InternetNZ plans to host Apricot conference

Dodgy audio between cities mars the experimental AGM

InternetNZ decided on a cautious endorsement at its annual general meeting late last month of a plan to host the Asia-Pacific Regional Internet Conference on Operational Technologies (Apricot) in 2008.

This annual conference of the internet’s technical experts in the region attracts a number of side meetings on related issues, and, according to supporters, will allow productive information exchange to New Zealand’s benefit while at the same time giving an international audience some understanding of New Zealanders' own technical asuteness.

However, the conference, originally a two- to three-day affair, has now spun out to ten days, while at the same time major sponsors involved in the early Apricots have ceased to participate. This means Apricot 2008 could cost between $250,000 and $900,000 to hold, with a heavy loss remaining after attendees pay their registration fees.

Apart from the potential benefits, suggested InternetNZ international committee head, Peter Dengate Thrush, New Zealand’s internet community should have “a sense of duty” over participating in regional discussions, as it has benefited from attendance at Apricot meetings overseas.

Unitec’s Howard Frederick suggested — over a choppy sound link from Auckland — that he knew of two potential sponsors in that region, and the matter was flagged for later “offline” discussion. This appeared to make sense, because the online element of the debate was not performing well on the sound front.

It was intended as a positive display of the internet community using its own leading-edge technology, but the decision to hold the InternetNZ AGM in the linked Access Grid laboratories of Auckland’s and Wellington’s universities had decidedly mixed results.

Multiple video displays were projected on the wall of the laboratory showing speakers and observers in Auckland and Wellington as well as slide presentations of some of the major agenda items.

The visuals worked well — minus the occasional embarrassment of a Wellington speaker's slides coming up at the Auckland end before they were displayed in Wellington — but sound transmission from the five-strong Auckland audience to the Victoria University venue flickered in and out and was evidently no better in the other direction. “I’m only picking up at most 60% of what you’re saying,” said a frustrated Frederick.

When Auckland was asked for an evaluation of Access Grid sound quality, Frederick decided a visual gesture — two thumbs down — would get the point across most reliably.

"The audio has some challenges," said chairman and InternetNZ vice-president David Farrar, euphemistically.

Farrar hurried the agenda along with the rapid “for, against, carried” of a seasoned political operator. “I take it we’re accepting things like the executive director’s report automatically,” he said. "When it’s an important question, I’ll slow down and let you actually vote.”

Farrar was re-elected vice-president for the forthcoming year, with Colin Jackson chosen as president. David Harris, Mark Harris, former executive director Peter Macaulay, Jennifer Northover and Simon Riley were elected to the council for a two-year term and Rodney Prescott (as the sixth-polling candidate) for a one-year term.

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