When i got involved with Mozilla in 1999, it was clear that something big was going on. The mozilla.org site had a distinctly “Workers of the world, unite!” feel to it. It caught my attention and made me interested to find out more.
The language on the site had the same revolutionary feel as the design. One of the pages talked about Why Mozilla Matters and it was an impassioned rallying cry for people to get involved with the audacious thing Mozilla was trying to do.
“The mozilla.org project is terribly important for the state of open-source software. [...] And it’s going to be an uphill battle. [...] A successful mozilla.org project could be the lever that moves a dozen previously immobile stones. [...] Maximize the opportunity here or you’ll be kicking yourself for years to come.”
With some minor tweaks, these words are still true today. One change: we call the project just Mozilla now instead of mozilla.org. Our mission today is also broader than creating software, we also educate people about the web, advocate to keep the Internet open and more.
Another change is that our competition has adopted many of the tactics of working in the open that we pioneered. Google, Apple and Microsoft all have their own open source communities today. So how can we compete with companies that are bigger than us and are borrowing our playbook?
We do something radical and audicious. We build a new playbook. We become pioneers for 21st century participation. We tap into the passion, skills and expertise of people around the world better than anyone else. We build the community that will give Mozilla the long-term impact that Mitchell spoke about at the Summit.
Mozilla just launched the Open Standard site and one of the first articles posted is “Struggle For An Open Internet Grows“. This shows how the challenges of today are not the same challenges we faced 16 years ago, so we need to do new things in new ways to advance our mission.
If the open Internet is blocked or shut down in places, let’s build communities on the ground that turn it back on. If laws threaten the web, let’s make that a public conversation. If we need to innovate to be relevant in the coming Internet of Things, let’s do that.
Building the community that can do this is work we need to start on. What doesn’t serve our community any more? What do we need to do that we aren’t? What works that needs to get scaled up? Mozillians of the world, unite and help answer these questions.
From Business in Vancouver: “Developers step up to pay for transit stations“
The economic benefits of being linked to rapid transit are so important that Metro Vancouver developers are paying millions of dollars to upgrade old stations and even help pay for new stations.
(a) Another reason why housing is unaffordable in Vancouver.
(b) Another example of Vancouver as a massive real-estate play for the benefit of developers.
(c) Why our rapid-transit lines will be impossibly overcrowded.
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood… I obviously thought about that in the past, but I chose to take my career in a different direction. And honestly, I could not be happier with my choice.
That said, I always wish I could find more time to write. And I keep trying to come up with ways to “get back into it” — but it’s honestly hard when you have another full time job.
But I won’t give up. I’ll get to a good place from a writing perspective again eventually. I just need more time :)
Google’s new Nexus 6 and Nexus 9 devices aren’t going to be available for a few more weeks. However, now that they have received an official unveiling, we’re seeing little bits and pieces of information about them sneak onto the internet.
Yesterday, we got our first look at the Nexus 9 outside of Google’s official product videos and photos. Today brings us photos captured by the newest Nexus smartphone, the Nexus 6. First spotted by BGR, these photos were uploaded to Google+ by Duan Dao, who according to LinkedIn works for T-Mobile USA.
The camera is one of the most exciting aspects of the Nexus 6, especially for those that endured the less than stellar camera on the Nexus 5. It packs in a 13MP sensor with OIS and an f/2.0 lens with dual LED flash. It’s helped along with HDR+ and Google’s upgraded camera app for Android 5.0.
The pictures in the gallery below are the ones uploaded by Dao to Google+ (though they’re no longer available on Google’s social network). Judging by this very small sampling of photos, the camera is a little grainy indoors. Still, we’re eager to test the camera for ourselves, and compare it to other smartphone cameras out there.
The Nexus 6 is up for pre-order on October 29th and will ship in early November. It starts at $749 here in Canada. That will net you the 32GB model. No word on how much you’ll have to pay for the 64GB model just yet.
From Gladys We, who lurks on MetaFilter:
Planned cities are not a new idea (Palmanova, Italy, 1593). From Washington, D.C. (1791), to Canberra, Australia (1911), to Brasilia, Brazil (1957), planned cities have long been an urban dream (from space), perhaps most frequently applied to national capitals. But they don’t always work out as planned.
In North America, some argue that everything settled after the 1871 Dominion Lands Act in Canada or the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 in the US counts as “planned” because it was platted before the settlers arrived.
Mexico City, Mexico, which has turned its city planning muscle to green planning
Guadalajara, Mexico, which has an original colonial town plan, a 1950s revamp, and an ongoing reworking
Elsewhere in the world planned cities are often schemes of vainglorious dictators:
Kolmanskop, Namibia (abandoned diamond town)
Planned Al-Noor City to build a bridge over the Red Sea
Admit it: Had you ever heard of Broughton, Nova Scotia, before?
And for sheer lunacy:
This comes from The Guardian (thanks to Penny Coupland for the link):.
Architecture for bikes – in pictures
From Calgary’s space-age Peace bridge to Eindhoven’s floating roundabout and the Copenhagen apartments with a cycle path straight up to the 10th floor, Gavin Blyth’s Velo City highlights some of the world’s best cycling infrastructure..
Google’s first Android TV product, the Nexus Player, is now available to pre-order from the Play Store.
For $109, a merciful $10 premium over the US version, the Nexus Player attaches to one’s TV or AV receiver and acts as an independent conduit to Google content and Android-based services.
A bunch of app developers have already modified their code for the big screen, including Songza, Netflix, Plex and many others. Users interact with the box with voice or the included remote control, and Android gamers can purchase the optional gamepad ($44.99) to bring compatible titles to the television.
The Nexus Player also acts as a Google Cast conduit, so users can cast content from compatible apps, like Rdio, Netflix and others, to the TV directly.
The set-top box ships in 3-4 weeks from Google’s warehouse.
Today, we’re extremely excited to announce Flickr for iPad. We’ve heard you loud and clear asking for an official app on Apple’s beautiful, large retina display, which makes it easy and enjoyable to access, organize and share your stunning photos from anywhere. The new Flickr for iPad app will be available globally in eleven languages.
This version of the Flickr iOS app is optimized to take full advantage of the larger screen on iPad, while delivering the gorgeous design you expect of Flickr, our powerful camera, and the versatility you need to manage your photos while on the go. On iPad, Flickr can now display images in high resolution by pushing up to 3,000,000 pixels per photo.
Flickr members can browse their photo feed in landscape or portrait with beautiful iPad-optimized layouts. Photos in the feed display near their original aspect ratio and cascade in a lovely waterfall format. Flickr members can also enhance their profile with an avatar, background photo, introduction, and website links.
In addition, we’ve included the ability to capture photos and videos with live filters on the iPad, allowing you to use our professional editing tools and opening a whole new world of enhancing your images.
No matter the context of your photo adventures — whether you’re socializing with friends, trekking through a market in a faraway city, or capturing the most important memories at a family wedding — you’ll never lose a pixel of the full resolution, uncompressed photos in your Flickr account. And with the 1000GB of free storage, you can upload all your photos not just your favorites!
You’ll find inspiration from Flickr members across the largest photo community in the world and you can share your memories to Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter and more. You’ll love our new search functionality, which lets you instantly explore your photos and photos across the site, without the requirement of tagging or adding metadata.
If you already have Flickr on your iOS device, you’ll be prompted to update shortly, or you can head over to the App Store to install Flickr 3.2 on your iPad or iPhone right away. The new app requires iOS 8.0 to be installed as well.
We hope you enjoy the new experience of Flickr for iPad and can’t wait to hear your feedback. So please let us know your thoughts.
Many of us over at the Sweethome live or have lived in tiny, 250-500 sq. ft. apartments with babies, pets, and significant others. Together with the small-living-space experts at LifeEdited, we put together a list of the best gear to make small-space living enjoyable.
Brian Stucki of Macminicolo:
For home users, the increased Graphics will be a very welcomed upgrade. In a data center, that will be useful for those who process a lot of images and will likely help when screen sharing. (Speaking of screen sharing, these HDMI adapters have been very useful. I’ll be interested to see if they’re still needed for the 2014 Mac mini.)
We've been running MacStories on Macminicolo for two years now – one of the best decisions we ever made. Once properly configured, the Mac mini can be a little beast of a machine – I was so happy with our setup at Macminicolo, I now use a second Mac mini just to automate tasks remotely. And with yesterday's refresh, it looks like I may have a serious candidate for my next Mac.
This difference is much bigger than it sounds. It’s the same, proportionally, as the difference between typical 21- to 24-inch and 27- to 30-inch monitors: “4K” computer monitors have 8.3 megapixels, while “5K” has 14.7 megapixels. Without software scaling to simulate higher density, the “right” size for a 4K monitor tops out at 24 inches, while a 5K monitor looks right at 27 to 30 inches.
It’s a huge difference.
Make sure to read the entire post as he makes some solid points with interesting technical observations.
Christina Bonnington also published a great FAQ on the new iMac at Wired, and I liked her explanation of why 5K is actually useful:
For most of us, a 5K display is just an extravagance, a high-end computing machine with specs that make our friends’ jaws drop. But for professionals in some industries, such a high pixel density is quite important.
For example, 5K resolution is great for those working on 4K content. “You can view all of the images at their true native 4K resolution, which is very important, and then have a fair amount of leftover screen space all around it for controls, icons, and even a generous 3.2-inch high text area at the bottom for commands and text input,” Displaymate’s Ray Soneira told WIRED. This actually ends up being better and more efficient than using a second monitor because you can keep your eyes on the images while working on them, instead of having to glance off to the side.
IHS Technology’s Rhoda Alexander points out that in addition to those in graphics-related fields like CAD and CG, healthcare imaging (like radiology) also has need for displays with a very high resolution.
This week we’ve been celebrating our successes from Cycle 1 of the Badge Alliance Working Groups, taking a look at all the great things we’ve accomplished together over the past six months.
Here’s what else happened this week:
Dr. Vladan Devedzic and Dr. Jelena Jovanovic joined us for this week’s community call to talk about the badging work happening in Estonia;
General Assembly announced their plans for a new micro-credentialing system for Web development;
Michael Schmidt from BrightLemon wrote a blog post on Rachel Lawson's badges presentation at DrupalCon: The Open Badges and Drupal.org relationship: what we learnt from DrupalCon Amsterdam;
Thank you to everyone in our community who has helped us move the badging work forward this year with the Badge Alliance Working Groups - we are so proud to be working within such a dedicated network.
Give yourselves a big high-five for everything you’ve accomplished!
A quick Google, and you might think it’s Vancouver’s 99 B-Line:
It depends, then, on what you consider “North America.” Technically, it includes all 23 independent states as far south as Colombia – which means, of course, that Mexico is part of North America.
In which case …
In July 2005, the Metrobus corridor (in Mexico City) began operation on Insurgentes Avenue. It was the first BRT corridor in the city, extending over 20 kilometers (12.4 miles), with central stations. The number of passengers has rapidly increased since then from 250,000 daily in 2005 to 270,000 in 2007, an annual increase of approximately 10%.
In 2008, the corridor was extended nine kilometers (about 5.5 miles) to the south, and by the end of the year, the Line 2 in the Eje 4 Sur began operating twenty kilometers (12.4 miles) from east to west.
In 2009 the demand of the system grew to 480,000 daily passengers. In 2011 with the construction of the Line 3 in the Eje 1 Poniente, Metrobus increased 17 kilometers (10.5 miles), consolidating 67 km (41.6 miles), and 710,000 trips per day.
Maybe Darren Davis of Auckland Transport (who alerted us to these facts) can tell us what the daily volume of the Insurgentes line by itself is today – but one thing for sure: if the B-Line is going to be the busiest bus route in North America, it will need a few hundred thousand more passengers per day. Even if it feels like it already has.
(Editor’s Note: Facebook originally declined to respond to our reporter’s request for an interview. After publication of the story, Facebook contacted The Open Standard with concerns, and we’ve entered responses and clarifications in the story, in italic. Additionally, responding to a reader comment, we’ve clarified at the end of the story how the news feed algorithm is turned on and off.)
If you’ve been wondering why your uncle or high school crush dropped off your Facebook news feed, brace yourself for a rude awakening — or, as one subject in a recent study put it, “what the hell, Facebook?”
Facebook’s so-called “emotional contagion” experiment may have grabbed the summer headlines and a blizzard of public condemnation when researchers claimed to have successfully manipulated the moods of unsuspecting users. But others say most users may be more shocked to learn their news feeds are routinely manipulated by the social media giant.
The news feed is the constantly updating list of stories in the middle of your Facebook homepage. A little-known algorithm decides from what friends you do and don’t receive updates.
“The majority of people that we interviewed didn’t realize there was a Facebook algorithm,” Harvard researcher Christian Sandvig told The Open Standard. So, if your jaw just hit the floor, take heart. You can always “like” more of your friends’ posts to counter the algorithm to a degree.
But that won’t solve the problem. Some posts don’t lend themselves to a “like,” such as something unpleasant. How could anyone “like” the U.S.-led bombing of ISIS, the Ferguson shooting death of Michael Brown or the suicide of comedian Robin Williams?
Interests not served
“It’s not big brother exactly,” acknowledged Sandvig, who is an associate professor at the University of Michigan in addition to serving as a faculty associate of Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society. “The news feed algorithm is basically not serving our interests.”
Content recommendations and ad placements based on algorithms sometimes have unintended consequences – and not just on Facebook, but in the search results returned by Google and Amazon. The difference is that these sites don’t shape our online social experience as much as Facebook.
“The majority of people that we interviewed didn’t realize there was a Facebook algorithm,” said Harvard researcher Christian Sandvig. But most users already can toggle between “top stories” and “most recent”
“Let’s say you had a baby and you really wanted people to know that you had a baby. You definitely would get more play if you had a link in there to say Bud Light, because Anheuser-Busch is one of Facebook’s advertisers,” Sandvig asserted.
Responding after the story’s publication, Facebook spokesperson Michael Kirkland said via email, “That is not true. Organic News Feed ranking is not impacted at all by ads. We try to show people the things they will find the most interesting based on what and who they interact with, not who spends money on Facebook.”
The casual user also doesn’t always know when their post is used to sell a product or service.
“Most people have a hard time seeing the difference between the sponsored posts, especially the ones at the top of the feed, unless they’re really looking carefully,” Sandvig observed. “When it’s pointed out to them, users don’t like it at all, but the way Facebook is designed it’s pretty hard to notice because it happens on your friend’s feed, not your feed.”
Facebook’s Kirkland said, “your posts are no longer used in ads.”
‘What the hell, Facebook?’
Karrie G. Karahalios, an associate professor of computer science at the University of Illinois, said only 37.5 percent of more than 40 diverse participants in the recent study undertaken by her and Sandvig understood that posts were being filtered in — or out — of news feeds by Facebook’s proprietary news feed algorithm.
Some Facebook users took the news harder than others. “What the hell Facebook,” opined one, while another canceled their account on the spot, as study participants viewed side-by-side comparisons of their curated and non-curated news feeds.
In all, 62.5 percent of study participants were not aware that Facebook was picking and choosing the posts they would see in their news feeds, in some cases based on advertising.
Karahalios tells The Open Standard that even computer science majors were dumbfounded, something that affected her more than Facebook’s contagion study.
Karahalios was referring to the study conducted by a Facebook executive and two Cornell University researchers, who acknowledged manipulating the “emotional content” of 689,003 Facebook news feeds to see if they could change the mood of some segment of unwitting subjects.
In layman’s terms, they wanted to see if they could arbitrarily make people happy or sad. After analyzing more than three million posts containing more than 122 million words, researchers concluded that it was possible to change someone’s mood.
Of course Facebook is no stranger to privacy concerns. “You might have heard the rumors going around about the Messenger app,” the organization acknowledged recently. “Some have claimed that the app is always using your phone’s camera and microphone to see and hear what you’re doing. These reports aren’t true, and many have been corrected.”
Facebook did not respond to a query from The Open Standard.
App distribution planned
Researchers Sandvig and Karahalios plan to distribute an app that will allow a much wider swath of users to receive an unfiltered Facebook news feed. Even without the app, most users have the ability to toggle between “top stories” or “most recent.” All users receive advertisements.
Advice for casual users
So should casual Facebook users “like” everything they come across?
Not necessarily, said Sandvig. The solution may involve a combination of more education about algorithms, government intervention in some cases or even the emergence of information clearinghouses along the lines of Consumer Reports for the Internet.
After participating in the study, participants overwhelmingly reported changing their Facebook habits, according to Sandvig, who adds some participants are now more assertive in teaching Facebook what they “like.” Researchers also said that other subjects experimented with switching their news feed between “top stories” – algorithm on – to “most recent” – algorithm off.
Shortly after President George W. Bush appointed Richard Clarke special cybersecurity advisor in 2001, the cyber czar delivered a memorable quip.
“If you spend more on coffee than on IT security, then you will be hacked,” he said. “What’s more, you deserve to be hacked.”
Now, as the Internet muscles its way into watches, cars and other devices, industries once thought far-removed from the web are staffing up to boost cybersecurity and avoid fulfilling Clarke’s prophecy. In one particular industry — the automotive realm — cybersecurity has become paramount.
“A car today can be considered a computer on wheels,” Yoni Heilbronn, a spokesman with Argus Cyber Security, told The Open Standard. Argus is an Israeli-based company specializing in automotive cybersecurity.
“Your regular sedan can have a minimum of 60 computer components — the more advanced have 150 or more,” Heilbronn continued. “Each and every one of these computer components is potentially hackable.”
Through Bluetooth, tire pressure monitoring systems or SIM cards, hackers can gain access remotely to swipe a driver’s data or eavesdrop on conversations, Heilbronn said. There are more grievous threats, too — like car theft or car ransom.
Craig Smith is an automotive security researcher with I Am The Cavalry, a U.S.-based organization that focuses on the intersection of cybersecurity and public safety. Smith notes hackers presently have the ability to wrestle physical control of a car from the driver. In an open letter to automotive CEOs, Smith and others at I Am The Cavalry urge leadership to work in tandem with security researchers; the group is also circulating a petition.
Changes from within
Marking the automotive industry’s efforts to thwart hackers is General Motors’ (GM) September hire of Jeffrey Massimilla, who will serve as the company’s new chief vehicle cybersecurity officer.
“[It’s] a brand new role for GM,” Jennifer Ecclestone, a spokeswoman for the automobile giant, told The Open Standard. “Data security issues are complex and ever-evolving. GM and OnStar [a GM subsidiary] are actively working to address these issues.”
Ecclestone noted GM’s cyber security efforts will coalesce under the newly-arranged Vehicle and Vehicle Services Cybersecurity organization, with Massimilla at the helm. This team will work both internally and with outside experts to “reduce the risks associated with cybersecurity threats,” Ecclestone said.
Earlier this year, GM’s OnStar brand introduced in-vehicle 4G LTE, which provides Wi-Fi and allows equipped automobiles to interface with drivers’ personal electronics.
At Tesla Motors — the electric car company helmed by billionaire Elon Musk — vehicle software is updated remotely over-the-air.
These “Internet of cars” technologies boosts drivers’ productivity, Heilbronn said, but at a price.
“All its added benefit bears risk,” he said.
According to Tesla spokeswoman Alexis Georgeson, the company works with security researchers to “identify and address potential vulnerabilities.” Tesla also tapped accomplished hacker Kristin Paget earlier this year to assist with security.
The increasing affinity between the web and autos has also spurred a campaign from the federal government. Currently, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is urging private automakers to beef up security.
“Safety is NHTSA’s top priority, and cybersecurity is an important area of concern for the agency in our efforts to improve the safety of motor vehicles,” officials said. The agency is currently asking the automobile industry to form an Information Sharing and Analysis Center (ISAC), a platform to address potential threats.
“Thank you for calling our customer service line. All our representatives are busy at the moment. Your call is important to us. Please hold why we try to connect you to one of our agents.”
Cue a distorted version of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. And welcome to the Fifth Circle of Hell.
Reaching a call center is too often a dread experience, but it doesn’t have to be like this. In the U.K., the not-for-profit social enterprise mySociety has been spearheading change with a web-based, open-source platform called FixMyStreet.
Seven years after launch it’s become the U.K.’s most widely used fault-reporting website for issues ranging from potholes in the streets, to graffiti, broken street lights and dog fouling. It’s based on a technical standard called Open311 and provides a way for people to report the problems they have to the computers of the people who can fix them.
Get it right and the joined-up experience works “incredibly well” according to Chris Palmer at the London Borough of Barnet:
Mobile, transparent, accountable
“Rather than putting you through a ‘customer service process,’ FixMyStreet gives you a clear idea of what’s happening, allows you to contact your council from standing in the middle of the street with your phone, and gets you a quick response.”
mySociety’s communications officer Myfanwy Nixon said one of the organization’s main aims was to serve people who might never have contacted their council.
“The metric we set most store by is the percentage of people who answer our follow-up site survey to say that this is the first time they have reported something to the council. This is consistently over 50%.”
She said there was a general understanding in UK councils now, of the benefits of channel shifting and increased transparency.
The business case for governments
“We tend to promote FMS in terms of its extreme usability… [and] as a proven means to reduce reports made by phone, it saves the council money that would otherwise be spent on staffing the phone lines.”
She added: “The benefits of transparency go both ways: councils typically do a lot of hidden, unappreciated work which FMS can help highlight. Equally, councils can dispel misconceptions in public – by explaining their actions online, they are reaching many people rather than the single person they can talk to on the phone or by email.”
“We built [FixMyStreet] because we wanted nervous, politically inexperienced people to know what it felt like to ask the government to do something, and to be successful”
Making interactions public and social is a key part of Open311’s appeal. Writes mySociety developer Dave Whiteland, “We didn’t originally build FixMyStreet because we wanted to get potholes fixed.
Get that feeling
“We built it because we wanted nervous, politically inexperienced people to know what it felt like to ask the government to do something, and to be successful at that.”
The U.S. equivalent of FixMyStreet, SeeClickFix, provides a similar framework for public action but for the service to really take off it needs the buy-in of local authorities and getting that is an uphill struggle. SeeClickFix for Seattle is a good example. More than 400 issues going back to 2011 have been logged by locals and there hasn’t been a single official response on the site to any of them:
“Street drain grate missing at street end. South side of street partially clogged with debris.”
“This van has been parked in the same parking spot all year and has not moved. It is filled with junk and garbage, not sure if someone is living in it or not.”
Closed app for 311 reporting in Seattle; some testy reviews
Seattle City Council has its own mobile app for citizens to report issues, Find It, Fix It, and it lacks both the public and social elements of Open311. It’s a closed loop interaction between the individual and the city. It’s had some testy reviews from users:
“Even when it did work the city closed the case without taking care of the illegal dumping or communicating with me on the status of my request.”
“City called the case closed without removing the dirty sofa illegally dumped on my sidewalk! I don’t think they look at those requests. Useless apps. Crashed and now I can’t even open it…”
“I reported a streetlight that was lit during the day. The report sat there for months before it expired with no response. What’s the point of this app if nobody responds to reports?”
Repeated attempts to reach Seattle officials for comment were unsuccessful.
Zurich in the thick of it
Community-based effort to get things done has found favor in Zurich, one of the cleanest and most efficient cities in the world, and the open source software that underpins it has also been used for other crowdsourced efforts such as reporting empty homes and tackling anti-social behavior.
The latest initiative to come from mySociety is Collideoscope, a tool for reporting and gathering data on cycle accidents in London which will be used to provide insights into accident prevention.
It’s another example of the way data is being aggregated and shared, and shows how crowdsourcing allied to greater transparency delivers small nuggets of feedback to achieve potentially big results.
It only takes one experience to get someone excited about open data. Hopefully though, that experience isn’t an earthquake.
A couple of months ago the famous wine-growing Napa region of California was shaken by a 6.0-scale earthquake resulting in serious damage to buildings, injuries and disruptions in services to a large area. This is something residents in the Bay Area have come to expect – and we’re all waiting for the next “big one,” overdue according to most experts. The same week it happened, our OpenOakland team launched a new app in response to the Napa disaster. Thanks to open data.
Housing scarcity in Oakland
Oakland is a city with a severe housing shortage and increasing gentrification. It’s also home to 1,378 large apartment buildings at varying risks of collapse in a quake centered close to Oakland. The City of Oakland and the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) have studied this issue and over half these buildings have been screened – but over 550 remain to be screened for risk.
Earthquake could be ruinous for low-income apartment-dwellers
So far, 609 multi-family buildings, housing thousands of residents in apartments, have been found to be at serious risk. These are called potential “soft story” buildings, meaning they have a large open ground level such as storage or garages that will potentially collapse in a quake, rendering those homes uninhabitable. That would be an instant loss of thousands of affordable housing units protected under rent control. Any housing units built to replace them will surely not be affordable, resulting in very rapid push out of poorer residents.
‘Lengthy conversations’ to get data, and a pay-off
We launched Soft Story to help renters and owners to quickly see if they were living in a building at seismic risk, or possibly at risk
One of our members, Dave Gaurino, had been trying to access data on this issue for months with slow progress; the data were in a varying state of currency and completion and were obtained through lengthy conversations over many weeks.
After receiving the data, we were able to determine the quality was sufficient for public display and did not require extensive cleaning. We used county parcel data to geocode the addresses, created custom map tiles that contained the points for display, thanks to Mike Migurski of Code for America, and then loaded those data and tiles into the app.
It was possible for us to deploy a simple web app just days after the quake to highlight this issue, one not being discussed much in the communities most likely to be impacted.
Making open data relevant
We launched Soft Story to help renters and owners to quickly see if they were living in a building at seismic risk, or possibly at risk. Open data itself may not be a topic of discussion, but by making this issue personal for the thousands of families living in such buildings, this simple app made these data tangible and actionable. The code is open source so developers in other cities can build their own versions.
City’s open data initiative has had slow ramp-up
Though Oakland has a law on the books requiring open data as well as an open data website, the efforts to ramp up this as a serious initiative for the city have been slow. In a disaster situation, it’s not feasible to spend weeks trying to convince well meaning government officials to give you some data. The issues are present and the data to help, plan and respond also need to be present, right then and there.
Data leads to question – who pays for seismic retrofits?
For now, our app is live and out there and we are promoting it to raise the issue to a broader audience and to push for thoughtful policy. Who needs to pay for the retrofitting and who can equitably do so? If we aim to be a resilient city, we must ensure that our poorer residents do not suddenly become homeless and pushed out after a big quake. Economic resiliency is as big a problem for us as disaster resiliency.
Public data needs to be open by default
San Francisco has required owners of soft-story buildings to hire inspectors and then in some cases, pay for seismic retrofits. As a first step toward risk-prevention, our East Bay cities should help ensure a stream of real time, updated data on the status of these risk-prone structures. When a building is brought into compliance, our apps and open data should reflect that. Public data needs to be plumbed not just into staff reports and compliance systems, but onto the public web as open data.
And citizens must be empowered to give, not just receive. But we’re not yet seeing heavy acceptance of crowdsourced data for official uses, beyond the SeeClickFix tool for reporting of potholes, graffiti and dumping. Nor are local governments typically seeking digital data from communities on urban planning issues, policies or crime – such as where are safe routes to school, rather than just crime reports.
When governments open up local data, many innovations are possible that can aid in preparedness. Fire hydrant data can leading to the creation of organized community commitments to keep hydrants snow- and ice-free so fire crews can respond to fires quickly. California fires data are updated live on Google Maps, giving others the ability to quickly, freely obtain these raw data, also, and take actions to protect property and lives.
Leveraging the ‘long tail” of government
It’s in the community interest not just to open public data, but to actively engage with local apps developers. If city hall suffers damage and the servers lose power, open data that is in the hands of the people, and accessible, could be truly life-saving. We’re not really leveraging the long-tail of government yet.
Our slow adoption of true open government practices means that our communities are far from used to interacting quickly, digitally and positively with government. This suggests poor responses and communication in a serious disaster. But sustained and meaningful engagement between cities and citizens, enriched with a two-way flow of the public data, leads to connections which are invaluable in crises.
... on how the world evolves.
On the evolution of education in the Age of the Web. Tyler Cowen, in Average Is Over, via The Atlantic:
It will become increasingly apparent how much of current education is driven by human weakness, namely the inability of most students to simply sit down and try to learn something on their own.
I'm curious whether we'll ever see a significant change in the number of students who can and do take the reins for themselves.
On the evolution of the Web. Jon Udell, in A Web of Agreements and Disagreements:
The web works as well as it does because we mostly agree on a set of tools and practices. But it evolves when we disagree, try different approaches, and test them against one another in a marketplace of ideas. Citizens of a web-literate planet should appreciate both the agreements and the disagreements.
Some disagreements are easier to appreciate after they fade into history.
Eventually a software project becomes a small amount of useful logic hidden among code that copies data between incompatible JSON libraries
Not all citizens of a web-literate planet appreciate disagreements between JSON libraries. Or Ruby gems.
On the evolution of start-ups. Rands, in The Old Guard:
... when [the Old Guard] say, "It feels off..." what they are poorly articulating is, "This process that you're building does not support one (or more) of the key values of the company."
I suspect the presence of incompatible JSON libraries means that our software no longer supports the key values of our company.
Last night, I installed OS X Yosemite. After the marathon-length download, I finally saw it in action. My initial reaction wasn’t unlike that of many others. I’ll sum it up with the phrase, “This got hit by the ugly stick.”
Now, before you go all fanboi on me, please allow me a moment to explain my reaction. First off, It’s OK if I’m not immediately wowed by the updated GUI. Change works this way. Within a few days I’ll likely grow accustomed to this very flat, very Helvetica, environment. This was my experience when iOS was flattened. Although primitive seeming at first, after a few weeks, it felt fine—and its predecessors looked clumsy.
The biggest point of discomfort I have with the new OS X relates to type. Helvetica sets wide and isn’t always well-suited to screens. These shortcomings are glaring in Yosemite. I need to expand Finder window columns so they accommodate the girth of this type family; similarly, type in the menu bar looks crowded and soft. Admittedly, these are First World Problems. That said, I’m not complaining so much as I’m observing.
Apple’s decision to make a wholesale shift from Lucida to Helvetica defies my expectations. Criticize the company as much as you’d like, but it treats user experience with reverence. So, this leaves me wondering: What possible reason is there for this shift? Why make a change that impedes legibility, requires more screen space, and makes the GUI appear fuzzy?
The answer: Tomorrow.
Before I elaborate on this point, though, let me discuss yesterday. Microsoft’s approach with Windows, and backward compatibility in general, is commendable. Users can install new versions of this OS on old machines, sometimes built on a mishmash of components, and still have it work well. This is a remarkable feat of engineering. It also comes with limitations—as it forces Microsoft to operate in the past.
The people at Apple don’t share this focus on interoperability or legacy. They restrict hardware options, so they can build around a smaller number of specs. Old hardware is often left behind (turn on a first-generation iPad, and witness the sluggishness). Meanwhile, dying conventions are proactively euthanized.
When Macs no longer shipped with floppy drives, many felt baffled. This same experience occurred when a disk (CD/DVD) reader no longer came standard. I probably don’t need to remind you how weird it seemed for the iPhone to not have a physical keyboard. Apple continues to remove items that seem necessary from their products and line-up.
In spite of the grumblings of many, I don’t recall many such changes that we didn’t later look upon as the right choice. Floppy disks were too small. The cloud made physical media (CDs and DVDs) unnecessary. Better touch screens allowed a more efficient means of input, which made bulky keyboards unnecessary.
“What about this change to Helvetica?” you ask. It ties to the only significant point in yesterday’s iMac announcement: Retina displays. Just take a look at Helvetica on any high-fidelity screen, and you see a crisp, economical, and adaptable type system.
Sure, Helvetica looks crummy on your standard resolution screen. But, the people at Apple are OK with this temporary trade-off. You’re living in Apple’s past, and, in time, you’ll move forward. When you do, you’ll find a system that works as intended: because Apple skates to where the puck is going to be.
Apple released its new iPads yesterday and they are totally boring, which is in an of itself not a huge deal. The bigger worry is that the new family of SKUs, covering every price and size from $250 to close to $1000 reminds me of the kind of tasteless shelf stuffing that took place at HP during the years I was there for both PCs and printers.
Here is how it would go: some senior exec from one of the big channel partners (Costco, Staples, BestBuy, Tesco, etc.) would show up with a sales report or market study claiming that the price point between $399 and $499 seemed particularly fertile for some sort of compromised laptop and BAM! a project manager would be assigned to sort out what components to take out of some existing device so that the BOM (bill of materials) would allow a product to exist- totally based on rear view mirror data about sales purchases by the ants crawling through the shelves of the Costco late on Friday night somewhere between the cheeseballs and the lawn equipment.
Apple going this direction is no surprise given their lack of product leadership- adding small features to the rapidly exploding matrix of SKUs and managing product releases to Wall St expectations. The bigger problem though is the way that the ipad third party ecosystem has done so little to invent new experiences in the form of apps that drive the adoption of new and better devices. Almost every developer that I talk to is much more excited about working on the iPhone platform than on the iPad platform and it is a bit sad because in the absence of the iPhone stealing all of the thunder, the iPad would have been, in Alan Kay's words, "what the personal computer should have been."
Without new apps, the iPad will die a long slow death of mediocre corporate decisions filling holes in the product matrix. As I write this on the new version of Drafts 4, with Prompt 2 and Pythonista being the only two apps that have gotten me excited in the last year, I'm not sure we will get there- a purely new class of app targeting the large glass screen, the constant connection to the Internet, and MIPS that are much more about the GPU than the CPU. All of this should make buyers of the new iPad Air 2 feel like those early Apple ][ pioneers who bought it just to run VisiCalc, Star Blazer, and PrintShop.
If you've got one of those apps, I want to talk to you...
Chicago Mozilla Rep Robby blogs about participating in the very first Vancouver Hive Pop-Up!
October 11th was World Photowalk Day. I attended the Vancouver edition, which was in a place I’d never go looking for pictures; but I got some anyhow.
We started at the Convention Centre and walked to Gastown, which is to say through Vancouver’s maximal white-hot tourist density, where you don’t need to be on a photowalk to be pointing a camera at everything.
Which is why normally I wouldn’t take my camera there. But you know, going somewhere to take pictures puts your eyes in looking-for-pictures mode. Which isn’t my default; I normally lean back in my skull, waiting for something I see to exhort the camera out of the bag. Maybe I’m doing it wrong. Anyhow, here they are.
When we started, everything was in maximal high-contrast mode.
They’d wrapped the waterfront train/bus/ferry station
I’m not sure this guy’s accessories are all working well together.
A wedding was in progress; there was puzzlement at the
amateur photogs milling around the pro.
The white things are
best-known as the cruise ship terminal.
As you go east things get sketchier.
There’s a story here but I’m not sure what it is.