All posts by roberT

FIFA™ World Cup™ 2018™ Russia™ sweepstake format

In anticipation of the upcoming FIFA™ World Cup™ 2018™ Russia™ I came up with an optimised office sweepstake format. And some handouts to print to run it in your office.

It aims to:
– make it interesting for all participants for as long as possible
– give all participants a reasonable chance of winning a prize
– encourage intra-office “banter”
– work for a smallish sized office (we conveniently have about 16 staff).

The basics

The sweepstake is a random draw, with each participant drawing a single pair of teams.

The pair of teams consists of one team from the top 16 and one team from the bottom 16 of teams in the World Cup™ (as determined by their FIFA ranking). Each top team is matched with its inverse bottom team, so the highest ranked top 16 team (Germany) is matched with the lowest ranked bottom 16 team (Russia), the second best top 16 team (Brazil) is matched with the second worst bottom 16 team (Saudi Arabia) and so on.

The pairings therefore work out like so:

  • Germany (1) and Russia (65)
  • Brazil (2) and Saudi Arabia (63)
  • Portugal (3) and South Korea (62)
  • Argentina (4) and Panama (49)
  • Belgium (5) and Morocco (48)
  • Poland (6) and Australia (43)
  • France (7) and Japan (44)
  • Spain (8) and Nigeria (41)
  • Peru (10) and Serbia (38)
  • Switzerland (11) and Iran (34)
  • England (12) and Senegal (32)
  • Colombia (13) and Egypt (30)
  • Mexico (16) and Tunisia (28)
  • Uruguay (17) and Sweden (25)
  • Croatia (18) and Costa Rica (22)
  • Denmark (19) and Iceland (21)

Note: the positions of Australia and Japan have been swapped to ensure no pair of teams are in the same group.

Download a printable set of the pairs to run your draw with (PDF, 25kb)

The draw

  1. Each participant randomly draws a pair of teams from the hat, in exchange for the entry fee.
  2. If there are pairs left after everyone in the office has had a chance to enter then those interested can draw a second pair for another entry fee.
  3. You can trade your pairs by mutual consent up until the start of the tournament (Friday 15 June).

Note: For bigger offices, simply double/triple/quadruple as required. For extra variety, you could mix up the pairings for the second group of pairs by swapping the adjacently ranked bottom 16 teams (e.g. swap Russia and Saudi Arabia so Germany and Saudia Arabia are a pair etc.). This would mean all participants have different pairs without too much disruption to the balance of the pairs.

Download a printable sheet to keep track of everything on (PDF, 25kb)

The prizes

The total prize pool for the sweepstake is divided into two equal prizes:

  • Prize A will go to the person with the highest finishing team from the top 16 (likely, but not certainly, the FIFA™ World Cup™ 2018™ Russia™ Winner™).
  • Prize B will go to the highest finishing team from the bottom 16 teams (also known as the “fairy-tale” team).

In the event of two or more teams finishing first in either pool (unlikely for Prize A, likely in Prize B) the following tie-break conditions will apply, in this order:

  1. head to head result (if the two teams happen to have played each other)
  2. highest points total in pool play
  3. best goal difference
  4. total number of goals scored.

If two teams are still equal on all these measures then the prize pool will be divided evenly.

Disputes

The sweepstake judge’s decision is final.

Keep track

If you need a wall chart, here is one with NZ times: World Cup Wall Chart with NZ times (PDF, 389kb).

It’s based on this one by Glory Mag,it looks nice and is black and white for easy printing.

Launched

This is kind of what I said a couple of weeks ago at the Renters United launch. If you haven’t joined yet and are interested in these issues you can do so here: http://www.rentersunited.org.nz/join

In the ongoing debate about housing, renters are conspicuous in their absence. Politicians and the media, comfortable in their first, second and third homes, tend to look on renting a temporary circumstance. They view renting through rose tinted glasses: three character-building years in a freezing beer-soaked flat before getting on the property ladder.

As such, all the problems of — and solutions to — the “housing crisis” are about home ownership. Well I think that we all know that is not the whole picture, its time that renters got together and said so. This is what we want Renters United to be: a democratic union of renters campaigning to make renting better for all renters.

So a few of us came together and starting building for this day. Early on we realised that if we want people to join something, we need to tell them what it is and just as importantly, what it believes.

So, in the great tradition of progressive organisations, we drafted a manifesto. It’s not set in stone, we haven’t nailed it to any doors anywhere, but we came up with seven things we hope will resonate with you all tonight and with renters in general:

We believe renters should:

  • Live in a safe and healthy home
  • Pay affordable rent
  • Find and rent a home free from discrimination, intimidation and harassment
  • Expect a respectful and responsive relationship with their landlord
  • Have a rental agreement that grants them long-term security and stability
  • Have good cooking, laundry and bathroom facilities
  • And make their home their own though reasonable changes

Which of these things we focus on and how we do it will of course be up to our members. So, We, Need Members!

We need members to give us clear direction about where to start, because the issues are big and messy. We need members to spread our messages. We need members to recruit more members and most of all we need members to fight and win for renters.

As well as growing our membership our other initial goal is to connect with the many allies out there already working on the issue. We want to complement the work that people like Sarah and Phillipa are doing to advance policy and research on housing, and — at the sharp end — I know we can work closely with Julia and her colleagues to fight the individual battles too.

We need to challenge those with the power over renters and housing, we need renters demanding change directly and we are going to organise to make that happen.

We need to turn renting from a isolated and atomised experience to a uniting one, and the first step to doing that is to get renters and their supporters to join Renters United.

So all that is left to do is a bit of virtual ribbon cutting. We don’t have a bottle of champagne to break or a velvet curtain to open, but we do have a web server on stand-by ready to make the first version of our website live.

Please stand by:

Web server screen saying the site is now live.

Final launch preparations initiated

Wow! I’m pretty blown away by the response so far to us going semi-public with Renters United. So far we have around 130 people saying they’ll come along to the launch event which is amazing, especially when for most all they know about us is one sentence we put together for the holding page:

We want: To organise renters and campaign to make renting better for everyone in Wellington.

Launch day is 8 April and between now and then there is a lot to organise. At the moment I am busy making the holding page into an actually website. Initially it’ll do two things:

  1. Tell people more about us.
  2. Let people join. 

Also on the design front we are planning to produce a bunch of recruitment posters so those who are keen can start spreading the word in their flats, workplaces and property managers offices.

Keep an eye here for more work-in-progress on the website and the posters.

Is the home the new place to organise?

One of my motivations for trying to get something going for renters was my feeling that people on the left need to start thinking about finding new ways to engage and organise people as workplaces becomes more fragmented and employment more precarious.

In the UK, Sarah Kwei is wondering the same thing as casualisation and fragmentisation makes workplace organising much harder there too:

Contrast this with 2014, when more than 1 million workers exist on zero-hours contracts and are told via texts whether they have work or not. The insecurity of the lowest paid is much the same, but the potential for workers to access one another and organise for something better has been undermined by these increasingly individualising practices.

In addition, most low-paid work is unstable. Workers frequently find themselves performing different roles over several months – perhaps a delivery driver one month, a shelf stacker the next – interspersed by periods of unemployment. [With the decline of industrialised Britain, few are able to look to one local company as their most likely source of employment. […] Such a radically different workplace poses significant problems to traditional forms of worker organisation, especially if most workers will struggle to say who their colleagues are or, indeed, their employer is, from one month to the next.

In this context it’s not surprising that some of the most inspiring (and successful) direct political action in the UK is centred instead around housing. Groups like the Focus E14 Mothers have shown that campaigning over quality and availablity of housing can capture the public imagination.

The issues around housing in New Zealand are markedly different from those in the UK but the core idea – that this rediscovered option for community organising has a lot of potential – rings true for me.

Sarah Kwei concludes by saying that she thinks that cooperation between established unions, with their organising expertise and resources and new community organisations is important. I can’t disagree and once we have our experiment in community organising up and running finding common ground and ways or working with unions will undoubtably strength us too.

What do we call it?

Here are some ideas for what this thing could be called:

Wellington Tenants Union

The good: “Tenants Union” is the term most commonly used overseas for these types of organisations and there also a Manawatu Tenants Union. There was a Wellington Tenants Union in the 1970s so there is a nice historical connection there.

The bad: As already discussed, I’d prefer to use the term “renter” over tenant and for some (not me) union can variously have a militant, stuffy, out-of-date or rigid connotation.

Tenants Protection Association

The good: This is the name of existing similar organisations in Christchurch, Auckland and Hamilton.

The bad: Has a strong advocacy focus, both in reality for the existing organisations and in its description (protecting tenants, not organising them to defend their own rights).

Generation Rent

The good: Has “rent” in it and there is an NGO in Britain that is interested in similar issues with this name.

The bad: Generation Rent in the UK is very much in the NGO mould, as opposed to being a member-driven democratic activist thing. It also feels to me like it is focussed on young people (perhaps due to the association with Generation Zero).

Renters together

The good: Uses the word renter and provides a sense of unity without saying union.

The bad: Doesn’t mention Wellington (Wellington Renters Together doesn’t work I don’t think), possibly a little passive sounding?

Wellington Renters / Renters Wellington

The good: Has who and where right there on the tin.

The bad: Doesn’t say what it is or give a sense of collectivism or unity.

I’d love to here what you think of these options or any other ideas you might have.

Welcome aboard

When we first start, it’s going to be very important to find ways to express to our new members: what it is; how they can be involved; and the limits to our capacity to help them with specific problems. I’ve already mentioned that we need a strategy for how we handle the casework aspect of this, but we similarly need a plan for how we welcome members, how we set their expectations and how we engage and develop their involvement in the union. Many unions have a “welcome pack” they send out to new members but I think we need something more immediate and engaging.

If you use the web or particularly phone/tablet apps then you’ll be familiar with a design solution to this kind of problem called onboarding (neologism ahoy!).

Onboarding refers to a range of different ways that users are introduced to the key features and ways of using the application or website. Apps and websites that diverge further from the familiar patterns and ways of doing things often find it particularly important to make an effort to educate the user. A renters union is a similarly unfamiliar concept to most of our potential members so some form of onboarding seems a good idea.

For some designers, having to use onboarding processes reflects a failure in the design of the product as they show that it is not well designed enough that its use is obvious or discoverable without help. However, onboarding can also be used very effectively to convert a one-time or casual user into a more active user and this is definitely something we will be striving to do for our new members.

Here are a couple of examples of how an adapted version of onboarding could help us:

A membership process that introduces the organisation

Imagine a membership process that, as well as getting the necessary information for the person also uses those questions to introduce the broader purpose and network of the organisation.

For example, when asked for their address the user could be told that three other members have previously lived in that property, or that there are 10 other members on the street, or that their neighbours are involved in a campaign at the moment.

Joining could be presented as a two-way activity, we learn about the person and the person learns about us which would help establish the member in their immediate network and reinforce their choice.

Early connection and action

Once joined, we want to encourage active engagement, with the expectation (or hope) that this will continue in the longer term. To do this, we could offer a number of quick and easy ways to get involved in ongoing campaigns, democracy and in their local network.

For example, on signing up they could be immediately asked for their opinion on current campaign and once they’ve offered it they could be told a few ways that they can contribute right away to it.

As well as demonstrating an immediate focus on action, this type of onboarding activity could also – more subtly – introduce to them other principles and ways of working of the organisation such as its openness to all views, its typical methods and its campaigning priorities.

There is no reason why this same process couldn’t be available when we recruit in person as well as on-line because we can’t assume people will just come to our website.

As with anything, less is more and we don’t want to drift into the patronising, the needy or the creepy. Instead, onboarding is all about being friendly and welcoming and ensuring people feel they are part of a movement:

He aha te mea nui o te ao?
He tangata! He tangata! He tangata!
What is the most important thing in the world?
It is people! It is people! It is people!

Ever more expensive

This week two different reports made plain the escalating cost of housing in Wellington (of course – as always – focussed on home ownership).

The first report made plain the widening gap between housing cost and wages (a.k.a. “housing affordability”):

The average annual weekly wage increase of $28.06 was not enough to offset a $30,000 increase in the national median house price and an increase in the average mortgage interest rate from 5.52% to 5.86%,” the survey found.

In Wellington, this meant that housing affordability dropped by 7.7% for owner-occupiers.

The second demonstrated that while “first time buyers” are finding it harder, property investors are buying up more and more properties:

[A]ctivity among investors who owned two or more properties had hit a 10-year high. Big investors with more than 10 properties were the most active, buying about two out of every five homes in August.

Of course, this all puts more financial pressure on renters, with forecasts suggesting that rents in Wellington will rise even faster than the cost for owner-occupiers.

For those who can afford to buy, they are having to do so further and further away from the city:

The figures also suggested people were looking further afield for a first home, such as in northern Wellington suburb Tawa and in Hutt Valley, while multiple property owners were buying in Karori and other central-city suburbs, including Mt Victoria and Oriental Bay.

How long will it be before only the rich can afford to live in our city? How can we fight to make renting affordable and secure for people of all incomes?


Photo credit: Jason Jones via Flickr.

Keeping in touch

In my day job as a web designer it’s easy to think that every problem can be solved by the internet (ha!) but the reality is that there is still a significant minority of people without internet access at home.

Statistics New Zealand says that 85% of households in Wellington have internet access. Of thosewho don’t most report that they don’t have internet either due to a lack of interest or because of the cost and opting out of internet access because of the cost grew between 2009 and 2012 (when the most recent data is from).

I think it’s a fair assumption that a fair proportion of those without internet access will be low-income renters and we certainly want to reach these people and get them actively engaged in our campaigns and other work.

With this in mind we need to consider whether we can rely on the internet as our only – or primary – medium for recruiting and communicating with members.

As with all organising face-to-face engagement is usually the most effective way to get people involved but even once we have recruited someone we need to consider how best to keep them up-to-date and active.

So, setting aside a website for the organisation for now, this graph is great place to start when considering how we might reach out to members and stay in touch (after all, we’ll be just like one of the family):

A few observations:

  • Direct contact via phone or text is likely to be the most effective method.
  • Texting is the clear favourite for frequent communication.
  • Social media does not feature in that graph, though you might expect that a majority of the “instant messaging” communication is via social networks.
  • Email is very popular too but seems to be used less frequently.

We will need to ensure members have control of how and when they get contacted as we don’t want to flood inboxes or turn people off with a barrage of texts. Instead, I think we want to try and establish and nurture personal connections with – and between – members.

For example, rather than a bulk text from a generic number, wouldn’t it be great if we could establish a texting version of phone trees (OL’SKOOL!) so every member got the information from an activist or contact they had personally met at some point?

The status quo

If you’ve rented in Wellington you’ve probably come across the property management company Quinovic, one of the largest (if not the largest).

Recently they published their post-election ‘analysis’ of the political landscape:

The summary take away – National would suggest they are creating a supportive / lower touch Government that allows the investor/property owner to get on and pursue their objectives, and earn a return for the resources they commit to the economy.

Setting aside the assertion that residential property owners are nobly contributing to the economy (how?), I think in this statement we see why we need to start challenging landlords to do better for their tenants.

From Quinovic’s perspective a status quo that delivers sky-high rents that keep rising, dangerously unhealthy housing and a total lack of security for renters is just spot on thank you very much.

Of course this is not surprising. Quinovic are – after all – managing property and tenants to maximise the profit for their clients. These profits require maximising income and minimising cost and so what the status quo really means for renters is an ever worsening situation where it becomes even harder to find and retain a safe, secure and affordable home.

This is why we need to start hearing from renters loud and clear, because a status quo that sees a baby die in an overcrowded mouldy house and families living in cars because they can’t afford a house is not the kind “business as usual” we need.