September 20th, 2009 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Whale Oil has a useful new feature called Tenderwatch.

His latest find is one from SPARC asking people to tender to develop a report on the value of sport and recreation.

Whale believes that SPARC should be able to produce such a report themselves.

I wonder why we need such a report at all.

I mean we all know what it will say. That if people play more sport and exercise more, this will be good for the NZ economy due to spending on sporting events, reduced health costs etc etc.

Every sector in NZ commissions reports like that to “prove” how valuable they are.

Now I don’t mind private bodies commissioning such research. For example it is quite appropriate for the NZRFU to commission research on the economic value of hosting the Rugby World Cup, to persuade the Government to contribute towards it.

But SPARC is a government agency. It appears to be using taxpayer money to commission research to say the Government should give even more money to SPARC. We may be paying to lobby ourselves.

The Mission-On website

July 11th, 2008 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Bernard Hickey (and his teenage daughter!) review the $11.4 million Mission-On website.

Now let’s look at the performance. Sparc kindly provided me with some statistics on traffic for Mission-On, which was built on contract by a private company called Click Suite. It generated 39,132 unique browser sessions in June and has registered 15,000 kids in the four months since it launched. Sparc is targeting 30,000 by June next year. Sparc pointed out that Click Suite had told them this compared quite well with www.cleo.co.nz, www.247girl.co.nz, C4TV.co.nz and Kidspot.co.nz.

At this point I will mention that the official Neilsen Net Ratings for this blog in a month (and Neilsen are very conservative with their stats) are around four times their 39,132. In fact I get more than that in a week. And alas no $11 million of taxpayer funding.

I registered for the website as myself and tried to play a few games to get a feel for it. It’s the worst kind of patronising tosh I have seen in a long time. “It’s choice,” the website says of itself. It has one game called a “Creative Hip Hop Challenge”. One thing I do know about successful websites is they have to be driven by the users and not appear out of touch or preachy or just plain dumb. This is all three.


It’s also all built in Adobe (formerly Macromedia’s) Flash. Anyone trying to build a website that is picked up by Google and the other bots so people can find it knows that Flash is the dumbest way to do that. Adobe is only now giving Flash the ability to attract search engines. Flash is fantastic for making good-looking websites that make their owners look good in the eyes of their bosses. But they are websites that aren’t either popular or profitable. Flash sites are typically built by advertising, marketing or design agencies (like Clicksuite), who make advertisement or brochure sites.

But that is okay – the taxpayer will then be asked to spend money promoting the site.

So I asked my 14-year-old daughter what she thought of it. She had seen an ad for it on the side of a bus, but hadn’t visited. I asked her to check it out. She did what everyone does now. She typed the words “Mission On” into Google to find it. It came up at number 8 in the natural search rankings. Any web professional knows this is a disaster. I suspect it ranks so poorly because it is made in Flash and its search optimisation is woeful. It is also poorly ranked because few other sites have to linked to it, which is an ominous sign. My daughter eventually found it.

We are in fact already paying for adverts for it.

“Oh My God,” she yelped. “It’s all in Flash. I just never use Flash sites. You can’t navigate them, they’re usually just so crap. My browser is set to block these yucky pop-ups. No. No. No,” she said before shooing me out the door. I’m a very lucky father to have a daughter who knows so much more about web usability than I do.


PS. One tip for Sparc. It needs to buy the Google ad word for MissionOn to create a sponsored link. It costs about 25 cents per click. Well worth the money. So good in fact that I’ve bought the MissionOn adword for Google and will link to this story once it’s published.

Now that is just evil. Very very evil. I love it.

SPARC salaries

July 3rd, 2008 at 5:25 pm by David Farrar

One of the signs of third termitis is the automatic defence of the status quo. The Government and associated left blogs have rushed to defend SPARC, and claim thereis no need to change anything.

I was intrigued by National’s sports policy as it appeared to be meticiously well researched and referenced. What that suggests to me is that sporting insiders have been helping write the policy because of the level of knowledge.

Since the policy was released, I’ve chatted to a few people in the sports administration arena, and to a person they are critical of SPARC and its growing bureaucracy. Now a smart third term Government would be hestitant about rushing in to defend it, when so many people are unhappy.

Bernard Hickey has done an interesting analysis. National revealed 55% of SPRAC staff earn over $100K a year. He wondered how that compares with other government agencies. Now Bernard could have chosen a lightweight agency such as Youth Affairs to compare to, but he chose the Reserve Bank – can’t get much more critical than that. What does he find:

The Reserve Bank of New Zealand’s annual report shows that it has 221 staff and that 71 or 32% of those are paid more than NZ$100,000. Over 55% of Sparc staff are paid over the NZ$100,000 threshold. There are 25 staff at the RBNZ who are paid more than NZ$150,000 or 11% of staff.

That compares with Sparc’s 16% of staff who are paid more than NZ$150,000. The total remuneration cost for the RBNZ in 2006/07 was NZ$21.8 million or an average of NZ$96,642 per staff member. That’s 24% less than the average for Sparc of NZ$129,411.

So we are paying our Reserve Bank staff 24% less than our sports funding agency staff. Now let us compare their importance starting with the RBNZ:

The RBNZ has the power to destroy or save the economy with its monetary policy and the power to regulate and/or save our banks. Every single bank note we have in our wallets is printed by and managed by this institution. Our payments system depends on it. …

Governor Bollard must front up to the public, politicians and his own board once every 6 weeks or so to explain what he’s going to do with the economy. He is regularly criticised by many commentators (including me) and will be held responsible for the economic life of the nation. The pressure is intense and the stakes are high.

If one of the big four banks were to fail on his watch (which I think is utterly unlikely), he and the bank would be responsible for a national disaster. It would cripple the economy for years. …

The Reserve Bank is an institution integral to the economic life of New Zealand and the Governor is one of the four or five most powerful people in the country. If he stuffs up we all pay.

Yep pretty critical indeed. And SPARC:

Sparc encourages us to take up sport and its CEO is a former international hockey player who once was the head of sales for New Zealand Post, a monopoly. Its success is measured by (I hope) how many of us regularly play sport and are therefore healthier, although Sparc’s Statement of Intent seems not to give any specifics on these or how it has performed recently. If the CEO of Sparc stuffs up it would be a one day story that maybe generates an independent inquiry that ends in a 50 page report that no one remembers.

A fair summary. So the conclusion:

Sparc is not more important than the Reserve Bank, its people should not be paid 24% more than people at the Reserve Bank and we should not be paying more than half of its staff NZ$100,000 to give away around NZ$71 million of public money.

Bernard also has a lot of good stuff on the $18 million SPARC is planning to spend on their websites, on how Trade Me and Staff websites have cost far less than this, and how the traffic to the SPARC sites appears to be so small it is unmeasurable.

There seems to be a very strong case for change.

An interesting contrast

July 1st, 2008 at 6:33 am by David Farrar

As far as I can tell the Government is spending tens of millions of dollars through eight different campaigns to encourage kids to play more sport.

National is saying we’ll take that money and spend it directly on funding and facilities for kid’s sports.

I know which one appeals more to me.

A useful comparison:

One big cost for example is the Sparc website. This year Sparc will spend $5.5 million on its website.  And between 2006 and 2010, Sparc will spend $11.5 million on its website.  That’s enough to give almost $6,000 worth of sporting equipment to every primary school in New Zealand.  Or to buy a decent cricket set for every family in Waitakere City.

That is a hell of a lot of money for a website!