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23 Nov 14:37

Information Density and Android's Calendar

Recently, Google replaced Android’s Calendar app with a redesigned version. Now, admittedly, I’ve never liked any of the calendars on my phones, with the possible exception of the one on WebOS. But if I had to rank all of the calendar apps I’ve ever used from «almost acceptable» to «terrible», the new Android calendar app would sit firmly at the «terrible» end of this spectrum.

I think there’s a reason why printed planners typically use the two visible pages to show a week.

Weeks are a good unit of time when you’re planning meetings and appointments. They’re big enough for you to see a useful measure of time, and they’re big enough so that you can easily move one or two months forwards or backwards, which is all you typically need. But on a printed planner, a week is also small enough that you still get a reasonable amount of space for each individual day.

As a result, I typically default to the week view on phones, too. The day view means that even just knowing what I’m going to do tomorrow requires me to jump between different screens, while the month view doesn’t show enough information to work for most use cases.

Now, a phone is much smaller than a printed planner, so it can’t show as much information in its week view. But that’s okay; as long as I can get a quick impression of when I’m busy and when I’m free during the week, I’m fine.

The old Calendar app’s weekly view used to do a reasonable job. There was a lot of room for improvement, but it worked well enough.

The new Calendar app does not. Its information density is so ridiculously low that the week view doesn’t even deserve that name anymore. It’s now a «5 Day» view, because it only shows five days. This is confusing, because it means that the starting day in this view changes. Instead of always being Monday (or Sunday in the US),1 it’s now a random day. So in order for me to figure out what I’m looking at, I first have to take a second to recalibrate my brain. Okay, the leftmost day is now a Wednesday…

And I don’t even see the individual days fully. I only see seven hours of each day, effectively about half of what I’d need to see to get an impression of what I’m doing that day.

Now, I wouldn’t complain if that was the view on a dinky 3-inch-phone. But this is the view on a Galaxy Note 3. Surely, there’s plenty of space on that screen to show a usable week view.

There’s always a need to balance simplicity and information density. It’s very difficult to convey a lot of complex information in a simple, usable user interface — hence the fact that I never really liked any calendar app.

But if you’re designing a user interface that is explicitly intended to convey a lot of complex information, just not showing that information is never an acceptable solution.

When Do Weeks Start?

Further up, I noted that weeks start on Mondays in Europe, but in the US, they seem to start on Sundays. Wrong. Dr. Drang points out that weeks start on Mondays in the US, too:

Weekly calendar/planners in the US start on Mondays. You can look at Day Runner, Day-Timer, At-A-Glance; They all start on Monday and have for the 30+ years I’ve been paying attention. Monthly calendars in the US do start on Sundays, but never weekly calendars. (At this point, I’d normally make a cutting remark about how Europeans think they understand American culture from watching movies and TV shows, but I’m taking the high road today.)

So where did Lukas get the idea that Americans like to start their weekly calendars on Sunday? Probably from the poorly designed calendar software we’re forced to use.

That’s right. I always set my devices’ language to English. This typically has a bunch of side effects. One of them is the date format. If you set the language to English, devices often also set the date format to US-English. I’ve noticed that one of the things the US-English date format typically entails is that it changes the week’s start date to Sunday — hence my assumption about when weeks start in the US.

A Good Week View

A few people asked me whether there was any mobile calendar app that offered a good week view. Is it even possible to show a good week view on such a small screen? There is, and it is. Business Calendar on Android is not the prettiest app in the world, but it does offer a week view that allows me to see seven days a week, 14 hours a day, all in portrait view. Calendar entries contain enough readable text for me to identify what each entry is, and the app has a smart layouting algorithm for overlapping entries.


  1. Turns out I was wrong about that. See note at the end of this article. back



If you require a short url to link to this article, please use http://ignco.de/639

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If you liked this, you'll love my book. It's called Designed for Use: Create Usable Interfaces for Applications and the Web. In it, I cover the whole design process, from user research and sketching to usability tests and A/B testing. But I don't just explain techniques, I also talk about concepts like discoverability, when and how to use animations, what we can learn from video games, and much more.

You can find out more about it (and order it directly, printed or as a DRM-free ebook) on the Pragmatic Programmers website. It's been translated to Chinese and Japanese.

23 Nov 18:11

Shared Use Paths create conflict and cause complaints about "speed"

by David Hembrow
Many countries build combined infrastructure for cyclists and pedestrians. Wherever these shared-use (aka multi-use) paths exist, there are complaints due to the conflicts which occur. Many of the complaints are from pedestrians who find the speed of cyclists unacceptable on paths which they use for walking. This is a wholly avoidable problem. The cyclists in the video above demonstrate well
23 Nov 19:10

The Paris That I Never Seem to Tire Of...

I'm in a taxi whizzing down Boulevard de Magenta, one of those wider than normal Parisian streets. There are cheap shops where you can buy mobile phones, bags and wedding dresses in the windows on both sides and you wonder what surprise will come around the next corner.

We pass a sign for a Bach concert at one of the music halls, somewhere around Place de Clichy. My driver hangs a right on Rue de Rocroy and the street gets narrower. Small shops, a coiffure Mixte, a few not so stellar looking 2 star hotels, a cafe brasserie and tabac on every corner, a nail salon and a few optique stores for glasses. In my rear view mirror, I see travel agent and pharmacy signs as we weave in and out of even more narrow alleys and roads.

The meter is escalating and I can't help but think of the sign that had prefix prices for certain districts of the city. He is miserable and not worth the fight despite his fabulous taste in classical music which he has blaring from some device in the front seat I can't see. Salt and pepper, a sharp nose, no smile. He refuses to smile in fact and he hates that I am paying by credit card.

It was the first Sunday of the month and the sky was hazy but the day was warm, a rarity on Paris visits. I originally had plans to get out of Paris for the day with a friend, take in some gardens and have a picnic in a park however after the plans fell through, I changed course and decided after a taxi towards a more remote spot on the Seine, I would begin to walk and keep walking until the sun set.

One of my favorite things to do is meander through Paris without a clear purpose and just see what shows up. I had started my morning in a funky part of the Marais, where art and graffiti were plastered across walls before jumping into the cab. As the desire to see more nature and less people increased, it was time to move towards the water. And so....I asked the driver to stop on the Seine where there were very few people.

The Seine

A couple of hours go by and I'm swept with gratitude as I sat along the Seine on that warm afternoon. I received a message at 5 am that same morning from an acquaintance who had just finished a ten day meditation retreat and I couldn't help but wonder during those reflective hours if I could do something like that knowing how hard it is to shut my mind down. He had asked me how often I meditated and I began to reflect on what meditation meant to me.

A meditative state for me isn't necessarily a specific place and time I dedicate to silence and breath but more of a state of being, one which I find hard to do in Silicon Valley, yet can so easily be brought into the moment I leave.

With a SIM card in my phone that gives me the ability to text or call, I purposely put it away deep into the bottom of my purse. Instead of the rings, beeps and web page loading distracting me, I listen to the sounds of Paris amidst the haze of the sky.

Most shops are closed, yet locals and tourists alike buzz past me on roller blades and bikes while boats zip past them making their way under each bridge that crosses the Seine as far as my eye can see.

From there, I figured I would pop into the Pont Neuf metro stop on the 7 line and keep going until some visual or sound suggested I get off - I love days like that when you don't have to be anywhere else other than towards what moves you in a given moment.

Despite my miles of walking, it still felt like a blissfully lazy day. Paris has a way of making even the most unconscious present, for her sounds, textures, smells and historical colors have a way of weaving you into her storyboard, inviting you to share her glory with everyone you encounter after you leave her soil. While her spell is cast on you, you become conscious of all of 'her' grandeur, including the most intricate details. A family rides by on bikes, a bright yellow balloon fixated to the boy's handlebars, an elderly couple walks their Jack Russell, a blue-eyed blonde blades past me alone followed by a dark handsome 30 something year old with Caribbean features.

A gray haired man in his sixties with a professor-like beard sets up shop nearby and pulls out a mahogany hard bound leather book and while I can't make out the text, my guess is that he's reading some Eastern European dialect. My gut says he's Hungarian.

Yanks walk past me with day packs, a baggy t-shirt hangs loosely over the older man's overweight middle. A brunette with a fabulous brown leather sachet strolls by ever so pensively.

She stops and then...pauses. As she looks out over the river, she pulls out a notebook and writes something down. Then, she raises her face, glances over at me and gives me a smile before tucking her notebook in a side pocket and moving along on her journey to who knows where. I wonder where for quite awhile until that thought was interrupted by a falling chestnut which landed near my right leg. The fallen chestnut dangled off the lengthy stone stair I had been sitting up against for hours.

As I continue to watch a very eclectic world drift by, an out of breath man and his daughter get off their scooters and begin to walk them along the main path that runs along the river.

A Chinese couple and their children speed by on bikes, the nearly bald teenage son's hands are off the handlebars, as if a symbol of his new profound freedom half way across the world while on holiday with his obviously wealthy family. A well dressed Italian couple give me a warm smile as they walk up the stairs next to me; the man's face turns to curiosity as he sees me writing with such purpose and speed.

Of course I'm writing about you I wanted to say with the same curious look and warm smile he gave me, but instead I redirect my attention to the sounds of the scooters and motorbikes in the distance, the taxi cab horns and the oh so familiar sounds that rollerblade wheels make, especially when the bearings are loose. I spot my first graffiti -- Buble But glares back at me from across the river, plastered in red on the back of a metal book stall, one of the many set up along the Seine to entice tourists to buy.

Then, I see two lovers embrace and I can tell from their energy that they both chose to be here and that it wasn't one edging the other on for some redeemable lifetime romantic moment of sorts.

Romantic it was however and they brought me into their world for just a moment. Accents told me that he was European and she was an Aussie and I couldn't help but wonder if Paris was a meeting place to ignite these two lovers to the next level or if they had been together for years.

I decide to walk to Notre Dame since it is almost in my view. I have been to this remarkable church at least a dozen times and yet I always get a slight skip in my walk when I see her beauty emerge as I make my way around the corner and she stands sprawled before me. All the cafes that line up along the edge of her have become tourist haunts -- crepes and coffees are twice the price and it's more crowded than any of the surrounding streets. Yet, I'm called into sit down at one regardless.

I choose the one on the corner at the very end of the road, mainly because the man making the crepes is so obviously French, which isn't as common as you'd think in Paris anymore.

So many crepes from local stands are now crispy from being cooked for too long. While I typically go for a savory crepe (mushrooms, ham and onions is my favorite), I opted for an apple sauce and coconut crepe and the 40 something year old charming local who made it for me, nailed it - Yum!!

I left the cafe happily with my decaf cappuccino and my perfectly cooked crepe and proceeded to the bridge where I sat along its edge watching a street performer, three massage therapists taking clients on in small chairs in the middle of the street and a not so funny clown who was attempting to get kids to laugh by holding a bicycle upside down while circus music played in the background. Before I left this crowded part of Paris I know so well, I contributed to the lock bridge, which is always a favorite stop of mine....the romantic in me I guess.

Montreuil Market Heading to Montreuil Market was somewhat depressing after the peace and serenity of Paris' magical river, the same one that artists have painted to and been inspired by for centuries. I remember visiting the market over a decade ago and then again a decade before that and from my hazy recollection, it's changed significantly. I seem to remember more antiques, paintings and jewelry, knick knacks and appliances.

Now it appears to be more of an old fashioned flea market, the kind you might find in America's midwest where trucks come for the day and try to sell cheap clothes and shoes for the widest margin they can get. There were aisles with tires, oil, toothpaste, soap detergent, tea kettles and even Middle Eastern traditional shawls, but for the most part, it was a collection of clothes heaped in piles for those with enough patience to sift through for hours on end.

If you haven't been however, I suppose its worth stopping by for the mishmash experience. Hours are 7 am to 7:30 pm at night and the market is open two days a week on Sundays and Monday's. The official address is Avenue du Professeur André Lemierre 75020 Paris. Télephone: 01 48 85 93 30.

The best way to get there is on the Metro Line 9 and the stop is Porte de Montreuil. The market is a short walk up the main drag from the exit to the station.

Latin Quarter

I come across fun jewelry with semi precious stones that an adorable Peruvian is selling. He is standing across from La Boulangerie de Papa, a quaint cute blue salon that also has an outside creperie stand on the corner. It's a mere block away from the Greek eaterie I had so much fun in four or five years ago on a cold winter's night. Gyros by the dozen....Moroccans nearby calling me to eat at their restaurant, offering deals and sweet nothings I can't make sense of.

Onion soup or fish soup, egg, salad and beef, chicken or fish followed by chocolate mousse, ice cream, cheese or fruit for E12 to 17 a head all inclusive and every variation in between although they all sound like the same offer after awhile.

Restaurant after restaurant on Rue de la Huchette, one of the main drags, I find that there are too many offerings to choose one, something I often feel when I'm walking through the Latin Quarter. Then, Le Lac de L'ouest for Chinese, Thai and Vietnamese food across from the creperie but I'm not in the mood for Asian food, so I keep walking through her narrow streets.

A sweet creperie stands calls out to me with far too many sugar rich toppings to say yes to, such as chestnut, caramel, chocolate, strawberry, lemon, sugar, butter, honey, Nutella, apricot, banana and coconut, all ranging from 3.50 to around 8 euros.

Then a warm smile outside a restaurant on Rue de Huchette stops me in my tracks and so I indulge. Aperitifs start with Kir Cassis ou Peche, Kir Breton, martinis, tequila, cognac, Calvados, Cointreau, Grand Marnier and Rum. I have a small Kir Cassis although he tops up my glass before I can say no thanks to another. For E9.90, you can get Provencale or Cocagne or Complete or Bistrot or Basquaise or Kermaria AND a sweet crepe (various choices) with either cider, coke or apple juice.

Boulevard St. Germaine to Boulevard Des Italiens via Avenue de L'Opera Food stalls outside on the street on Boulevard St. Germaine sprawl in both directions. Viva Espana Bodaga grabs my attention with scrumptious looking Spanish food cooking away in large pots.

I sample some ham and then more Spanish food at Monceau Gardens.

I walk into Neo Cafe on 126 Boulevard St. Germaine to make sure my directions are in sync as I begin to realize I'm much further away from my hotel than I had thought.

Florian directs me in a deep dark and sexy voice, one that suggests there's a wink along with it even when there's not. Within a block or so from this quaint little cafe, I stumble upon another one called Tennessee Cafe, which isn't quite as quaint and it seems like it caters to yanks with its burgers and English menus. What is adjacent to Tennessee Cafe however grabs my eye.

There's a little passage called Passage de St. Andre, which is a narrow pedestrian cobblestone street that runs alongside the cafe. It looks historical and authentic in every way but it's hard to tell in Paris where everything is ten times older than even the oldest American city.

Cafes, bars and restaurants are strung along the left as you make your way down the cute pedestrian passage. I decide to have a drink at one of the cafes but need to move around a homeless person on his cell phone in the glass entryway to Thomas Travel to do so.

There's another homeless person along Boulevard Des Italiens who has a giant stuffed tan colored Snoopy sitting near him as he lay tucked up in his sleeping bag. I spot the elderly man perched up against a giant iron box on the same boulevard.

He had set up a fishing pole that dangled a cup from some fast food chain and while it slowly moved to the wind, he occasionally yelped into the dark streets. Then the giant life-sized chocolate lion in one of the windows along Boulevard St. Germaine and a giant pink elephant.

Then, a cafe calls my name. Here I stop and have a cappuccino while I watch people waltz by for the next hour or so.

The Canals

In the spring, summer and fall, a great place to hang out is on the banks of Canal Saint-Martin. People lounge here, picnic here, play music here and hold hands. On Sundays, two streets running parallel to the canal, Quai de Valmy and Quai de Jemmapes, are reserved for pedestrians and cyclists.

The Canal Saint-Martin neighborhood is nestled between Gare du Nord and Republique in Northeastern Paris, in the 10th arrondissement. The main streets around the canal include Quai de Valmy, Quai de Jemmapes, Rue Beaurepaire and Rue Bichat and I'd recommend walking down all of them. It's a charming part of Paris not to be missed.

Other areas I love to wander through and try to each and every trip I make to Paris, include the Marais near St. Paul, Bastille and Luxembourg Gardens.

Be sure to check out our Paris section for great shopping tips, restaurant finds, and other reflective pieces like this one. There's also lodging & top hotels in France, and top hotels in Paris as well as general content on France. (travel to France).    

24 Nov 01:21

The Most Spectacular Place You’ll Never See

by Doc Searls

Unless you look out the window.

When I did that on 4 November 2007, halfway between London and Denver, I saw this:

baffin Best I could tell at the time, this was Greenland. That’s how I labeled it in this album on Flickr. For years after that, I kept looking at Greenland maps, trying to find where, exactly, these glaciers and mountains…

baffin1…were.

While I’m sure there are good maps of Greenland somewhere (Nuuk? Denmark?), Google, Bing and the rest are no help. Nor are the fat world atlases. Here’s an island the size of a continent, with lots of Fjords and islands and glaciers and mountains and stuff, many of which were surely named by the natives or visitors, and there ain’t much.

But:::: good news.

There, out my dirty and frosty window over the trailing edge of the wing, was the same long deep valley I had seen seven years before. Only now I was equipped to learn what was what, and where. My GPS and the plane’s map — there on a screen mounted in the back of the seat in front of me — agreed: we flying over the Cumberland Peninsula of Baffin Island, an Arctic landform almost twice the size of New Zealand, in Nunavut, Canada’s newest, most arctic and least populated territory.

The valley, I discovered on the ground, is called Akshayuk Pass. It connects the North and South Pangnirtung Fjords, bisecting the peninsula. Imagine a Yosemite Valley with a floor of glaciers draining into Arctic rivers, flanked for seventy miles by dozens of Half Domes and El Capitans — crossing the Arctic Circle, through an island where the last Ice Age still hasn’t ended.

On the west side of the pass is the Penny Ice Cap, a mini-Greenland inside the forbidding and spectacular Auyuittuq National Park. Wikipedia explains, “In Inuktitut (the language of Nunavut‘s aboriginal people, the Inuit), Auyuittuq (current spelling: ᐊᐅᔪᐃᑦᑐᖅ aujuittuq) means ‘the land that never melts.’” Nobody lives there. Hiking across it ranges from difficult to impossible. The only way to fully take it in is from the sky above, like I found myself doing right then. It was thrilling.

On the first flight over, I became fascinated by a mountain, just south of the Penny Ice Cap, that looked like an old tooth with fillings that had fallen out. It’s in the lower left side of this shot here from the 2007 trip:

asgard So I recognized it instantly when I saw it again two days ago. Here’s how it looked this time:

agard2 Now that I could research the scenery, I found it was Mt. Asgard, named after the realm of Norse gods. From below it looks the part. (That link is to amazing photos by Artur Stanisz, shot from Turner Glacier, which Asgard overlooks in the shot above. Fun fact: one of the great James Bond ski chase stunts was shot here. See this video explaining it. Start at about 1:33.)

So now we have all these albums:

Which join these others on Flickr:

A digression on the subject of aviation…

A bit before I started shooting these scenes, a flight attendant asked me to shade my window, so others on the plane could sleep or watch their movies. Note that this was in the middle of a daytime flight, not a red-eye. When I told her I booked a window seat to look and shoot out the window, she was surprised but supportive. “That is pretty out there,” she said.

Later, when we were over Hudson Bay and the view was all clouds, I got up to visit the loo and count how many other windows had shades raised. There were very few: maybe eight, out of dozens of windows in the economy cabin of our Boeing 777. Everybody was watching a movie, eating, sleeping or otherwise paying no attention to the scenery outside.

No wonder a cynical term used by airline people to label passengers is “walking freight.” The romance and thrill of flying has given way to rolling passengers on and off, and filling them with bad food and failed movies.

Progress is how the miraculous becomes mundane. Many of our ancestors would have given limbs for the privilege of seeing what’s on the other side of our window shades in the sky. Glad all we need is to give up our cynicism about flying.

24 Nov 07:30

Why Big Audiences Become Very Small Communities

by Richard Millington

There are two common ways to build a thriving community.

The first is to begin with a huge audience and promote heavily to build a core, small, group.

The second is to begin with a very small, very passionate, audience. It helps to have both, but this is rare.

Most big organizations take the first option. They have big mailing lists with millions of members. There will usually be a few hundred die-hard members in the group to get the community started. Most customer service channels work well here.

Most amateurs rely on their existing relationships/passionate followings. They launch the community with their friends/relatives/existing connections and grow from there.

Both approaches can work fine (and often yield similar numbers). But it’s very hard to launch a community with neither a big audience or a strong, passionate, following.

 

Predicting The Conversion Rate Of Big Audiences Into Active Members

A common misconception is the conversion rates of big numbers.

Audiences of millions quickly become communities of hundreds. Using a few rules of thumb, we can estimate the conversion rates of big audiences. 

The conversion rate is influenced by 3 factors; size of existing audience, strength of relationships/reputation with that audience, and existing competitors.

 

What % Of Your Total Combined Audience Will See Your Messages?

Most of the members in your audience can't be reached. First, we need to establish the real reach you have among your audience. Here's a few rules of thumb, it will vary by audience.  

  • Facebook Fans * 0.05 (few people see the updates)
  • LinkedIn connections * 0.01 (even fewer see the updates)
  • Twitter connections * 0.01 (noisy)
  • Mailing list * 0.15 (or open rates)
  • Other channels * 0.15
  • Web traffic * 0.05
  • Personal connections * 0.5

Multiply this figure by 0.25 to account for overlapping audiences (e.g. usually the people on your Facebook fans are those from your mailing lists etc...).

For example, imagine you have

  • 10,000 FB fans (10000 * 0.05 = 500)
  • 7000 LinkedIn connections (7000 * 0.01 = 70)
  • 20,000 Twitter followers (20000 * 0.01 = 200)
  • 50,000 members on your mailing list (50000 * 0.15 = 7500)
  • 7,000 people through other channels (Slideshare, YouTube etc…) = (7000 * 0.15 = 1050)
  • 2000 web visitors (200 * 0.05 = 100) 

Thus from the initial figure of 96000 you would be able to reach 2355 (9420 * 0.25).

That means just 2.5% of your total audience will even see the messages you send out (if you want to skip the maths, this isn't a bad rule of thumb to use). 

But how many will actually respond or take action? 

Whether they respond to your message depends both on the content of the message itself and the strength of relationships with this audience. 

If the e-mail is good, assume 5% of the figure above will respond to your message. This varies based upon the quality of relationships you have with them, but 5% would be ok.

This gives you just 118 people (2355 * 0.05) to get the community started.

That's 0.12% of your original total combined audience

(again, not a bad figure to use if you want to skip the maths)

 

Will They Take Action? 3 Questions To Ask

Whether these 118 people will participate depends upon you, your company, and the community concept.

A passionate fanbase that loves you is clearly better than a customer list you’ve been sending discount offers to for years. Tim Ferriss is a great example of someone who can launch a thriving community in minutes. 

If the audience loves the community manager, is passionate about their mission, and wants to associate themselves with the founder, they’re more likely to join and quickly participate. This varies by sector. B2C companies tend to do badly. Niche, focused, fields tend to do well.

1) Do they know and like you personally? Do you have a good reputation? I don’t have data here, but I’d guess 30% of strength is determined by your reputation.

2) Do they know and like your company and your company’s mission? I suspect this accounts for around 20% of whether people join and participate. 

3) Does the community concept personify what they’re looking for? We have a detailed model for this. I’d estimate it accounts for around 50% of whether they join and participate.

Even if all these are really strong, only around 50% will become active members.

The rest are lost to a variety of factors you can't control (e.g. too busy). 

This drops your figure of 118 to just 59. 

Typically, the community manager isn’t well known (5/30), the organization is well known (15/20), and the concept varies – but let’s assumes 25/50.

This means 45% or 23 people will become regular active participants in the community initially. That's 0.02% of your initial reach.

                        

Existing competitors

The third factor is existing competitors. If there is an existing community in your sector, it’s far harder to persuade people to spend time in your community. Why join yours and not your existing competitor communities?

The crucial question isn’t whether you have competitors; it’s what % of the above figure participates in the competitor’s community. If it’s 1 in 20, that’s not a big concern. If it’s 1 in 2, that’s much more difficult to overcome. Your community has to be the only community of its kind. 

Let’s assume 10% of the above audience participates in a competitor community. This leaves you with 21 active members.

 

How many People Do You Need To Start A Community?

Now you stumble across the big problem. Reaching critical mass usually requires at least 50 actively participating members. This sustains a high level of activity, lets members feel efficacy of impact, and is responsive enough to sustain activity.

For customer service channels, this will be easier. You can guide all members with a problem to the community to get answers. For others, it's a bigger challenge. 

In this scenario (and this is the most common one) you simply don’t have the numbers to reach critical mass.

Of course, you could send out multiple messages to the audiences above to bring more people in, but the reach factors rapidly degrade by around 50% for each subsequent push.

To reach critical mass, you either need a bigger or more passionate audience.

 

The Core Challenge Is To Reach a >50 To Launch The Community 

This is the core challenge that many organizations face when launching a community.

They simply don’t have a big enough or passionate enough audience to make a community succeed. There are all broad figures. I’ve tried to average most of the company’s that have approached us.

Our feedback is usually the same. Use the CHIP process (create content, host activities, interact with others directly, and participate in existing groups) to increase your audience size and your own reputation until the numbers are >50.

Community building begins long before you launch a platform.

It begins with building an audience that is willing to listen to you.

Everything else is easy if you have a big enough size or passionate enough members

24 Nov 07:58

$10M study for $1B bike path.

by jwz
mkalus shared this story from jwz.

This is idiotic.

A Bay Area Toll Authority committee voted Wednesday to pay a consultant $10 million to produce a proposal for an Oakland-to-SF crossing.

Earlier estimates of the cost of a bike path, most likely attached to the sides of the approximately 2-mile western suspension span, placed the price at $400 million to $500 million. [...] Because attaching two paths would increase the weight of the suspension span, causing it to flatten slightly, the study suggested replacing the bridge decks with lighter materials, which could push the cost to $800 million to $1 billion.

Are you fucking kidding me? Can you imagine what a billion dollars of bike-infrastructure improvements in the city would look like?

Neither can I. But it wouldn't look like a single bike lane, hanging in the wind off a bridge.

Can you imagine what even ten million dollars of bike-infrastructure improvements in the city would look like?

Actually, I can: it would look like more than half of SFMTA's 2015 budget for bike infrastructure ($17.8M). Instead, we'll get a stack of design-fiction drawings from some parasitic consultancy. What the what?

Obviously improving bicycling infrastructure is a topic relevant to my interests, but this is a comically catastrophic use of public funds. Give me protected bike lanes on every major road in the city first, and you know what? I'll take the fucking train when I have to cross the bay.

Previously, previously.

24 Nov 12:33

#Mozfest 2014: Talk

by thornet

We wrapped up the fifth Mozilla Festival.

There’s a lot of great things to share about the event, and here I’d just like to post the transcript from a quick talk I gave. It’s about the history of Mozfest and a light overview of the participation model.

Since 2010, participants come to the Mozilla Festival with an idea, no matter how humble or ambitious, and leave with a community.

Now in it’s fifth year, I’d like to share with you what Mozfest is teaching and learning. And how you can make the most of the weekend.

Five years ago, we had a crazy idea to do a festival in a public square in Barcelona. Among the hack buses and pickpockets, an educator named Jess and an engineer named Atul met and had an idea.

They wanted to make something to help teens remix websites and understand the underlying web technology. From their first user story at the festival, Jess and Atul evolved their hack into something called X-Ray Goggles. It included hackable curriculum and much of the methodology in what we now call Webmaker — a product which today reaching hundreds of thousands learners.

A year later the Mozilla Festival moved to London. In Ravensbourne College we found a modern learning institution w a true maker spirit. The partnership with Ravensbourne is incredible. We learn from the students, their staff, and in such a flexible, interactive space.

Our first year in Ravensbourne, journalists and open data experts were excited about how data-driven journalism could make storytelling more like the web.

Liliana from the Open Knowledge Foundation led a session called the Data Journalism Handbook. Her idea at Mozfest became an international collaboration. It involved dozens of journalism’s leading practitioners, from the BBC, Deutsche Welle, the Guardian, La Nacion, ProPublica, and many others. The handbook they started at Mozfest was published by O’Reilly and translated by community members into four languages.

Year after year, we’ve seen amazing collaborations formed and passions awakened.

Joe first came to Mozfest in 2011 when he was 16. His techie inclinations were transformed into a passion for teaching about the web. At Mozfest, Joe prototyped a card game to teach programming. And through community involvement, his card game evolved and became the ridiculously fun coding game, Erase All Kittens. 

Here also he met his future employer, Decoded. And then founded his own company to to teach the web. This year Joe joins us as a Mozfest Super Facilitator, mentoring new facilitators on how to run interactive sessions.

For me as the Festival Director each year, the most exciting part of Mozfest is creating spaces for participants to learn and to lead.

And in that spirit, the festival is organized in a hugely decentralized way. From an initial 350 of us in Barcelona, we’re now nearly 5x the size.

I’d like to take a moment and acknowledge the people that make Mozfest happen.

If you are one of the 120 Mozfest volunteers and core team, I’d like to invite you to stand up and please remain standing. If you are one of 35 Space Wranglers who curate the Mozfest tracks, please stand. And if you’re one of the over 500 facilitators — nearly one in every three participants–please stand.

For everyone else: you may not be standing now. But by the end of the weekend, who can you teach? How can you take these ideas and inspirations home with you?

Will you stand with us?

Mozfest participants take the spirit of the festival home with them in many ways.

For example:

  • Mozfest East Africa with San James and Lawrence
  • Maker Festival in Manila with Faye
  • Media Party in Buenos Aires with Mariano
  • Mozilla Bus with Mozilla Japan
  • Maker Party Pune with the Mozilla India community

There are ways, small and large, to make the most of this weekend. Will you build the next tool to teach the web? Or write a world-class publication together with someone sitting next to you? Or be inspired to take what you learned and teach your community at home?

We invite you to make Mozfest yours.

  • Be open. Who knows who you’ll meet & where it might take you.
  • Be a learner and a teacher. Everyone has something to share and something to help others with.
  • Be spontaneous. Your plan is the first causality of Mozfest. This is a festival of organized chaos. Embrace it and see where your interests and serendipity lead you.

You’ve arrived here with an idea. However modest or ambitious. And by Sunday evening, we’ll leave here as a stronger, better community. 

Photo highlights and more #mozfest pics.

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24 Nov 14:05

Samsung reportedly sold 40% fewer Galaxy S5 smartphones than expected, considering management shake-up

by Ian Hardy

According to people familiar with the matter, Samsung is on the cusp of a major management shake-up. This news comes from the Wall Street Journal and stems from Samsung’s “brutal year” of witnessing a 60% drop in Q3 profits and declining smartphones shipments.

Last May was the first hint of a potential management shift as Samsung replaced Chang Dong-hoon as its head of the mobile design team with Lee Min-hyouk, known within Samsung HQ as “Midas” for improving the Galaxy lineup. Samsung declined to give a comment on the changes, but next up could see co-CEO and mobile head J.K. Shin step aside from his role to bring in B.K. Yoon, who currently handles Samsung’s home appliance and television business as its new mobile head.

Samsung launched the Galaxy S5 in April and is available in over 125 countries, including at the majority of carriers in Canada. The flagship smartphone reportedly outperformed the Galaxy S4 and shipped 10 million units in a record 25 days, but the WSJ states the desire for the GS5 has tapered off and Samsung has sold about 40% fewer smartphones, representing only 12 million units in the first 3 months of sales — the GS4 sold 16 million units for the time period.

Some say that Samsung’s GS5 lacked innovation and creative design. Samsung recently came out with a couple new smartphone designs that gained attention, specifically the metal-framed Samsung Galaxy Alpha and the Samsung Galaxy Note Edge with its curved display.

24 Nov 15:59

The Power of High-Leverage Practice

by djcoyle

Here is Odell Beckham Jr. last night, making what might be the greatest catch in NFL history.

That video is beautiful, but there’s something that’s even more beautiful:  Beckham Jr. before games, practicing exactly this type of catch.

This reveals the deeper truth behind his great catch: it was no accident. Watch how Beckham  keeps one hand at his side, as if  pinned by a defender; how he controls the nose of the ball with his index finger; how his eyes follow the ball into his palm. We normally think of this kind of catch as a feat of athleticism. This shows that it’s really a feat of preparation.

This is a very particular kind of preparation, systematically pre-creating the most difficult situations. You might call it High-Leverage Practice, because it shows how focusing relentlessly on pre-creating pressure conditions can set a performer apart from their peers.

It reminds me of a story about Steve Kerr, the former NBA guard who’s now coach of the Golden State Warriors. Early in his career, Kerr was having trouble coming in off the bench and performing his specialty, which was three-point shots. He tried to fix the problem by focusing on technique, shooting thousands of three-pointers in practice. It didn’t work.

Then one of his coaches, Chip Engelland, had an insight. The problem wasn’t the shooting. The problem was the pressure caused by Kerr’s coming into the game cold, without warming up. So Engelland and Kerr decided to try an experiment.

Here’s how it worked: Engelland and Kerr would sit on the bench together, chatting casually. Then, all of a sudden, without any warning, Engelland would yell NOW!, and Kerr would have to go shoot a single three-pointer, then return to the bench. Then a few more minutes would go by, with more casual chatting, then Engelland would suddenly yell “NOW!” an the process would repeat. For half and hour, they would do this, shooting only eight or ten times. And it worked. Kerr’s game performance vastly improved. Not because he was a better shooter, but because he and his coach had, like Beckham Jr., designed a smarter training space.

High-leverage practice shares a few common characteristics:

  • 1) It’s focused. You aren’t pre-creating the entire game, but only targeted situations.
  • 2) It’s often untraditional. It doesn’t tend to fall into the list of conventional practice techniques, and as such, is easy to marginalize or overlook.
  • 3) It’s habitual. High-leverage skills aren’t built in a few specialized sessions; they are built over time, through repetition and routine.
24 Nov 18:34

Protected Bike Lanes Great for Pedestrian Safety

by Richard Campbell

20141124-104004-38404798.jpg

A recent article by People for Bikes details how street improvements made while introducing protected bike lanes have also greatly improved pedestrian safety in New York City. On streets where protected bike lanes were added, traffic injuries, the vast majority of which are suffered by people walking, fell by 12 to 52 percent. While these safety improvements are not necessarily unique to protected bike lanes, it is the risks faced by cyclists at intersections that prompted the redesigns of the streets.

This reduction in injuries is due to the reduction in the number of lanes of traffic making crossing distances shorter, the introduction of turning lanes making traffic more predictable, dedicated signal phases protecting cyclists & pedestrians from turning vehicles and reduced weaving of traffic around cars stopped for pedestrians.

Ironically, it is these safety improvements such as the protected signal turning phases that some drivers complain about. What they forget is that it crashes that are the cause of the worst delays. Traffic can be tied up for hours if a death or serious injury occurs.

These improvements are in addition to the reductions in sidewalk cycling which is not safe for cyclists or pedestrians.

Given all the benefits of protected bike lanes, it is time that communities speed up their building of all ages and abilities cycling networks.

More at: http://www.peopleforbikes.org/blog/entry/it-turns-out-that-protected-bike-lanes-are-fantastic-for-walking-safety-too

 


24 Nov 18:56

A review of Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything

by Michal Rozworski

I have another piece up at Ricochet: a review of Naomi Klein’s big book on climate change, This Changes Everything. It’s friendly but critical, looking at what the book’s themes of austerity, the local and extractivism mean for how we build politics against climate change. I’ve included it in full below…

Naomi Klein’s big book on climate change, This Changes Everything, is at once an extensive catalogue of climate change failures and a passionate defence of budding shoots of resistance. Much more than just an up-to-date account of where we are and how we got here, it is also a meditation on how to move forward — one that needs to be critically examined.

image

A litany of failures

Klein has a real knack for taking a tangle of scattered events and disparate characters and shaping them into a compelling narrative. The book flows easily, deftly weaving together threads of analysis and journalism. Although Klein begins the book in the maw of the lion, at a conference put on by the far-right Heartland Institute, which opposes climate change tooth and nail, her targets are not only the climate deniers.

She is at her best debunking the feel-good but unsuccessful attempts to deal with climate change from deep within the current system. From greenwashing billionaires such as Richard Branson to big green groups cutting deals with fossil fuel giants or geoengineering advocates ultimately looking for the Hail Mary response to unchecked emissions, Klein has no illusions about the dim potential for business as usual with a green twist. The juxtaposition, at one point in the book, of a sombre geoengineering conference and a raucous Audi corporate meeting separated by a wall is almost too perfect. “The reckless experiments the people in our room are attempting to rationalize are really about allowing the car people in the next room to keep their party going,” writes Klein.

These are some of the best parts of the book. Klein skewers the profound hypocrisy and blindness of false solutions that are still heavily implicated in the capitalist system, which she says is at the bottom of the inability to deal seriously with the climate crisis. But while bursting illusions is an important part of the battle, Klein also has very clear and particular ideas about how we should respond to climate change. 

By examining three fault lines that run throughout Klein’s book, my hope is to add to debate on the most important question of all: strategy.

Abundance and austerity

One thread that runs through This Changes Everything is that of excess — and not just the well-known excess fossil fuels being burned and producing excess greenhouse gases, or even the excess confidence of those like Branson and the geoengineers, but a general excess of stuff that we are consuming. Klein blankly says that we need to reduce consumption.

The catch here is defining the “we” who are overconsuming. Klein makes no qualms about the fact that she belongs to the very top of the global distribution that has to “return to a lifestyle similar to the one we had in the 1970s.” The question is who else must do this.

Clearly the people of the Global South should not pay for any excesses that have contributed to climate change, as their participation in them has been, until very recently, minimal. The basic problem for the South is, in fact, severe underconsumption, whether from necessities like foodstuffs to basic technologies like indoor plumbing, simple time-saving innovations like washing machines, all the way to communications technology and advanced medicine. Klein acknowledges vast global inequalities and fully incorporates the unequal responsibility for climate change, as a climate debt to be repaid, into her analysis. At times, however, she comes too close to romanticizing a mythical simpler past and lumping further technological development in with a caricature of early Enlightenment science.

And it’s not just about the Global South. Incomes across much of the Global North have been stagnant for decades, notably in the United States, where the median household income after accounting for inflation has barely increased in 40 years, and consumption has actually flatlined for most. We may have iPhones, but many of us are still stuck in the 1970s. 

Stagnation for many amid disproportionate growing incomes for the wealthy and rapidly rising carbon emissions raises the big question of economic growth  one that is especially important as austerity has become the guiding economic program of many governments around the world in bad times and also good. To simply propose de-growth, as Klein sometimes does, may be too quick and even dangerous given the pervasiveness of austerity. Behind the growth/de-growth binary are fundamental questions about what is growing and for whom, and how is it measured.

An undue focus on shared austerity in the name of the climate has implications for political strategy. It’s true that people pull together in acute disasters as Klein describes, most notably in the returning theme of New York City after Superstorm Sandy. Yet broader, lasting organizing is much easier with some level of material comfort that gives people the time and security to participate in social movements. Such comfort, of course, should not and need not be bought at the expense of intense ecological harm. This is the lesson of the 1970s: radical demands that put our economic system into question, as Klein wants to do with her book, flourished in the US and Europe only after two decades of post-war prosperity for workers. And it was the intense austerity of those such as Reagan and Thatcher that helped shut these movements down. 

Large-scale and local

Today’s distance from the Cold War has allowed for an immense breath of fresh air in Klein’s work: an unabashed return to the notion of planning. This is a welcome and important aspect of the book. Given the way climate change affects us all, and the best answers provided by elites who ostensibly believe in climate change ask us to trust in the same market solutions that have failed before, some form of democratic control over the economy sounds downright refreshing. Democracy is the answer to technocracy.

Getting down to the details, however, the picture Klein presents can be too simple. She argues for a very decentralized form of planning, where small-scale and local institutions are most important. Setting up another binary, she states that “real capitalists don’t plan.” But as the economic historian Karl Polanyi wrote in his 1944 opus, The Great Transformation, the free market was planned. It took a lot of conscious effort to create a market system that only appears to be spontaneous.

To add to the mix, capitalist firms hide within themselves a whole sphere of planning. The likes of GE or Walmart are enormous organizations that operate internally according to top-down plans — and they do this well. The problem is that the current end goal of all this planning is to realize the largest possible profit or maintain a high stock price. There is no reason, however, that these goals couldn’t be different and decided democratically. In Klein’s critique of corporatism and state bureaucracies, the bogeyman should be the technocracy that controls organizations for private ends rather than the size of the organizations.

In fact, we have a lot to learn from large organizations that take advantage of efficiencies internally according to plans: not least that they can provide more products and better wages and other conditions for the same inputs. We cannot retreat into the local and avoid the large. Klein gives the example of industries with large players such as auto or finance that were at the mercy of the state after the last financial crisis. These could have been socialized and transformed to serve democratic ends with their large scale kept intact. Their scale would have helped: think of the screaming needs for large-scale green infrastructure and large-scale investment in climate mitigation. The enormous obstacles to such a transformation were, as Klein often rightly says, political, not technical.

Yet it is possible for solutions at the local level to backfire, to decentralize back to the neoliberalism Klein wants to escape. Take the German energy transition that she uses as an example throughout This Changes Everything. Klein holds it up as a model of small, interconnected producers, some of them local power companies that have been taken over by municipal governments. These are the success stories.

At the same time, however, Germany’s greenhouse gas emissions have actually gone up in the past few years as a result of the push to shut down nuclear plants, which Klein acknowledges. But she is silent on another side of the transition. First, remember that Germany can pride itself on its modern, integrated energy transmission and distribution grid, which enables its alternative energy experiments, the outcome of large-scale planning. The transition has led to the creation of large numbers of small, private renewable energy producers who take advantage of this grid, and the state has guaranteed it will buy electricity from them at prices that cannot fall below very high thresholds. All producers, big and small, are buying equipment from large conglomerates who also participate in the benefits of subsidized high energy prices. German households, on the other hand, are left with soaring energy bills. This side of the famed transition starts to sound much more like another neoliberal experiment that relies on state support to redistribute resources in the wrong direction.

The neoliberal model like this one offers the familiar refrain of “disruption” advocated by the tech industry. In short, building new collective projects requires democratic control that happens on the local level, but the bigger picture needs to be kept in mind. In the long term, it may be easier to build a movement of citizens for more democratic control of larger-scale public works than try to “out-disrupt” the neoliberals who have mastered the terrain of dispersed, private solutions.

Polanyi is useful here again. He called land and labour “fictitious commodities” that had no place on markets, but noted that there were different ways they had been defended from the market. He pointed out that defence of land can quickly turn into reaction, a defence of conservative values that can ultimately lead to a defence of the market itself. The opposite of a large, high-carbon fossil fuel project is not necessarily a small-scale, local project; it can be a large, sustainable project in public hands.

Klein is absolutely right that we need more democracy and more planning, but each of these can take shape across a range of scales, with the local being one element that need not and should not supersede others. 

Capitalism and extractivism

Finally, there is the big challenge posed in the subtitle of the book: capitalism versus the climate. In many ways, however, the main –ism at the heart of This Changes Everything is not capitalism. It is what Klein calls extractivism: a “dominance-based relationship with the earth, one of purely taking,” which is “the opposite of stewardship.”

On the one hand, the focus on extractivism is welcome. We don’t need more theories divining the next crisis of capitalism (whatever the cause) just around the corner; recall the old jab that the left has successfully predicted 20 of last 10 economic crises. Extractivism focuses attention on how technology has been used under capitalism and the long-term disconnect between the current model of energy-intensive capitalist growth and existing ecological boundaries.

This framing is part of an old conflict about the legacy of the Enlightenment. The problem is that Klein interprets the Industrial Revolution as the promise of liberation from nature, and thus a promise that has been broken by nature itself — nature putting us in our place. This differs from a more long-standing interpretation that sees the Industrial Revolution instead as the promise of liberation from toil and exploitation, a promise broken by capitalism.

Klein rightly articulates that our environment is outside our full control, but she underplays the extent to which we can shape it. We are not masters of the earth, nor are we mere stewards of a place beyond our remaking through reciprocal relationships.

At the end of the book, Klein recounts a visit to a salmon hatchery near the place she lived while writing the book. It turned out that the salmon she had seen on hikes were being aided by human intervention. “It’s a partnership of sorts between the fish, the forest, and the people who share this special piece of the world,” she writes. And that’s just it. We cannot return to a mythical nature any more than we can leave mass society. What we can do is change our relationships between each other as well as between ourselves and our environment.

Neither the economy nor nature are independent stand-alones. The economy is made and remade in our everyday social relationships: some of us work, while others decide what is worked on; some have access to any good under the sun, while others barely scrape by. Similarly, nature is never separate from our interactions with it. It is certainly possible to imagine a “swirling web of connections” that can exploit people and “expand infinitely,” as Klein lyrically describes capitalism, but that does not treat the natural world as its waste dump. Capitalism has outfoxed us before.

Human life, and life in general, is based on cycles of growth, raising again the question: growth of what? The growth of human creativity, for example, could be nearly boundless for all intents and purposes. The good news is that we are intentional creatures; that is, we have goals and find ways to reach them. The real puzzle is how to sustain social growth within ecological boundaries, not how to stop growth. Beyond a focus on the local, the austere and the extractive, there are question of ownership, planning and end goals. How do we turn the broken promises over the use and distribution of the fruits of human ingenuity into a common wealth?

A question of strategy

The major issue remains one of strategy. Klein understands this. She weaves a compelling story of strategic failures — from co-opting billionaires to co-opted big green — and provides very concrete ideas for the way forward. I’ve tried to complicate some of the dichotomies on which these ideas rely. A focus on austerity and the local can be co-opted into serving the neoliberal variety of capitalism already well entrenched today.


24 Nov 18:57

Radical Participation Idea: Slow Down

by davidwboswell

The Portland Coincidental Work Week is next week and we’ll be working on our plans for 2015. One of the things we want to include in our planning is Mitchell’s question about what does radical participation look like for Mozilla today?

Everyone who is interested in this question is welcome to join us next Thursday and Friday for the Participation work week. Please come with ideas you have about this question. Here is one idea I’m thinking about that feels like an important part of a radical participation plan.

Slow Down

I’ve worked at small software start-ups and I’ve worked at large volunteer-based organizations. There are many differences between the two. The speed that information reaches everyone is a major difference.

For example, I worked at a small start-up called Alphanumerica. There were a dozen of us all working together in the same small space. Here’s a picture of me in my corner (to give you an idea of how old this photo is it was taken on a digital camera that stored photos on a floppy disk.)

MVC-017F

To make sure everyone knew about changes, you could get everyone’s attention and tell them. People could then go back to work and everyone would be on the same page. In this setting, moving fast and breaking things works.

Information doesn’t spread this quickly in a globally distributed group of tens of thousands of staff and volunteers. In this setting, if things are moving too fast then no one is on the same page and coordinating becomes very difficult.

communities_map

Mozilla is not a small start-up where everyone is physically together in the same space. We need to move fast though, so how can we iterate and respond quickly and keep everyone on the same page?

Slow Down To Go Fast Later

It might seem odd, but there is truth to the idea that you can slow down now in order to go faster later. There is even research that backs this up. There’s a Harvard Business Review article on this topic worth reading—this paragraph covers the main take-aways:

In our study, higher-performing companies with strategic speed made alignment a priority. They became more open to ideas and discussion. They encouraged innovative thinking. And they allowed time to reflect and learn. By contrast, performance suffered at firms that moved fast all the time, focused too much on maximizing efficiency, stuck to tested methods, didn’t foster employee collaboration, and weren’t overly concerned about alignment

For Mozilla, would radical participation look like setting goals around alignment and open discussions? Would it be radical to look at other large volunteer-based organizations and see what they optimize for instead of using start-ups as a model?

I’m very interested to hear what people think about the value of slowing down at Mozilla as well as hearing other ideas about what radical participation looks like. Feel free to comment here, post your own blog and join us in Portland.


24 Nov 19:19

The Bicycle in Popular Culture – 3: East Side Culture Crawl

by pricetags

Some shots at the East Side Culture Crawl:

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East

Outside 1000 Parker.

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EAst 2

Inside 1000 Parker.

During the Crawl, 1000 Parker is like the Louvre – an overwhelming labyrinth of attractions.  You are not going to see, or even find, everything.

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East 1

Bicycles are everywhere, sometimes indivisible from the art.

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East 3

Not to mention the useful stuff – like hand-crafted wooden bike boxes.

(That’s architect Matthew Soules in the background, talking to the artist, whose name, I regret, I did not note.)


24 Nov 19:44

Ohrn Words: Preserving Character?

by pricetags

Ken Ohrn:

As we debate the nature of change in Vancouver, we must confront those who wish to preserve “character” — an idea of past value that must not be changed.

Here’s an example, for me, of how this goes wrong.  The Bowmac sign. Somehow, somewhere, someone has decided that this asinine reminder of a row of car dealerships on Broadway in Vancouver represents something that we should cherish, and that must be preserved. Except that it can be mostly covered over with signage from a US-based big-box retailer.

That “someone” is the City of Vancouver, whose Heritage Commission granted the sign heritage status in May of 1997.

Not all “character” should be preserved; times change, and the nature of the city must change along with it.

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BowMac

 

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PriceTags:

I was one of the councillors at the time who voted to preserve the sign, on the recommendation of many in the heritage community (and others) who thought this piece of Vancouver’s past worthy of keeping.   The trade-off was the ‘Toys-R-Us’ scrim – easily removable – that allowed for the restoration of the ‘iconic’ sign of a Broadway past.

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bow_mac_toys_r_us

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From The Visible City:

The combination BowMac and Toys “R” Us sign on West Broadway is both treasured and reviled by Vancouver residents. The sign’s current incarnation is a result of many compromises.

Owners of the Bowell McLean (BowMac) car dealership erected the 10-storey sign above their business in 1958. The orange sign was covered with hundreds of bulbs and neon lights. It was recognized as North America’s largest freestanding sign, and was visible from 18 miles away.

When Toys “R” Us purchased the BowMac property in the 1990s, they planned to demolish the sign. Heritage advocates protested that the BowMac sign was Vancouver’s largest, most visible, and most central neon sign.

The sign was designated a heritage landmark in 1997. It was retained, gently lit, and partially covered by a perforated metal sign with Toys “R” Us spelled in rainbow-coloured back-lit plastic letters.


24 Nov 15:14

A Day At Wikipedia

A reminder of why I won't be missing Wikipedia.

AVONO: And this [225] could possibly constitute slander.

ME:

I wrote there that Christina Sommers is

A prominent right-wing supporter of

The Gamergate Conspiracy. I said

It there and on this page I here

Repeat those words and hurl defiance at

Your feet. And WTF?

AVONO: I would advise Markbernstein to immediately retract that statement.

ME:

That she is prominent is clear: she has

A wiki page, so she is notable.

That she’s right-wing may lack some nuance, but

You know, she is employed By AEI,

A famous think tank, right wing as they come.

Regarding her support of Gamergate,

I do agree the case is tenuous

And oft before I’ve urged she be removed

From Gamergate’s own page, but there my pleas

Have been rejected ’cause her photo shows

That some young woman somewhere does support

Some aspect of this sad and tawdry plot.

AVONO: Oh. I’m German: I thought “right-wing” meant “Fascist.” It must be a cultural thing. Never mind.

ME:

Dude!

Meanwhile, some of the Gamergate folk have figured out who’s behind the nefarious Wikipedia account MarkBernstein, perhaps because it says so on my (former) Wikipedia home page, or perhaps by using the Google. Either way, my twitter feed and mailbox this morning will doubtless bring some special joys. As you see here, I haven’t been up to looking.

24 Nov 16:29

Call To Arms

Randi Harper (@freebsdgirl) has been getting death threats.

A staggering number of men that I know and respect have spoken to me privately, apologizing because they didn’t know this was happening. I’ve related those conversations to other women, and they were shocked. They didn’t understand how men could not see these problems.

When I was a doctoral candidate in chemistry, about half of my fellow candidates were women. A little less than half – we weren’t there yet, but we were getting close.

When I was getting started in Hypertext research, about half of the top researchers were women. A little less than half – we weren’t there yet, but clearly many of the top people in the field were women. Two of the first three Hypertext program chairs were women, and program chair was the seat of power. Another of that crew has since been president of the ACM and has been knighted.

Throughout my career, my perception has been that about half my colleagues were women. A little less than 50%, perhaps, but we were still getting there. I don’t teach and I don’t spend time in universities, but naturally I do try to know the top grad students and best young scholars in my field, and it’s been clear throughout that more than half have been women.

It’s also clear that I’ve been fooled by a statistical illusion. Enrollments in physical sciences are roughly what they were, enrollments in medical school have remained roughly the same, but the proportion of women in computer science is way down. I’m not seeing this because I’m not seeing a sample: the average student doesn’t come to my attention. I’m only likely to notice the best – the ones who not only publish papers as students, but the ones who publish good papers as students, the ones who are already near the top of the field before they leave school.

And I had no idea of the venom that could be directed – not just by crazed zealots but by supposedly neutral and sensible Wikipedians – against women in computing generally, and specifically against one particular woman who may once have romanced a reporter. She’s an adult, she can have dinner with whomever she likes. But the Wikipedia pictures and headlines must name her and shame her (Allegations Against ___), and we must discuss at endless length, over and over, just what she might have done and whether anyone anywhere has said that it was wrong, because a campaign of GamerGate supporters is ever-vigilant for any way to condemn her and women like her, which is to say women in computing.

And then, an editor – a Wikimedia admin! – writes about this specific woman that:

I know other other allegations exist but will not state what those on WP are because that would be a BLP violation at the current time.

and

We need to be aware that there are other things the proGg side would like WP to say but we are nowhere close to having any sources

Holy McCarthy! In my view, no one can honorably assist an enterprise that condones this.

So, yes, GamerGate has been an eye opener.

24 Nov 19:17

Why Uber Fights

by Ben Thompson

In his, to my mind, fair defense of Uber, Mark Suster made a very important observation about the reality of business:

Let’s put this into perspective. As somebody who has to rub shoulders with big tech companies often I can tell you that there is much blood spilled in the competitive trenches of Apple, Twitter, Facebook, Google and so on. Changes to algorithms. Clamping down on app ecosystems. Changing how third-parties monetize. Kicking ecosystem partners in the nuts.

Be real.

It’s a brutally competitive world out there because there are extreme amounts of money at stake. I’ve been on the sharp end of it and it doesn’t feel nice. And I pick myself back up, dust off and think to myself that I need to think through the realpolitik of power and money and competition and no matter how unpleasant it is – it’s a Hobbesian world out there. It ain’t pretty – but it’s all around us.

This is particularly relevant to Uber: the company is looking to raise another $1 billion at a valuation of over $30 billion, and, as I wrote when the company raised its last billion, they are likely worth far more than that. Still, though, skeptics about both the size of the potential market and the prospects of Uber in particular are widespread, so consider this post my stake in the ground1 for why Uber – and their market – is worthy of so many sharp elbows. I expect to link to it often!


There are three perspectives with which to examine the competitive dynamics of ride-sharing:

  1. Ride-sharing in a single city
  2. Ride-sharing in multiple cities
  3. Tipping points

I will build up the model that I believe governs this market in this order; ultimately, though, they all interact extensively. In addition, for these models I am going to act as if there are only two players: Uber and Lyft. However, the same principles apply no matter how many competitors are in a given market.

Ride Sharing in a Single City

Consider a single market: Riderville. Uber and Lyft are competing for two markets: drivers and riders.

uber

There are a few immediate takeaways here:

  • The number of riders is far greater than the number of drivers (far greater, in fact, than the percentage difference depicted by this not-to-scale sketch)
  • On the flip side, drivers engage with Uber and Lyft far more frequently than do riders
  • Ride-sharing is a two-sided market, which means there are two places for Uber and Lyft to compete – and two potential opportunities for winner-take-all dynamics to emerge

It’s important to note that drivers in-and-of-themselves do not have network dynamics, nor do riders: Metcalfe’s Law, which states that the value of a network is proportional to the square of the number of connected users, does not apply. In other words, Uber having more drivers does not increase the value of Uber to other drivers, nor does Lyft having more riders increase the value of Lyft to other riders, at least not directly.

However, the driver and rider markets do interact, and it’s that interaction that creates a winner-take-all dynamic. Consider the case in which one of the two services – let’s say Uber – gains a majority share of riders (we’ll talk about how that might occur in the next section):

  • Uber has a majority of riders (i.e. more demand)
  • Drivers will increasingly serve Uber customers (i.e. more supply)
  • More drivers means that Uber’s service level (i.e. car liquidity) will improve
  • Higher liquidity means that Uber has a better service, which will gain them more riders

In this scenario Lyft by necessity moves in the opposite direction:

  • Lyft has fewer riders (i.e. less demand)
  • Drivers will face increasing costs to serve Lyft riders:
    • If there are fewer Lyft riders, than the average distance to pick up a Lyft rider will be greater than the average distance to pick up an Uber driver; drivers may be better off ignoring Lyft pickups and waiting for closer Uber pickups
    • Every time a driver picks up a rider on one service, they need to sign out on the other; if the vast majority of rides are with one service, this, combined with the previous point, may make the costs associated with working for multiple services too high2
  • Drivers will increasingly be occupied serving Uber customers and be unavailable to serve Lyft customers (i.e. less supply)
  • Fewer drivers means that Lyft’s service level (i.e. car liquidity) will decrease
  • Lower liquidity means that Lyft has an inferior service, which will cause them to lose more riders

The end result of this cycle, repeated over months, looks something like this:

uber2

There are three additional points to make:

  • It doesn’t matter that drivers may work for both Uber and Lyft. If the majority of the ride requests are coming from Uber, they are going to be taking a significantly greater percentage of driver time, and every minute a driver spends on a rider job is a minute that driver is unavailable to the other service. Moreover, this monopolization of driver time accelerates as one platform becomes ever more popular with riders. Unless there is a massive supply of drivers, it is very difficult for the 2nd-place car service to ever get its liquidity to the same level as the market leader (much less the 3rd or 4th entrants in a market)

  • The unshaded portion of the “Riders” pool are people who regularly use both Uber and Lyft. The key takeaway is that that number is small: most people will only use one or the other, because ride-sharing services are relatively undifferentiated. This may seem counterintuitive, but in fact in markets where:

    • Purchases are habitual
    • Prices are similar
    • Products are not highly differentiated

    …Customers tend to build allegiance to a brand and persist with that brand unless they are given a good reason to change; it’s simply not worth the time and effort to constantly compare services at the moment of purchase3 (in fact, the entire consumer packaged goods industry is based on this principle).

    In the case of Uber and Lyft, ride-sharing is (theoretically) habitual, both companies will ensure the prices are similar, and the primary means of differentiation is car liquidity, which works in the favor of the larger service. Over time it is reasonable to assume that the majority player will become dominant

  • I briefly mentioned price: clearly this is the easiest way to differentiate a service, particularly for a new entrant with relatively low liquidity (or the 2nd place player, for that matter). However, the larger service is heavily incentivized to at least price match. Moreover, given that the larger service is operating at greater scale, it almost certainly has more latitude to lower prices and keep them low for a longer period of time than the new entrant. Or, as is the case with ride-sharing, a company like Uber has as much investor cash as they need to compete at unsustainably low prices

In summary, these are the key takeaways when it comes to competition for a single-city:

  • There is a strong “rich get richer” dynamic as drivers follow riders which increases liquidity which attracts riders. This is the network effect that matters, and is in many ways similar to app ecosystem dynamics (developers follow users which which increases the number and quality of apps which attracts users)

  • It doesn’t matter if drivers work for both services, because what matters is availability, and availability will be increasingly monopolized by the dominant service

  • Riders do not have the time and patience to regularly compare services; most will choose one and stick with it unless the alternative is clearly superior. And, because of the prior two points, it is almost certainly the larger player that will offer superior service

Ride Sharing in a Multiple Cities

It is absolutely true that all of the market dynamics I described in the previous section don’t have a direct impact on geographically disperse cities, which is another common objection to Uber’s potential. What good is a network effect between drivers and riders if it doesn’t travel?

There is, however, a relationship between geographically disperse cities, and it occurs in the rider market, which, as I noted in the previous section, is the market where the divergence between the dominant and secondary services takes root. Specifically:

  • Pre-existing services launch with an already established brand and significant mindshare among potential riders. Uber is an excellent example here: the company is constantly in the news, and their launch in a new city makes news, creating a pool of riders whose preference from the get-go is for Uber

  • Travelers, particularly frequent business travelers, are very high volume users of ride-sharing services. These travelers don’t leave their preferences at home – when they arrive at an airport they will almost always first try their preferred service, just as if they were at home, increasing demand for that service, which will increase supply, etc. In this way preference acts as a type of contagion that travels between cities with travelers as the host organism

Most important of all, though, is the first-mover effect. In any commodity-type market where it is difficult to change consumer preference there is a big advantage to being first. This means that when your competitor arrives, they are already in a minority position and working against all of the “rich get richer” effects I detailed above.

uber3

This explains Uber and Lyft’s crazy amounts of fundraising and aggressive roll-out schedules, even though such a strategy is incredibly expensive and results in a huge number of markets that are years away from profitability (Uber, for example, is in well over 100 cities but makes almost all its money from its top five). Starting out second is the surest route to finishing second, and, given the dynamics I’ve described above, that’s as good as finishing last.

Tipping Points

What I’ve described up to this point explain what has happened between Uber and Lyft to-date. Still, while I’ve addressed many common objections to Uber’s valuation in particular, there remains the question of just how much this market is worth in aggregate. After all, as Aswath Damodaran, the NYU Stern professor of finance and valuations expert detailed, the taxi market is worth at most $100 billion which calls into question Uber’s rumored $30 billion valuation.

However, as Uber investor Bill Gurley and others have noted, Damodaran’s fundamental mistake in determining Uber’s valuation is to look at the world as it is, not as it might be.4 Moreover, this world that could be is intimately tied to the dynamics described above. I like to think of what might happen next as a series of potential tipping points (for this part of the discussion I am going to talk about Uber exclusively, as I believe they are – by far – the most likely company to reach these tipping points):

  • Tipping Point #1: Liquidity is consistently less than 5 minutes and surge pricing is rare – Once Uber becomes something you can count on both from a time and money perspective, rider behavior could begin to change in fundamental ways. Now, Uber is not just for a business meeting or a night out; instead, Uber becomes the default choice for all transportation. This would result in dramatically increased rider demand, resulting in complete Uber domination of driver availability. This would have several knock-on effects:

    • Driver utilization would increase significantly, increasing driver wages to a much more sustainable level
    • Competitor liquidity would decrease precipitously, leading to rider desertion and an Uber monopoly; this would allow Uber to raise rates to a level that is more sustainable for drivers, further increasing supply and liquidity

    By all accounts Uber is already close to this level in San Francisco, and there are lots of anecdotes of people all but giving up cars.5 The effect of this change in rider behavior cannot be overstated, especially when it comes to Uber’s potential valuation: taxis have a tiny share of the world’s transportation market, which means to base the company’s valuation on the taxis is to miss the vast majority of Uber’s future market opportunity

  • Tipping Point #2: Uber transports not just people – Uber has already done all kinds of experiments with delivering things other than people, including Christmas trees, lunch, a courier service, even drugstore items. However, any real delivery service would need to have some sort of service-level agreement when it comes to things like speed and price. Both of those rely on driver liquidity, which is why an Uber logistics service is ultimately waiting for the taxi business to tip as described above.

    However, once such a delivery service is launched, its effect would be far-reaching. First, driver utilization would increase even further, particularly when it comes to serving non centrally located areas. This would further accentuate Uber’s advantage vis-à-vis potential competitors: Uber service would be nearly instant, and drivers – again, even if they nominally work for multiple services – would be constantly utilized.

    Moreover, there is a very good chance that Uber could come to dominate same-day e-commerce and errands like grocery shopping: most entrants in this space have had a top-down approach where they set up a retail operation and then figure out how to get it delivered; the problem, though, is that delivery is the bottleneck. Uber, meanwhile, is busy building up the most flexible and far-reaching delivery-system, making it far easier to move up the stack if they so choose. More likely, Uber will become the delivery network of choice for an ecosystem of same-day delivery retailers. Needless to say, that will be a lucrative position to be in, and it will only do good things for Uber’s liquidity.

Why Uber Fights

The implications of this analysis cannot be underestimated: there is an absolutely massive worldwide market many times the size of the taxi market that has winner-take-all characteristics. Moreover, that winner is very unlikely to be challenged by a new entrant which will have far worse liquidity and an inferior cash position: Uber (presuming they are the winner) will simply lower prices and bleed the new entrant dry until they go out of business.

To put it another way, I think that today’s environment where multiple services, especially Lyft, are competing head-on with Uber is a transitional one. Currently that competition is resulting in low prices and suppressed driver wages, but I expect Uber to have significant pricing power in the long run and to be more generous with drivers than they are now, not for altruistic reasons, but for the sake of increasing liquidity and consistent pricing.

In short, Uber is fighting all out for an absolutely massive prize, and, as Suster noted, such fights are much more akin to Realpolitik. As Wikipedia defines it:

Realpolitik is politics or diplomacy based primarily on power and on practical and material factors and considerations, rather than explicit ideological notions or moral or ethical premises

It’s ethics – or, to be more precise, Uber’s alleged lack of them – that has been dominating the news most recently, and is what inspired Suster’s post. And, to be very clear, I can understand and share much of the outrage: in my Daily Update I have compared Uber to Wall Street and said that Emil Michael should be fired (both links members-only) for his comments suggesting Uber might investigate journalists – Sarah Lacy in particular – who disparage the company.6

However – and one of the reasons I’m writing this article – I am also very aware of just how much is at stake in this battle. Lyft has raised $332.5 million from some very influential investors, and I don’t for a minute believe that they don’t want to win just as badly as Uber does. It’s perfectly plausible, if not probable, that Lyft and its backers, overmatched in a head-on battle with Uber, are conducting a guerrilla campaign with the aim of inspiring so much disgust in riders that Uber’s liquidity advantages start to slip (and to be clear, such a campaign – if it exists – is only possible because Uber’s management speaks and acts poorly frequently).7

To be perfectly clear, I don’t know anything further about this situation – or other recent Uber PR fiascos, like this Verge piece about stealing Lyft drivers – beyond the size of the potential prize, as detailed here, and the reality of human beings and their incentives in the presence of such outsized rewards. In my experience the truth ends up being far more gray than the press – which really hates threats to journalists – has characterized this most recent episode.

In fact, in some ways I’m actually far more concerned about Uber’s perceived lack of ethics than most, because if I’m right, then Uber is well on its way to having monopoly power over not just taxi services but a core piece of worldwide infrastructure, and nothing about this crisis gives me confidence in the company’s ability to manage that gracefully.8 I get that Uber’s willingness to fight unjust laws is what got them to this point, but as James Allworth and I discussed on the most recent episode of Exponent, there is a deeper moral code that ought to govern Uber’s actions. Moreover, Uber needs rider goodwill to prevail in the many markets where it is facing significant regulatory resistance: it is local citizens who determine whether or not local laws and regulations will be changed to accommodate Uber, and Uber is making it very difficult to rationalize advocating for them, or, if my Twitter account is any indication, to even ride with them.

Ultimately, this blog generally seeks to analyze business, not render moral judgment or tell anyone what products or services they should or should not use. I myself am mixed: I plan on spending some time in the white part of that graph above, at a minimum. I hope, though, that you now appreciate exactly what is at stake and why so many elbows are being thrown.

  1. I’ve attempted to articulate Uber’s potential multiple times in the Daily Update – it’s one of my most frequent topics. This is my attempt to tie everything together that I have written there
  2. Originally, this bullet stated “Drivers will increasingly be occupied serving Uber customers and be unavailable to serve Lyft customers (i.e. less supply).” However, this was incorrect because drivers utilized on any service are unavailable to every service, incurring no advantage
  3. Lots of people have suggested to me that Uber will be doomed as soon as someone creates an app that serves as a front-end to all of the services allowing you to book the one with the lowest price and/or fastest availability; however, such an app would realistically need the cooperation of the largest player (which would not be forthcoming, and there is no public API) plus need to gain meaningful traction in a given market while competition still exists. It’s not happening
  4. To Damodaran’s immense credit, he was very gracious in his response to Gurley’s post (which, to be clear, was respectful of Daodaran as well)
  5. The broader effects of Uber on adjacent industries will have to wait for another post
  6. That said, no reporting has suggested a threat to Lacy or her family as many seem to believe; that came from Lacy herself
  7. I am not making any allegations, and it should be noted that Pando Daily shares investors with both Uber and Lyft
  8. First off, Michael’s comments, whether in jest or not, were incredibly stupid. Secondly, Kalanick’s tweetstorm was a terrible idea. You can’t admit that Michael’s “remarks showed a lack of leadership, a lack of humanity, and a departure from our values and ideals” and not fire him. Either stand your ground and insist Michael was misrepresented or let him go

The post Why Uber Fights appeared first on stratechery by Ben Thompson.

25 Nov 02:00

Samsung may shut down ChatOn messenger to reduce further mobile losses

by Jane McEntegart

Samsung hasn’t had the best year, but the company isn’t sitting around hoping things will get better on their own. The company has already confirmed plans to trim the fat from its smartphone portfolio next year, and there’s talk of executive restructuring (including a new head of mobile).

If you thought that was enough to fight back against the 49% drop in net profit Samsung announced in October, the company apparently also has plans to cut back on its ChatOn mobile messaging efforts.

Word comes via the Korea Times, which cites one Samsung official as saying the company will exit the mobile messaging market “from region-to-region.” This is supposedly part of the company’s plan to restructure unprofitable businesses and improve overall profitability.

From the sounds of things, Samsung plans a gradual shut down, but it’s not clear how many markets (if any) will get to keep ChatOn. Korea Times cites one Samsung official as saying, “From a business point of view, ChatOn isn’t a business that can show improvement in the future.”

However, the article also notes that ChatOn has popularity in some regions and cites another official as saying it’s highly unlikely Samsung “will immediately drop its mobile messaging business as the ChatOn service has received positive reviews in some markets.” Later, these officials say the service will be updated in some countries “before being pulled down completely.”

So while ChatOn is popular in some areas (it does have 100 million users worldwide), this sounds like the death knell for the servie, even if it won’t be a single flip of the switch.

Samsung has yet to confirm this report in an official capacity. Still, if there’s fat to be trimmed, redundant applications with user bases that are dwarfed by competing solutions are as good a place to start as any, right?

SourceKorea Time
25 Nov 06:19

Micromax Yu – The Bollysystem.

by windsorr

RFM AvatarSmall

 

 

 

 

 

The first Indian ecosystem launches. It won’t be the last.

  • India’s second biggest handset vendor has launched a new line of devices resplendent with a new user experience, paving the way for the first Indian ecosystem.
  • The first device in the series will be available in December but as of yet there is no word on the device itself or its price.
  • Yu Televentures, a subsidiary of Micromax has been working with Cyanogen to produce a custom version of Android that replaces all of the Google Mobile Services (GMS) with those belonging to Micromax and deemed relevant to the Indian market.
  • Cyanogen has taken the Android Open Source Package (AOSP) and implemented a custom user experience as well as a few services aimed at the Indian user.
  • The devices are being launched under the “YU” brand and will be sold through online mechanisms not unlike Xiaomi.
  • The initial target is tech-savvy Indian users as the devices will also be provided with bootloader access making them easy for the users to upgrade with the software that they want rather than that which the operator decides to provide.
  • Upon this platform, Yu Televentures will eventually provide a full suite of Digital Life services targeted at the digital activities of Indian smartphone users.
  • Here I suspect that the Digital Life services required will be roughly the same as they are in developed markets, but they will need to be adapted for the local taste and focus primarily on Bollywood content.
  • This is essentially a replication of the Xiaomi business model in China and underlines how difficult Xiaomi is going to find life in India.
  • I think that Yu Televentures already has many of the media rights that it needs to populate the content part ecosystem with some music and movies whereas Xiaomi appears to have none.
  • Furthermore, licensing content in India is a painful and labyrinthine task and I suspect that Xiaomi will end up going with Google’s ecosystem in this market.
  • Google’s ecosystem is global and will have no real local customisation to appeal to Indian users.
  • This is a logical move from Micromax as the development of an ecosystem is the only way in which the company can hope to differentiate its products and earn anything more than a wafer thin margin in the long-term.
  • Indian ecosystems are likely to start with pure content (iTunes-like) and then move onto apps and services as they mature. (Just as they did in China and in developed markets).
  • However, developing an ecosystem that users love and will pay for is a massive and difficult task but if YU has the content already sown-up, it will have bought itself some time.
  • Micromax is the first of the Indian makers to jump into the ecosystem. It is very unlikely to be the last.
  • As in China, I think that the Indian players will have an advantage in their home market.
  • Hence, I continue to be very cautious regarding Xiaomi’s ability to gain meaningful share or make any money in this hyper-competitive market. 

 

24 Nov 20:00

Reviving my Mac Pro

We’ve had this “Early 2008” Mac Pro since, well, early 2008. It’d been showing its age but I fixed that.

Long-time readers may recall the occasion when in 2008 I asked the Net whether I should hack this computer; with a hacksaw, I mean. Or perhaps its 2012 life-extension therapy.

It’s the family mainframe, does homework and Plexus and BitTorrent (legal stuff only, you betcha) and drives the big high-end audio system through a Benchmark Media DAC1 USB, also it’s my 15-year-old’s gamebox, which means there’s a BootCamp Win7 partition in there.

How to

I was encouraged by Bob Lee’s Six ways to breathe new life into an old Mac Pro, and Bob’s was even older than mine.

So I got a new SSD; Crucial might not be the cheapest but they make it ridiculously easy to pick the right part for your box. I bought the SSD and the required Icy Dock container through Newegg.Then I bought Carbon Copy Cloner, which is just a nice rsync GUI, but I’ll pay $45 any time to not worry about picking the wrong command-line switches.

Then it took about 15 minutes to open up the Mac Pro and slide in the SSD, a minute to format it, three hours to clone the old system disk onto the SSD, and 30 seconds to tell the Mac to boot the SSD. And having now just spent 45 minutes or so installing Yosemite, I’m listening to Shonen Knife on the “new” six-year-old system while I type this (the music’s using 2.35% of a single CPU on what is after all a dual quad-core 2.8GHz Xeon).

The inside of the Mac Pro is pure industrial-design poetry. I needed a little jewelers’ Phillips-head to screw the drive to its tray, that was it.

The computer’s now unsubtly faster. It’s a system that’s fun to use again. My children will love me more.

25 Nov 14:24

Diversity in Tech – Visualized

by david

In response to a clarion call for diversity figures, many tech companies have released figures on the gender and ethnicity of their workforces. Facebook were first, quickly followed by Google and Yahoo. Several more giants of tech have followed.

Here, for quick reference, we gather and visualise all the released figures thus far.

» See the visualisation
» Examine the data

Knowledge is Beautiful - out Autumn 2014 - Pre-Order
Taken from the forthcoming infographic mega-tome, Knowledge is Beautiful. Find out more.

24 Nov 17:12

Ohrn Images: Light in the Lane

by pricetags

On my way home from the Seabus terminal, found this alley with its lone smoker and very urban mix of light.

.

Ohrn Light


24 Nov 14:55

How to rebuild journalism

I read Emily Bell's speech and her piece in the Guardian over the weekend. They fairly well reflect what you hear from journalism pundits these days.

I don't think they know how to listen to technology. They of course, being journalists, focus on the money. But there's a lot of open tech available for them to use. They don't look there.

It's like the blind men and the elephants, or Don's Amazing Puzzle (try it!). You see what you expect to see. Journalism is conservative. It wants things to stay the same. Tech is the opposite. It's invested only in upheaval. There's your conflict.

The story of the last 20 years has been the story of the collision of journalism and tech. I've been working on this for my entire 40-plus year career as a software developer and writer -- what happens to story-telling when the tools of publishing are available to everyone.

Journalism stood by while blogging took root. They covered it, but largely dismissed it. They ignored "RSS". They ignored everything, including the threat to their art. I warned them many times, here on scripting.com, that they would regret letting the tech industry own their distribution system. But that's what happened. Without any resistance whatsoever. Journalism let tech move in and take over.

Yet tech has been a lot more generous than I thought they (we) would be. Perhaps because they understand as little about journalism as journalism understands about tech. Or perhaps because they want journalism to be independent of tech. Hard to know.

The Algorithm

  • Facebook's algorithm is something they don't like. Lots to say about that.
  • 1. Most of them don't use Facebook. Which would be similar to not liking Google if you didn't use Google. Most of them do use Google, so will understand what this means, I hope.
  • 2. The results you get from "the algorithm" is a function of how you trained it. If, on the day of the Ferguson shooting (the canonical example Bell and others cite) you were, like me, a lover of news, your feed would have had lots of stuff about Ferguson in it. (BTW, have you watched the network news shows recently? Lots of YouTube videos and pie-eating contests.)
  • 3. Journalism has an opaque algorithm too. None of its users has any idea how they decide what is and isn't news.
  • 4. Facebook hasn't really gotten into news yet. They are actively developing new technology in this area. To judge it on its ability to deliver news would be like judging the NYC Subway on its ability to deliver news. It's for people, today, more than it is for news. However, expect that to change.
  • 5. I have been listening to Facebook people carefully. Reading the tea leaves, getting to know their developers. I believe they really want to work with you. Yet not very many journalists have expressed much interest. I think this is a big mistake. When someone offers to work with me, my first response is to say yes. I wasn't always this way, I had to train myself to do it, after watching lots of opportunities pass me by because I wasn't ready enough to work with others.
  • 6. One thing you can learn from the process of tech is to study your competition, don't ignore them. Use the software yourself, understand its strengths and weaknesses before you attack. Journalism hasn't done any of this, which is odd, because that's supposed to be their job, understanding things that matter.

How to rebuild

  • 1. If I were running a news organization today, accepting that we let the tech industry own our distribution system, I would first incorporate it into my plans by flowing all my headlines through Twitter and Facebook, and then start to create our own distribution system to stand alongside the tech industry distribution system.
  • 2. The first mover doesn't always win. That's a big lesson. Use what you know about news to build the best news system you can, and then learn from your users, and iterate. My first version of a product usually doesn't work very well. My second one works better. By the time I've done it the third or fourth time I usually hit the mark pretty well.
  • 3. I would not rush to the government and make demands. That is just plain wrong. If your children behaved that way, before trying to work things out with each other, you'd send them back to at least try to find their own peace. You should have enough self-respect to do that yourself. I am sure the Bezos-owned Washington Post will not be seeking government protection from Twitter and Facebook.
  • 4. It's also not right because there's so much potential right now. It's not time to lock it down and regulate. It's time for tech and journalism to behave responsibly and respectfully of themselves and each other.
  • 5. We have enough open formats and protocols to build a dozen news distribution systems with all kinds of algorithms. We have bright-eyed J-school students who are excited about the future of news. Even some graybeards such as myself are still totally excited about the future. Come on, let's use the tools we have. Feed your headlines and stories into Facebook and Twitter, you have to do that -- they exist and billions of people use them -- but also into new systems for news distribution. There is room for lots of different approaches. We're at the beginning of something new, at a time of exciting possibilities. Let that excitement be reflected in your thinking.
24 Nov 18:00

Is Climate Change Consequential?

by pricetags

The Prime Minister went to the Arctic for nine days and never spoke of climate change.

The words didn’t cross his lips, as far as I know.  Yet the consequences of climate change should have been apparent all around him, assuming he was interested.

What kind of worldview can reconcile such disinterest with such predicted danger*?

One, I assume, in which the consequences of climate change are not believed to be consequential.  That is, whatever happens in the environment won’t be all that significant, not in the next decade, maybe not ever.  And technology, policy and leadership can respond when the times are ready.  Just not now.

Conservatives in Canada, Republicans in America, Coalitionists in Australia and soft denialists in power anywhere don’t have much to say about climate change.  There have no real policy innovation, and no desire to develop any.

So the strategy is not to say anything at all, and keep the topic off the agenda.

That was the consequence of the Prime Minister’s Arctic trip: to not raise the topic, and hence lower the expectations on what serious people need to say about climate change.

Business has raised the bar to about the same level: serious people don’t have serious public concerns about climate change.  That, presumably, is why it doesn’t get treated as a risk, fiscal or otherwise, when Canada’s industrialists make another big push to tap fossil fuels and get them to markets.  It’s apparent in the news coverage, or absence of it, on the expansion of terminal capacity for thermal coal in this region.  Concerns about coal dust, yes; train noise, yes.  Climate change?  Not so much.  Or not at all.

For most of our senior leadership, whether in legislatures, executive offices or editorial pages, there are no consequences of climate change that have to be treated seriously enough at the moment to justify change – certainly not pricing the carbon we export for its consequences to the climate – that would disrupt the status quo or break the silence now.

Or, they must hope, ever.

.

* As recently as yesterday: “New Climate Normal” Poses Severe Risks to Development—World Bank Report


24 Nov 17:00

The Narrative Clip helped Patricia win the lottery!

by Sarah

Name:
Patricia Van Lubeck
www.twitter.com/narrativecam
www.flickr.com/photos/vanlubeck
www.vanlubeck.com

Location:
New Zealand

How did you hear about Narrative and how long have you been using your Clip?
I discovered the Narrative on Kickstarter. At first I found it too expensive, but after 18 months it was still on my wish-list, so … it looks like I had to bow my head. I’m using it about 4 months now.

How often do you use your Clip and in what settings?
I use it when I leave the house, but not during the usual things like walking the dog or doing the groceries. Of course I did in the first week, but that produced quite boring images.

Please explain your decision behind getting a Narrative Clip?
I want a bit more illustrations for my blog, without the alert and the distraction of making pictures myself, during my activities.

Describe what draws you to this kind of technology.
It all started when I read about ‘lomography’. There are ‘rules’, but the philosophy behind lomography is summarized in “Don’t Think, Just Shoot.” This motto is accompanied by The Ten Golden Rules which are supposed to encourage spontaneity and the taking of photographs anywhere, while minimizing considerations of formal technique.
http://www.lomography.com/about/the-ten-golden-rules
I tried to do this with my normal small camera, but most of the time it felt quite awkward. It’s not always polite to shoot in certain situations or surroundings whenever you feel the need. Even in a quite public place like a train or so, I don’t want to make people feel viewed or being my object.
From that moment I searched for another way to practice this kind of photography. Not diligent, but it was at the back of my mind.

How do you wear/use the camera?
I created a sticker with black dots and curly lines to make the camera look less serious. In this way the eye of the camera isn’t easily visible any more. I suspect people think it’s a music device.

14071413

What’s the most surprising and/or interesting photo you’ve gotten so far?
One day I put the camera on a shelf in a corner of my room. My intention was to show some progress of the painting I was working on.
The next day I discovered the narrative captured me Skyping, on the moment I was told my father just died.
There is nothing spectacular visible, but I still can’t delete them.

Do you have any stories around how people react to the Clip?
To be honest … nobody ever asked me what it is.

What is best moment you’ve captured with the Narrative Clip and why?
Last month I captured a shelf with pots of paint in a large DIY-store. I hadn’t noticed in real, but on the picture I saw an advertisement stuck on the shelf; an invitation to enter a lottery with the number on your invoice.
I did. I forgot. And yesterday I heard I’d won something! A good part of the price of the Narrative. It’s earning itself back.

What’s a specific use case for your Narrative Clip that you’re looking forward to trying out?
I’m looking forward to my visit to Taipei where I’m one of the exhibitors of an art fair. And the second summit is a backpack trip for another 10 days through the rest of Taiwan.
Further I want to create a fast picture-movie called ‘The people I could have met this year’, with all the unknown passengers with funny, weird or curious faces shown for half a second.
And I try not to forget to put the narrative somewhere in the garden when I’m going to paint the house.

What’s a feature(s) you’d really like to see added to the Narrative service in the future?
A solution to get the pictures on my Samsung. I don’t want to bring my laptop with me to Taiwan.
You have 4 months to help me out!!!

Anything else you’d like to add or other Clip photos you’d like to share?
I’m thinking about swallowing it. Wait a couple of days.

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21 Nov 23:44

Our number one requested feature is here: Narrative’s Web App

by Sarah

Timeline copy

The suggestion emerged in our Kickstarter days and it continues to be the number one most requested feature – and today, we are beyond excited to bring you an early version of the Narrative Web App! The web app is our first attempt to optimized the Narrative experience for big screens and to give you access to your Narrative photos in the most beautiful way possible.

Because we know it’s been so anticipated, and because we love it so much ourselves, we just couldn’t wait any longer to give you the web app experience you’ve been asking for. So even though it’s still pretty clean from lots of fancy features, we decided to release an early version for you to try out and tell us what you think. There is much more to come, and we need your feedback more than ever!

We can’t wait for you to try it out. To do so, head on over to the Narrative Web App, log in with your usual Narrative login (the same you use for the iOS and Android apps) and enjoy your moments on the big screen. And don’t forget to let us know what you think, and contact support if you have any questions!

Narrative_evolution2

22 Nov 18:25

Paris is really close to ruining its skyline—again

Paris is really close to ruining its skyline—again:

Kabir Chibber on Paris’ proposed 42-story glass pyramid:

Perhaps what those who oppose the new tower fear is that the city will turn into its neighbor across the English Channel. In 2004, London added a new pickle-shaped skyscraper dubbed the Gherkin in its financial district. Now, there are all sorts of new buildings with funny names—the Cheesegrater, the Walkie-Talkie, not to mention The Shard, the tallest skyscraper in Europe. And there are many more to come.

The more time I spend in London, the more I realize just how awful the modern architecture truly is. None of it will age well either. One would hope Paris doesn’t go the same way.

22 Nov 18:34

Longtime Indies on the iOS App Store

by Federico Viticci

Last week, I asked on Twitter for examples of individual developers who have been making and maintaining iOS apps for the past five years.

What are examples of iOS apps made by a single developer that have been around for 5+ years? I can think of PCalc.

— Federico Viticci (@viticci) November 15, 2014

I was thinking about the App Store market for indie developers, and I was particularly interested in knowing for how long a single person can keep working on the same app. Is it because the same app makes for a good business even after several years? Is this commitment related to respecting an existing user base or scratching your own itch? Is it a combination of all of the above?

Note that I asked for individual developers and apps that are still maintained – not small teams of multiple people, and not apps that were released five years ago and never updated. I'm fully aware of the fact that no developer is an island and that, in the indie iOS development community, developers tend to help each other out and collaborate. And in no way I asked that to imply that teams of two or more developers “have it easier” or that it's “better” to be a single person who makes apps. I think it's pretty clear that I have the utmost respect for larger companies and smaller indie shops that create apps for the iOS App Store. I was simply curious: how many individual developers make an app and stick to it? Who are they?

I received a lot of responses, which were extremely interesting and contained a lot of great examples. So after coming up with a way to collect all those tweets, I created a workflow that uses the Twitter oEmbed API in Editorial to compile those links in a list of embedded tweets you can find below. If you're reading this through an RSS reader, you may want to switch to the website for the correct visualization.

This is obviously a small sample based on an informal poll of the people who follow me on Twitter, and it's not indicative of the financial viability of the App Store market for indies. I don't know how these apps are doing or if it's worth updating them from a financial perspective. But still, if you ever wanted to know what are some examples of individual developers who created apps 5/4 years ago and still maintain them today, you can find some tweets below.

@viticci http://t.co/YJO4GHt1iT %F0%9F%98%9C

— Steve T-S (@stroughtonsmith) November 15, 2014

@croc122 @viticci Drafts is only ~2 ½ yo. Terminology launched 2010, that's my oldest app that's still around.

— Drafts (@draftsapp) November 15, 2014

@viticci Tiny Wings

— Kyle Cronin (@kylecronin) November 15, 2014

@viticci I released MASH in January of 2009 - https://t.co/A0XfUmHdFS

— Matt Braun (@mattbraun) November 15, 2014

@viticci My Recipe Book and Audiobooks by @_DavidSmith

— Casey Liss (@caseyliss) November 15, 2014

@viticci @reederapp maybe?

— Benjamin Crozat (@benjamincrozat) November 15, 2014

@viticci I’ve had @gradebookpro since the iPad launched.

— Eric Lombardo (@_elombardo) November 15, 2014

@viticci My app, Seattle Freeways, is now 5 years old. Built myself, update occasionally, still sells.

— Mark Svendsen (@marksvend) November 15, 2014

@viticci you could also say Trism… which just got an iOS 8 update. Barely… :D

— Steve T-S (@stroughtonsmith) November 15, 2014

@viticci my app @wakeup_app was first released about… 3 years ago (did everything dev/design).

— Victor Baro (@victorbaro) November 15, 2014

@viticci my app, @landscaperscomp, has been in store since fall 2009.

— Dave Stevenson (@dnstevenson) November 15, 2014

@viticci I was released in 2008, still updated. Made by @hunter.

— VegasMate App (@vegasmate) November 15, 2014

@viticci My app, Story Tracker, has been around for 5 years. Still sells, but it’s pretty niche.

— Andrew Nicolle (@andrewnicolle) November 15, 2014

@viticci my app Tap Forms went live in September 2008. It’s doing better than ever these days. I’ve been solo on it since then.

— Tap Forms (@tapforms) November 15, 2014

@viticci tChess Pro has been holding his own and some against the commercial Chess s/w developers for at least 6 years :-) @tchessgame

— Kevin Gee (@Kevg64) November 15, 2014

@viticci My app Mathemagics launched in March of 2009. Hasn’t seen an update in a while but I am active in developing a major iOS 8 update.

— Shane Crawford (@shanezilla) November 15, 2014

@viticci CHMate (CHM and EPUB Reader) was released on Jul 31, 2009 and the last update was on Nov 13, 2014: https://t.co/v7QALLNALp

— 陈贤安 ☔️ (@_cxa) November 15, 2014

@viticci I got halfway through that tweet and said “PCalc!”. Then saw you’d said it already :)

— James Thomson (@jamesthomson) November 15, 2014

@soldni @viticci Actually September 19, 2008! http://t.co/xksekdjqtN

— Mike Piontek (@robotspacer) November 15, 2014

@viticci Six years for SmartGo Kifu, starting out as iPhone-only app with different name: http://t.co/qkhc6GTHlg

— Anders Kierulf (@smartgo) November 15, 2014

@viticci my app @HoursTracker. Been working on it actively alone since 2009.

— Carlos Ribas (@cribasoft) November 15, 2014

@viticci GV Connect - true single person project

— Andreas Amann (@aahndee) November 15, 2014

@viticci My App, Baby Feed Timer has been in the AppStore for 4 years. I'm full time indie developer. https://t.co/vDxAH3kRjC

— Alex fehners (@Fehners) November 15, 2014

@viticci Prowl! by some horrible evil definition of “actively developed.”

— Zachary West (@zacwest) November 15, 2014

@viticci My iAllowance app will be 4 years old next month. It's been my bread and butter. https://t.co/C8YrmtvxLO

— Jim Spencer (@jim_spencer) November 15, 2014

@viticci My Margin+ app will be 5 in February. https://t.co/LkpQbw0HkZ

— Jim Spencer (@jim_spencer) November 15, 2014

@viticci Numerology has also been in the store since 2008, Numerology by infiniteNIL https://t.co/SPnbzCx048

— infiniteNIL Software (@infinitenil) November 15, 2014

@viticci @bancacc and @run_5k both span multi-years. Not quite 5 as I learned Cocoa all through 2009-2010.

— Aleksandar·Vacić (@radiantav) November 15, 2014

@viticci iCab browser if I’m not wrong

— Gurpartap Singh (@Gurpartap) November 15, 2014

@viticci TeeChart https://t.co/pflQZmCTlY released 19 Oct 2009. Big brothers iPress & The Scoring Machine later.

— Mulligan Software (@MulliganGolf) November 15, 2014

@viticci NoteMaster http://t.co/R74bTIaoqz

— Stuart Hall (@stuartkhall) November 15, 2014

@viticci Viet Tran has been developing Notes Plus for some time now

— Paul Williams (@wonk71) November 15, 2014

@viticci Comic Zeal goes back to at least early 2010 and is done by a single dev. @bitolithic

— wyldphyre (@wyldphyre) November 15, 2014

@viticci Beatwave is close to 5 years for me now.

— David Fumberger (@djfumberger) November 15, 2014

@viticci I released http://t.co/oIiCAUM1g1 in 2008

— Christian Beer (@christian_beer) November 15, 2014

@viticci 4 ½ years for SG Project and other great project management apps by my friend @tyjacobs. http://t.co/R92qAyrn80

— Jeff Bailey (@jeffbailey) November 16, 2014

@viticci There’s got to be at least a few other crazy devs like me who’ve kept working on an app just out of love: https://t.co/G6lmgu3P1r

— Andy Molloy (@amolloy) November 16, 2014

@viticci Due has to be getting close.

— ⚔✏️⚔ (@ChewingPencils) November 16, 2014

@viticci my app, Contacts Journal CRM, launched in 2009. https://t.co/bSQWWFBDO3

— Zulfi Shah (@zulfishah) November 16, 2014

22 Nov 22:07

Little Pork Chop's corner-turn

The transition of Little Pork Chop to a whitelist-based app has been a great success.

Basically people are using it for short-form blogging via Twitter.

I get to learn from watching how they use it. I'm already getting ideas.

Everyone wins. :kiss:

22 Nov 23:57

On “native” advertising

by Doc Searls

gaudifaceIn an email today I was asked by a PR person if I wanted to talk with somebody at a major newspaper about its foray into “native” advertising — a euphemism for ads made to look like editorial matter. Among other things they asked if native advertising would “signify the death of credible journalism.” Here was my response:

I think tricking up advertising to look like journalism crosses a line I wish (name of paper) would keep up as a thick wall.

In publishing, editorial is church and advertising is state. The difference should be clear, and the latter should not be confused with the former. For nearly all its history, this was the case with (name of paper), and all serious publications.

While native ads don’t signify the death of credible journalism, they do signify a sell-out by publishers using them.

If (person at the paper) wants to try convincing me otherwise, I’m game. But be warned that the likelihood that I’ll give native ads a positive spin — for any pub — is close to nil.

Bonus link — Andrew Sullivan on Native Ads: Journalism has surrendered. Great interview.