Eyeglass hack

March 31, 2010 at 12:26 am | In fashionable_life, just_so | 4 Comments

For over 30 years, I’ve gotten my eyeglasses from sunglasses. It started in the early 70s, with Ray-Bans. I had a pair of yellow-lens “shooter” aviators, in gold. They were a fashion statement, somewhat restrictive, but a hell of a lot of fun. I relinquished them a few years later in favor of tortoise-shell Ray-Ban Wayfarers, which lent themselves more readily to everyday wear.

Here’s what you do: find a great pair of sunglasses, high-end and good quality, that look smashing on you. Get the optician to pop out the lenses, and then try the “glasses” on to get a sense of what they’ll look like with clear glass. If they work, have the optician mount prescription lenses in those frames. Get polarized lenses that darken outside – sunglasses!

Lately, I’ve run into opticians who insist that only certain frames are suitable. I don’t know where that idea springs from. Any good quality frame should work.

Here’s Carole Lombard in a pair of aviators that look a lot like the ones I had.

Of course I don’t look like Carole Lombard, but …oh well!

Just remember that the right glasses can be positively transformative.

(Thanks @ Mental Phonics blog post for sparking this entry.)

PS: I originally wanted to include a picture of me wearing my glasses, but couldn’t find one. Updating Skype this morning, I realized that there is one online, taken about 4 years ago. Clearly, my current glasses fall into the Carol Channing category: wide-eyed and maybe a bit dizzy (even though I’m resting my chin on my wrist, bored):

I think my next glasses should have a different flavor: sharper, more focused, signaling precision. …At least that’s what I think I want.

See how complicated glasses really are?

Jim Gordaneer Painting Retrospective

March 30, 2010 at 9:52 pm | In arts, victoria | Comments Off on Jim Gordaneer Painting Retrospective

I’m really looking forward to the opening of Jim Gordaneer‘s upcoming retrospective at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria:


Gordaneer is a painter’s painter. What that means is that he works it out in paint. It’s not a question of theory or philosophy, it’s all about the painting.  And what fantastic painting it is!

That’s not to say that Gordaneer’s work is devoid of theory or philosophy. For some years in the 90s, Gordaneer was part of Victoria’s Chapman Group, a group of artists who pondered the phenomenology of perception, and what it could mean for their art.

But as Gordaneer said (in a 2006 interview), “I paint what I want to talk about, and how I want to talk.”

Consequently, each painting speaks volumes.

Jim Gordaneer’s Retrospective will be on show at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria from April 9, 2010 to June 6, 2010. There’s an opening reception on Sunday April 11 at 2pm, and an artist’s talk on Saturday April 24 at 1pm. The artist’s talk includes Harry Stanbridge and John Luna. Well worth attending.

Rug Badgers rule

March 29, 2010 at 11:56 pm | In business, just_so, local_not_global | 2 Comments

So, here’s a first for my blog: I’m endorsing a local rug-cleaning company that provides an absolutely stellar service: Luv-a-Rug, headed up by Steve “Dusty” Roberts, has perfected a device called a Rug Badger, which cleans rugs like nothing else.

I found Luv-a-Rug through the company blog, written by Ruglover Mary. Without the blog, I’m not sure I would have paid more attention to this rug cleaning company than any other. But because of the blog, I thought, “Hmm, I think I’ll take a closer look at this.”  (And I found Ruglover Mary‘s blog in the first place because I make it my business to be on the alert for local area blogs to include in MetroCascade, our blog and news aggregator.)

When I called the store, I got Mary on the phone. (I felt like I already knew her!)

And then of course there’s Steve “Dusty” Roberts.

That’s a photo of Steve (“Dusty”) on the right, taken from an Australian Clean Expo site.

Steve and his Rug Badger have “badgered” their way across North America and beyond – it’s another one of those “little” Victoria BC success stories that make you go “wow!” Here‘s a page on the Rug Badger site full of testimonials – it spans many different locales.

When I was little, my mother used to beat rugs “out back.” You had to get out of her way when it was time for this onerous chore, which happened about twice a year.  When we lived in Duesseldorf, the twice-yearly rug beating meant going to the courtyard behind our apartment building; when we moved (briefly) to the sticks, it happened behind the house. In either case, the work (and it was hard labor) involved hanging the rug over an iron bar and then beating the crap out of it with a wicker rug beater.

This is what the “machine” of the day looked like – human-powered, and just awful to do.

When “Dusty” came to my house to pick up the rugs I wanted cleaned, he told me that when he was a little boy, his grandmother had let him try beating her rugs clean with one of those wicker rug beaters. But not only was the work impossibly hard, he was also covered in dust in no time, choking for air. “There’s got to be a better way,” he thought.

Many years later, he studied the existing rug beater-style machines out there and decided to build his own. BADGER stands for “Bugs, Allergens,Dirt, and Grit Extracted from Rug,” and it works. (There’s a video demonstration here.)

If you live in Victoria, you can use Luv-a-Rug and meet “Dusty” himself (internet fame as Rug Badger promoter notwithstanding, “Dusty” still cleans rugs, personally picking them up at your place and returning them). If you don’t live here, do yourself a favor and make sure your rug cleaner uses a Rug Badger. Or else hand him one of those wicker rug beaters. Anything else just won’t do as good a job.

(Full disclosure: I’m not getting paid in any way to write this, no discount on my cleaning bill or anything like that. I’m just really happy with how well my rugs turned out – they look fantastic. And I’m not turning this blog into a product or service endorsements site either, but I just love this Rug Badger story and that Steve Roberts is taking his invention/ modification around the world like this. Way to go, Steve!)

The Sunday Diigo Links Post (weekly)

March 28, 2010 at 2:32 am | In links | Comments Off on The Sunday Diigo Links Post (weekly)

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

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.

Getting it up with coffee

March 26, 2010 at 11:14 pm | In johnson street bridge, victoria | 1 Comment

How did I miss this till now?

I had a meeting this afternoon with Elisa Yon (the woman who brought Pecha Kucha to Victoria) and Aleya Ryan of Anonymous Advertising at Victoria BC’s Bean Around the World. Because Elisa drew it to my attention, I finally noticed the best t-shirt ever.

The front shows a small rendering of the Johnson Street Bridge, surrounded by the words “Bean Around the World Victoria” – the name of the wonderful cafe on Fisgard Street in Chinatown.

On the back, a schematized rendering of Victoria BC’s fabulous Johnson Street Bridge, partially raised above the waters of Victoria’s Inner Harbour.

Above the rendering, the words “Johnson Street Bridge…”

And underneath?

“…getting it up since 1922”

(Hell, yeah!)

Too bad our city council and staff don’t bother to keep it up anymore. (I guess they forgot that if you don’t use it, …you lose it.)

Thank you, Bean Around the World, for a great inspirational t-shirt. Whether you’re visiting Victoria or live here, don’t miss the Bean’s excellent coffees, comestibles, and ambiance.

Comment quality?

March 25, 2010 at 11:43 pm | In media, newspapers, social_critique, times_colonist | 1 Comment

The other day I noticed some griping on the Vibrant Victoria forum about comments being either deleted or redirected to other discussion threads. That is, it can happen that a discussion thread (for example, Langford’s Skirt Mountain, Bear Mountain, or any other thread) veers off-topic, sometimes with partisan political asides or wild speculation, and the site moderators have to rein commenters in. The moderators will either give a warning or delete the off-topic posts, and then post a reminder along these lines:

The discussion in this thread veered in several directions since it was first started. This is a request to return to discussing ONLY the South Skirt Mountain project. Any side discussions from this point forward, including discussions about environmental organizations, Langford politics or development regulations/practices in Langford will be deleted.

We have dedicated threads elsewhere on this forum that deal with these issues and comments in keeping with those subjects should be left there.

Thank you.

(source – part of Skirt Mountain thread)


Folks, let’s remember this thread is about construction activity on Bear Mountain. Mentioning the sale of the TB Lightning is permissible given its potential relation to Bear Mountain monies, but this is not the thread to get into sports related discussions. Further posts on this topic will be removed.

Thank you

(source – part of Bear Mountain thread)

Almost always, everyone complies.

Consider what moderators on a well-managed forum do compared to what happens on the daily newspaper’s comments board. Take the story about environmentalists releasing a bunch of chickens in the office of Ida Chong, a Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) of British Columbia. It appears that the animal rights activists are now ticked off at the environmental activists for using live chickens in their protest against the establishment politician. Hot stuff: a politician who’s often accused of being ineffectual and MIA – and who’s a BC Liberal; environmentalists and animal rights activists; right-left, and so on.

How does the local daily handle comments? (That is, how does it handle comments when it allows comments in the first place? Most stories do not allow comments.)

There appear to be some guidelines in place, but generally the commenters remain anonymous, and very often the discussion (such as it is) devolves to name-calling and overheated rhetoric. There’s the additional problem of comments being held in a “moderation” queue for hours on end, which makes true back-and-forth discussion almost impossible.

People have been complaining, specifically about how the paper censors comments. Aside from finding ways around the automated aspects (swear words are censored out), they’re mocking the censorship – they know it’s all sham:

Ida Chong is lucky they didn’t accuse her of being an aZZ. She could be knee deep in doodoo.

You know, the program that censors these comments is absurd. I’ll be surprised if it doesn’t censor the word ri’dic’ulous. (source – posted by anonymous at 9:48pm on March 25)

More vehement comments critiquing the paper’s censorship have come up, but since I’ve become almost a non-reader of both the pablum articles as well as the often berserk comments they spawn, it would take me too long to find the ones that really zinged, so the above example, relatively gentle, will have to suffice.

I still bring myself to read an article if it’s about an issue I care about, and I’ll go through the comments just for a sense of the vox populi. But every time I ask myself: what is wrong with people? Why are the comments on the Times-Colonist daily newspaper site often so vicious and ill-thought-out and just plain ignorant, while the discussion on a forum like Vibrant Victoria always gets back on track, even if there’s the occasional silliness or derailment?

For a while, my take was that the ventilating ranters on the Times-Colonist comments board should just go and rant on a blog of their own if they object to the paper’s control. When I noticed a Vibrant Victoria forumer complaining the other day about moderation, I again thought, “Get your own blog, vent there.” You can even come back on the forum and post a link to your post! I’ve seen Dave Winer tell some people on his comments board to take it to their own blogs instead of trying to argue it out on his – and that’s absolutely right. It’s what makes the most sense, and can help the conversation go deeper and have diverse anchor points, too.

I was still stumped, however, as to why there’s typically such a huge difference in quality between comments on a good forum (or a good blog) and most of what passes for comments on a daily newspaper.

So, for an answer to that question, turn to Zombie Journalism‘s March 23 entry, Anonymity isn’t to blame for bad site comments, it’s a lack of staff interaction. Bingo – the title alone explains it. (Huge hat-tip to John Speck, aka Frymaster, of The Bucket Blog and Real Advertising for leading me to this entry.)

Zombie Journalism concludes that it’s not anonymity that lets commenters go off the rails. It’s lack of site moderation – whether by a blog owner moderating his or her comments board or a forum’s moderators doing the same …or a newspaper staff using human beings to shepherd the conversation.

It can’t be automated.

Here are the three concluding paragraphs (abridged, click through to read the whole thing):

A moderator is always online -and there is an indication of this that shows up on the forum. The moderator regularly participates in discussion, responds to questions and, most importantly, will give warnings publicly when they are needed. It’s not uncommon to see a gentle “Hey guys let’s try to get this back on topic” or “I had to remove a few posts that got pretty heated, try to keep it civil, folks”. (…)

Contrast this with the moderator involvement on most news sites. Most users don’t even know a staffer was reading their comments until they are removed. Chances are most users don’t know a site’s moderators until they get a warning. (…) Community interaction is not a top-level priority to most news outlets – and that’s the real problem.

We as an industry like to collectively wring our hands about the toxicity of online comment boards, but if we really want to improve the quality of on-site discussion we need to be willing to get involved in our sites in a hands-on manner. (…)  (source)

Click through and read the comments, too (including Frymaster’s). These paragraphs hit on all the typical problems in the daily newspaper’s comments board: you post a comment and it’s like throwing something into a black hole. Your comment might appear …in an hour, or maybe in six. It might appear truncated or mangled – and there’s nothing you can do to correct it. It might take so long to appear, it’s no longer relevant. You have no idea whether or not there’s actually a human being taking it in, which in turn prompts the escalation of verbal outrage that’s so characteristic here. The spittle-flecked frothing-at-the-mouth ranter is probably someone who has never been listened to anyway, and in a comments board environment that suggests the absence of human moderation, his (or sometimes her) “outrage” finds its true home and amplification.

Contrast that to the immediacy of posting to a forum like Vibrant Victoria, which is well-moderated. You see your comment immediately. You can edit it for a short while after posting. It becomes part of a community conversation, not a verbal tennis match. If you make trouble by stepping over the line (whether in terms of going too far off-topic or being offensive), you’ll hear about it: there’s feedback, there are consequences.

It’s true that anonymity isn’t the defining marker of whether or not conversations will be constructive. The defining marker is ownership, embodied by people, aka moderators. Forums like Vibrant Victoria have it. The newspapers, on the other hand, not so much.

City Hall sure likes to feather its staffing bed

March 24, 2010 at 10:55 pm | In politics, times_colonist, victoria | 1 Comment

In the last couple of days, I let myself get caught up in city shenanigans politics again, which has kind of taken some of the (positive) wind out of my sails.

I recently published an article in FOCUS Magazine about staffing levels at City Hall (not yet uploaded to Scribd, but coming soon). The article was spurred by shock disgust dismay over the profligate hiring (and sometimes firing) practices here.

And just now I glanced at our local paper online, and saw the article Engineer takes over city’s public works. But note, the city hired not just a new engineer to replace the Chief of Engineering (who moved up to a wholly new position created just for him, namely Manager of General Operations). They have now also added yet another new position, which in the newspaper article is merely mentioned in passing, for all intents and purposes flying under the radar of public awareness.

One really has to wonder what they’re up to at City Hall, and one also has to wonder why our local paper doesn’t do a better job of investigating the situation.


It’s no surprise that salaries-and-benefits is the biggest chunk of the city budget. When I look around at the condition of roads and sidewalks or the many people who are homeless on our streets, I wonder about the priorities of mayor and council. Sure, hire yet another six-figure bureaucrat. And beef up that Corporate Communications Department, to make sure we get the message even as you refuse to listen to what we have to say.

Trust Agents, one

March 22, 2010 at 9:22 pm | In ideas, social_critique, web | Comments Off on Trust Agents, one

Nearly two months ago (on January 20), Julien Smith came to speak at Victoria’s Social Media Club. It was a funny, informative talk, which is saying something, given the setting (a cold school gymnasium, a couple of technical mishaps, …the usual). I took Julien up on his offer to let me have a copy of the book he co-authored with Chris Brogan, Trust Agents …and sure enough, it arrived at my door within a couple of weeks. Thanks, Julien!

My plan was to read it (promptly), but a couple of other books muscled their way into the queue (they had library due dates, so they managed to plead priority, too).

Now at last I’m well into chapter 3, and it occurred to me that it makes sense to report out as I read.

Upfront, I admit that I’m not the likeliest candidate to benefit from the book, although I’m enjoying it a lot. It’s a good, well-thought-out and well-written read, which keeps you turning the pages. Smith and Brogan clearly have an excellent synergy between them, and that comes through in their arguments, case-studies, and anecdotes. The authors also provide “break-out boxes” in each chapter, which either explain specific concepts (eg., “How Building Trust Is Like Pac-Man,” pp.55-56) or assign the reader a specific ACTION item (effectively a tool-kit for implementing the ideas – eg., “ACTION: First Steps to Leverage Your Position within an Organization,” p.127). I really like this feature – and anyone who has an actual job or a business can learn so much here.

My problem is that I don’t have a business model – whether I’m in a semi-permanent transition or just a useless academic is something I haven’t quite figured out, but suffice it to say that my position at the longest end of the very long tail didn’t come about by accident. I’m just not very popular, and there’s not much in me to make working toward popularity make sense. I have no product, I’m not topical, I’m often obtuse, and the people who are actually interested in what I have to say can quite possibly fit into one room. A very small room. Ok, a closet.

But I am good at some things – like thinking, synthesizing, making connections, and seeing patterns.

So, as I was floundering around, thinking about how I’ve once again missed the boat on being socially relevant or building a tribe or belonging or being “one of us,” I was however suddenly struck by something:

In Chapter 2, “Make Your Own Game,” Brogan and Smith delve into games, into the idea that it’s natural for people to want to hack the rules of a game. They start by talking about Monopoly and other traditional, “analog” games, but soon go on to cover early computer games – all of which can be “hacked” in some way to modify the rules. The lessons gleaned from the game mentality apply, obviously, also to “real life.”

For example, p.34 starts off a section within Chapter 2 called “Set Your Own Rules,” which begins:

No matter what industry you are in, there are very specific protocols in place. If you are an aspiring young journalist, there is a ladder you must climb to get published in a respectable newspaper or to get airtime in a decently rated TV market. If you are a rock band, you spend years shopping your demo discs around to various people, play for years in small clubs trying to catch some attention, and eventually get a record deal where most of the money is made by the record company. Maybe.

Or, by using a site like MySpace, you make your own game.

That’s what the Arctic Monkeys, from Sheffield, England, did.

Further examples of independents hacking the gatekeepers and creating their own game include Arianna Huffington (Huffington Post), Radiohead’s Rainbow album/experiment, and others.

Right around reading that section, I thought, “This relates to the baby boomers bitching about how Millennials think they can march in off the street and start at the management level instead of working their way up from grunts.” How many articles have tried to analyze the Millennial attitude of not wanting to work one’s way up through the hierarchy, through the organization?

I read a few of them recently when I wrote my own blog post about Millennials and public engagement, but I don’t recall that they specifically mentioned gaming and hacking as shaping attitudes to “authority” (i.e., rules).

Smith and Brogan don’t broach the whole Gen-Y/ Millennial issue, but think about it: isn’t “make your own game,” inspired by hacking and what the authors call “gate-jumping” (by-passing an industry’s traditional gate-keepers), a defining Millennial outlook that’s irked many traditional employers?

Or, as Trust Agents puts it:

Because the web is a media platform, a communications platform, a vast sea of loosely joined resources, it’s the perfect place to gatejump. Trust agents know this. They live in this space. They look for the games inside the game, and they find ways to win. Why wait for permission? Just do it. (p.35)

Suddenly, what looked like a contradiction before (one, not wanting to play by traditional expectations or working one’s way up through the hierarchy, but, two, simultaneously being ambitious, a puzzle presented by the How Millennial are you? quiz) isn’t a contradiction at all. It’s just another variant of life-hacking.

So, thanks Julien Smith and Chris Brogan for making my brain, which loves making connections, happy by Chapter 3 already. I’m looking forward to seeing what else your book shakes loose in my head.

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