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30 Nov 05:55

Sony – Rite of passage pt. II.

by windsorr

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Reactive and defensive needs to become proactive and offensive.

  • Sony has made a move in the right direction but the next steps will be bigger and much harder.
  • Sony has responded to the news that a remote play app. will be available from developer Twisted for PCs (see here) by announcing that it, also is developing an app that will allow users to play PS4 games via a desktop.
  • Because Sony has access to the source code that runs both the PS4 and its controllers, it is in pole position to deliver by far the best experience in terms of fluidity and performance.
  • I expect that Sony will give this software away free to anyone who already owns a PS4 which is bad news for Twisted who needs to charge for the software in order to be able to invest the time in its creation.
  • However, the developer can at least take comfort from the fact that it has almost certainly forced Sony’s hand in terms of delivering features that do not necessarily fit with its own agenda.
  • I hope that this is just the first step and that we will shortly see the remote play app working on all Android devices and being extended to iOS.
  • This would remove a reason to buy a Sony manufactured smartphone but would significantly increase the appeal of the PS4 as a gaming platform.
  • When I look at the RFM Digital Life pie, gaming is the space where users spend most of their time but of the large ecosystems only Tencent has a strong position on mobile.
  • In developed markets Sony and Microsoft are by far the strongest in gaming and I think that this space remains wide open for someone to dominate like Facebook has dominated social networking.
  • Activision Blizzard is having a go at this via its acquisition of King Digital but it has a lot of work to do before it can get there.
  • By contrast, Sony already has a very strong position in console gaming but has so far been unable to think outside of the niche defined by its hardware.
  • I hope that this proves to be the first small step into a larger world and I do see the possibility for Sony to use PlayStation as its launch pad into something much bigger and much more valuable.
  • Unfortunately, Sony has a history of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory and its current structure and culture are not best suited to the actions that this will require.
  • Consequently, I see a reactive and defensive approach to the ecosystem which puts it at risk of losing to Microsoft in the next console generation despite its current dominance.
  • Microsoft, Samsung or Facebook for the long-term is where I would be positioned.
30 Nov 12:03

More than half of Amazon’s web traffic came from mobile devices this Black Friday

by Igor Bonifacic

This past Black Friday and the Thursday preceding it, 60 percent of online shoppers in the U.S. visited the websites of major retailers like Amazon on their mobile device. That’s according to IBM Watson Trend, a division of the multinational enterprise company that analyzes online shopping data, which also said 40 percent of online shoppers completed their purchase using a smartphone or tablet.

“Both on the hits side and on the sales side, the smartphone is outpacing tablets, and smartphone shoppers dominate,” said Justin Norwood, a product strategist for IBM, in an interview with Investor’s Business Daily. “It seems like this is the breakout year for mobile optimization, and retailers have invested a considerable amount in their mobile sites.”

Likewise, Adobe’s Adobe Digital Index, a system that measures the majority of online transactions involving 100 of the top retailers in the U.S., found 37 percent of online traffic this past Thursday and Friday came from users on mobile devices.

Although we don’t have access to Canadian stats, it’s likely the numbers observed by IBM in the U.S. are similar and perhaps even higher here north of the border. Earlier in the month, Yahoo published a report that said two-thirds of Canadians consider their smartphone their primary computer. This, in combination with the fact that between 78 and 88 percent of Canadian postpaid wireless subscribers are on smartphone plans — a number that’s higher here in Canada than in the U.S — means most Canadians have embraced smartphones and have done so passionately.

Ultimately, this means by this time next year we’ll likely be able to say the majority of online shopping in North America will have been done via a mobile device.

30 Nov 14:17

Emboldened: The Year of White Supremacy

by jennydavis

White student union1

This is the year of #BlackLivesMatter. In response, it is also becoming the year of White Supremacy. It’s not that Black Lives didn’t matter before, nor that Whiteness didn’t reign supreme. Rather, dramatic and highly publicized incidents of violence against Black citizens by those charged with protecting them have created a cultural dynamic in which the value of Black Lives and the respondent assertion of White Supremacy, have reached a point of articulation.

When you clean house, the roaches emerge. As a nation, we are cleaning house, finding and scrubbing out the blaring and hidden spots of racism, many of which have seeped deep into the layers of our social fabric. A White Supremacist presence is therefore unsurprising. The Supremacists wriggle out in defense of their comfortable home that the elbow grease of mobilization threatens to upend. They are gross but expected. However, their pervasiveness and seeming capacity to garner sympathy, is less expected.

The affordances and dynamics of social media tell an important part of the story…

Counterclaims about both Black Lives and White Supremacy are facilitated by social media platforms that afford the formation of issue driven groups with the capacity to commiserate, strategize, and spread a unified message. Such was the process by which the successful movement at Mizzou, in which Black students and allies mobilized to achieve administrative resignations along with policy and curricular changes, translated with near immediacy into similar movements across college campuses in the U.S. #StandwithMizzou became a rallying cry for students who wished to affect real change in their own schools’ racial climate.

These very same processes are also those that currently facilitate the fast formation of White Student Unions, reactionary groups created by and for “White students and allies” who fear the loss of White’s voices and decimation of White culture. Although administrations are quick to denounce the groups as unassociated with and unsanctioned by the universities to which they are connected, the groups are nonetheless collectivities of people, most likely students, who gather to assert their White Power. The group that popped up at my university describes themselves as follows:white student union

Rather than identifying as White Supremacists, the profiles operate under the gauze-thin cover of European identity. These are White European students, emboldened to speak their (racist and ethnocentric) truth.

The question, then, is from whence does such boldness arise? Given the widespread demonization of Whiteness identity groups in the U.S.—especially the KKK—how do a bunch of 20 year olds come to think it’s viable and acceptable to form a group around White heritage? And while we’re asking, how do four adult men, in 2015, identify as White Supremacists, scream racial slurs, and shoot into a crowd of protestors? This is the part of the story that social media doesn’t fully capture.

Racist collectives, with their communities, identities, and calls for action, form and flourish with the symbolic aid of highly visible, highly powerful, and highly influential figures, given voice through America’s political institution.

White Supremacist messaging, though animated by grass roots social media groups, is undergirded by the rhetoric of those in the highest positions of power. For instance, FBI director James Comey, who blamed #BlackLivesMatter protestors for creating a hostile environment in which police officers are disinclined to intervene, lest their actions get filmed and critiqued. Or the list of governors who (are trying to) refuse Syrian refugees entry into their states. And of course, Donald Trump, who not only represents Whites who are concerned with the slippage of their power, but like Comey and the governors, legitimates the White Supremacy position.

Comey and the anti-refugee governors foil their racism in security concerns. This breeds hate and exclusion, but can ostensibly diminish with time and data, or at least migrate to new groups as new moral panics emerge.  Trump’s hate is stickier. It plays more to the long game. It’s based on a feeling—an intuition of discomfort–and its expression is attractively packaged in authenticity.

Authenticity is an ingrained American value, all the more valuable among politicians from whom we are accustomed to, but sick of, seeing precisely calculated performances. Trump is the candidate who purportedly “tells it like it is,” who isn’t enchained by political correctness. He is the folk hero who promises to “make the country great again!”

With the valor of authenticity, Trump says things like “The wall will go up and Mexico will start behaving.”  He insists that Muslim Americans in New Jersey were celebrating after 9/11—a claim he vehemently defended by mocking a reporter with a congenital joint condition. He also tweeted statistics about race and murder that are entirely fabricated, imply that Blacks are disproportionately violent, and relies on “thug” iconography. And he continues to do great in the polls.

By wrapping their hate in safety and “truthfulness,” these leaders gift racists their righteousness. Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric does more than collect support, but also provides a moral position and an accompanying narrative on which to carry messages that would otherwise be unpalatable. Messages like those from White Student Union organizers, or anti-refugee protestors, or Men’s Rights Activists, or assholes on Yik Yak.

Openly racist leaders make it acceptable for everyday citizens to hold racist views and viable for everyday citizens to engage in racist acts. When the FBI director worries about police safety and effectiveness and a presidential candidate shouts about Mexicans, racism becomes an expression of morality–one of safety and truth– an expression that spreads and takes hold on the digital platforms of everyday life.


Jenny Davis is on Twitter @Jenny_L_Davis

Headline image source

30 Nov 13:22

Josh Friedman: requiem for a nerd with a heart of gold

by Josh Bernoff

My friend Josh died this weekend. I’d like to tell you a little bit about who he was, which is also a little bit about who I am, since we were friends for nearly 50 years. I met Josh when the teacher introduced him as the new student to our third-grade class. I was fascinated, because … Continue reading Josh Friedman: requiem for a nerd with a heart of gold →

The post Josh Friedman: requiem for a nerd with a heart of gold appeared first on without bullshit.

30 Nov 10:22

Can the MacBook Pro Replace Your iPad?

by Fraser Speirs

There has been a lot of talk in recent weeks about the MacBook Pro and, in particular, whether it can replace an iPad Pro for getting real work done.

Firstly, consider the hardware. The huge issue with the MacBook Pro is its form factor. The fact that the keyboard and screen are limited to being held in an L-shaped configuration seriously limits its flexibility. It is basically impossible to use a MacBook pro while standing up and downright dangerous to use when walking around. Your computing is limited to times when you are able to find somewhere to sit down.

Not that you would want to use a MacBook Pro while standing anyway. The sheer weight of these devices means that your shoulder is going to take a beating if you switch from iOS to OS X. The current 15" MacBook Pro tips the scales at 4.49 pounds - or three iPad Pros - despite having a lower-resolution screen and one less hour of battery life.

Only those with very specific workflows could realistically switch from iPad Pro to a MacBook Pro.

The MacBook Pro continues to be hobbled by its lack of touch input. Yes, the trackpads on Apple's laptops attempt to crudely imitate the rich touch support on iOS but without the ability to touch the thing you see, it will always be a poor imitation of the real thing.

If you're an artist, note-taker or teacher, you're going to really struggle without the native ability to use an Apple Pencil on the screen. The MacBook Pro is limited to some very basic pressure-sensitive input on the trackpad. This is obviously a very convoluted way to do pressure-based input; little better than a FedEx driver's hand-held terminal. At least the FedEx terminal shows you the effects of your writing on the same surface! Of course you could haul along a Wacom tablet to make up for the lack of pen input on your MacBook Pro, but suddenly you're hauling a whole lot more cables and looking for a substantial desk space when out and about.

If you're, well, anybody, you'll surely find the lack of a rear camera on the MacBook Pro a limitation. We have all grown used to the ability to shoot a photograph and immediately use it in a document or share it online without the need for messy cables or jumping through convoluted hoops to get your photograph from your smartphone or camera onto your computer.

Mac software is a limitation here too. Mac OS X only recently got a version of the Photos app from iOS and while there is a photo picker available in some Mac apps like Keynote and Pages, it is far less broadly supported than the photo picker on iOS. This makes importing photos into a document on the Mac a tricky game of drag-and-drop if you can fit both windows on the screen at once.

If you speak multiple languages - and who among us is not at least passably familiar with that other great world language Emojii? - the MacBook Pro has one serious, glaring flaw. You have to commit to a specific keyboard layout and language from the factory that can never be changed. Yes, you can remap some of the keys in software but then you're using a keyboard where the key caps don't match the keystrokes. Crazy!

Despite their far greater size, and consequently weight, there is no MacBook Pro model that gets better battery life than the iPad Pro. You have to wonder about the efficiency of the Intel platform. The MacBook Pro line also requires device-specific chargers. Although most recent models use the MagSafe 2 connector, each model comes with its own rating of charger. Compared to the iPad Pro's use of the widely-available Lightning connector and its ability to charge from small battery packs, this significantly reduces your chances of being able to just borrow a charger for a quick top-up when out and about. Not to mention the fact that none of those increasingly-common public charging lockers support MagSafe 2.

While we are on the subject, let's talk about ports. The designers of the MacBook Pro seem to have gone port-crazy. The MacBook Pro takes up a lot of space on the sides of the device for ports that most people will likely not use very often: SD Card readers, HDMI connectors and even dual thunderbolt ports. Having multiple ports that do the same thing is probably confusing for many users, which is likely why you see newer designs like the 2015 MacBook moving closer to the iPad approach to connectivity with a single port for power and peripherals.

The MacBook Pro isn't even really good for content consumption. No MacBook Pro offers a similar four-speaker configuration to that built into the body of the iPad Pro. This can put a bit of a dampener on your enjoyment of movies and TV shows as the sound is far thinner with less bass and richness than the iPad Pro can deliver. You are also limited to landscape orientation of the screen, which makes reading books and browsing longer websites an exercise in frustrated scrolling.

Again, Mac OS X lacks some of the more advanced media consumption features of iOS. There is no system-wide support for Picture-in-Picture on OS X, for example. This means that watching a video on the side while working requires you to manually arrange your workspace just so. That is, if you even can. Few websites support resizing the video player inside the page, so you are limited to the fixed dimensions of that video and you get whatever is left over to do your work in. Compare that to the flexibility of size and placement you get with the iOS PiP window, which can even be placed off-screen.

Mac OS X also suffers from a much smaller range of available apps. Instead of the native apps you get on iOS for services like Netflix, Airbnb, Google Docs, YouTube and the like, Mac users have to make do with accessing these services through a web browser. That's quite a hoop to jump through to get your work done: forcing such a huge proportion of your work through one app.

The Mac App Store, by contrast with its iOS counterpart, lacks many of the key tools that Mac users' workflows typically depend on. This often requires users to go and source their own software from the open web, with all the risks that entails. These Mac apps also often cost far, far more than their more modern and easier-to-use iOS competitors.

So what are you really getting with a MacBook Pro? Yes, you're getting more performance, but not that much more for the money. On Geekbench tests, the 2015 13" MacBook Pro clocks in at 3209 in Single-core and 6741 on Multi-core. The iPad Pro measures up with 3225 in Single-core and 5475 in Multi-core. You have to ask yourself if it's worth all these trade-offs in size, weight, flexibility and input methods just to gain a small performance advantage.

Certainly, the MacBook Pro can be specified with far more storage than an iPad Pro. You can get up to 1TB of single-point-of-failure storage that requires to be backed up frequently - at even more cost in peripherals or online subscriptions, never mind your time and attention. Compare that to the cloud-based world of iOS where companies like Google, Dropbox, Microsoft and Amazon are queueing up to throw professionally-managed enterprise-class cloud storage at you for pennies.

If you are a road warrior, the MacBook's total lack of cellular connectivity options would be a serious hinderance to a cloud-based storage lifestyle in any case. You would think, for a device that costs up to twice as much as the most expensive cellular iPad, that Apple could afford to offer LTE radios in these devices. Sadly, MacBook Pro owners are stuck with tethering to their iPhones and burning through data plans. While tethering Macs to iPhones has improved in recent years, it will never be as good as a built-in LTE radio.

Finally, let's talk about price. The MacBook Pro is not a cheap computer. Your entry-level MacBook Pro 13" MacBook Pro comes in at £999 and in standard configurations alone runs up to nearly £2,000. When you factor in the other things you need to buy to get it up to the abilities of an iPad Pro, you're looking at some serious coin.

If you have certain very specifically-defined workflows, and a work environment where you can guarantee yourself a chair and desk, you can probably get your work done on a MacBook Pro. For the rest of the world, there's iPad.

[Editor's note: The original title for this piece was "If journalists reviewed Macs like iPads".]

30 Nov 18:03

The Great Divide Part Three: Yes, Scarborough Cycles

by dandy

city hall white background Screen-shot-2011-04-19-at-2.34.42-PM


This story is part of a dandyhorse series on the need for bike infrastructure expansion in the suburbs. Read parts  one and two of the series on the dandyBLOG.


Illustration above by Warren Wheeler.

The Great Divide Part Three: Yes, Scarborough Cycles

by Albert Koehl

Scarborough isn’t a place people easily associate with bicycling – but this hasn’t deterred the Toronto Centre for Active Transportation (TCAT) and its partners, Cycle Toronto and Culture Link from a new initiative called Scarborough Cycles. The campaign slogan: "building bike culture beyond downtown" is straight-forward and accompanies goals of improving cycling skills and developing local leadership to address barriers to cycling in Scarborough.

Scarborough Cycles is partly motivated by the fact that a huge number of trips in Scarborough – an estimated half million each day – are short enough to be cycled, even though cars are the dominant choice. In Councillor Michelle Berardinetti’s Ward 35, for example, half of all car trips by drivers are under 4.6 km and for their passengers under 3.8 km. In Councillor Gary Crawford’s neighbouring Ward 36, the median trip distances for drivers and passengers are only slightly higher. This data presumably escaped Berardinetti and Crawford who eagerly presided over the removal of bike lanes in their wards during the last term in council.

Scarborough_Erica Duque DSC03739

Cycling on Warden Ave. in Scarborough on a Complete Streets Forum mobile tour. Photo by Erica Duque

Scarborough Cycles, which enjoys funding from the Metcalf Foundation’s Cycle City program isn’t focusing on the councillors (who might themselves be considered barriers to cycling) but rather on the community itself to help make cycling an easier and more obvious choice.

One goal of Scarborough Cycles is to establish two "Bike Hubs" – places where cyclists can go for services like borrowing a bike and learning cycling and repair skills, as well as developing advocacy skills. In central Toronto cyclists can get such help at places like Bike Pirates, Bike Chain, or Charlie’s Freewheels. In Scarborough, it’s not so easy.

Marvin Macaraig, project coordinator for Scarborough Cycles, says that the huge Scarborough area has but one specialized bike store and one used bike store. By comparison, a person standing at Bathurst and Bloor in central Toronto can virtually throw a kiss at three bike stores. Macaraig is working on identifying potential locations and community partners for the Bike Hubs. An ideal location would be within one of the surprisingly many pockets of Scarborough with low car ownership levels, based on research by the Cycling Think & Do Tank.

Macaraig, who is a Scarborough resident and cyclist, is trying to leverage some of the momentum generated by the recent success of the Toronto East Bicycle Festival, which drew 400 people, and the completion of cycling trails in Scarborough along the Gatineau Hydro Corridor and the Scarborough Green Loop.

The focus of Scarborough Cycles is cycling for everyday transport. Lamentably, notes Macaraig, City Hall’s 2016 cycling implementation plan doesn’t include a single on-street cycling project for this suburb. One of the obvious barriers in Scarborough, as elsewhere in the city, is the absence of a safe network of routes. The Gatineau Hydro Corridor, for example, is an attractive addition for Scarborough cyclists but unless you live near the trail, the north-south roads that should provide access actually constitute barriers given their speed and width.

The bike lanes on Birchmount Rd. and Pharmacy Ave., had they been extended, could have served as an access route to the Gatineau trail. (In fact, the lanes could also link to the planned Eglinton bike lanes, once the crosstown LRT is completed.) Instead, the bike lanes were eliminated under the "leadership" of Berardinetti and Crawford. The result is that the investment in the Gatineau trail will pay lower dividends because many potential visitors simply won’t have a safe route to get there.

Marvin Macaraig IMG_20150919_145630

Participants at the Toronto East Bike Festival held at the Warden Hilltop Community Centre in Scarborough this past September. Photo by Marvin Macaraig.

A more hopeful development in Scarborough is a newly established cycling group at West Hill Collegiate near the University of Toronto’s Scarborough campus. The student group, inspired by one of the teachers, is supported by Culture Link’s Bike to School program. Scarborough Cycles is pitching in by lending the group 16 new bikes. The group’s first ride revealed both the potential of cycling in Scarborough and the challenges.

Kristin Schwartz of Culture Link participated in that first ride in Morningside Park. The students enjoyed the excursion, and left Schwartz herself marvelling at how such a beautiful forest “is right here in front of us.” The route to the park was far less beautiful. For safety reasons, the group walked their bikes on the sidewalk on Morningside Ave. – a public roadway where cyclists have the right to ride, but where their right to safety is simply ignored by planners and politicians. It’s an issue the students might want to take up once they have mastered their riding, bike repair, and trip planning skills.

Macaraig believes that “a little bit of cycling infrastructure will go a long way” to further increase cycling numbers in the area.  With local residents eventually leading the charge, Scarborough will one day have the infrastructure it needs to make cycling a popular everyday choice.

Albert Koehl is co-founder of Bells on Bloor.


Related on the dandyBLOG:

The Great Divide: The Urban/Suburban debate misses the point

The Great Divide Part Two: Bike Lanes on Bayview

Art + Community + Bikes: The Pan Am Path legacy

Flashback Friday: Bicycle race at the Scarborough Velodrome

30 Nov 19:21

A case study in talking points

I referred to "white American Christian terrorists" in a post

Which got this response from a user named WoodburyDave.

Who are you thinking are the white American Christian terrorists? I am aware of many American secularists who have engaged in mass shootings in the US, as well as, sadly, people who are mentally ill and whose shootings can't really be ascribed to any rational cause.

It's an invitation to debate. But I don't do debates, esp not on my own blog that I pay to host. But it is worth noting how beautifully he carves things up. First, he acknowledges there are such things as Christian terrorists. But he can't think of one. Do you know of any, he wonders.

My use of the term was packed with meaning that he is ignoring, choosing to debate a different question. My point is better-made if there aren't any Christian terrorists. I'm applying the same care with the term that others use for Muslims. Maybe Muslim terrorists are all mentally ill too? Or maybe there aren't any?  Shouldn't we cut Muslims the same slack we do for home-grown terrorists who are Christian? Maybe their religion or culture is as irrelevant as WoodburyDave thinks it is for American Christians? I don't hear the Republican candidates for President saying that, however, and they aren't saying it on Fox News either. They've said it the other way. If someone is Christian then they're not a terrorist (Jeb Bush).

Obviously the subtext of my piece was that there is a huge obvious glaring contradiction here. I am not Christian or Muslim, as I am not Republican or Democratic. So I see it better than a partisan would. They're practically condemning people for being Muslim. This is criminally unfair, and also very unwise. 

I don't like debating, esp with talking points, which is what WoodburyDave posted here. But I thank him, because his comment gave me the reason to put in moderation. It's time. ;-) 

30 Nov 20:04

Transport: Re-imagined

by Ken Ohrn

As the Paris climate talks hit the headlines, transportation comes in for its share of the chatter.

Todd Litman is a well-known, and in my opinion, a strong thinker on transportation and its role in shaping our lives and our cities. He is Executive Director of the Victoria Transport Policy Institute (VTPI).

Here’s an article by Mr. Litman in the US publication He writes about the many ways that we can create more diverse and efficient transport and help solve our climate change issues.  (Sorry, deniers, but I’m taking climate change to be real and serious).

Reduce – Shift  – Improve

This type of analysis generally indicates that greatest variety of benefits are provided by strategies that reduce total travel, for example, by creating more compact communities and applying more efficient transport pricing. The second greatest benefits result from strategies that shift travel from automobile to more resource-efficient modes, such as improvements to walking, cycling, public transit and mobility substitutes. The third greatest benefits tend to result from strategies that improve motor vehicle performance, such as more efficient and alternative fueled vehicles that use less energy and produce less pollution per mile or kilometer travelled. As a result, many experts recommend Reduce-Shift-Improve emission reduction priorities (video), as indicated in the following table.

Mr. Litman goes on to develop these themes in more detail with specific strategies (a few examples):

Eliminate Fuel Subsidies


Carbon Taxes, Cap-and-Trade, and Vehicle Fuel Tax Increases


In the United States, less than half of all roadway expenses are financed through vehicle user fees. This is economically inefficient and unfair. Fuel taxes will need to double for motorists to pay for roadways. 

Favor Resource-Efficient Transport Travel Demands

Walking, cycling, public transit, and mobility substitutes are resource-efficient: compared with automobile travel they generally have much lower user costs, require less travel and parking space and so reduce road and parking facility costs, consume less fuel, and require less embodied energy (energy used to build vehicles and facilities). For these reasons, society benefits if, as much as possible, transport systems serve the demand for these modes; if somebody prefers to walk, bike, use public transit or telework rather than drive, virtually everybody benefits if we make it possible to do so.

Smart Growth Development Policies

Smart Growth includes various policies that result in more compact, mixed development and more multi-modal transport systems. These policies tend to have synergistic impacts (they become more effective if implemented together); where all economically justified smart growth policies are implemented, per capita vehicle travel and associated emissions typically decline by 40-60 percent compared with what occurs under sprawled conditions.

Smart Growth Policies and Their Impacts

Policies Impacts
  • More integrated planning.
  • Support for more compact and mixed development.
  • Support for more compact housing types (adjacent and multi-family housing, secondary suites, etc.).
  • More multi-modal transport planning.
  • Reduced and more flexible parking requirements, and more efficient parking management.
  • More transportation demand management.
  • Affordable-accessible housing development (more affordable housing located in multi-modal neighborhoods).
  • More compact and mixed development.
  • More connected transport systems (increased path and roadway connectivity, better connections between public transit and other modes)
  • Improved walking and cycling conditions.
  • Better public transit services, and more transit-oriented development.
  • Reduced motor vehicle ownership and use.
  • Better taxi and ridesharing services.
  • New financial saving opportunities.

There are several more strategies that are quite specific.  And the wrap-up is this:

The Sum Total

These strategies interact in various ways; many become more effective if implemented together so travelers have a combination of improved user information, more efficient options (better walking, cycling, public transit, and mobility substitutes), and incentives to choose the most efficient option for each trip. Because alternative modes experience economies of scale (their unit costs decline with increased use), integrated programs help maximize the returns on public investments. For example, money spent on sidewalk, bike lanes, and public transport service improvements are more cost-effective and beneficial if implemented with development reforms that increase the portion of housing and jobs located within convenient walking distance of transit stations, plus pricing reforms that encourage travelers to use these resource-efficient modes when possible.

30 Nov 20:17

Inequality and the City

by Ken Ohrn

From Gord Price today:

Paul Krugman, probably the most-read columnist in the New York Times, comments on the causes of gentrification:

The story for many of our iconic cities is, instead, one of gentrification, a process that’s obvious to the naked eye, and increasingly visible in the data. Specifically, urban America reached an inflection point around 15 years ago: after decades of decline, central cities began getting richer, more educated, and, yes, whiter. Today our urban cores are providing ever more amenities, but largely to a very affluent minority. But why is this happening? …

It’s a familiar fact (even if the usual suspects still deny it) that the concentration of income in the hands of a small minority has soared over the past 35 years. This concentration is even higher in big metropolitan areas like New York, because those areas are both where high­-skill, high­-pay industries tend to locate, and where the very affluent often want to live. In general, this high ­income elite gets what it wants, and what it has wanted, since 2000, has been to live near the center of big cities.

Still, why do high-­income Americans now want to live in inner cities, as opposed to in sprawling suburban estates?  …the modern high earner, with his or her long hours — and, more often than not, a working partner rather than a stay­-at-­home wife — is willing to pay a lot more than the executives of yore for a central location that cuts commuting time. Hence gentrification. And this is a process that feeds on itself: as more high earners move into urban centers, these centers begin offering amenities: — restaurants, shopping, entertainment — that make them even more attractive.

We’re not just talking about the superrich here, or even the 1 percent. At a guess, we might be talking about the top 10 percent. And for these people, it’s a happy story. But what about all the people, surely a large majority, who are being priced out of America’s urban revival? Does it have to be that way? The answer, surely, is no, at least not to the extent we’re seeing now.

Rising demand for urban living by the elite could be met largely by increasing supply. There’s still room to build, even in New York, especially upward. Yet while there is something of a building boom in the city, it’s far smaller than the soaring prices warrant, mainly because land use restrictions are in the way. And this is part of a broader national story.

… national housing prices have risen much faster than construction costs since the 1990s, and land­-use restrictions are the most likely culprit. Yes, this is an issue on which you don’t have to be a conservative to believe that we have too much regulation. The good news is that this is an issue over which local governments have a lot of influence. New York City can’t do much if anything about soaring inequality of incomes, but it could do a lot to increase the supply of housing, and thereby ensure that the inward migration of the elite doesn’t drive out everyone else.

Full column here:


30 Nov 15:49

Can the MacBook Pro Replace your iPad?

by Federico Viticci

This article by Fraser Speirs is going to upset some longtime Mac users – for me, it perfectly encapsulates all the reasons why I decided to move from a MacBook to an iPad (and now an iPad Pro) as my main computer. Two highlights:

Firstly, consider the hardware. The huge issue with the MacBook Pro is its form factor. The fact that the keyboard and screen are limited to being held in an L-shaped configuration seriously limits its flexibility. It is basically impossible to use a MacBook pro while standing up and downright dangerous to use when walking around. Your computing is limited to times when you are able to find somewhere to sit down.


If you are a road warrior, the MacBook's total lack of cellular connectivity options would be a serious hinderance to a cloud-based storage lifestyle in any case. You would think, for a device that costs up to twice as much as the most expensive cellular iPad, that Apple could afford to offer LTE radios in these devices. Sadly, MacBook Pro owners are stuck with tethering to their iPhones and burning through data plans. While tethering Macs to iPhones has improved in recent years, it will never be as good as a built-in LTE radio.

I couldn't have said it better and the entire premise of the article is genius. This is exactly why I don't want to use a MacBook any longer – I simply feel constrained by what others see as benefits of the platform.

One particular mention for Fraser's note at the end – "If journalists reviewed Macs like iPads".

30 Nov 15:29

The corner is turned

Good morning sports fans!

The corner-turn I talked about yesterday is done. 

I'm happy to report the new WebSockets code is in the server and seems to be working reliably.

Now we can try to answer the question: Is this a blogging system or a chat system? Because the updates are wired, you get them as immediately as if you were using chat. Writing in the app feels like Twitter or Facebook. And it's built around a CMS, and you can use styling and links, items can have titles, and there's an RSS feed. The server is open source. 

Next step: I have to move the server to a different machine, so I can resolve another problem. But I want to let these changes settle in a bit first. 

You know how this ends....

Still diggin! 

30 Nov 17:13

Building More Bridges

by Richard Millington

Our team at the UN had a meeting every Thursday afternoon.

Our team was small. There were 5 to 8 of us. We were part of a bigger communications group of 40 to 60 people. Which in turn was part of the Refugee Agency. Which in turn was part of the United Nations system.

Shortly after our meeting began one afternoon; a lady entered the room and sat at the far side of the conference table. We hadn’t met her before.

When we asked her what she was doing, she replied:

“I’ve just started, I’m trying to learn more about how I can work with your team. Do you mind if I sit in and just listen? I won’t interrupt”

At the UN, attending another team’s meeting is similar to entering your enemy’s HQ and pulling up a chair while they discuss their secret plans to attack you.

It was awkward, but there wasn’t really a good pretense to ask her to leave. We couldn’t openly admit we sometimes use this time to plot against other teams or we didn’t want to share information with someone who worked for the same organization.

So she stayed and took notes. At the end she asked if there was anything else she could do to help. After that we felt that she was on our side. We listened to her future requests. We tried hard to work with her. We supported her when we could.

Naturally, it wasn’t just us. She was doing this with all the teams. She attended the team meetings and soon began sharing information from each team with one another. She worked with every group as much as she could.

6 years later, long after I’ve forgotten all the petty feuds between the teams, I still remember her and what she did. I remember how effective she was at getting things done. Far more effective than any of us were for sure. I remember how she had the support of almost every team within the unit.

And I remember just how brave she was to walk into the meetings and say the simplest words “I’m trying to learn how I can work better with your team. Do you mind if I sit in and listen? I won’t interrupt”. Most importantly, I remember her offer to help at the end.

You’ve spent years learning to build communities of friends, customers, clients, and colleagues. You’ve probably struggled to get the permission or support you need at times (and perhaps today). If I could offer one suggestion, it would be to try to understand the teams around you first. Ask to join their meetings, ask how you can help.

And do this long before you need anything from them. It takes courage, for sure, but you might just be amazed at how much easier it is to get things done when you’ve built bridging capital with every unit in your organization.

30 Nov 18:22

More Energy Companies Accused Of Downplaying Climate Change

by Tyler Durden
mkalus shared this story from Zero Hedge.

Submitted by Nick Cunningham via,

A growing number of energy companies could come under increased scrutiny over their involvement in funding science and public relations campaigns denying the risks of climate change.

The New York attorney general made news a few weeks ago when he announced an investigation into oil major ExxonMobil for its alleged cover up of climate science. The investigation is looking into the possibility that ExxonMobil funded and gathered hard science on climate change, and once coming to the inevitable conclusion that the burning of fossil fuels could lead to regulatory blowback, the oil major proceeded to bury the conclusions and instead fund climate-denying science to obfuscate and head off political action.

While the news could yet blow up into a significant scandal, for now it is too early to tell what the outcome could be. However, more companies could come under fire from a growing number of attorneys general over their involvement in similar practices. After all, ExxonMobil is only the largest in a long line of companies that have pushed back against climate change policy.

The money flowing from energy companies to anti-climate change think tanks and lobbying organizations is relatively well known, and the links between the two are not hard to find. Donations to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), for example, is one of the more infamous relationships between oil and climate change lobbying. The Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) says that ExxonMobil has donated at least $1.7 million to ALEC between 1998 and 2014, a figure that CMD says is conservative. ALEC, in turn, pushed a legislative agenda to cloud the science on climate change, lobbying lawmakers across the U.S. and sowing doubts about the science of climate change.

European oil companies have taken a more proactive stance on addressing climate change. In October, for example, 10 large oil companies including BP, Shell, and Total, signed a joint letter stating their support for UN action on climate change.

To be sure, there is a big question about whether or not the New York attorney general can actually convict the oil company of a crime. Unlike the tobacco industry – a criminal case often cited as similar – it may be more difficult to prove that the energy industry directly violated the law.

A new report from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences tries to put hard evidence to the fact that money from oil companies directly led to climate-denying scientific research. Using quantitative analysis, studying reports from anti-climate change organizations over 20 years, researcher Justin Farrell illustrates an “ecosystem of influence” that contributed to public confusion over climate change. Organizations that received funding from oil companies were more likely to publish papers clouding the science on climate change. In other words, the study points the finger directly at the energy industry for its role in misleading the public.

Again, it is hard to say how that will actually play out from a legal standpoint. ExxonMobil denies any wrongdoing.

But it wasn’t alone, and whether or not the attorney general has a strong case, dozens of other companies could also come under fire for similar action.

Peabody Energy, a major coal mining company, agreed to begin disclosing the risks of climate change to its investors as part of an agreement with the same New York attorney general looking into ExxonMobil.

As the world steps up efforts to tackle climate change, we could be witnessing the beginning of a trend towards greater political and legal scrutiny on the energy industry for its role in slowing action on climate change.

The legal route is merely one element of a growing political tide moving against the energy industry. Just a few weeks ago, U.S. President Barack Obama set a precedent by rejecting the Keystone XL pipeline on climate change grounds. By all accounts, he only reached that decision after strong and persistent protest by environmental groups. Politico reported that the Koch brothers have setup an intelligence network to spy on leftist groups, in order not to be outmaneuvered again. The “Koch Intelligence Agency,” as Politico describes it, illustrates the energy industry’s rising concern over political threats.

And the international community is kicking off the Paris climate change talks this week. While few expect a landmark agreement, the momentum behind international action to crack down on carbon emissions is stronger than it was in Copenhagen in 2009. Even if no deal is reached, more regulatory action on carbon emissions can be expected in the coming years.

Obviously, oil, gas, and coal companies are not going away (at least those not near bankruptcy), but low prices are not the only existential threat facing the industry. The political movement to act on climate change is picking up steam, and the legal case against ExxonMobil perfectly illustrates that growing threat.

30 Nov 17:56

Transporter Maps: MongoDB to Elasticsearch

by Dj Walker-Morgan
Transporter Maps: MongoDB to Elasticsearch

The open source Transporter from Compose is a powerful tool and there's a lot to take in when you want to get started. With people wanting to use some particular configurations of Transporter, it is an opportune time to offer some simple recipes for those configurations. The first configuration we'll cover is MongoDB to Elasticsearch as it's the most popular use of Transporter:

MongoDB to Elasticsearch

We'll start with a quick run through of the essential components. You'll need a copy of Transporter of course. You can build it yourself using the contents of the GitHub repository compose/transporter or download one of the Transporter binaries we've made available on an as-is basis for 64 bit Linux and Mac OS X. Once you have that, you'll need a configuration file and an application file.

The configuration file

The configuration file is a YAML file, typically named config.yaml, which defines how the Transporter connects to databases. Each connection has a name, a type, a URI and a namespace. There can be more of these settings – run transporter about to list the available connections and transporter about mongo to find out about the MongoDB settings. Let's look at the start of our example config:

    type: mongo
    uri: mongodb://user:pass@host:port/dbname
    namespace: dbname.collections

We start by defining a group of nodes:. the first node is named sourcemongo and its type is mongo for a MongoDB adapter. The next two properties you'll need to configure are for your particular installation.

The first is the URI for the MongoDB database. You'll find that information on your Compose MongoDB database console overview, so log in, go to your MongoDB deployment and select the particular database you are working with. Then select Administration and copy the URI from the Connection Strings panel. You'll also need the password for a user that's able to access the database. Put those together and you'll have the URI. The second thing you need to set is the namespace. In MongoDB terms, the namespace is the name of the database followed by a period then the name of the collection. The collection name in Transporter can be a regular expression so you can match multiple collections and pull documents from all of them, but it can also be just the name of one collection.

We also need to define a destination for the data, specifically Elasticsearch. In our template configuration file we have this:

    type: elasticsearch
    uri: https://user:pass@host:port/
    namespace: index.type

This includes the name of the node, the type (elasticsearch), a URI – which you can obtain from your Compose console for your Elasticsearch deployment (along with a user name and password) – and a namespace. This time the namespace defines the index name and type the records will be created with.

That's that for the config.yaml file.

The Application file

The application file is a JavaScript program that uses the information in the config file to create a pipeline for processing the messages. Here's our bare minimum application.js file.

pipeline = Source({name:"sourcemongo").save({name:"destes")  

We are, quite literally, creating a pipeline. The Source comes from the 'sourcemongo' node in the configuration file, so all the variables there are loaded to initialize the source. That source will read documents from MongoDB and send them on down the pipeline as messages to the next part of the pipeline – in this case the save component. The save component is another read from the configuration file, this time using the node data for destes. It will take in messages and write them out.

Starting transporter

Assuming the two files above have been created, then you can first test the configuration files make sense by running:

transporter test application.js  

If you pass that and get output about how your Transporter is configured you are ready to move on.

To run the one-off transport you do:

transporter run application.js  

And the Transporter should, with this setup, silently go ahead and copy everything from the MongoDB collection or collections into Elasticsearch.

Before you do do a bulk import into Elasticsearch, consider scaling up your Elasticsearch deployment. Auto-scaling can only step in for sustained resource demand and cannot react to sudden unexpected bursts of sustained activity. Elasticsearch can generate that kind of activity during imports and it handles running into resource limits by crashing nodes. The cluster will recover and the node will come back up, but the import will take much longer. So, before importing scale your cluster at least 2x its current provision and then do the import. When it is done and activity has settled down, you will be offered the opportunity to scale down your cluster.

Now, depending on how much data you have in MongoDB to transfer, the Transporter will finish copying and exit.

Tailing MongoDB

If you prefer your Elasticsearch database be kept in sync with the MongoDB data after the initial copy, then you will likely want to use the tail option. You can invoke this by adding tail: true to either the sourcemongo node definition in the configuration file, or to the list of properties passed when creating the source in the application file. The former is more appropriate for most cases as it is then statically defined. To tail, the MongoDB user needs to also have access to the oplog. On Compose, that privilege is granted when you create a new user by selecting "oplogaccess" as one of the additional attributes of the user.

Transforming the content

Transformers are JavaScript programs which can manipulate each message passing through the pipeline. This is the canonical minimal transformer code:

module.exports = function(msg) {  
  return msg

The script is passed a msg which contains some metadata about what the message represents and the actual document being passed in The script has to return a msg which contains the modified version of the message to be passed on down the pipeline. If we save that Transformer script as transform.js we can use it in a Transporter by modifying the application script, adding a transform between the source and the sink. This leaves it looking like this:

 pipeline = Source({name:"sourcemongo"})

The transform function has a number of properties, the filename points to our script while the namespace is a selector. All messages have a namespace associated with them and we previously set the namespaces in the configuration file for the sourcemongo and destes nodes. As transformers don't appear in the configuration file, you need to specify a namespace for them when they are created in the application script.

A namespace is made up of a scope name (such as the database name or index name) and a specific name (such as the collection or type). The latter can be configured as a regular expression so that a node – save or transformer – will only work on matching messages. There's a lot of power in this mechanism, but for our needs, we want to process all messages. So, the minimum namespace we can define is ".", which will match everything.

If you run this Transporter now, nothing different will happen. We haven't told the transformer to do anything. Let's make it log every message passed to it:

module.exports = function(msg) {  
  return msg

Run that and you should get a lot of output of unformatted JSON messages. If you change the log line to console.log(JSON.stringify(msg,null,' ')) you'll get pretty printed versions of the messages; useful for when you are debugging a Transporter configuration or just looking to understand how Transporter works.

Also, when you are developing a Transporter configuration, you may want to track its progress; one option would be to use a site plugin such as Kopf, available from your Compose Elasticsearch console, which shows the count of documents in its Node view. Alternatively, you could add a progress count using the Transporter's Transformer option. For example, this transformer will emit a console update every 100 messages:


module.exports = function(msg) {  
  console.log(JSON.stringify(msg,null,' '))
  if(i%100==0) {
    console.log(i+" processed");
  return msg

Concluding this journey

Of course transformers are for more than debugging and we'll be updating our coverage of data manipulation using them in a future article. We'll also be looking at other database connections too because the Transporter is for more than just MongoDB and Elasticsearch.

For now though you should have enough information to get a Transporter running between MongoDB and Elasticsearch and debug the connection to get a reliable data transfer system. Happy Transporting.

30 Nov 18:57

The latest version of WhatsApp is blocking links to competitor Telegram

by Igor Bonifacic

The latest release of WhatsApp, version 2.12.327, is now blocking outbound links to rival messaging app

Spotted by several users on the Telegram Reddit and subsequently confirmed by the company itself, the latest version of WhatsApp will display a link to Telegram but not allow the user to click on it. Moreover, the user is unable to copy and paste links referencing Telegram into another app. Humorously, the code that governs the link blocking is so aggressive it also blocks links to, an inactive URL owned by a newspaper in the U.S.

Telegram Link Blocking

Screenshot courtesy of Reddit user Shlagger

As the Verge notes, although this is the first WhatsApp has prevented users from clicking on links that lead to a particular website or app, the practice itself is not new to the company’s owner, Facebook, which acquired the messaging app in 2014 for $16 billion. Earlier this month, the ubiquitous social network started blocking links to Tsu, a new social network that promises to share advertising revenue with users.

30 Nov 16:25

What everything isn’t

by Doc Searls

We know shit.

I mean, in respect to the Everything that surrounds us, and the culture in which we are pickled from start to finish, what we know rounds to nothing and is, with the provisional exception of the subjects and people we study and love, incomplete and therefore somewhere between questionable and wrong.

But we can’t operate in the present without some regard for the future, which brings me to a comparison of futurist related ideologies, from H+pedia, which was new to me when I saw this in a post to a list I’m on:


Here is my reply to the same list:

Must we all be “ists?”

I mean, is a historian a “pastist?”

I’m into making the future better than the present by understanding everything I can. Most of what I can understand is located in the past, but I’ve only lived through a few dozen years of that, and none of the future. So I tend to be focused on enlarging the little I know, with full awe and respect for what I don’t, and never will.

Hey, we all do our best.

A shrink I know says nearly everything mentally productive about us owes to OCD: obsessive compulsive disorder. Same goes for nearly all our problems. Name one of either, and there’s a good chance OCD is at work there.

Just passing that along. Not sure it’s a learning, but as provisional wisdom it doesn’t fully suck.

And maybe that’s the best we can do.

Whch is also, by the way, roughly what I got from The End of the Tour, which I watched on a friend’s home screen a couple nights ago. Here’s a good essay about it by Stephen Marche (@StephenMarche) in Esquire.

27 Nov 00:00

Ten steps to make Canada a leader in science


Lee Smolin, Maclean's, Nov 30, 2015

Following from  yesterday's discussion of science in Canada, we have today this post from Lee Smolin in Maclean's. Essentially, the advice is to focus on emerging leaders in promising domains overlooked by other institutions, to invest heavily in them, and to give them free reign, rewarding discoveries rather than citations or publications. I'm sure many scientists would nod in agreement. But it's the 'big man' theory of science, focused on rewarding a few stars (mostly just for being stars) and in my view it places at risk the overall scientific infrastructure in the country. The purpose of science isn't only to focus in this way. And you can't simply buy this focus from abroad, as Smolin suggests, you have to grow it at home, creating the field where emerging leaders can arise and promising international candidates can land. Science depends not on its stars (there's always a 'star') but on broad-based community support for science.

[Link] [Comment]
29 Nov 04:44

Polluter Lib / Clean Machines

by Bret Victor

you can and must

29 Nov 00:00

Mobile App Developers are Suffering


Alex Austin, Medium, Nov 30, 2015

Good article explaining why it is nearly impossible today to break into the app market with enough impact to build a sustainable revenue base. Essentially, the market (consisting of the apple and Google app stores) is rigged in favour if the incumbents (and those apps with a special relationship with Apple and Google). Yes, the app market could be reformed - but this would require the cooperation of the platforms, and the platforms have zero incentive to do so. I think (along with the author, and Ben Werdmuller) that if we're looking for innovation, we should look for it in the web space (and for apps that can be loaded and discarded instantly, like web pages).

[Link] [Comment]
29 Nov 02:31

Recommended on Medium: "When Feminism Is a Brand" in HACK GROW LOVE

We need to talk about the ever increasing number of men like James Deen who utilize feminism as a marketable identity to cover up their…

Continue reading on Medium »

29 Nov 07:24

Twitter Favorites: [donnamatrix] @sillygwailo

29 Nov 20:49

Twitter Smackdown

by Ken Ohrn

Street redesign (traffic reduction) attracts opposition, arguement and counterargument in Walthamstow, an outer suburb of London.  My fave phrase of today, and maybe for quite a while:  “. . . industrial strength, ocean-going rubbish.”

RT @peterwalker99: The ‘class’ argument is pretty silly, and Gilligan demolishes it with a few facts (quoted by @Lakerlikes )



Peter Walker is a news reporter for the Guardian in London.

29 Nov 21:33

The Plutocrat vs Hitler 2.0

Jeb is full of it because there's basically no difference in the kind of government you'll get from Hillary Clinton and a garden variety Republican presidential candidate. Cruz, Rubio, Christie, Bush or Clinton will fill the job description more or less the same way. We learned that with Obama. Style differences, not very substantial.

So Jeb is a crazy lunatic asshole idiot country-fucker, if he really would work for Trump's election over HRC, because Trump truly is a different breed, and if he were elected we'd be in for a rough ride, even compared to what we've been dealing with the last few years.

We have big problems to address. Climate change. Loose nukes. Internet meltdown, all coming soon. HRC would probably give us some leadership, and honestly probably so would the others. They will all rob the country blind, and further enrich the plutocracy, but if the only other choice is electing Hitler 2.0, I think I'd go for the plutocrat. 

PS: But at least Jeb made some headlines. Probably what he was actually trying to do. :-)

29 Nov 20:00

Game of Homes

What happened was, I got on an airplane, unexpectedly finished my book, and discovered there wasn’t much else downloaded on that device. So I started re-reading what was there, namely Game of Thrones. It’s hard to stop doing that once you start, and what’s worse, I can’t help thinking about Vancouver Real Estate.

Throne for sale

You may not have thought that our local home-selling business featured royal incest, bloody slaughter, and the frequent display of bare breasts. And well, you’d be right, it doesn’t. But bear with me.

Sidebar: The Ice and Fire Books

If you haven’t read these — in particular if you’ve been watching GoT on HBO and haven’t — you really ought to. They’re a rich, polished tough-to-put-down body of work and given their thickness, at thirty bucks and change pretty cost-effective entertainment. We started watching the HBO series but gave up on it —  our video time is limited, and GoT is OK but it’s neither Joss Whedon nor Orphan Black. Anyhow, I’m enjoying re-reading the books.

Back to Vancouver

Real estate here is ridiculously, ludicrously ovepriced; both absolutely, and measured by the personal-income-to-housing-cost ratio. It’s a real problem. Families with kids are being priced out of the kinds of neighborhoods they really belong. And at work, Amazon’s ability to hire senior employees is limited to local people, and to those from similarly-insane markets such as San Francisco, London, New York, and Hong Kong. People from anywhere else can’t afford to buy a family-suitable house, even on high-tech salaries.

Two of the reasons are easy to understand. Most obviously, Vancouver is one of Canada’s nicest places to live, regularly scoring in the world’s top three in one ratings guide or another. Also we’re boxed in by the mountains and the Pacific and the USA so we can’t sprawl; which contributes on the nice-place-to-live front.

The legend

It turns out that a great many people in Vancouver totally believe there’s a third dimension to the real-estate madness:

  1. Foreign buyers.

  2. Specifically, Asian foreigners.

  3. Chinese, to be precise.

  4. Not just any Chinese, but wealthy mainland Chinese.

  5. That wealth being of sketchy provenance.

  6. The purchases often left standing empty.

  7. Or perhaps inhabited by students or Mom and the kids, while Dad works on more wealth back home.

  8. And finally, that these inhabitants report no income, pay little or no tax, but use lots of the social services.

Is this true? Totally? Mostly? A little bit? At all? The thing is, nobody really knows. Reliable statistics seem unavailable — to the point that gathering some was an issue in our recent election.

Anecdotal evidence is thick on the ground. Time after time I hear people talk about their neighborhoods; about the dark windows at night, about the solo student in the mansion, about the mansion being torn down to build a bigger mansion.

What’s the elephant in the room? Racism. Not overt, of course, partly because if you have a group of more than about four people here, one or two of them will look Asian. But actually Western Canada has a 120-year history of anti-Chinese racism . Also, Canada’s population has been built on wave after wave of immigration, and there’s a long tradition of each wave wanting to slam the door shut behind it.

What I think

I bet the reality isn’t as simple as the legend, and I don’t see that stuff happening in my neighborhood. But I’m pretty sure that when real statistics arrive, they’ll show that some of the things on that list are happening, to some degree.

For straightforward reportage on what people think is happening, see Kathy Tomlinson’s Vancouver house-buying frenzy leaves half-empty neighbourhoods. For a more nuanced take with good journalistic values, read Frances Bula’s What data is it really that we’re looking for in Vancouver’s housing market? It’s easy to believe that, as Ms Bula argues, even if our real-estate market dosn’t have a Chinese-money problem, we quite likely do have a global-capital issue. She also points out the glaring absence of hard data, in Why you should be wary of stories saying “census proves rich Asians live in mansions and pay no taxes”.


Let’s assume that buckets of overseas money are flowing into Vancouver. The conventional explanation — which I find believable — is that the local real-estate is being used mostly just like a bank account; a safer place to put money than under your mattress. Why here?

At this point I’d ask you to step aside and read a wonderful blog piece from last year: The Rule of Law is Vastly Under-Priced, by “Cassandra”. The piece echoes its title but is rich and entertaining.

And that’s why; global money sloshes in here seeking the Rule of Law. Which is to say, looking for places that are maximally unlike Game of Thrones. I was reading one of the episodes where Arya Stark trudges with temporary allies through a war-torn landscape, seeking safety at all costs; and thinking that that’s how people in many parts of the world feel about trying to protect their life’s savings.

There is nothing people won’t do to protect their families. I grew up in the Middle East and have seen the awful landscapes the desperate Syrians are trudging through to get to the high-risk boat-ride to Greece. Trying to stop people fleeing war is not only despicable, it’s futile.

Trying to stop the wealthy from putting their capital out of reach of an Anti-Corruption Campaign may be not be despicable, but it’s not easy either.

The differences between one rule-of-law jurisdiction and another are qualitative and significant. But once you’ve stepped outside that Rule of Law, it can start to smell like Westeros very damn fast. And these days, you don’t need crossbowmen in the musician’s loft, or swordsmen on horseback, to create a climate of fear. And drive up housing costs on the other side of the world.

29 Nov 23:48

The Devil in My Pocket

by Reverend
2015-11-29 12.40.15 HDR

The Dolemite Mountain on the Horizon

I’ve been on what seems like a two month vacation, and it isn’t getting old one bit. I’ve been taking advantage of my new found freedom from more traditional ideas of work, and spending a lot more time hanging out with my family. I’ve been working hard too, but I love what I do so that just feels like part of the fun. The huge bonus is I can work from where ever I am, and that has changed everything. I finally got the bavaphone so that I can be more present and online for Reclaim Hosting, and that’s working out well.

2015-11-29 14.40.59

Albergo “3 Cima”

But the other reason I got it was to start capturing all those little moments I missed without it. I always wanted to be like Tom Woodward; his camera has literally been a part of his body for years, and as a result he takes awesome photos. But I’m not him. I’m a producer of convenience, and lugging a big camera around is not convenient, which made not having a small device in my pocket at all times more and more of a drag. And once I came to Italy in October it was impossible to resist the mobile siren’s call, there were just too many awesome things I needed to capture. What’s more, I could almost immediately bombard my social media accounts with them to make bragging about living abroad even easier—it was a done deal in my mind.

2015-11-29 16.19.46

Panorama from Mezzolomardo

All the images above are shots I took today while visiting the upper half of Mezzocorona, a small town 1800 feet up in the Italian alps that you can only reach by foot, cable car, or helicopter. We took the cable car, and the panorama directly above is a look out over the valley, the one above that is a shot of the hotel/restaurant “3 Cimas” (or 3 peaks) that we ate at, and the first is a shot of the Dolemite mountain range you can hike to from Mezzocorona. It’s a stunning environment, and I had my camera with me to capture it all. What’s more, I’ve started playing with the video on my phone, and the following two videos capture the cable car ride up the mountain, as well as the return trip using the time-lapse filter. So awesome.

Funivia up to Mezzocorona from Jim Groom on Vimeo.

Funivia down from Mezzocorona from Jim Groom on Vimeo.

While we were walking around Mezzocorona our friends Claudia and Giorgio’s son Ruggiero—and avid basketball player (it’s HUGE in Italy!)—had brought along his ball and he, Miles and Tommaso were playing around with it. We ultimately landed on a big old tree that had fallen, and we started taking slow-motion videos of the kids jumping off of it. But as luck would have it there was an empty trash can nearby that was about the size of a hoop, and the rest is slow motion history. Quickly the game “Who could sink the ball in the garbage can from the dead tree” was established and captured in beautiful slow motion on high definition video thanks to the devil in my pocket!

Ruggiero for 3 from Jim Groom on Vimeo.

An Italian Pickup Game from Jim Groom on Vimeo.

Tommaso takes a shot from Jim Groom on Vimeo.

This stuff never gets old for me. I love the idea of these tiny, compact moments captured and shared on the spot and beyond. It’s what I have always loved about blogging, and it’s what got me started with Planet Miles. I missed having this possibility for the last ten years or so, but I’m a stubborn man. That said, I promise I’ll make up for it now that I have changed my evil ways :)

30 Nov 00:09

fruitsoftheweb: “Recent advances in computer graphics now make...


Recent advances in computer graphics now make it possible construct realistic, 3D animated computer models of swimmers, which can then be used for a detailed analysis of swimmingtechnique by coaches and athletes.“

30 Nov 00:59

Fukuoka to extend SkyTrain subway

by Daryl Dela Cruz

Featured above: The Nanakuma Line in Fukuoka uses LIM propulsion (SkyTrain technology)

Above video: (Japanese) report about the Nanakuma Line extension project in the City of Fukuoka

Japanese cities are leading the way in their investment in the same linear motor technology systems powering the Vancouver SkyTrain system.

A few weeks ago, the City of Fukuoka confirmed a major 1.6km extension of its Nanakuma Subway line, from its present terminus in Tenjin-Minami to the city’s intercity train terminal at Hakata Station. This extension will create a new extension from the south end of the Tenjin city centre area to Hakata Station, while passing underneath Canal City – a major mall in the city and Japan’s largest private development complex.


Map of the Nanakuma Line extension on the Fukuoka city website

This extension will make the Nanakuma Line more accessible to intercity travellers arriving via the bullet train (Shinkansen) from Osaka, Kagoshima or Nagasaki at Hakata Station, and it will also improve transfers to the city’s Airport Line subway and connections to the airport, by allowing travellers to bypass the most congested section of the airport line at Nakasu-Kawabata.

Construction for this extension is already ongoing and is visible on Fukuoka’s city streets. The new extension is expected to be complete by 2020.

Click to view slideshow.

I am pleased to hear about this extension as Fukuoka is the largest city in Kyushu, the southwestern area of Japan where I lived in during my past year. In my time there I made frequent visits to the city, including frequent use of its subway lines. The Nanakuma Line was the first “SkyTrain technology” subway I visited, right after I arrived last September.

Sendai opening brand new SkyTrain technology line next week

Next week, Sendai will be proceeding with the opening of its east-west Tozai Line – a brand new subway system constructed with linear motor (SkyTrain) technology.

The City of Sendai has already hosted a test ride, attended by over 6000 would-be passengers of the new rapid transit line.

Above video: (Japanese) news report showing test rides last week on the Sendai Subway Tozai Line

The test rides were successful and the line is on track to open for revenue service in exactly 1 week on December 6, 2015.

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29 Nov 08:00

Documentation debt

There's lots of talk about technical debt, but documentation debt is just as real and similar. Every line of documentation written needs maintaining and keeping up to date... and the chances are that over time it will slowly become more and more outdated and useless.

This does harm when the documentation actively misleads people, causing them to make wrong decisions and costing them time. You've probably all seen a person come onto a mailing list or group chat wondering why something doesn't work and getting frustrated. Followed by the answer "oh that documentation is out of date".

That frustration is real and can be harmful to your project.

  • Avoid documenting stuff that doesn't need to be documented, especially if it is documented elsewhere. For example: if your project is on GitHub and follows standard practices, you shouldn't really need to document that commit process.

  • Avoid the trap of "it might be useful to someone". It just might however taking that to its extreme means you can't distinguish what to document. In code terms this is similar to "let's make this an Adpater/Factory/Engine/Class of boggling complexity because in the future someone might want to..." problem.

  • Review your documentation and be merciless about cutting things.

  • Apply a review process to your documentation.. Wiki's are fine for collaboration and spontaneity but that might not be suitable for your projects documentation. One example is to use source control tools to store your documentation and apply a similar review process.

  • Finally, if a document needs critical information, putting it at the top of the page is pointless if the page runs for more than one screen length. For example consider this page vs this page, both are deprecated.

Just as you spend time reviewing technical debt, I recommend reviewing and cleaning documentation debt too.

29 Nov 19:18

Piggy-Back WiFi for the Raspberry Pi Zero

by Rui Carmo
Click on the image to zoom in

Neat. Not too hard to do, either.

30 Nov 01:38

Revisiting the Word ‘Recognition’ in #FOSS and the Dream of Open Credentials

by Emma

I think a lot about ways we can better surface Participation as real-world offering for professional and personal development.

And this tweet from Laura  triggered all kinds of thinking.

Check out this @BryanMMathers and @dajbelshaw on why open source needs open badges: @opensourceway

— Laura Hilliger (@epilepticrabbit) November 27, 2015

Most thinking was reminiscent at first. 

Working on open projects teaches relevant skills, helps establish mentorship relationships and surfaces hidden strengths and talents. It’s my own story.

And then reflective..

The reason we’ve struggled to make participation a universally recognized opportunity for credential building, is our confusion over the term ‘recognition’. In Open Source we use this term to mean of similar, yet entirely different meanings:

* Gratitude (“hey thanks for that !”)

* You’re making progress (“great work, keep going! “)

* Appreciation (“we value you”)

* You completed or finished something (congratulations you did it!)

In my opinion, many experiments with badges for FOSS participation have actually compounded the problem: If I am issued a badge I didn’t request( and I have many of these) , or don’t value ( I have many of these too) we’re using the process as a prod and not as a genuine acknowledgement of accomplishment.  That’s OK, gamification is OK – but it’s not credential building in the real-world sense, we need to separate these two ‘use cases’ to move forward with open credentials. 

And I kept thinking…

The Drupal community already does a good job at helping people surface real-world credentials. member profiles expose contribution and community leadership, while  business profiles  demonstrate (and advertise) their commitment through project sponsorship, and contribution.  Drupal also has this fantastic series of project ladders which I’ve always thought would be a great way to experiment with badges, designing connected learning experiences through participation.  Drupal ladders definitely inspired my own work with around a ‘Participation Standard‘ , and I wonder how projects can work together a bit more on defining a standard for  ‘Distributed Recognition’ even between projects like Mozilla, Drupal and Fedora.  

@sunnydeveloper oh I agree! Drupal has its own special benefits from this too, around distributed recognition of contribution /@dajbelshaw

— Rachel Lawson (@rachel_norfolk) November 27, 2015

And the relentless thinking continued…

@makerbase has potential to profile FOSS communities, but without manual-additions being the only way to add contributors. — Emma Irwin (@sunnydeveloper) November 28, 2015

@sunnydeveloper we are definitely thinking about that! /cc @amateurhuman

— Anil Dash (@anildash) November 28, 2015

I then posed the question in our Discourse — asking what ‘Open Credentials’ could look like for Participation at Mozilla . And there are some great responses so far, including solutions like Makerbase and   reminder of of how hard it current is to be ‘seen’ in the Mozilla community, and thus how important this topic actually is.









And the thinking will continue, hopefully as a growing group ….

What I do know is that we have to stop using the word recognition as the catch all, and that there is huge opportunity to build Open Credentials through Participation and leadership framework might be a way to test what that looks like.

If you have opinions – would love to have you join our discussion thread!

image by jingleslenobel CC by-NC-ND 2.0