The Sunday Diigo Links Post (weekly)

May 31, 2009 at 2:28 am | In links | Comments Off on The Sunday Diigo Links Post (weekly)
  • Brief article in MIT Tech Review on strides made in gasification processes (turning garbage/ waste into fuel & electricity), in this case *without* using incineration. That last bit is key, since incineration is a huge polluter.

    And the new method(s) aren’t commercially viable yet:
    There may still be hurdles to commercial success. Childress notes that waste gasification may still face problems with local regulations. And companies using similar technologies have failed in the past. Nevertheless, some waste-gasification companies are reporting initial success. For example, Enerkem, based in Alberta, Edmonton, has opened a commercial facility to convert used utility poles into methanol and ethanol. It has signed an agreement with the city of Edmonton to process 100,000 tons of municipal solid waste a year for 25 years, although that’s still a relatively small amount compared with other options for disposing of waste.

    tags: garbage, waste, waste_management, fuel, mit_techreview, gasification

  • Many (145) comments on this blog post, based on a press release describing the petroleum or oil seeps from the ocean floor near Santa Barbara, California. One of the commenters points to Thomas Gold’s work, too (“Deep Hot Biosphere,” eg.). There is much we don’t understand about the so-called “fossil” fuels…

    tags: anthony_watts, science, petroleum

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

Quiet days in cliche. But…

May 27, 2009 at 10:37 pm | In ideas, innovation, newspapers | 2 Comments

It’s no doubt a sign of mental rot when one writes entries (or anything) with puns for titles, but there you have it: I’ve hit a wall. Until I manage to break the cliche (by smashing the mold, say), the pun I’m sorry to say will have to stand in for what should pass muster as enthusiasm.

Which isn’t to say that I’m not enthusiastic about some things I’m reading, mostly online. Yesterday, for example, – who is a real live neighbor of mine (Mike literally lives across the street and around the corner, but I didn’t even know he existed until we met through Twitter) – wrote a brilliant blog post called My Book Industry Blueprint (v0.2a1). This article really does break the mold, bust the cliche, and I encourage anyone interested in publishing (including not just book publishing, but all other categories as well) to click through and read the entry in full.

From the first sentence (“The publishing industry is broken, and not just in a ‘that glass is chipped but if you drink out of the other side you’re fine’ sorta way.”) you know this is going to be a great read.

Go. Read. It. Now.

And in the meantime, I will try to peel myself off that wall I’ve hit – it’s not very comfortable, it ruins my perspective, and it does nothing for my writing.

The Sunday Diigo Links Post (weekly)

May 24, 2009 at 2:28 am | In links | Comments Off on The Sunday Diigo Links Post (weekly)
  • Lee C. Bollinger’s commencement address to the 2009 Columbia U. graduating class, with a special focus on globalization and freedom of the press/ media: “…the very same technology – the Internet – that is making global communication so pervasive – is simultaneously undermining the financial model of the traditional press, as we’ve known it.”

    Many great insights. Some excerpts:
    …you have been here at a pivotal moment in history. You came in texting and you’re going out with a twitter. And regardless of whether you’re a fan of digital downloads or old fashioned ink on paper, while you’ve been here you’ve seen the value of dialogue, and of access to timely, credible, independently generated information and ideas. In August, 2005, just as many of you were settling into your first semester here, Hurricane Katrina was ravaging the city of New Orleans, amid accusations of gross government mismanagement and misinformation. Your Columbia years have coincided with two brutal and still unfinished wars – in Iraq and Afghanistan – shaped by our own government’s far too extensive control over information. You will tell your children about the unprecedented economic crisis that erupted during your time here – a global event fueled by inadequate disclosures and regulation. From the standpoint of our ability to acquire a full understanding of things that matter, we clearly have a long way to go before we can rest.

    Meanwhile, you have been witness to and strengthened by participating in the process of vigorous open debate – on issues such as gay marriage, the conflict in the Middle East, and climate change. And you have played a role in one of the most exciting political campaigns in American history – a campaign waged like never before through online media and social networking.

    Through it all, you have lived in the most privileged intellectual environment on the planet, perhaps of all time. Nothing compares to this – to the freedom you have felt – and possibly taken for granted – to consider every idea and t

    tags: columbia_university, lee_bollinger, commencement_speech, media, journalism, press

  • Christian Science Monitor opinion piece making the case that journalists aren’t pulling their weight in creating value for readers/ consumers.
    Wages are compensation for value creation. And journalists simply aren’t creating much value these days.

    Until they come to grips with that issue, no amount of blogging, twittering, or micropayments is going to solve their failing business models.
    Picard then divides his piece into three parts:”Where does value come from?” and “What are journalists worth?” with “Adapt or Die” as conclusion.

    Robert G. Picard is a professor of media economics at Sweden’s Jonkoping University, a visiting fellow at the Reuters Institute at Oxford University, and the author and editor of 23 books, including “The Economics and Financing of Media Companies.” This essay is adapted from a lecture Professor Picard gave at Oxford. He blogs at

    Excellent must-read article.

    tags: journalism, csmonitor, value, robert_picard

  • Lots of great links and pointers to explore in this post by Garr Reynolds who blogs “on issues related to professional presentation design.” As the title indicates, this entry is about “the TED style,” and includes “the TED commandments” as well as links to examples of great presentations.

    tags: presentations, ted_conference, howto, zen, reference

  • Frances Bula reports on Vancouver City Council’s plans to make city information and statistics publicly accessible:
    The idea is that everyone from programmers to curious residents could use city data to do anything from tracking their garbage-truck driver on his route to mapping where the worst landlords’ buildings are.

    The notion – being pioneered in such places as Toronto, Washington and San Francisco – is that the more information people have, the more cities can tap into the collective energy of their residents to develop new applications or get more involved in the way the city works.

    tags: vancouver, public_data, ubiquity, information, municipal_government

  • Great article by Clay Shirky on the changed status of media production, who owns it, who controls it, with an astute take on abundance. (“That era, when media were shaped by the scarcity of production and by the judgment of professionals, has ended.”)

    tags: clay_shirky, newspapers, journalism, business_model, online_media, the_guardian

  • I’ve used Scribd for a while now – great service. This NYTimes article describes how it’s moving into becoming a platform for e-publishing with a business model for authors/ publishers. Also meant as a diversification / challenge to Amazon’s Kindle, and to Google.

    tags: scribd, online_book, online_publishing, business_model, e-books, nyt, kindle

  • The title is self-explanatory for this article by Glenn Greenwald, who examines Maureen Dowd’s plagiarism of Josh Marshall to show that bloggers aren’t at all the parasites that MSM pretends they are. (h/t Dave Winer)

    tags: glenn_greenwald,, bloggers, plagiarism

  • Info page for an upcoming June 2009 UK conference I would love to attend: “a place for creativity? unlocking the original in urban design and development”

    tags: rudi, creativity, urban_design, manchester, conference

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

Better gold through green

May 20, 2009 at 11:20 pm | In architecture, cities, green, innovation, land_use, leadership, real_estate, resources, urbanism, victoria | 4 Comments

It seems everyone is going green, or will be. Today I went to Victoria’s UDI (Urban Development Institute) luncheon to hear Terasen Energy Services‘ Gareth Jones present “All About Geo-Thermal: Learning from Local Projects.”

Some basic take-away points: unless I severely misheard, British Columbia prices for energy (or electricity) will rise 80% in the next 10 years; the best place to make inroads in meeting the very ambitious greenhouse gas reductions (which are nearly as ambitious as Europe’s) set by the BC Liberal Party is in communities/ municipalities; and the best places to get the best bang for the buck in alternative energy is in dense settlements, whether multi-family complexes (including highrises and townhouse developments) or densely settled neighborhoods.

Other points: we in BC often think that we get most of our energy/ electricity “from hydro” (i.e., from hydroelectric power projects, therefore from “clean” water-driven sources), but we actually import 15% of our electricity from out-of-province, and those imports are “dirty” (typically derived from coal-fired plants). In addition to that little wrinkle, only 21% of our total energy needs in BC are met by electricity in the first place (and of that 21%, remember that 15% aren’t “clean”). The remaining 79% are met by natural gas (another 21%), other fossil fuels (can’t remember the exact number – I think it was around 20%?), wood (another 16%), and other sources. Alternate sources are at present but a small, very small piece of the pie.

There was more, and it all deserves a longer blog post or article, for which I’ll have to dig out my notes and do some research. What struck me today was the sense of urgency that came across in Jones’s presentation: that we really don’t have a lot of time to sit on our hands in pursuing alternative energy – not least because an 80% rise in costs will really do a number on the economy. It would probably make the current recession look like a walk in the park.
Energy System plant

Jones encouraged all the developers, builders, and planners and politicians at the luncheon to explore the myriad ways that the provincial government and Terasen Energy Services are trying to make alternative energy production (and consumption) more commonplace.

Meanwhile, there’s more to research and think about: Living buildings and how they’re cost-effective, for example.
Living Building diagram
Next week, there are two events scheduled in Victoria – first, at the University of Victoria on June 3, Jason McLennan, CEO, Cascadia Region Green Building Council will speak on The True Costs of Living Buildings, and the next evening (June 4), a less formal event showcasing some examples will take place at the Burnside-Gorge Community Centre. (I have to admit that after hearing Gareth Jones explain the benefits of density when it comes to installing alternative energy both for new and retrofitted buildings, Jason McLennan’s homepage photo disturbs me. It’s of an isolated single home – a converted church even? – in the middle of nowhere, which is probably the most large-footprint lifestyle, in environmental terms, that privileged westerners can choose. Perhaps his home is environmentally sustainable, but it’s still not a great model in the sense that it’s not anything we should strive for. Ok, end of sour aside.)  (Update, 5/27: If readers click through to the comments on this post, they’ll see Eden’s comment, which corrects my assumption about the photo. It’s actually not a private home, but the barn of a sheep farm. That’s really good to know, because the myth of the self-sufficient yet large single-family family home on a large property – a “green” variant of the suburban lifestyle – exerts a strong and unsustainable pull, which I prefer not to see strengthened. Thanks, Eden, for the additional info!)

And since it pours when it rains, there’s an out-of-town event I’d love to be able to go to: The Seattle Architecture Foundation will lead a tour through South Lake Union, called LEED: It’s Not Just for Buildings Anymore:

SLU’s close proximity to donwtown’s and existing transportation lines are the foundation for a successful sustainable neighborhood. Community design focusing on adaptive building re-use, alternative transportation, storm water management and other sustainability techniques is revitalizing the neighborhood adjacent to Seattle’s urban core.

SLU was accepted into the USGBC’s LEED-ND Pilot (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design – Neighborhood Development) program, and is one of the first existing neighborhoods anticipated to receive LEED certification.

Catherine Benotto and Ginger Garff from Weber Thompson and Katherine Cornwell and Jim Holmes from the City of Seattle will explain how great neighborhoods are created. Highlights of the tour include the Terry Thomas Building, the redesign of Cascade Park, the street car maintenance facility and an exploration of the master plan for Terry Avenue.

Seems to me that the South Lake Union walking tour would be a perfect complement to Gareth Jones’s presentation, but then again, Jason McLennan’s presentation is a lot closer to home…

The Sunday Diigo Links Post (weekly)

May 17, 2009 at 8:03 pm | In comments, links | Comments Off on The Sunday Diigo Links Post (weekly)

Below is the Sunday Links post, but before we get to that, here are two blog posts where I left comments recently.

One was Catherine Novak‘s post about the Shoal Point Moka House tweetup two days ago. I mentioned that Starbucks, for example, has policies around filming/ photographing on their premises that make what happened at Friday’s tweetup look benign. We twitterers (admittedly, I didn’t attend this one) can’t assume that we can have tweet-ups any old time any which place, but it sounds like the TV crew didn’t do its homework, either – and given the (in)famous Starbucks policies, it’s by no means a safe assumption that “third places” (coffee shops, for example) should be treated like public places.

The other comment was on Maria Benet’s post at week’s end on her small change blog. She pointed to a terrific article by Daphne Merkin about depression, A Journey Through Darkness (in the New York Times Magazine). Lots to say about that topic; I’ve been on a bender of sadness and self-revulsion lately, although I was starting to feel better. Then again, something happened today to make me …well, not exactly clinically depressed again, but certainly dead up against a wall on which I am so fucking tired of banging my head.

Anyway, two very different topics (tweetups, depression), but both blog entries well worth reading and thinking about in terms of the issues they raise. And now, on to the Sunday Diigo Links Post…

  • Discussion of Freiburg suburb, Vauban, and its “car-free” environment:
    Street parking, driveways and home garages are generally forbidden in this experimental new district on the outskirts of Freiburg, near the French and Swiss borders. Vauban’s streets are completely “car-free” — except the main thoroughfare, where the tram to downtown Freiburg runs, and a few streets on one edge of the community.

    tags: suburbia, cars, green_strategies, vauban, germany

  • Terrific article by Neil Henry, professor and dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at UC Berkeley, about the J-School’s initiatives around local news reporting. Focusing on Linjun Fan’s success with Albany Today, Henry explains how the students cover local news and use cutting edge multimedia tools.
    For nearly every story over the next two years, Linjun was first on the scene, using the most highly advanced digital tools to file her work to her site from all over town.

    Most of the time she was the only reporter at any of the events she covered, a stark reality shared by most of her classmates in their own coverage of places as varied as El Cerrito, Emeryville, and West Oakland.
    Today, as they learn multimedia and community-based journalism, so do all of our students practice it, providing fresh content throughout the year to our other thriving digital news sites, Oakland North and Mission Loc@l, which won a national award for Internet excellence recently for its coverage of San Francisco’s Mission District.

    And we continue to grow. In August we will launch a new digital news site devoted to the people of Richmond.
    We want to partner with other local sites run by people similarly committed to covering Bay Area communities. We envision legions of small businesses and other potential advertisers in the Bay Area finding tremendous new audiences through these ties. We are filled with excitement and purpose, fueled by the idealism and dedication of young students who increasingly are showing the way.

    tags: local_news, uc_berkeley, journalism

  • Inaugural issue of the Journal of Information Architecture.

    tags: information_architecture, journal

  • Interesting article about the “dark figure” of crime:
    The problem was first described in the 1830s by Adolphe Quetelet, a Belgian mathematician and sociologist and the founder of modern scientific statistics. The real crime rate, which he called the “dark figure of crime,” could not be revealed by official statistics, he argued: “Our observations can only refer to a certain number of known and tried offenders out of the unknown sum total of crimes committed. Since this sum total of crimes committed will probably ever continue unknown, all the reasoning of which it is the basis will be more or less defective.” The problem has plagued criminology for nearly two centuries.
    The implication is that reports of falling (or rising, for that matter) crime rates aren’t “objective,” since they’re based on “dark figures” which are unknown.

    Interesting conclusion to the article, too:
    The situation in Britain, then, resembles that of 1980s New York, whose crime problems were routinely called insoluble. What the British government fails to understand is that the majority of serious crimes are committed by a small cadre of criminals, who are also, disproportionately, the authors of minor crimes. If you lock these criminals up—reliably, and for a long time—crime will drop precipitously. The reason Broken Windows policing works is not that it is inherently important to jail every petty thug who breaks a window; it is that the window-breakers tend to be muggers, rapists, burglars, and murderers as well. If you get them off the streets, the rate of serious crime will fall.

    tags: crime, britain, city_journal, claire_berlinski, dark_figure

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

Developers v. NIMBYs: Lessons from “Johnny Guitar”

May 16, 2009 at 4:05 pm | In ideas, NIMBYism, social_critique, women, writing | Comments Off on Developers v. NIMBYs: Lessons from “Johnny Guitar”

Watching Nicholas Ray‘s 1954 classic Western Johnny Guitar, I kept focusing on the antagonisms between Joan Crawford’s character Vienna and Mercedes McCambridge’s Emma Small as ones between developers and NIMBYs. The story is psychologically complex, conjuring objectively social and personally individual reasons for both the desire to maintain the status quo and the will to change it.

On the one hand, Emma Small’s security is threatened by change. She’s a big fish in a small pond, comfortably established as a landowner and cattle baron(ess). She has enough social status and power to boss the community’s menfolk around, too. No wonder she resists the changes that development would bring – and development is literally embodied in Joan Crawford’s Vienna.  Vienna runs a saloon where social control lapses and norms break down through risk when patrons enjoy enough alcohol, entertainment, and gambling. Vienna is a risk-taker herself, and she’s not afraid to peddle risk. Like any developer worth his or her salt, she’s taking a huge risk when she stakes everything (including social goodwill) on her main gamble: that the railroad will come to the area. Should she win, she’ll develop the depot and upzone her lowly saloon into a key mercantile hub and infrastructure powerhouse.

Intertwined in that objective description, however, are forces fueled by desire. For example, Vienna has also successfully sold herself as a purveyor of glamour. In one scene, Emma verbally pistol-whips the all-male posse to stop playing with themselves and to hunt Vienna instead. She taunts them for believing that Vienna is somehow better quality, or that they, by associating with her, are improved. In not so many words, Emma reminds the men that Vienna is cheap and that they’re still just cowpokes – in other words, that change (for the men) is an illusion. They’re essentially still swine (reversing Circe’s trick) and should remember their place. Change is for tricksters; real people should be content with their lot, especially if it’s a relatively cozy and secure one. Real people don’t take risks, it seems. If you can avoid risk, you can avoid change.

And here’s where additional psychological complexity comes into play: the change that’s very close to home for Emma Small is a sexual one. Emma has convinced herself that an outlaw named The Dancin’ Kid is behind a stage coach robbery that killed her brother. A not-so-minor detail is that The Dancin’ Kid frequents Vienna’s saloon and occasionally shares Vienna’s bed. It’s through the body of The Dancin’ Kid that Emma’s fear of change multiplies in her own mind, eventually encompassing all change, whether social or personal. As Vienna puts it in answering Johnny Guitar’s question why Emma has it in for The Dancin’ Kid, “he makes her feel like a woman, and that scares her.” In fact, toward the end of the film, Emma puts a bullet through The Dancin’ Kid’s head, literally stopping change in its tracks …temporarily, at any rate.

At its core, the story suggests that change has social and personal drivers – and in every case where we think we’ve identified the “objective” social reasons, there are underlying psychological reasons that drive the actors in individual ways both difficult to identify and to reason with.

Poster for Johnny Guitar
I’ve seen Johnny Guitar a couple of times now, but this is the first time I watched it through the lens of urban development and community consultation.

Bonus: Image of Circe (via Flickr here)
Circe, with Odysseus's sailors turned to swine

The Sunday Diigo Links Post (weekly)

May 10, 2009 at 2:28 am | In links | 2 Comments

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

Thought-provoking insights: The Future of Journalism

May 9, 2009 at 12:59 am | In ideas | 2 Comments

I bookmarked the following article earlier today: The Root Of The Matter: Emily Bell on The Future of Journalism.

It’s an excellent summary of a lecture by Emily Bell (head of digital content at Guardian News and Media). She recently presented this lecture at University College Falmouth, where she was just appointed visiting professor in the media degrees program. Her topic: “Journalism Ten Years From Now” – great insights.

Some excerpts from The Root of the Matter‘s write-up:

Unlike net-culture visionary Clay Shirky, though, Emily doesn’t think that print journalism has no future. Print will remain an important part of reaching the audience – but it will not be the primary conduit for journalism in ten years’ time. Instead, going by the ‘clues’ we can pick up from the way journalism is changing today, journalism in ten years will have some or all of the following characteristics:

1. It will go where the audience is.
2. Journalism will be networked, not siloed
3. Journalists will need to be very reliable and trustworthy
4. Journalists will need to be ready to share information whenever they have it and in whatever way will communicate it best to the audience
5. Journalism will no longer be possible without the audience

Bell also discusses the business model for journalism of the future: where will the money come from to support it? And there are some very surprising insights here, starting with “News has never been profitable.”

Emily pointed out that all this is well and good, but what most people want to know is: where will the money come from to pay for all this professional, multi-platform, ‘always-on’ journalism?
1. News has never been profitable
2. There is no point asking people to pay for online content; they won’t
3. Advertising won’t go away

There’s also coverage of the audience’s questions:

There followed a Q&A, which covered questions including:
1. Will we see an increasing in ‘entrepreneurial journalism’?
2. What is Emily’s view of user-generated journalism?
3. Here in Cornwall there is a big digital divide – a lot of people do not have broadband/internet access. How will journalism serve their needs in the digital age?
4. How does Emily deal with information overload?

Each of the above points has commentary provided by The Root of the Matter, so be sure to click through to read those bits, but here’s the answer Bell gave to #3 in the Q&A:

The real challenge – for journalists and politicians – will be how to get information to those who currently choose not to receive it.

When I read that last bit, I thought, “BINGO! She nails it.” It also made me think that broadcast media as we knew it in the 20th century was a kind of bully, or a bully pulpit – difficult to escape from. Now it seems easier to escape – even though information and access to it is in many ways ubiquitous to the point of being ambiant and always there. But some people really couldn’t care less if the news finds them. That also makes it harder for news and information to share its value.

The Sunday Diigo Links Post (weekly)

May 3, 2009 at 2:29 am | In links | Comments Off on The Sunday Diigo Links Post (weekly)

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

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