Loopers’ Attacks on Dowson Are Dangerous and Devisive

The Politest Description of Fremantle Society’s Former President Roel Loopers is ‘Enigmatic’. 

Even the most casual observer will have noted that he seems to change his mind with the wind, to blow hot and cold with the same breath.

Closer examination reveals he continually manipulates the truth about his experience and achievements.  For example it was only about two weeks ago that Loopers said he had been a Fremantle resident for 17 years. Now he says he has been living here for 22 years. Soon we’ll be told that he was born here.

His flippant attitude to facts and analysis can be noted from his recent attacks on John Dowson, referring to him as ‘the old guard of Fremantle Society’.

Many of the members of The Society have lived in Fremantle for decades longer than either Loopers or Dowson. John Dowson, an historian and lecturer, has a genuine passion for the city’s architecture as well as a deep seated knowledge of the history which accompanies the infrastructure – not only the buildings but the lifestyles which blended into the old city and latterly into the immediate suburbs.

Dowson, has been maligned by detractors who see him as pedantic and have successfully labelled him as anti-development. Those detractors are developers or the supporters of developers. That includes Roel Loopers.  Do they have a vested  interest in destroying Dowson’s reputation in his drive for high quality development? You bet they do.

When studying Dowson carefully he emerges as an avid supporter of development. Backed by his study of the city and its social and economic lifestyle, he strongly favours high quality, low rise structures. Most Fremantle people favour quality development of no more than six stories.  That belief is shared by two members of The Society’s committee who have resigned saying they  cannot work with Loopers. A third recently resigned but the reason is unknown.

 Dowson Want’s High Quality development. Looper’s Changed His Mind.

Loopers had been a great admirer of Dowson. Suddenly Loopers once more changed his mind. Why? There is no reason other than the fact he sees  an attack on Dowson as another feather in his cap among his, Loopers, supporters. Loopers will always, carefully,  go with the flow but Dowson has not flinched from his “high quality,  low rise” stance. Dowson, or for that matter, any other member of the committee (other than Loopers) is not driven by ego or vested self interest. It must be remembered that before joining The Society Loopers was an advocate of high rise developments. He posted pictures on his blog, admiring proposed concrete and glass boxes of ten plus stories.

The best thing that could emerge from a Dowson victory is that Loopers keeps his promise to resign from the Fremantle Society’s committee.

Looper’s Achieved Nothing … Except turn the Society’s Newsletter into a Public Relations Mouthpiece for Developers.

And why is that? Loopers was greeted as a saviour by the society a couple of years or so back. He promised to rejuvenate the organisation. To attack  –  a cut and thrust knight in shining armour who would devour anybody who dared to ruin the city. Now he has turned the society newsletter into little more than claptrap supporting council and developers, spending much of his time socialising with the very people who plan and support crass developments.

The membership of the Society has halved in two years and, in spite of Loopers promises, has not attracted a younger brigade.

When Loopers finally retired as president (for the second time) he openly admitted he had achieved nothing.  He said:

“I have had enough of ramming my head against brick walls, my input being ignored, and my time on workshops and committees being taken for granted. When elected members become arrogant and patronising and unwilling to compromise at any level, it is time to move on and stop wasting my time”.

It didn’t cross his mind that his ideas may have been impractical, that better minds didn’t agree with him, that they had picked him as being a manipulator of facts to boost his own standing.

Blind Followers Faced Legal Action

His ideas appear to be poorly researched. A case in point is QR coding which is described world wide as being an outdated technology being replaced by more efficient systems. For some reason people blindly followed his idea. We’re yet to see it working in spite of considerable public expenditure being invested.

Recently the Society committee had to disassociate  themselves from Loopers’ blog under threats of legal action for defamation. It emerged the entire committee would be responsible for legal action following Loopers defamatory remarks made against several people (including this writer) with no supporting evidence whatsoever, being reposted on the Society’s blog.  The committee came within a hair’s breath of being sued but the simple fact is that people with no profile, let alone those who have a high public profile, will not tolerate being called cowards, nazis, bullies etc.

Loopers, and by default, the committee, were saved by the fact that Loopers is a failure (he has admitted that in his blog several times). As such he is simply not worth suing. However some of the committee members do have substantial assets and the legal advice was clear:  ‘Sue them as they have repeated his  defamations via The Society’s blog and web site’.

A Vote for Dowson Will Emasculate Loopers.

So, a vote for Dowson at todays meeting will be a vote to emasculate Loopers in much the same manner as he, Loopers, has emasculated the society.

Hopefully Dowson and Farrar (who claims to be a great friend of Loopers) can make things work between them and rescue The Society by offering constructive opposition to poor quality developments. They would also regain the profile the Society had under it’s stronger leaders, who include Dowson,  all of whom Loopers failed to invite to The Society’s 40th anniversary celebrations.

Dowson would attract many of the people who have deserted the movement. The committee would find themselves on an even keel and able to do what the society does best – encourage high quality development, and attack the fast buck gang of developers and architects who seem intent on killing off Fremantle’s character. That may go some way towards attracting the city’s newer residents to an experienced society which has respected membership base of experience and intellect. The old guard have a prodigious  record and a new and intelligent group is needed to join them to ensure a smooth transition which is less enigmatic and more decisive than the immediate past history has shown.

There is little question that if Dowson becomes president he and Henty Farrar could work well together. They have a deep respect, built over many years which will re-form the Fremantle Society into a powerful and respected body.

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A Big Question Hangs Over QR Codes

Are They Dead or Alive? 

The Fremantle Society in co-operation with Fremantle BID have recently started to install QR code plaques on historic building in Fremantle. These are neat, high-tech panels each containing a unique code which is scanned by an App installed in a smart phone or tablet. If all works well the App should open a website which allows the viewer to study information about the building or other artefact to which the plaque is attached.

Was it a good move by Fremantle BID and the Fremantle Society to implement their use on Fremantle buildings or a waste of public money?

Fremantle Backchat asked Tim Milsom, the CEO of the Fremantle Chamber of Commerce, if he knew of any Chamber members who had installed the codes. He said the Chamber itself used them on its business cards but offered no further information.

A local photographer, Glen Cowans, has them installed in his gallery on information panels beneath each of his pictures. He  sees some people using the codes but has not noticed an increase in sales and has no idea if they do have an effect on sales.

The West Australian newspaper, in an article related to the effectiveness of QR codes explained that of the number of QR codes applied in adverts they found from a survey of advertisers that less than 2000 readers had used the codes. The newspaper claims a blanket coverage in Western Australia, a readership approaching two million a day.

Fremantle Society Committee Member Resigned Over QR Codes Issue: ‘They had better things to do with resources.’

Ron Davidson,  a pillar of the Fremantle Society, said The Society’s resources were far too limited to waste on the QR codes. It was the straw that broke the camel’s back and he resigned from the committee.

Davidson said:

‘I was teetering on the brink at that point … the FS had limited resources and they’d be better spent doing other things  … the standard things the society has always done … to study plans … to project a general philosophy about Fremantle.’

Davidson agreed that The Society has become little more than a public relations mouthpiece for Fremantle Council. He continued:

‘The last newsletter seemed bizarre, all it did was list things they [council] were doing  but offering no critical analysis. The basic feeling [among the committee] was that you couldn’t be critical … that you have to be positive. One of my colleagues has said:  “One of the most positive things you can have is good criticism.’”

Did BID and The Society Ask the Hard Questions?

But did BID and The Society conduct due diligence? A simple search indicates there are many arguments which indicate the codes are not effective.

Only between 6 and 17% of smart phone owners have downloaded a QR code App to their phone. The biggest uptake has been in Germany.  Also, while smart phones are widely used they are by no means owned by every mobile phone user. Thus the target market is relatively small compared with the overall number of mobile phone users.

No smart phone manufacture has incorporated a QR scanner within their product. There are several Apps available which will scan codes but why, if the system is good, have they not been built into smart phones at the manufacturing stage?

The Joke Is … QR Codes Have a Negative Reputation

The answer may rest in a quote by Alexander Taub, published in Forbes magazine in December 2012. He says:

“One of the most popular Tumblr blogs of 2012 is Pictures of People Scanning QR Codes. If you click through to the site you will see that it is empty. The joke here? No one scans QR codes (short for Quick Response code). It is obvious that QR codes have a bad rep and haven’t gained much traction on the consumer end of the equation”.

Taub, in an interview with Garrett Gee of ‘Scan’, a company which dominates scanning technology, quotes Gee as saying:

“ … amongst technical experts, QR codes definitely have a negative reputation”

Better Technology is Around the Corner

He continues:

“We believe that better technologies will eventually replace QR codes and Scan will be right there leading the way. However, many people thought NFC would kill QR codes overnight. We knew this wouldn’t be the case. QR codes are far too spread throughout the world and even if NFC gets to where many hope to see it, there will always be certain use cases where QR codes simply make better sense (large signs, magazines, mailers, etc).”

There are problems associated with the manufacture of QR codes. The codes are small square images, looking a little like a miniature black and white mosaic. Problems occur if the slightest error in producing the code is made. This can cause a scanned code to lead the viewer to a different website.

 QR Codes Are Expensive To Use

Code reading is a time consuming process and, if people are using prepaid phones, expensive.

It costs approximately $1 per minute to use a mobile phone, especially pre paid systems. Given  the time to scan and download information many users would not be prepared to scan dozens in a day or so.

Sean X Cummings commented on iMedia Connections in 2011:

“Unfortunately the technology behind QR codes was not invented for advertising and marketing; we are just co-opting its usage, and it shows.

“From the relative lack of public understanding of what they even are, to the dearth of creativity in their usage, the QR code is destined to become just the little box that geek built. But if it does go the way of CueCat, only we are to blame. Here’s why.”

Survey Shows The General Public Are Oblivious to QR Codes

“The current use of QR codes in advertising is … I could finish that statement with “stupid,” “useless,” “uncreative,” or “uninspiring.” Surprisingly, that is not news to anyone at advertising agencies or brands. QR codes seem to be a last ditch effort; … The general public seems largely oblivious to what they are used for, and why they are on all those ads. In my informal “on the street” survey of 300 people last month, I held up a sign with a QR code on it and the phrase: “Free gift if you can tell me what this is.”

Cummings conducted the survey in San Francisco, an area he describes as being the veritable mecca of tech. He simply showed people the code and asked if they could identify what it is. Here are the statistics he recorded:

• 11 percent correctly answered QR code or quick response code

• 29 percent responded with “Some bar code thingy”

• Seven percent guessed some variant of “Those things you stare at that get 3D when you cross your eyes.  What picture is it? I can’t seem to get it”

• The remaining 53 percent tried everything from a secret military code, Korean (uh really?), to an aerial street map of San Francisco

QR codes were developed in 1994 by the car manufacturing industry to assist with production. Only in recent years have they been applied in the broader community.

Dumb Marketers

In April 2013 Aaron Strout published an article, “The Death of the QR Code”, for Marketing Land. He closely examined the death of the QR code and the reasons for it’s demise. He numbered several significant causes, among them the fact that no manufacturer has pre-loaded a QR reader into a smart phone. He lists the importance of wifi connectivity and the simple fact that wifi is not available in many places. In replies to his blog many people confirmed his views. They are liberally sprinkled with comments like:

“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried scanning these codes only to be taken to non-mobile optimized sites, or worse, to a site where I scratched my head wondering what the connection to the original call-to-action was.”

“I don’t think they’re dead. I think marketers are/were dumb.”

“…our study results combined with our first-hand experience, lean towards a
fading trend for these little guys for use in advertising. People in
general are curious individuals, but unfortunately pulling out a phone,
loading an app and then scanning the code is possibly far more effort
than most people care to deal with to satisfy a curiosity of discovering
what the code offers, or links to.”

“I could not agree more…I think these are archaic and on their way out. They take too much time, they are ugly, and not convenient.”

“They were never alive. QR Codes have been a failure from the outset. No question.”

Did Anybody at BID or The Fremantle Society Ask The Obvious Question?

There is enough evidence to suggest  QR cards can work well in some situations but the level of dissatisfaction is very high. Maybe too high for the Fremantle Society and Fremantle BID to have risked public and private money until more research into the effectiveness of the system is proven in the manner proposed. Did anybody within BID or the Fremantle Society ask the most obvious question:

“Why have no other cities in Australia adopted QR coding?”

It would certainly have be prudent for the Society and BID to have investigated why no other council has supported the implementation of QR codes. However, such codes or similar systems may well be beneficial but nothing short of a marketing miracle will turn them into the silver bullet Fremantle needs.