to take questions from the crowd of about twenty, with about two thirds of those candidates themselves. In his opening speech he said that he was “very keen to take the position on” and that he can “promise, I’ll do everything I can to help you”.

After a few brief clichéd questions including “how would you help mature students” and, of course, “what is the biggest issue facing mature students” the summation speech was given. “Vote for me because I’m really good at this so far …” going on to say, “so, come on, vote for me!”

Then, the hopeful Black and Minority Ethnics Student Officer, Subira Ismail. Wanting to “support, unite and represent” minority students it was a huge tone down from the rhetoric of last year.  Promising to work with Academic Affairs Officer to bridge the attainment gap and exclaiming her love for white chocolate as the filling in her crapes, it was Shrove Tuesday after all, her summation speech Miss Ismail said that she “want[s] to make sure everything I have said, I will do” … which is always nice for a politician to remind us.

Liam Barker, the only candidate for the unbelievably prestigious position Chair of Council, had a number of promises. Moving on from last year’s universally deprived “hiya guys” opening he, after countless hours writing and consulting focus groups, evolved it into the more common man “hey guys”.

His opening speech was full of claims. He will draw upon the “experience I have within the union”. “I’ve spent quite a lot of time reading the constitution,” he declared. He will, “make sure it runs smoothly”, or in other words he will do his job. There is nothing he cannot do. Nothing!

Barker will promote union engagement, jumping to the overwhelmingly obvious point that there isn’t much of that at the moment.  He also will create a forum where lay-members must attend.

If it is anything like last year, where one lay-member was taken off council and others entered and left at their own pleasing and a majority of council lay-members, when they were there, were only there physically with absent minds.

With the greatest respect to Liam Barker, as one of the council lay-members who actually does anything and has engaged in a role more than two thirds of other councillors, it is a huge disappointment that there is only one candidate trying to be elected … last year, there was three.

Competition exists somewhere, thank God. The Media and Entertainments Officer has two people. That’s right, a whole two human beings who believe that they are most suited for the job. TWO PEOPLE IN AN ELECTION … The shock, the horror, the unbelievable fact that two people are standing in an election and people, voters, you, has a choice.

New boy Liam Dixon, who is standing for the first time, against Felix ‘Fresh Prince of Bellaire slogan here’ Kankwamba who hopes to succeed after four years. If it was hustings to go by, he’s won, easily out classing Mr Dixon and having the stage presence that proves so important.

There are two problems with this, though. Last year the Fresh Prince easily outclassed everyone and was unable to turn the performance into a win. Secondly, whilst the audience increased slightly, there is a huge disinterest this election season with the Fresh Prince even acknowledging that hustings doesn’t have the same reception as last year.

The questions seemed to largely ignore media areas and as a consequence seemed somewhat rigged by the contenders. There was one from Dixon asking about what he would do for mature students, an element that is central to his campaign. There was one from the Fresh Prince that seemed to enable him to talk about his work with young offenders.

As ever, there was also the usual ridiculous question regarding “non-drinking events” which gave the same, dull, inspired drivel as usual with both candidates talking about outrageously boring coffee mornings, karaoke and the incredible dancing around religious sensitivities including one choice quote declaring some students “are of non-alcoholics”.

Also unlike last year, there is no one candidate who is so incompetent they’ve lost already; likewise, there is no one candidate to laugh at profusely which is a shame …

The final event of the evening is current Sports and Societies Officer, Sam Butterworth, who has no other candidate standing against him.  As proven in the past, Sam Butterworth is an incredible performer and, as ever, that continued throughout hustings. He spoke about the fact the influence of Sports and Societies has increased dramatically, Team Bradford has become a huge brand with the university fully supporting it, and how the societies are now on a sustainable footing.

Sadly, though, the “Keep Calm and Vote Butters” line has gone and so too has the ridiculous cat outfit he had last year. This year it’s quite simple, “don’t vote for RON”, which is pretty to the point.

Hustings so far has been dogged by poor attendance and tame questions with candidates who are held in such high regard throughout the union nobody is willing to stand against them or have the pleasure of not having to really fight an election and answer tough questions. The only show of the evening was the MEO, and that paled in comparison compared to previous hustings’.

In this evenings hustings candidates for LGBT Officer, School of Management Officer, Women’s Liberation Officer and all nine candidates for Council are standing.

iOS 7, Ive and Blue Peter.

iOS-Website

iOS 7 is hideous. Truly hideous. It looks like is has been designed by an A-Level ICT student on a late night coursework binge with a colour pallet that was clearly inspired from the combination accidental inversion of colours of previous iOS releases and the third rate art work sent into Blue Peter. From the iconography to the applications and, most notably, the Control Centre, it truly is an operating system that has been stitched together like the monster Frankenstein created.

Look at Safari, for example. Everything about it is ghastly. It looks unusable – I would argue that it probably is so, too – with icons that posses neither intuitiveness nor elegance whatsoever, an address bar / search box that appears to have been stolen from Windows 3.0, and the unfortunate theft of Google Chrome’s file-a-fax-esque tab interface which was somehow transformed into a much more complex and confusing infinite loop of web pages.

Perhaps the home screen iconographers realised this, however, which would make a lot of sense. So concerned they were that Ive & Co’s. software design skills would be exposed as “okay to bad” they have designed the Safari and Game Centre icons, the two most disgusting offenders, are an example of some of the tackiest designs ever seen in the modern mobile market; something that includes both Apple’s skewmorphic felt-and-leather textures and Samsung’s unconvincing series of Android doppelgangers. It really is that bad.

But, fortunately, it isn’t all depressingly awful Rather than placing everything in boxes it is edge-to-edge, Air Drop looks cool and the typography, for instance, looks remarkable. Leaving white spaces where you subconsciously expect, using it to aid both the clarity of the information it’s trying to convey and make the OS looks much slicker and modern. In fact I would argue that it exemplifies what the new design should have been; familiar, refreshing, with functionality at its core.

iOS 7 is familiar, it retains the signature grid of icons and their shape, but the new OS is neither refreshing or functional. It has inherited a childish and inelegant colour pallet inspired by Ive’s apparent love of Blue Peter which will leave almost every user alienated, confused, and seizure induced, with new ‘features’ like Control Centre and the signal-indicator confusing at the best of times.

It isn’t some pathetic fear of change that Apple will pass this criticism off as, iOS 7 just doesn’t look as good as Jelly Bean or even Ice Cream Sandwich and iOS 6. With its pseudo-3D parallaxing, Game Centre’s strange bubbles, and a host of other superficial changes it is obvious that Apple were, and perhaps still are, under the strange illusion that their mobile operating system is perfect.

I have news for them. It isn’t.

There is still no Widgets and Notification Centre still looks like an unusable mess. When you add this to the incredibly closed environment that is iOS, which means you cannot have third party keyboards, replace stock apps, or even change your search engine outside Apple’s approved list, you end up with a now sub-par OS that now looks even  worse than before.

Rather than move away from the tackiness of old Apple have done the almost impossible and elevated it to new heights of gaudiness and poor taste. The only difference between this release and the others is that it has been flattened by the immense weight of Johnny Ive and his Blue Peter badge.

The 2013 Google IO Keynote – Google Music, Android Updates, and iDosing

Google CEO Larry Page

THE Google IO keynote has finally concluded after three and a half hours of broken demos, occasionally announcing exciting products, and Larry Page’s very Silicon Vally-esque motivational speech claiming “Being negative is not how we make progress” and hypocrisy.

The biggest announcement, which was leaked, is Google Play Music All Access. It is essentially a clone of Spotify. I’m sceptical, however, about how successful this will be. Priced at $9.99 a month (its launching in the U.S. first with a global roll out later this year) it is the same as Spotify which leads me to ask this question … Where is the incentive for users to switch to a service which will undoubtedly have a library far smaller than Spotify and that is platform reliant? It’s simple, there isn’t. It’s an interesting attempt but it’s probably too late to catch up to Spotify and other similar services all of which have a household presence, much larger libraries and market penetration, and the ability to move between iOS and Android.

Other efforts include Google Plus, apparently there was forty one new features most notably an update to the stream which is completely redesigned towards a card interface like Google Now, the hangouts application which takes on competitors like Apple with ‘iMessage’ and Facebook with ‘Messenger’ – which unfortunately moves away from the XMPP standard – and a cool image/video format called WebP, which uses much less bandwidth in videos and images and also supports animation and transparency.

Of course, there was many updates to Android too, further distinguishing its self from the competition by using Google’s incredible cloud services to its advantage. Contextual search looks fantastic, as does Google’s natural language search, both key features in Google Now and the shift away from the home screen. And whilst there was many other smaller updates, and ones aimed at developers such as improved analytics, the most exciting and obvious feature was notifications that are now synced across devices. Remove a notification on your phone, it does on your tablet.

Almost all of Google’s projects of various sizes were mentioned, the Nexus’ were mentioned in passing, the Pixel was given away for ‘free’, and of course there were more updates to Google search (but no mention on creating a better algorithm unfortunately), maps and various other small projects.

There was some notable exceptions, however. Google Glass had absolutely no presence on stage which contrasts with last year when there was skydiving action men all donning the latest and probably most ridiculous fad in technology today, “wearables”. In fact, the only mention of Google Glass was Larry Page telling Robert Scoble he “really didn’t appreciate the shower photo”.

Showering Scoble

Showering Scoble – WARNING, GRAPHIC

But the entirety of Page’s presence on stage was strange. In what was clearly a last minute decision which didn’t really serve any purpose, clutching onto some notes he made, he spoke about how “not every new technology is a zero-sum game”, how “every story I read about Google is us verses some other company, or something else, and I really don’t find it interesting”, and most creepily of all is complaining about laws and regulations that hinder them from creating what he wants – as if he wants to take us all to Burning Man where we can all experiment with iDosing whilst simultaneously eating from a trough of magic mushrooms and making all our medical records public.

Whilst one half of Page was in one world, a world with no laws where you can try new things, BioShocks Rapture to be precise, his answers to questions and the keynote in general were in another less idyllic world rife with hypocrisy and user-extorting schemes.

The keynote was undoubtedly an attack on Apple and making it clear they are dominant in every place Apple is stumbling into. Demonstrating how their maps are far superior, and highlighting how they will continue to be, moving into search and how they are, and will continue to be, the best in the market, and then moving into Google Now and how superior it now is to Siri. Further to the hypocrisy of Page was one of his answers about Microsoft, saying “We struggle with people like Microsoft”, and complaining about Oracle and Java.

Google have put their only real rival, Apple, in a difficult position today. They have attacked Game Centre, Siri, and various other products that Apple can’t do because of their lack of infrastructure and the legacy of Steve Job’s. WWDC will have to see Apple step up several gears both on the OS front and with its cloud services to remain competitive to Google and Android.

Dan Barker’s Second Opinion: Election Pun

The University of Bradford has an election system even Putin would be concerned about!

The University of Bradford has an election system even Putin would be concerned about!

NATIONAL elections inherently produce acting equal to that of East Enders. A petri dish of the born-to-rule on the right, Champaign socialists on the left, and the pesky-populists dancing around the political spectrum like Hugh Grant, all pretending, poorly, to be ‘normal’ human beings. University elections, on the other hand, have the aspiring politician practicing in the art of deceit, complaining about media areas having any form of ‘bias’ which results in an unfortunate, and damaging, media blackout of the elections, and, as with the real politician, pretending to be human beings. The only difference, however, is that rather than go around to every part of the country and speak to poor people, though that did happen in these elections, they attempt to become human beings of the hilarious verity, carefully concocting as many of the worst puns, vote grabbing outfits, and hilarious one-liners as possible.

“EnRICH your vote” or “Don’t frown, vote Robson Younis Brown” are two particularly poor attempts, the latter candidate even decided to wear a cape to hustings – it was actually a red bed sheet – keeping all twenty audience members, one RamAir listener, and zero YouB TV live stream viewers, in suspense for his first mention of the cape. Unfortunately, all had to wait until his summation speech. “It doesn’t take a superhero”, and then looks delighted he’s finally unleashed this hilarity upon the earth. The audience members, shockingly, were far less convinced.

Unfortunately, this wasn’t the worst costume gimmick I saw. Ecstatic that I survived the candidates and their minions’ audacity to think I would vote for them on the spot because they shoved a leaflet down my throat and told me I could vote on their computer I was escaping into the cold and wet. It was then I saw, escaping from the rather bizarre weather, our new Sports and Societies Overlord, Chairman Butters, dressed in a completely humiliating cat outfit walking around looking more out of place than a Nareice Wint, Emily Bennett, Fathini ‘Tinie’ Rusli hybrid.

These were, arguably, the most incompetent candidates of the entire elections. One, Miss Wint, claimed she was “passionate” at least twenty trillion times, whilst the other two were lambs to the slaughter … however Mr Slaughter was having a bad day, stunned them with a low end electronic toothbrush, and thought it was a fantastic idea to allow them to bleed out via their capillaries whilst audiences could laugh, jeer, and capture video to later remix with the infamous Keyboard Cat. In other words, they were all hilariously awful in hustings.

They all, still, had a shockingly high vote – which highlights a monumental problem with politics here at the University of Bradford and politics as a whole.

Turn out to hustings were abysmally poor. Voters, you, missed out candidates demonstrating how awful, and probably incompetent, they were. Throughout, especially with two Sports and Societies candidates, they altered their policies and then lied about it. Claiming they would magically increase budgets, shifting whether they would have a preference of sports or societies, and pretending they were the most experienced. The most egregious action was, however, watching vast numbers of the candidates ‘friends’ submitting questions in their ‘friends’ favour, and when they answered it proceeding to deafen the audience with their moronic, annoying, childish cheering.

Paradoxically, turnout was a record high at 40 per cent! This makes little to no sense.

It’s overwhelmingly obvious that the elections at the University of Bradford need wholesale reform. Why is it that candidates are able to facilitate students voting around the Library, in the Common Rooms, and at their sports and societies? Why, once the election is over, are the complaints investigated in what is probably the least in depth or the most hyperbolic investigation depending on the election team’s bias? (And please don’t tell me that those in the Union don’t have a bias for who they want to be elected, because arguably the most capable candidates who were elected should have been discounted for breaking the incredibly stupid electoral regulations … “You’re working with people, I’m working with people”, ring any bells?)

Unfortunately the regulations regarding the elections impede democracy on a campaign side, they ensure the hustings that have the potential to be one of the greatest shows on the student calendar are reduced to one of the dullest events of the century, and ensure there is a complete media blackout on anything criticising the Union’s handling of the elections and any of the candidates who put themselves into the limelight despite knowing they have the collective intelligence of the Paris Hilton fan club.

True democracy is in danger. Already we have its trivialisation with candidates dressing in cat-suites and capes, the value of a vote reduced to a five pence drumstick lollypop or, if you’re lucky, a small bundle of Tesco’s own brand Smarties, and that of pathetic and severely unfunny puns.

Reform is the answer but I know that that will only happen once students know what how the elections are borderline corrupt. They never will, because the Union wouldn’t publish it.

 

[This is part of Dan Barker's "Dan Barker's Second Opinion" column series in which he analyses past events with his own unique style just in case people forgot about them - Dan Barker will not write about the University of Bradford elections for several months. The title is the result of a  shameless theft of John C. Dvorak's column title at MarketWatch]