Getting kicked out

November 2, 2010 at 11:12 pm | In just_so, social_networking, web | 1 Comment

I’m spending way too much time today trying to convince my browser that I’m not really supposed to be kicked out of various sites I’m logging (or already logged) into. It happened again and again on various sites today.

[Is there a disturbance in the force field, Luke?]

Tonight’s clincher: I had carefully planned my entry into the amazing Seth Godin‘s by-invite-only Triiibes site, selecting a photo of myself, exporting a small-format version to my desktop (where I’d be able to find it easily), and then clicking the “click to join” button on my coveted “Join me on Triiibes” invitation, which had arrived in my inbox earlier today.

I filled out all the fields, but then – poof! – the site rejected the brand-new password I had just created as “incorrect.”

Numerous unsuccessful retries later, I gave up (in?) and requested a new password (which seemed strange, since it had been my first, brand-new try at signing up to begin with). I then succeeded with the new password (via a new email), …but now I’m in some sort of purgatory. The webpage says: “Your membership to Triiibes is pending approval”… Whaa???

Ok, I’ll try this again tomorrow.

Right now, I’ll kick myself upstairs and relax with a book. The web may not perfect, but I am… 😉

Follow up on commenting, and Facebook

March 27, 2010 at 10:29 pm | In comments, facebook, social_networking | 4 Comments

Here’s a follow-up to my Thursday post, Comment Quality?:

Lately I’ve noticed that my blog posts, which get posted to my Facebook account as Notes, are more likely to garner comments (or “likes”) over there (on Facebook) than here (on my blog’s comments board), and that it’s my local friends who are doing the Facebook commenting and “liking.” This got me thinking.

I love getting comments, so it doesn’t really matter whether they appear here or on Facebook. But whatever comments appear on Facebook are only visible to my Facebook friends, and no one else. I have some pretty draconian privacy settings on Facebook, while my blog is completely public and visible to anyone.

If there’s a particularly good comment on Facebook, should I port it over to my blog’s comments board, or leave it to its obscurity on Facebook?

For example, on the Comment quality? post, Rob Randall – who has commented here frequently – wrote a Facebook comment that I felt should go on the blog instead of remaining stuck behind Facebook’s garden wall.

Rob wrote:

Good point. Newspapers lost classified advertising to other entities that could do it better. They will lose commenting (and possibly the hallowed letter to the editor) if they don’t clean up the wild west aspect to their online presence.

Here’s relevant comment that I’m sure you’ll find agreeable from this week’s WaPo humour chat:

Santa Clara, Calif.: Since you have a poll regarding the comments following news stories, I feel obligated to share my beliefs about what works and what doesn’t. First and foremost, if you want good dialogue between people with differing opinions, unregulated and unmoderated commenting simply won’t work. As an online forum browser, participant, and moderator, I’ve learned a good commenting system takes a lot of effort from both the forum host and the participants, and has to have solid foundation of policies and standards.

I love WaPo and I’d really like to see good dialogue, but I’m almost always disappointed when I see most of the comments are crap. If you want to do this right, you need three essential elements:

– Active moderation. The best systems rely not only on the forum hosts, but on the participants themselves to filter or ban users when needed (qualified participants, see below).

– Qualification. New users should be identified as such, and they should not be allowed to freely comment without qualifying themselves first. Moderators and other “starred” participants can judge.

– Recognition. Use well qualified commenters as an extra resource. Identify and recognize them, and that will motivate participants to be that much more responsible.

The A-Q-R elements list really nails it. Q and R especially require a lot of human curation: someone from the organization (the newspaper, in this case) would have to be there to monitor the community, but it’s not impossible to do. It’s a comment that should be accessible.

Other recent blog posts that have generated comments (or “likes”) on Facebook (but not here) were Getting it up with coffee; City Hall sure likes to feather its staffing bed; Trust Agents, one; The future of publishing video; 28 seconds of reasons why I live here; and Theater of the absurd for 2010.

Most of those posts were about something local, and all of them were “liked” or commented on by local people near me, people I know. None were commented on or liked by far-flung friends. I guess that says something about the strength of Facebook in the local community – that people find it easy to use, easy to slip into, and that they’re comfortable with the level of privacy they feel it affords. I’m still trying to figure out how to transpose this into what I think should be a more truly public space.

For me, Facebook is not public – not like my blog is public, not like Twitter is public. Whenever I “like” or comment on anything on Facebook, I feel like I’m in a room (or walled garden). And there are several different rooms – I’m aware of the different levels of privacy / visibility I’m engaging in, and I’ve got some sense (right or wrong) of control – my networks or my friends-of-friends have some rights, whereas people completely unconnected to me have none. (I think.)

Whenever I comment on anything on a blog (my own or that of someone else), I know it’s public. No “rooms,” just an open platform. (The same holds true for Twitter, of course: completely public.)

As I said, I love the comments – whether they’re here, in public, or in that Facebook room.

But when push comes to shove, I’ll go for the open, public comments – breadcrumb trails that others can track.

Millennials and public engagement

March 5, 2010 at 7:58 am | In authenticity, ideas, politics, social_critique, social_networking | 1 Comment

I posted a long comment on a Facebook friend’s status update: Naomi Devine, Whistler 2020 Sustainability Coordinator, wrote that she was “thinking about the design of public engagement for the Official Community Plan.”

Public engagement is a topic I’ve been mulling over, albeit on the “amateur” level: sadly, I don’t get paid to come up with this stuff. Sometimes I think I could do a pretty good job at it, though, especially when I see what passes for engagement in some places…

Naomi’s status update made me think about the so-called Millennial generation, in particular the Pew Research Foundation‘s recent How Millennial Are You? quiz.


According to the Pew quiz (which was down last night – probably too many boomers taking it to see how they’ll score), Millennials are ambitious. They also don’t read the paper (no mainstream media, thanks) and they don’t contact their local, regional, or national government officials.

So… Good luck to any and all government officials trying to design a public engagement strategy that doesn’t just engage all the usual suspects (i.e., the Boomers, who are always ready to jump up and down about something – maybe even jump up and down about their Millennial kidlets, whom they have to shepherd through life).

So what did I write on Naomi’s Facebook wall? First, I wanted to know where she was working on public engagement, and whether the “designing part [was] mostly for trying to get people to engage online, or everywhere (including face-2-face)?”

I’m curious because I wonder how web design usability tools such as user profiles, which figure strongly (and positively) in designing a good web experience, factor into “real life” engagement design (that is, the face-2-face kind).

Then I added, “I’m also curious in how to engage people who don’t vote and don’t want to, either. It’s easy to dismiss them and say they (we?) deserve the rotten governance that results, but that’s like thinking that cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face is a clever move, right? 😉 “

I mentioned the Pew Research Foundation’s quiz, and wrote that “When I looked that quiz over, I was reminded of the truism, ‘if the news are important, they’ll find me.'” It was someone’s young teenage son who said that – can’t recall for sure whether it was or was not Jeff Jarvis’s, but it may have been.

At any rate, that quote represents a Millennial stance, and it’s borne out by the Pew quiz: you lose points if you admit to having read the paper or contacted any government officials in recent memory – Millennials don’t give a shit about that sort of engagement.

I’ve been reading Dan Brown’s excellent book, Communicating Design: Developing Web Site Documentation for Design and Planning, and I added that the book “has me wondering how you can design user profiles for people whose very identity depends on cool, ironic disengagement.”

Ok, not all Millennials are cool and ironically disengaged (remember the ambitious part?), but I think it’s a real challenge to design user profiles meant to represent Millennial citizen engagement – and then, using those profiles, to construct an engagement strategy.

Obviously, Millennial engagement exists – President Obama’s campaign certainly tapped into it. But it’s probably easier to design a Millennial user profile for the next Tweetie for iPhone application than for a Millennial going into a voting booth.

Or, horrors, filling out a questionnaire about the community plan… (I mean, does anybody actually still do questionnaires? …Unless, that is, it’s a questionnaire in the form of a quiz that lets you stroke your inner narcissist …like that “how millennial are you?” quiz …or some of the other quizzes out there?)

At the local level, if it’s about “doing good and saving the world, you can still engage the usual suspects in all the university social work and psychology programs,” as well as all the older Boomers who feel obliged to engage (and who can be such a turn-off, too). But (I added), “you’ll miss a whole bunch of people who really don’t want to read the news, follow up on the issues, go to rallies or protests, or engage their elected representatives. For one thing, they don’t vote anyway – see our low voter turnouts…”



Ah yes, the low voter turnouts… Victoria’s mayor was elected by 12% of the electorate, if I recall correctly. Fewer than 30% of eligible voters voted in our last municipal election… Most of the people who did vote were senior citizens. Look what we got…

And yet the people who don’t vote are smart citizens. (For one thing, their Boomer parents made sure of that.) How do you turn them on?

“Maybe you have to find out what they’re working on, what interests them, and engage them where they are,” I wrote, in answer to my own question.

“Go where they are, don’t expect to build a site or a ‘strategy’ that makes them come to you” – that should be the thing.

Easier said than done.

Thinking out loud on social media platforms

March 1, 2010 at 6:43 pm | In authenticity, comments, social_networking | 2 Comments

A month or so ago I posted something rather personal on LinkedIn, a social media platform that till then I treated as strictly “business,” meaning no personal details, please-and-thank-you.


Making Friends, on HubSpot

Making Friends, on HubSpot


My post landed on the University of British Columbia (UBC) Alumni page, where UBC Alumnus Harman Bajwa asked fellow alums to join and introduce themselves. And off I went, for half a dozen or so (short) paragraphs. Amidst the success stories posted on the board, as well as war stories generated by the present economy, it seemed ok to write about how lost I’ve been for the past two years:

I graduated from UBC with a BA Hons. (’83) and an MA (’86), both in Art & Architectural History. Subsequently, I went on to earn a PhD (’91) in Art & Architectural History at Harvard.

I have an additional connection to UBC now – more on that in a moment.

After teaching in several New England departments while simultaneously starting a family, I found myself in the peculiar situation of …well, not being able to reconcile myself or my kids to the traditional school system. We started homeschooling, actually, and radically compounded that lifestyle change in 2002 by leaving the US to move to Victoria.

My additional UBC connection is my 15-year-old daughter …, a National Entrance Scholarship winner who is currently in her first year in UBC’s Arts One program. So, while I was the first person in my family in my generation to go to university (or finish high school), it appears my daughter is the youngest person in Arts One. …

At present, I am out of a job (that is, I’m no longer homeschooling my kids, since they’re now both at university) and am looking to reinvent my life. I’m pretty well informed about distance/ distributed learning and gifted issues at the K-12 level; I’m a blogger (since 2003); I’m a seasoned magazine writer (spent ~3 years writing for FOCUS Magazine, a Victoria monthly) on topics relating to urban development, the built environment, social media, and local politics and governance; I have successfully co-led a grassroots political awareness campaign to oppose Victoria City Hall’s plans to borrow $42million to build a new bridge (see JohnsonStreetBridge.ORG); I co-founded a local Victoria-based news & blog aggregator (which could be franchised across Canada – see; and as a volunteer member of the Capital Regional District’s Arts Advisory Council, I help adjudicate Project and Operating Grant applications from arts organizations of regional (Greater Victoria) significance.

… I’m reinventing myself yet again, and am willing to relocate either to Vancouver or even back to the States (I’m a dual US-Canadian citizen). Would love to hear from others who have embarked on similar journeys: how did you do it, what did you do, and where?

Standing in the middle of what feels like a slow-motion molasses maelstrom means being unable to recognize the obvious. Not till I wrote it, did I see it: “At present, I am out of a job (that is, I’m no longer homeschooling my kids, since they’re now both at university) and am looking to reinvent my life.”

Subsequently, I connected with a couple of other alums who are also in transition, although none seem to have been as foolishly reckless as I (or else they’re not saying). It perhaps takes a special kind of craziness to “fail” with a Harvard PhD.

While I don’t plan to make a habit of using (misusing?) LinkedIn for my own true confessions, it made sense, however, to articulate just this once my current sense of creative frustration, even on a site geared to professional interests. Yes, I do need to reinvent myself, and yes, I would leave Victoria willingly to do so. If I can’t tell that to my professional contacts, whom would I tell?

Meanwhile, almost two weeks ago Raul Pacheco wrote a blog post where he questioned the value of LinkedIn for himself, and …well, I wrote this long comment about how useful LinkedIn is for professional purposes. And that’s all true, it is very useful. But I guess I wasn’t entirely accurate if I suggested that the personal never intrudes.

PS: I’m still working on that reinvention thing. It’s a tough nut to crack.

(The above illustration, Making Friends in Social Media, courtesy of HubSpot.)

Another wave …of mirror neurons

February 10, 2010 at 11:44 pm | In comments, futurismo, social_critique, social_networking, ubiquity, web | Comments Off on Another wave …of mirror neurons

Well, it’s not called Wave, it’s called Buzz now.

I opted for it, used it a few times, and then doused it with indifference. Actually, more than indifference: an article pointed to by Dave Winer (via this tweet), WARNING: Google Buzz Has A Huge Privacy Flaw, prompted me to go to my Google settings to make sure that buzzy news wasn’t going to be publicly available. Call me old-fashioned, but I think email (and who I email with) is my business, not the world’s. Yeah, sure, the world isn’t interested in me and my email, but on principle, what Google did with default public settings is wrong.

Mat Wright blogged about Buzz earlier, and I left several persnickety (even curmudgeonly) comments. (Mat is used to this – we are co-conspirators on and co-creators of JohnsonStreetBridge.ORG and he has heard me rant often. It makes for a refreshing change that this time around it’s not about City of Victoria politics, I guess.)


Sunday Afternoon at the Grande Jatte by Georges Seurat (Louvre)

Sunday Afternoon at the Grande Jatte by Georges Seurat (Louvre)


What really intrigued me a lot more today than Buzz, however, was chatroulette (which I hadn’t heard of before, but read about on Fred Wilson‘s blog post here).

Just go read Fred’s post and then especially read through the many comments. I decided to leave a comment about chatroulette (also viewable on my Disqus profile), even if my thoughts on this app are half-formed – full disclosure: I haven’t used chatroulette and probably never will (just the mention of 4chan is enough to keep me off), but I was intrigued by the “don’t next me!” pleas from a user. The technology brings us “together” (in a weird way), but it then also gives us the power to delete people wholesale.  …Don’t taze me, bro! Don’t delete me! Don’t next me! I find this fascinating. It’s a dialectic of violence that’s built into the very thing we’re using to touch one another. The threat of harm in the promise of contact is part of the package.

If you’re really curious, you might even want to spend 8 minutes watching the …er, unusual video, 1 man 2 fish censored, posted on the blog comments board. Mirror neurons firing like it’s the Fourth of July – but what are they hitting?

Urban density and social media tools

June 8, 2009 at 9:40 am | In cities, creativity, innovation, land_use, social_networking, urbanism, victoria | Comments Off on Urban density and social media tools

It won’t come as news to those of us who love and defend cities, but it’s nice to have scientific research backing up what we espouse as urban positives: High population density triggers cultural explosions, according to a new study by scientists at University College London. The study was published in the journal Science; see also UCL’s page here (h/t Richard Florida/Creative Class blog).

The study reports that “complex skills learnt across generations can only be maintained when there is a critical level of interaction between people.”

I wonder how current social media tools mimic the benefits of density, or augment it in places that are emerging.

For example, I live in Victoria, BC, a medium-sized city that is approaching good density levels in the core neighborhoods, and I’m continually amazed by how social media tools like Twitter, Facebook, and a local forum on Vibrant Victoria have allowed a speedier dissemination of ideas. The dissemination doesn’t necessarily produce “instant” results, but how much more bereft we would be without the various platforms for those conversations.

While web-based tools can’t replace actual rubbing-up against people, they do facilitate transmission of ideas as well as complex skills, particularly if those skills aren’t manual. Yet even in the realm of manual skill or physical production – say, vegetable gardening or backyard chicken-raising – I’m likely to turn to the internet to find instructional videos or a local group. Digital natives will always go there first (and I’ve been an immigrant several times over, so I consider myself fully “naturalized” here, too, thank-you!).

Online social media tools absolutely augment the benefits of “real” population density. Thinking about online density and actual urban density (and its benefits) together, as being of a piece, seems important.

Too many choices!

February 24, 2009 at 11:52 pm | In social_networking, victoria | Comments Off on Too many choices!

For some reason, Thursday February 26 offers a plenitude of events to choose from, but no matter which I choose, I’ll be wistfully wondering if I should be elsewhere since I can’t be at all three.

First, there’s VIAFest! February 26!, which includes a free museum tour of the Royal BC Museum’s Modern Galleries and should be a nice tech mixer. This event runs from 6-8:30pm.

But then there’s also a talk by Jennifer Kostiuk at the Vancouver Island School of Art (VISA). Kostiuk represents artists whose “works address the various ways in which the contemporary mindset has altered nature and our relationship to it. Notably are organic references to nature’s influence, impact or unconscious message its presence plays on the individual artist or collector, or society as a whole.” Damn, I really want to go to this, too. It starts at 7:30pm.

Finally, another event I’d really like to attend since I missed the previous ones, a #victoriatweetup at 5th Street Bar & Grill (conveniently close to VISA, true), which gets under way around 7pm that night.

What to do?

I suppose I could go to the ViaFest mixer, stay for one hour, then head over to VISA, and then possibly swing by the 5th Street Bar & Grill to see who’s still hanging out once the VISA event is over…

DemoCamp Victoria 02 this Thursday

October 28, 2008 at 9:56 pm | In DemoCampVictoria, democampvictoria02, innovation, social_networking, victoria | 2 Comments

I can’t believe that DemoCampVictoria02 is just two “sleeps” away…!

For me, time has been flying at warp speed.  Keeping my attention in tatters are 1. new work projects, 2. a municipal election, 3. community volunteer adjudicating responsibilities, and 4. another article due (which admittedly is nothing, compared to the fact that some people have a new baby due…).

But here we go: in two more days it’s Thursday Oct. 30, which means that if you’re in Victoria and interested in technology, innovation, and creativity, you must check out our second DemoCamp (Facebook page here).

DemoCamp Victoria 02 is happening in the same location as DemoCamp Victoria01:

834 Johnson St. (David Chard’s “Juliet” Presentation Centre).  MAP

Set-up and mingling to start at 5pm, presentations to start at 6pm, sharp.

Yours truly will be demo-ing, too.  (OMFG…)

Don’t miss it!

Northern Voice 2008 — what a blast!

February 24, 2008 at 10:26 pm | In conference, northernvoice, nv08, social_networking, vancouver | Comments Off on Northern Voice 2008 — what a blast!

This afternoon I returned home from Northern Voice 2008, the 4th annual incarnation of this event. It was the first time I attended, and I had a great time. Learned a lot, met some terrific people, and experienced a really positive geek vibe — if that makes sense. I’ll post more later — probably tomorrow? — but right now I’m too exhausted. As soon as we (spouse & I) got off the ferry, we phoned the kids at home, ascertained that most of the food was gone, stopped at the supermarket on the way home to ransom a cow’s worth of milk and the millions of pounds of additional food required by growing teenagers, continued on our way, fixed lunch, walked the dog, made dinner, and now it’s time to clean up the kitchen and then collapse into bed. This is what we domestic professionals call being “back in harness.” Ha.ha. The drill continues tomorrow, and so on until …well, just watch birds trying to fledge their young. It gives a whole new meaning to going ragged at the edges.

Except I don’t see the birds in actual harness, but then I guess mine is invisible, too.

I did do a stupid thing after getting home — I spent over two hours going through over 60 pages of photos posted to Flickr that were tagged with nv08 and northernvoice. My god, people get busy with their cameras! My eyeballs hurt.

More later, on the actual conference and the great people. But now it’s off to the scullery…

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