The Sunday Diigo Links Post (weekly)

December 12, 2010 at 1:30 am | In links | 2 Comments
  • Interesting list… The ten in brief (click through for full description/ discussion): 1) Economic Turmoil; 2) Green Power; 3) The Senior Market; 4) Discount Retail; 5) Local Business; 6) Education; 7) Parental Outsourcing; 8 ) Health and Wellness; 9) Texas [huh? Texaplex cities: Houston, Dallas, Fort Worth, San Antonio, Austin: Youth Magnet cities]; 10) Affordable Alcohol; and 10 1/2) Pets.

    tags: trends trendwatch economy entrepreneur_magazine

  • Must-read article about heroin, Afghanistan, war, and Canada…
    “Opium is the problem in Afghanistan. A corrupt narco-elite runs the country,” [Amir Attaran] said.

    Attaran is a University of Ottawa law professor and development expert who has studied Afghanistan’s drug trade.

    He said both sides in the country’s war have an interest in perpetuating the conflict because of their involvement with opium. “You cannot grow opium and traffic it on a large scale in peacetime. You need a fog of war,” he said.

    “If you want to understand the conflict in Afghanistan, you have to understand this is a gang war.”

    Attaran’s solution: Legalize Afghan opium and sell it for medical uses, joining countries such as India and Turkey that grow legal opium crops for the pharmaceutical market.

    The result, he thinks, would be to turn warlords into regular businessmen and reduce the country’s violence and corruption. “I don’t really see an alternative that would succeed,” Attaran said.

    tags: afghanistan heroin drugs war addiction canada times_colonist

  • Excellent developments – blow some of the energy our way (to Victoria Canada) please…
    Pahlka thinks she can change what it means to work at city hall. “Right now, if you’re a talented developer or designer, government is what you go into if you can’t get a better job,” she says. (…)

    If the geeks do take over city hall, the result may be something like what’s happening in the tiny town of Manor, Texas. (…)

    “Manor has triggered a movement of municipal innovation,” says Margarita Quihuis, a researcher at Stanford University, who worked with Haisler to cocreate Manor Labs. “It’s changing the way citizens and government behave toward each other, from the adversarial atmosphere of a typical city-council meeting to the kind of friendly constructive brainstorming that might go on at a design firm like Ideo. We launched this with essentially no money. We’re not talking about a New York City that has millions of dollars. If we can do it in Manor, that means 90% of America could do it as well.” (…)

    “One of my criticisms of gov 2.0 thus far is that there tend to be a lot of transit apps — Where’s My Bus,” says Nigel Jacob of Boston’s Office of New Urban Mechanics, a city-hall incubator for tech initiatives. “Those are good things, but we have a huge demographic of our city for whom their major challenge is getting access to high-quality food, or getting their kids into school. It’s not so much that the developer community doesn’t want to tackle hard issues, they just don’t know about them.” Entrepreneurs, he points out, are understandably used to solving problems for people like themselves, the largely upper-middle-class and educated. That’s why Jacob’s office is working to connect citizens who need help to the laptops of developers who can fix their problems, both online and through face-to-face meetings.

    tags: gov2.0 fast_company city_halls local_government

  • Part of a series on “The $300 House,” this piece is by Seth Godin, addressing the problem of marketing to the world’s poor. Don’t scoff – Godin’s piece is a real eye-opener. If we agree that innovation (and innovative approaches & thinking) is (are) critical in solving poverty, then we have to realize that it’s those in poverty who have to be convinced to *adopt* innovation. Godin shows why this is difficult, and offers suggestions for overcoming the problem. Excerpt:
    If you’re a tenth-generation subsistence farmer, your point of view, about risk, about life, is different from someone working in an R&D lab in Palo Alto. The Moral Economy of the Peasant makes this argument clearly: Imagine standing in water up to your chin. The only thing you’re prepared to focus on is whether or not the water is going to rise four more inches. Your penchant for risk is close to zero. One mistake and the game is over.

    As a result, it’s extremely difficult to sell innovation to this consumer. The line around the block to get into the Apple store for a gadget is an insane concept in this community. A promise from a marketer is meaningless, because the marketer isn’t part of the town, the marketer will move away, the marketer is, of course, a liar.

    Let me add one more easily overlooked point: Western-style consumers have been taught from birth the power of the package. We see the new Nano or the new Porsche or the new convertible note on a venture deal and we can easily do the math: [new thing] + [me] = [happier]. We’ve been taught that an object can make our lives better, that a purchase can make us happier, that the color of the Tiffany’s box or the ringing of a phone might/will bring us joy.

    That’s just not true for someone who hasn’t bought a new kind consumer good in a year or two or three or maybe ever. As a result, stores in the developing world tend to be stocked with the classic, the tried and true, because people buy refills of previous purchases, not the new. You can’t simply put something new in front of a person

    tags: seth_godin harvard_business $300_house poverty innovation marketing tribes

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Once more, the streets

December 10, 2010 at 11:06 pm | In johnson street bridge, land_use, street_life, transportation, urbanism, victoria | 4 Comments

While I promised myself, for sanity’s sake, to forgo paying attention to city politics, the City of Victoria‘s endorsement last night of a transportation proposal has me back at square one. Meaning what? Meaning I’m scratching my head, wondering what’s in the water around here.

The endorsed plan – proposed by BC Transit – would do a couple of really bizarre things that strike me as undesirable. The plan involves putting either rapid transit trams or rapid transit bus lines along Douglas Street, which is the city’s main north-south street corridor. Douglas Street is actually part of the Trans Canada Highway – further north, outside the city core, it becomes the highway. But in the city itself, it’s also just another main street that runs parallel to Victoria’s two other main north-south arterial roads, Government Street on its west and Blanshard Street on its east. At Douglas Street’s southern terminus you find Beacon Hill Park’s Mile 0 and the Terry Fox Memorial, site of many tourist moments. Before reaching the park, Douglas Street traverses Victoria’s Central Business District. As it provides an artery for the city, Douglas Street has four traffic lanes (two north-bound, two south-bound). There is on-street parking along much of Douglas Street’s downtown stretch, albeit on alternating blocks and sides of the street; and there are several blocks where no parking at all is allowed because bus service is heaviest here.

In the proposed plan, all on-street parking would be eliminated. Traffic lanes would be reduced from four to two, running side-by-side along the street’s western edge. Along the east side of the street, there would be two side-by-side tram or rapid transit bus lanes, one heading north, the other south, again: side by side. In the middle of the street would be a two-lane bike path.

Here’s  a rendering, as it appeared in last night’s (and today’s) Times-Colonist online:


I’m already getting into arguments with friends over this one. Some of my friends applaud the plan and point out that this is not new, and that BC Transit has been working on this since 1995.

To which I say, “it’s still a pretty shitty plan, sorry.”

I’ve never seen a tram arrangement like this, and really can’t understand why (in the case of this illustration) the south-bound tram should be orphaned away from pedestrian access. The only pedestrian access is via the sidewalk, and in this case the south-bound tram is removed from the sidewalk by a north-bound tram lane. I suppose if the trams don’t stop very often, you can build fancy stations to accommodate riders having to cross the tram tracks, etc. But shouldn’t the point downtown be that you have really frequent stops?

Nor do I get the logic of a bike lane down a median. In this scenario the cyclists will have to fight with cars and trams if they want to reach the curb/ retail frontage. That makes no sense. Maybe it makes sense for cyclists who don’t want to stop and are going to keep going until they reach …somewhere. But what if it’s a cyclist who’s hopping from one downtown store or venue to another? I guess he or she will be infringing on the pedestrian’s sidewalk space – and that always has the potential for trouble.

What I really dislike about this plan is how it suggests that if we could only get everyone into their proper slot (into the bike lane in the median, into the tram lanes side by side, into the car lanes side by side, and into the sidewalks – separated by an ocean of other transportation options) – if we could only get everyone to stay in their place, we could “solve” urban transportation issues. I’m not averse to that approach in areas where it’s imperative to clear the path for 50 to 60-kilometer per hour travel, but in a downtown, that’s not where (or how fast) we want to go.

I can’t help but think that rapid transit and cars are doing relatively well in this plan, but that pedestrians and cyclists aren’t. They latter two groups are asked to move like the former two: in straight lines, without stopping in any sort of way that could hold things up, without meandering, without trespassing or “jaywalking” – “jay-riding”? – into the other lanes of traffic. I don’t think that’s very urban. In every real city, pedestrians are constantly taking back their streets through everyday acts of disobedience: dawdling on the sidewalk, hitching bikes to parking meters (oops, I forgot we’re not even going to have parking meters under this new plan!), jaywalking, clustering, gawking, sitting around… Anything and everything in addition to “moving along” in an orderly fashion.

I dislike the extreme tidiness of this plan. There’s no mess here – probably because everyone is in their place. (And heaven help the poor fool who steps out of line…)

It looks suburban.

Finally, a word about the sad fate of the Johnson Street Bridge: those of us who fought to save the bridge suggested that one lane of the three traffic lanes on the current bridge should be given over to “multi-modal” transportation (read: bike lanes etc.). We were told by the rabid pro-replacement councilors around the table at City Hall that it would be impossible to reduce this tiny tiny bridge’s lane capacity from three to two. And yet these same councilors yesterday gave their assent to reducing the city’s main arterial road from four lanes of traffic to two, for a stretch of more than two kilometers. The hypocrisy staggers me.

Addendum: See also my post, Congestion is our friend (on, among other things, Gordon Price‘s talk on Motordom [<–slide deck on SlideShare]). From that slide deck, here’s an image (#26) of what an urban street (Commercial Drive in Vancouver) can look like – note the parked cars and general urban “mess”:

Kaleidoscope Theatre’s The Hobbit

December 9, 2010 at 11:20 pm | In arts, victoria | Comments Off on Kaleidoscope Theatre’s The Hobbit

Are you a huge Tolkien fan? Yeah, me neither…

That said, however, if you’re in Victoria Canada, you should see Kaleidoscope Theatre‘s production of The Hobbit, currently playing at the McPherson Theatre. The remaining three shows are this Friday – that’s tomorrow – and Saturday at 7pm, and then again on Sunday at 2pm.

Kaleidoscope’s production is a treat. Theater by and for young adults, it manages to knock a couple of adult socks off, too. With not much of a budget, it succeeds in creating huge illusions – typically, by dint of excellent performers, direction, and highly creative set designers.

Watch for how they stage the eagle’s rescue of the dwarfs and Bilbo Baggins; conjure a dragon out of lights and sound; and manage a battle scene between dwarfs, elves, and humans with just a handful of actors.

Oh, and Golem: played by Ingrid Hansen, this Golem comes across as a really scary psychopath, truly dangerous and unpredictable. I kept thinking, “Wow, Bilbo, if Golem gets you, this is going to morph into a Jeffrey Dahmer docu-drama…” Not sure if the little kids in the audience caught that whiff of psychosis in Golem, but I sure felt it… Hansen has the dancer’s superb control over how she uses her body: each movement spoke volumes about Golem’s deranged mind.

Kaleidoscope staged The Hobbit in 2002; this photo, "Dwarfs captured by Wood Elfs," is from that earlier production

TEDwomen, global

December 7, 2010 at 7:53 pm | In conference, ideas, victoria | Comments Off on TEDwomen, global

I spent about two hours at UVic this afternoon, where the Washington DC-based TEDwomen sessions were being live-streamed. I came in for Session 2: Life’s Symphony, featuring (among others) Sheryl Sandberg (COO of Facebook); Mona Eltahawy (journalist); Tony Porter (educator); and Lauren Zalaznick (television exec).

I was fortunate to have heard about the live-cast (via a friend), and that was evident when I got to UVic. Some of the attendees (mostly women) had been there for Session 1; I arrived right at the break, about 10 or 15 minutes before Session 2. As we waited for it to start, one of the organizers noted that we were a lucky bunch to be privy to the simulcast … since it wasn’t publicly advertised.

Given that there were only about a dozen people in a room that could easily hold about sixty, I really couldn’t understand why the event wasn’t publicly advertised…

At one point, the DC event cut to a map of all the locations, globally, where TEDwomen was being simulcast, and via the magic of simulcasting and Skype, we “visited” the group located in Mexico. Its audience seemed a lot bigger than ours; they had strung up a banner, and were holding a parallel mini-TEDx conference of their own during breaks in the DC simulcast. They had made a big, decidedly public event out of this – I just had to wonder why our Victoria BC session was so private.

I don’t know… I dropped in late, I probably missed something.

But it reminded me of too much in Victoria – taking “it’s on a need-to-know basis” to a whole new level… #dislike

I’m sorry I failed to take notes – there was lots of good stuff.

The picture, above, is of Lauren Zalaznick, whose riveting analysis of TV-watching habits correlated to social trends (in cynicism or judgementalism or optimism or…) was eye-opening. From what I recall: we have so much in common with animals, except this – humans love to watch, whereas other animals don’t have that voyeurism fetish. From that core insight, Zalaznick looked at what we watch (hint, TV), and then extrapolated social trends. She matched these up with TV trends, and made the argument that TV is our “conscience”… Really looking forwarded to getting my hands on an archive broadcast of her talk, and the others, too.

I signed up for another session tomorrow, but I don’t think I’ll take the time out to attend. It’s a hassle to free up the time, and if I’m going to do that, it has to be better than bowling alone.


December 6, 2010 at 3:42 pm | In arts, local_not_global, politics | Comments Off on Re-entry

The biggest problem with letting regular blogging slide is re-entry – at least, that’s my experience. For the past month, I let the posts slide …and then eventually dwindle to mere Sunday links updates. I’d like to pull up my socks and re-enter.

Here’s a peek into a small piece of what I’ve been up to…

One of the reasons for my recent hiatus from blogging was my commitment to the CRD‘s Arts Development Office, where I am fortunate to be able to volunteer on the Arts Advisory Council. Around this time of year, my fellow AAC members and I read about 30 (this year it was 34) applications for Operational Funding from local arts organizations (all the details about eligibility and criteria are on the CRD website). We have a budget for Operating Grants of just over $2million, and – in my previous four years of doing this – the budget increased annually by 2%, and even up to 3.5%. This year, the increase was 0%, and, to complicate matters, most of the arts organizations that apply for CRD funding were also hammered by cuts at the Provincial level – which meant they need more help than ever.

Long story short: the request for funding was significantly larger than what was available to distribute.

On Saturday we held our plenary meeting where we determined funding recommendations. These will be presented for approval to the political arm – the Arts Committee, consisting of politicians from the participating municipalities (not every municipality in the CRD participates in funding Arts Development). At this point now, my work is done, but this was the hardest year of five to come up with recommendations. Our organizations range from small (a $50K annual budget is a minimum criterion for applying for Operating Funding) to larger (budgets of several millions of dollars), and all of them need support. Some of the larger orgs might have access to connections and fundraising strategies that allow them to reach wealthy donors; many of the smaller ones need to crowdsource that appeal and raise cash through possible micro-installments. Either way, raising funds is a non-stop issue – as is donor-fatigue.

If everyone in the public sphere understood what the arts accomplish on relative shoe-strings (the arts are not profligate, but are instead super-efficient!) and what they manage to give back to the community (including via the economic multiplier effect), citizens would be more willing to support funding, both individually and through public grants.

Concurrently, every art organization must do what it can to get its message out, to demonstrate its vital role in cities and towns across the country.

To the Province: restore arts funding fully in British Columbia. Provincial government is collecting lots of “new” money via its recently-instituted 12% HST – event tickets are now taxed with HST, which is an additional 7% tax on ticket prices that wasn’t there when only GST (5%), but not PST (7%), applied to tickets (prior to the introduction of HST). The arts organizations aren’t readily able to pass that 7% increase on to their patrons, which means many of them are “swallowing” the tax. Come on, BC, give some of that new cash back to the arts.

Victoria's Theatre Inconnu: newest offering, "Moscow Station"

The Sunday Diigo Links Post (weekly)

December 5, 2010 at 1:31 am | In links | Comments Off on The Sunday Diigo Links Post (weekly)
  • Very interested in these two projects:
    Projects & artists to be showcased include:

    * PATHWAYS TO HOUSING INTERACTIVE VIDEO PROJECTION (Sarkissian Mason Design Agency) – A video installation asked passers-by to SMS for awareness about homelessness and donate to Pathways to Housing

    * TXTUAL HEALING (Paul Notzold) – TXTual Healing contextualizes text messaging into user generated story telling, whether in public space or as an indoor installation.

    tags: mobile_city texting urbanism mobileactive

  • More on urban planning and social media/ input by the people:
    The NYC Dept of Transportation continues to re-imagine traffic throughout the city; employing a system of bike paths, street closings and new traffic alignments to create public space and make traffic safer and more efficient. The task was to imagine the public spaces created by the new traffic alignments, and design a language of street furniture and planting that helped to define the space. Before beginning to develop our design principles, the design team first had to ask, what should a public place be?

    The aim was to engage a wide audience in answering this question. Forty Dutch urban design students and their professors, landscape architect Erik de Jong and planner Arnold van der Valk, happened to be in town and were eager to discuss urban public space in the American context.

    These young designers joined Balmori Associates staff and the client in a design discussion. The team also extended the conversation to a worldwide public through live video and twitter. The discussion touched on topics that including ecology, funding, furniture and materials, program, public/private, public amenities, scale, and circulation/traffic. In the Twitter forum, the discussion focused on sharable space, urban decorum, and contextual appropriateness. These topics helped us to develop our design principles.

    tags: open_source placemaking streets reclaiming_streets urban_design urbanplanning balmori nyc

  • Lots of great ideas here:

    In its most naked form, ‘open source’ place-making is about taking a development site, establishing a very basic planning framework for it, triggering population of the site and then through its unfolding occupation form a forward plan for its development.


    A second dimension to open source place-making is to innovate the management of a neighbourhood, prioritise opportunities for tenants to benefit from short leases, self-build and self-management of the way in which they relate to buildings; also support different terms of trade and promote internal markets in goods and services on a barter basis – perhaps even follow a model by which tenants provide services-in-kind to external grant funders of a site, in lieu of rent.


    …be a talent scout, recruit and capitalise upon its momentum.

    On one level, ‘open source’ place-making is asking the development sector to open its mind up to a different way of thinking about design and site assembly: what tech people call interaction design.

    Start to see physical space as a form of sovereign real estate – much like a web page – who’s personality unfolds through the involvement of users – and see activity on site as a sequence of what geeks call transient interrupts that develop, die or mutate in to profitable enterprises over time.


    On another level, ‘open source’ place-making is a plea: to slim down bureaucracy, open up development to taking an equity stake in the customer and reflect the fact that in an internet economy, people are loyal to data and experience and ‘modal switch’ between platforms; what’s more, maximise opportunities to win a return on investment in certain markets or market-makers: such as social enterprise, independent retail, consumers who live in online, as well as offline spaces, and those who want autonomy.


    urban development has wound right down, with producers and consumers of land either deleveraging or starved of bank credit.

    You don’t need to be Ben Bernanke of the Federal Reserve to realise that in this climate, it might be profitable – as well as more effective – for the real estate and renewal sectors to follow people and their money more resolutely in to online and social markets, and start to behave like those markets.

    tags: open_source placemaking urban_design david_barrie innovation

  • Very interesting: Urban planning as not-planning, informed by social media…?

    The rise of social enterprise prioritises human relationships and transactions of social, not just commercial value, says Barrie. ‘It shifts the narrative of renewal from the provision of space to services, with sites acting as places that enable change, rather than dictate them via a masterplan.’ Social productivity, he concludes, presses for a new narrative in urban development. Historically, it has been social networks that have made places.

    In online social networks, people have multiple independent groups of friends, often linked to family, shared experience and hobbies. Temporary ties are common-place. People rely upon the recommendation of friends to make decisions. Historically, these are drivers of human association with public space and it has been the physical public realm that has made a market in these relations.’

    ‘Increasingly, says Barrie, ‘minds copy the workings of the internet and flit sharply from one idea to another, addicted to the breadth of everything, rather than the depth of something This is at odds with one of the traditional functions of places and placemaking: to create fixed opportunities for human interactions and narrative. In this context, physical places start to look like either passing scenery or locations that host uses that enable people to fulfil a task.’

    There is nothing new, he continues, about designing places that embrace the sociability and social value of business or human relations. ‘However, places that explicitly integrate the unfolding development of social ventures, or could be described as living rooms for a networked society, have been thin on the ground. ‘no doubt because of the risks associated with social enterprise paying rent, the failure to find a profitable operating model for municipal wi-fi, the perception of social business as a means of addressing market failure, rather than creating wealth’.

    Approaches to urban development that seek to trigger or build networks of people and spaces, linking them in such a way as to provoke new civic or social enterprise and aggregate both physical assets and social capital, could well be more effective than traditional development approaches, says Barrie.

    tags: placemaking rudi david_barrie urbanplanning urban_design socialmedia open_source

  • Excellent article by Rebecca MacKinnon, title self-explanatory.

    What is troubling and dangerous is that in the internet age, public discourse increasingly depends on digital spaces created, owned and operated by private companies. The result is that one politician has more power than ever to shut down controversial speech unilaterally with one phone call.

    tags: wikileaks amazon cnn free_speech corporatism rebecca_mackinnon

  • Sort of spooky, but simultaneously completely logical, the web is getting into predictive…

    This focus on the timeline sets Recorded Future apart from other firms trying to gain insights by mining news and other data, says Ipeirotis. “I’m curious to see when other text analytics firms will jump into the trend.”

    Recorded Future is about to expand its service to cover Arabic and Chinese sources. Making its indexes bigger is a major priority. “I’d like to be able to get in front of every piece of streaming data on the planet,” says Ahlberg.

    As the databases covered by Recorded Future, General Sentiment, and others grow, more powerful types of analysis will become possible, says Skiena. “I’m currently working with social scientists on models to predict what the probability is that a person that gets few mentions today suddenly becomes very famous in the future, by looking back at years of past data,” he says.

    Be sure to check out the video demo of Recorded Future:…

    tags: mit_techreview recorded_future web futurismo

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

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