Social networking, version 2.0?

July 31, 2007 at 10:58 pm | In guerilla_politics, links, resources, social_networking, virtually | 2 Comments

Something to explore in greater depth over the coming days: via Cool Hunting, a post by Tim Yu about Social Networking for a Cause. Yu writes:

From corporate-sponsored “Cool Apps” to niche spin-offs like Bakespace, Virb and I’m In Like With You, online communities are still largely about socializing and/or wasting time. Their potential as powerful tools for the greater good—beyond finding out where the party’s at—has been largely untapped, but we managed to find a few. The following are some of the latest and best sites where social networking meets social change.

Yikes, I’ve never even heard of Bakespace, Virb, or I’m In Like With You. After these references to “communities” that are “still largely about socializing and/or wasting time” (um, that sounds familiar…), Yu goes on to list additional sites I’ve also never heard of, but which have a “networking for a cause” spin:

  • Friction TV, described as “a YouTube for social activists, it features largely uncensored content aiming to exercise freedom of speech and catalyze online debate in a social forum”…
  • Nabuur, which “connect(s) experts to people seeking advice from all over the world. From construction workers to math teachers and MBAs, online volunteers from different continents help individuals develop business ideas and finish projects. Projects like building schools and health clinics get a boost from direct assistance via the internet.”
  • HumaniNet: helps solve humanitarian & social problems by sharing GIS “to better map rural locations in need of relief. By sharing GIS developments online, experts and users can implement the latest technologies, which makes getting around uncharted territories to reach people in need a whole lot easier.”
  • Get Miro, an “open-source software for online video. Like Firefox, Miro is developed by a nonprofit organization and driven by the social mission to make it easy for anyone to subscribe and view free internet video on any topic.”
  • H.E.L.P., stands for “Humanitarian Emergency Logistics & Preparedness”; this is “a telemedicine-based online community of physicians and financial donors bringing advanced medical assistance to disaster zones and areas of humanitarian need around the world.”
  • Kiva, which builds on “Muhammad Yunus’ Nobel prize-winning efforts at pioneering a new category of banking known as micro-loans”; Kiva “connects the world’s poorer populations looking to develop unique business ideas to people with disposable incomes while providing a transparent lending platform. Donate as little as $25 dollars to help start a business or simply buy a goat and get repaid.”
  • MAPLight: “highlight(s) the connection between money and politics as a way to promote reform”; by linking campaign contributions and votes, it creates transparency “so that journalists and citizens can hold legislators accountable, customized widgets further enhance functions and research on any issue.”
  • and of course Freecycle (the last one — and only one I had actually heard of before): a “cyber curbside” where you can recycle your stuff and create an online gift economy.

Lots to explore here… My cynical/overly-critical side wonders whether the flip side of obsessive narcissism (exemplified by the old style “social networking” sites) might be the guilt trip (“Do good! Now!”).

Of course, at the end of the day does it matter, if something good did indeed come out of it all?

“Where are you?”

July 29, 2007 at 10:32 pm | In just_so, scenes_victoria, victoria, virtually | 2 Comments

I just came across an article by Kate Greene in the MIT Technology Review, Marking Your Territory, about web-based services that let you keep your friends up-to-date on where you currently are. In particular, the article describes Plazes, a Swiss start-up, which Greene says “lets you leave electronic bread crumbs for friends.” It sounds interesting.

As it happens, I went to the Inner Harbour today to see a display of over 750 Deuce Coupes, part of Northwest Deuce Day, and noticed that many people were on cell phones telling other people where they were.

At one point, I passed one woman walking south on Government Street in front of the Empress, telling someone that she was half-way past the lawn and nearly at the Royal BC Museum, while another woman passed by heading north, telling whoever was on the line that she was heading toward the Information Booth. Both women were literally less than a foot apart, and both were saying essentially the same thing to people they were speaking to on the phone.

Greene quotes a researcher at Yahoo:

“There is a sense that it’s important to find friends and share location with each other,” says Mor Naaman, a research scientist at Yahoo. Indeed, an increasingly common opening question in cell-phone conversations is “Where are you?”

“Where are you?”

“I’m here.”

…You’re sure about that, are you?

I tried this idea out on my offspring, as the women walked past us. I said, “It’s funny, it’s as though the technology is putting us back into place or something.” They looked at me funny. “?” “Well,” I stumbled, “it’s as though all this digital stuff allowed us to have ultra-mobility, but now it’s also tethering us again, sort of like a Post-It or something, sticking us into place. You’re on your phone telling people where you are. You’re stuck.”

They thought this was excessively cerebral and told me so. We continued to look at cars, marvelling at their faces. You could take off in a car like that, and not tell anyone where you are or where you’re going…

PS/Update: It occurs to me that an affair with urban policy‘s recent entry on Bruce Katz’s Washington Post editorial, A Much More Urban America, is apropos here (the link here goes directly to the Brookings Institute source). The blog quotes from Katz’s text:

Thirty years ago, some futurists predicted that the restructuring of the American economy and our technological advances would free and un-anchor us from place, precipitating a mass de-urbanization throughout the nation.

Well, they were wrong. Far from being dead, cities are experiencing a second life, fueled, in part, by their distinctive physical assets: mixed-use downtowns, pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods, adjoining rivers and lakes, historic buildings and distinctive architecture.

And one person comments on the blog, thus:

“technological advances would free and un-anchor us from place”

Sounds great! I want to be un-anchored from my suburban office job such that I can live in Minneapolis and telecommute.

That speaks to the topic I started with, somehow. Technology is — and isn’t — “un-anchoring” us from place. In a way, it’s placing us very tightly, if somehow differently.

Well, I’m placing myself in sleep mode (I hope). Recently, I had my eyes checked and as the ophthamologist used some sort of gadget to look into my eyeballs, he remarked, “You haven’t been getting much sleep, have you?” Some places are more bloodshot than they should be, I guess!


July 29, 2007 at 5:33 pm | In business, fastcompany, victoria | 1 Comment

After I learned that FastCompany had accepted my reader-submitted nomination of Victoria as a “fast city,” I tried to let as many people as possible know about this so that they could go and rank the city. I poked friends on Facebook, I scribbled on their walls, I sent emails to people at the Chamber of Commerce and at other business organizations. And I sent email to city councillors and staff. I heard back from one person. Clearly, more people than that clicked through and ranked and/or commented on Victoria. But the lack of response to my attempts to beat the drum for this made me feel really sad. I’m heartened by the response from the tech community here — most of the comments are from that sector. But the mentality suggested by a cautious withdrawal from celebratory spirit? Let’s just say that is not fast. It’s so not fast.

And so the response / lack of response has become another benchmark for me. Climates of trust are built on response and responsiveness.

Victoria on “fast cities 2007,” with comments

July 29, 2007 at 5:17 pm | In fastcompany, victoria | Comments Off on Victoria on “fast cities 2007,” with comments


Victoria, British Columbia

The City of Victoria, designated a Canadian Cultural Capital in 2005, is the core municipality of a metro region known as the Capital Regional District (pop. ~350,000 and growing). It is home to several universities (University of Victoria; Royal Roads; and the recently-founded private University Canada West, which plans to have a downtown campus by next year), as well as a number of colleges and technical and trade schools. The Vancouver Island Technology Park serves as incubator for high tech companies, and Victoria’s high tech sector is expanding greatly. Victoria is BC’s provincial capital (seat of government) and, in addition to its growing high tech sector, Victoria commands a thriving world-class tourism industry, which benefits from the city’s rich inventory of intact heritage buildings (late 19th and early 20th century). Long considered a “sleepy” city (its island location has tended to isolate it in the past), it can now leverage today’s networked business climate. Victoria is also undergoing a renaissance in urbanist thinking, manifesting in a construction boom that’s creating a vibrant downtown filled with residential towers and new office buildings. A highly desirable place to live (mild climate, beautiful scenery), Victoria is enriched by the “three Ts” (as defined by Richard Florida), which are crucial to city-making today: talent, technology, and tolerance.

View the Next Fast City

(Currently rated 4.8 out of 5)
Not Fast – 1 5 – Fast

See how everyone else rated this entry, and read their comments! (Your comments will be added in the next day or so, but your rating is added immediately.)

Thomas Guerrero – Victoria, BC, Canada

Victoria is booming! There are cranes everywhere. Jobs are plentiful and we were a host city for the FIFA U-20. We just need the rest of the country to recognize it!

jbutt – Victoria bc Can

It’s starting to move fast, but needs a bit of a push!

Dan – Canada

The Tech Sector in Victoria is the largest private industry bringing in $1.7 billion in annual revenues.

Bill – Vancouver

Extreme growth by teh tech sector has seen this once small industry grow by double digits in the last 5 years. From global leaders like Aspreva and Carmanah to up and comers like ParetoLogic and Triton this little Canadian city is punching way above its weight.

Nevin Thompson – Victoria, BC, Canada

There are hundreds of tech companies serving a variety of niches here, so there’s lots of work. The commute takes about 15 minutes, max, if you drive, but you can bike all year round. There’s plenty of stuff to do, especially for families. There is no crime and it’s very safe. All in all, Victoria is a great place for a tech professional to live.

Rob Bennett – Victoria, BC, Canada

A fantastic city to live in and raise a family!

Jim Wallace – Victoria,BC

Great place for living and working. It is all that is good about SF without any of the troubles.

Kevin Slagboom – Victoria, BC, Canada

I’ve been involved in Victoria’s tech sector for over 10yrs and have watched it grow exponentially. Victoria is a great place to work with clean air, under 20min commute, many green initiatives, beautiful landscape with lots of recreation opportunities, and friendly people. With a global economy, there is no real need to be based in some industrial park in the middle of no-where or crammed in the nth floor in an overcrowded city.

Chris Holt – Victoria BC Canada

Victoria is quite simply a hot bed of high tech innovation and success, and comes with a friendly and cooperative business culture. Victoria is wired up and clicking.

jim hedger – victoria bc, canada

Victoria is a center of excellence in the search and online marketing sector. It is also the warmest, most beautiful and recreationaly varied place to live in Canada.

Greg Caws – Victoria, BC, Canada

There is a wonderful synergy in the technology community. A highly experienced work-force with a strong work ethic give it a strong base.

Darien Martay – Victoria

I have lived here for more then 30 years,rnand hope too, for another 30… Great place to live and work, and be happy.

Jonathan Kerr – Victoria, BC, Canada

Victoria is a fantastic city to live and work in. The booming technology industry is providing more jobs then local companies are able to fill. The city that gave us Jeff Mallet (Yahoo!) continues to incubate new innovators.

James – Victoria, BC

Number one industry in Victoria? Not tourism… It’s technology.rnrnWith the universities-government-outdoors trifecta, clean-tech companies are especially making their mark in Victoria: Carmanah (solar), Triton Logging (underwater harvesting), Hydroxyl (wastewater) to name a few.

Mike – Victoria, BC, Canada

Victoria has gone through significant changes (for the better) since it’s placid days in the early 1990’s. The nightlife and cultural life of this city have benefited from a more aware and more active local populace interested in downtown as a place not only to work but to live and play.

Mike – Victoria, BC, Canada

Victoria has gone through significant changes (for the better) since it’s placid days in the early 1990’s. The nightlife and cultural life of this city have benefited from a more aware and more active local populace interested in downtown as a place not only to work but to live and play.

Walt – Victoria, BC

Victoria’s been a “Fast City” in the making for almost 15 years. The high tech side is strong, the geography is stellar – and – like all growing places, the talent pool needs more swimmers… so put on your wet suit and jump in!rnFYI – Victoria was one of the first Canadian cities to sign up for a Company of Friends chapter.

D. Verhille – Victoria, BC, Canada

Love this place I call home.

ken kelly – victoria, b.c.

having lived in 7 cities across the country, and travelled around the world, I can truly say this is a magical city! Well worth a full five points.

T. Crljenko – Victoria, BC

Simply the best.

Yule Heibel – Victoria, BC, Canada

Victoria has tremendous potential, which will be released most effectively when we achieve sufficient density. We need to watch our affordability (already very endangered), but there’s no going back for this city. We’re on the verge, and our only option now is to fly — as we should. For Victoria today, it’s all about being connected, which is ironic insofar as the city managed to excuse itself from the fray for decades by virtue of its island status. In today’s digital age (and market), however, there’s no place left to hide, so Victoria may as well come out and shine. We know it can.

David Ross – Victoria, BC, Canada

I’m proud to be a downtown business owner in Victoria. With the amount of residential and office space under construction and planned over the next 3-5 years along with retiring baby boomers migrating here there should be nothing but positive growth for downtown retailers.

Craig – Tokyo, Japan

Beautiful place to live, but not very fast.

Aidan Henry – Victoria, BC, Canada

Victoria is definitely blossoming as a tech hub. I look forward to being a part of future growth.

jbut – jbuttown

Fast, but not too fast!…

Letting others colonize the imaginary you is not a good idea…

July 29, 2007 at 11:01 am | In authenticity, business, canada, cities, media, public_relations, virtually | 2 Comments

This is pretty hilarious, but somehow pathetic, too… Those of you who’ve been to Epcot Center in Florida know the set-up: tourists visit “national” pavilions where they are bombarded by various cliches or story-book ideas about the country. Some pavilions are more high-brow than others, stocked with political information, and others are …less “serious,” if that’s the right word. If I recall correctly, some (all?) have restaurants attached that serve up the “typical” cuisine of that country (Norway: smoked fish, for example).

Now, read this (emphases added) and tell me what you think “O Canada,” the film shown in the Canadian pavilion, is telling the hundreds of thousands of tourists from all over the globe who trot through there every year. I can’t believe this wasn’t retired years ago…

Outdated Canadian film due for Epcot makeover

Tony Atherton
CanWest News Service

Sunday, July 29, 2007

OTTAWA — The year was 1982. Pierre Trudeau was prime minister, the Jays played at Exhibition Stadium, Vancouver’s False Creek was an industrial wasteland and a film called O Canada! was the star attraction of the Canada Pavilion at the brand-new Epcot Center at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla.

A quarter of a century later, the 18-minute, 360-degree film is still packing ’em in at Epcot, but its dated and often hokey portrayal of the country has become a painful embarrassment for Canadian tourism officials and for many of the tens of thousands of Canadians who visit the theme park each year.

Ancient footage of the RCMP Musical Ride, flannel-wearing fishermen, fleeting and outdated aerial shots of Canadian cities and voice-overs by actors affecting bad Newfoundland and Quebec accents are all cited in the steady stream of complaints about the film fielded each year by the Canadian Tourism Commission.

Soon, however, Canadian visitors to Epcot may no longer be blushing as bright as Mickey Mouse’s red lederhosen. Seven years after former Canadian Tourism Commission president Jim Watson launched a campaign to have the Disney-made film updated, it seems a new version of O Canada! will debut Aug. 25 — with help from some high-profile Canadians: Gatineau’s Canadian Idol winner Eva Avila and, Disney buffs say, comedian Martin Short.

The folks at Disney won’t confirm or deny rumours that the film is being relaunched next month. Walt Disney Canada spokeswoman Angela Saclamacis will only say “we are expecting some good things over at Epcot … but we’re not prepared to announce anything officially at this time.”

However, an official Disney website notes that the O Canada! film exhibit at the Canada Pavilion — a circular room with nine large screens surrounding an audience pit — will be shut down from Aug. 20-24 for “refurbishment.”

Avila’s manager Jim Campbell, and a spokeswoman for her record company Sony BMG Canada, say the singer has recorded a theme song for the pavilion to be launched next month.

Short, rumoured to be the new film’s onscreen narrator, could not be reached for comment.

The original film, apparently inspired by an enormously popular circular movie created by Canadian director Robert Barclay for the Bell Canada Pavilion at Expo ’67, was largely shot in 1979. The Disney film has been described by Barclay as “a superficial, glib look at the country.”

“It could have been a Wal-Mart commercial,” Barclay told a reporter in 2000. Watson, now Ontario’s minister of health promotion, has said the film represents an American’s stereotypical view of Canada.

O Canada! features snippets of Canadian folk music (including Stan Rogers’ Bluenose) and an overweening 1980s-style pop song called Canada, You’re a Lifetime Journey. Footage shows cars and clothes a generation out of date, and cityscapes that have changed tremendously since 1982. The Toronto footage, for instance, features the CN Tower but not the Rogers Centre (former Sky Dome) which has stood prominently beside the tower for 18 years.

About half of the footage is new in the restyled movie, according to contributors to Disney fan websites and to an unofficial online Disney tour guide. It is not clear who paid for the changes, which Watson once estimated would cost several million dollars.

Over the years, there have been several attempts to bring Disney together with private Canadian investors with an interest in tourism to fund an update. The federal government has previously declined to become involved.

Epcot Center is one of four theme parks at Walt Disney World, and the Canada exhibit, which includes the Victoria Gardens (inspired by Victoria’s Butchart Gardens), the Hotel du Canada (based on the Chateau Laurier), some totem poles and an ersatz canyon as well as the O Canada! film, is one of 11 countries showcased at the park.

By showing outdated aerial shots of Canadian cities, the film perpetuates the convenient myth that Canadians live rurally and in wildernesses, but not in cities… The cynic in me wonders whether that wasn’t a convenience not just for Disney’s view of Canada, but also for parochial Canadian government views. And if the movie represents such a stereotypical cliche of Canada, why did Canadians (tourism industry and government) let it rest for so long? Is there not enough imagination in the country to come up with a national image of our own?

Got blank page?

July 28, 2007 at 11:33 pm | In housekeeping | Comments Off on Got blank page?

As anyone who has followed this blog for any length of time knows, I’m not especially adventurous when it comes to changing its “skin.” This isn’t because of a special sense of attachment I feel for whatever template I’m using — I just fall into a rut, and I don’t have the confidence to customize.

Did I say confidence? Who am I kidding? I meant skills….

This evening, driven by some madcap desire for adventure [sic], I surfed to the admin pages and clicked on another theme, thinking I could preview it. There is no skill in clicking and choosing a template.

To my surprise, however, the costume wasn’t part of a dress rehearsal: my blog was immediately redressed. And so I clicked through almost every theme on offer, forcing this blog through costume changes that would make a seasoned Cirque du Soleil performer dizzy.

In the end, I returned twice, thrice, finally again to this theme, “white as milk.”

Its minimal look somewhat reflects my minimal enthusiasm for posting these days, no? But maybe its milky whiteness will challenge me to write here more often: that blank page, just waiting to be marked up…!


July 24, 2007 at 8:03 pm | In cities, just_so | Comments Off on Terrorcycle

Japan Highway is a terrifying, nearly 13-minute long, video on YouTube, which then gets really scary about 4 1/2 minutes in. And doesn’t let up. Whatever you do, DON’T WATCH THIS.

Yann Martel, bearing great gifts — Is Stephen Harper reading?

July 23, 2007 at 9:24 pm | In arts, canada, guerilla_politics, ideas, literature | Comments Off on Yann Martel, bearing great gifts — Is Stephen Harper reading?

Arts News Canada carried an article from Halifax’s Daily News today: Author plays professor to prime minister, one book at a time:

One of Canada’s most popular authors is taking a decidedly novel approach in his efforts to encourage appreciation of the arts – he’s started a website to help expand Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s literary horizons.

Yann Martel, the author of the award-winning 2002 novel Life of Pi, is behind the website “What Is Stephen Harper Reading,” a project aimed giving the prime minister a little taste of culture.

Since April, Martel has been mailing Harper a different inscribed book every two weeks, along with a personal letter praising the book’s virtues. The letters are posted online at www.whatis

Martel admits he’s taking a few jabs at Harper, but insists he isn’t preaching.

“There’s no point in writing to someone if you’re going to insult them. I certainly don’t agree with the prime minister – I’d never vote for him – but that doesn’t mean one becomes petty and petulant,” he says.

“I really do believe that if the prime minister reads any of these books that I’ve sent him, he will be a different person. It’s a completely sincere conviction. Otherwise, why would I bother being a writer?” [click on the link above for the rest of the article]

I then visited the website Yann Martel has dedicated to this project: What is Stephen Harper reading?. Please take a look — the letters that accompany Martel’s bibliographic offerings are literary works in themselves. They’re funny, full of insight into literature and life, and deeply philosophical, too. Stephen Harper is lucky to have such a “professor,” and amazingly for us, we get to read over their shoulders.

Harper isn’t saying much back, alas…

Arts News Canada: Most Valued Resource

July 21, 2007 at 10:55 am | In arts, canada, links, media, resources | Comments Off on Arts News Canada: Most Valued Resource

Just a big shout-out today to Marianne Lepa, who edits and publishes Arts News Canada every weekday, and thereby provides a hugely valuable resource for the arts in this country. Not only does she pull together all the relevant bits from what seems like just about every news source in Canada, but she sorts each item into sections that take you straight to your topic of interest. Arts Business? Scroll down to that section, or click the link to see all the articles in that rubric. Ditto Opinion and Media & Broadcasting and Literary Arts and Film & TV and Dance and Performing Arts and Music and Visual Arts… You get the picture. I mean, you really get the picture!

Especially wonderful for users of Arts News Canada is Marianne’s ability to sum up the gist of each article in a brief paragraph — you know whether or not you need to click through because you’re given the context. And if all that isn’t enough, you can subscribe to get an email summary of the day’s articles delivered to your inbox.

Thanks, Marianne, for providing such a great service! (Note: there is a “tip jar” for contributions to help keep Arts News Canada online…)

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