Yearly Archives: 2007

My "top 10" 2007 blogging moments: #3

I’m invited to the June 2007 Executive Summit conference in Montebello to give a keynote on Gen X, Gen Y, Web 2.0 and the challenges of public service sector renewal. This is where Treasury Board gathers the CIO’s and other key IT people from across government.

After my presentation I end up in discussions with various friendly and engaging public servants. During one conversation a senior public servant challenges the notion that any government service – especially critical ones – could ever adopt the principles or ideas used by open source, or even Web 2.0 technologies. After all, he notes, we can’t rely on people, that’s why they pay taxes, so they can rely on government. This subject being a passion of mine we end up in a mini-debate during which he demands an example of an open system presently being used by government.

I ask him for a few hours and promise to blog my response.

Turns out one of the the most critical systems of our infrastructure – one that citizens expect to protect and save them from a variety of problems on a daily basis – is almost entirely dependent on a open system to deploy and allocate its resources with pinpoint accuracy. Is the entire system open source? No. But a critical component is. (Hint, it’s probably the one phone number we all know).

My “top 10″ 2007 blogging moments: #4

July of 2007 – the 10th anniversary of blogging comes and goes and no one in the Canadian media notices. Of course given that the traditional media spent as much of 1994 to mid-2007 as they could ignoring the internet, this should surprise no one.

So Taylor and I take matters into our own hands and publish this opinion piece in the Toronto Star where we try to reign in technophiles’ overhyped promise of a coming blogosphere instigated social media utopia while at the same time hammering at the Andrew Keen like technophobes who see only doom and gloom.

My “top 10″ 2007 blogging moments: #5

I commit in the autumn to write posts 4 out of every 5 business days and succeed more weeks than not.

So why make this a top 10 blogging moment?

Well, I made the commitment in part because I was (re)inspired by this great story told by Brad Isaac about his brief encounter with Jerry Seinfeld. While I encourage everyone to check out the link the most relevant part is this:

I (Brad) had to ask Seinfeld if he had any tips for a young comic. What he told me was something that would benefit me a lifetime…

He said the way to be a better comic was to create better jokes and the way to create better jokes was to write every day. But his advice was better than that. He had a gem of a leverage technique he used on himself and you can use it to motivate yourself—even when you don’t feel like it.

Anyone reading this blog will know that the most humourous things found in my posts tend to be my gaffs and typos. However, the Seinfeld story resonates with me and, from time to time, it is important I remember why I started this forum: to improve my writing and encourage a community of peers to push me on my thinking. It’s why, long before I’d read the Seinfeld, I subtitled this blog – “If writing is a muscle, this is my gym.”

The simple fact is, I find writing hard. But this blog – and its readers – give me motivation to write something almost every day. Often this may mean it’s 2am before I’m finally logging into wordpress to bang out a post – but the internal drive and the external expectations (real or imagined) I suspect some loyal readers have is, I believe, making me a better writer.

So, with that said, I’m a) saying thank you to anyone who’s ever emailed me or commented on my blog; and b) I’m getting back to my roots. I’m resurrecting my blog’s old tag line.

Writing is a muscle. And this is my gym.

My “top 10″ 2007 blogging moments: #6

This could simply be about why I love the internet. And again (shocker) it is about the community.

More specifically, it is about the encouragement.

Sometime is it positive: like when David H. encouraged me to finish this top ten list in time.

Sometimes is it, more on the constructive side: like when David H. justly outed me as the only speaker to have not given him a title and abstract for my FSOSS talk. :)

But generally, when you start writing and putting yourself out there others chip in. Sometimes it’s to provide encouragement, and sometimes to provide a more critical assessment of your thinking or writing. Either way, my ideas, my thinking and my work has all been strengthened by both the brilliant and inane thoughts that have come to me via comments and emails on this blog.

My “top 10″ 2007 blogging moments: #7

What a lot of anti-bloggers and technophobes don’t understand is that blogging becomes fun because of the sense of community it cultivates. People end up reading, linking and sharing blogs for all sorts of reasons: they find common cause, interests or values or maybe they think someone is smart, or fun or insightful. In short, a blog can lead people to connect, enabling them to exchange ideas and/or just get to know one another. Whatever David Suzuki may say, this is a real community.

Better still. while sometimes this community is online (more on that later), sometimes it transcends into real life. I’ve made this easier by posting my physical location in the right hand column of my blog (a hack I’m pretty proud of) (For those interested, I also use dopplr). Often friends refer to this to find out if and when I’ll be in town. A highlight reel moment though was when fellow blogger, ex-pat Canadian and open source fan Harley Young – who’s emailed me about some of my work and whose blog I visit – noticed we we’re both in Chicago and suggested we grab dinner. How 21st century…

While I started to blog in order to practice writing, probably the biggest unforseen benefit has been all the people its enabled me to meet – virtually and in reality.

My “top 10″ 2007 blogging moments: #8

Since it’s the holidays and everybody’s too busy shopping and seeing friends to read blogs – my meta posts will continue! Always nice to take stock.

Blogging moment number 8…

After reading a Globe and Mail report in which Harper mocks the Liberals for caring “too much” about the welfare of imprisoned Taliban insurgents I threw the paper down in disgust and banged out this blog post in literally 15 minutes. Four days later, the Star agreed to publish it as an opinion piece.

Here is the cool part:

For the first time in my life, something I wrote as a blog post gets published as opposed to something I published getting cross posted to my blog.

“If writing is a muscle, this is my gym.”

My "top 10" 2007 blogging moments: #9

Part 1)

I write complimentary book reviews of

and the authors post comments and or drop me an email. Hurray for the internet.

Part 2)

I don’t write a book review but suggest, in complete violation of copyright, that a group of volunteers dictate and record the oldest of Newman’s works as MP3 files and publish the voice recordings online so as to create free audiobook versions of his work.

Peter C. Newman actually comments (note: he doesn’t protest against the idea) and justly notes that it is crazy that all but two of his works are out of print… That man is a legend.

Part 3)

Taylor and I publish what I think is possibly one of our strongest pieces – a critical review of Michael Byers, Intent for a Nation: What Is Canada For? in Embassy Magazine, and an extended version on our blogs.

Byers does not comment.

My top 10 2007 blogging moments: #10

The slidecast of my FSOSS presentation on Community Management as the core competency of Open Source gets 750 views in 2 weeks (and counting)

That’s like 50 people a day.

Is this a self-indulgent post? Absolutely. But then any top ten list that starts with the word “my” is probably going to be. That said, it is nice to take stock after just over a year of doing this.

Don’t worry, they’ll get better.

The Problem with the Manley Panel on Afghanistan

Last Friday Michael Byers wrote this opinion piece entitled “Why I Said No to the Manley.”

As some of you know, I believe – with numerous reservations – that the Afghan mission is important. Moreover, I don’t always agree with Michael Byers. Although I think Canada’s work in Afghanistan should continue (under the right circumstances) I hope Byers op-ed is widely read. It is the most damaging critique of the Manley inquiry I’ve seen to date. In short, it is extremely well written and brings together all the criticisms in one place and delivers them with tremendous force.

The most stinging critique for me was about the panel’s independence. As Byers notes:

The Institute for Peace (which coordinated the Iraq Study Group in the United States) set up four working groups composed of non-governmental experts from across the political spectrum. It established a “military senior adviser panel” composed of retired rather than serving officers.

The Manley panel is inordinately dependent on the government. Its six-person secretariat is made up of some of the same officials who have been overseeing the Afghanistan mission. Prominent among these are David Mulroney, the current director of the government’s Afghanistan Task Force, Sanjeev Chowdhury, the former director of the Afghanistan Task Force, and Col. Mike Cessford, the former deputy commander of the Canadian mission.

Byers is bang on. There is something deeply problematic about having the same people who worked on Afghanistan and helped shape the strategy and plan, reviewing themselves to determine if they’ve taken the right course of action and if the country should continue along the same course. This is akin to allowing students to grade their own work and determine if they should continue on to the next level. While it is possibly they will conduct an objective review, the incentives, temptations and interests (for example, one’s public service career could be on the line) create powerful doubts about there ability to do so.

This is neither in the public’s interest, the Afghan mission’s interests, or our soldiers interest.

Mulroney's desperate defense: "Schreiber lies more than I do"

I’m no lawyer but every time Mulroney opens his mouth a new story seems to emerges. This can’t be good news for him.

For instance, according to the Globe and Mail, Mulroney testified that:

“…he used the cash (given to him by Mr. Screiber) to cover expenses for international travel on behalf of Mr. Schreiber and German manufacturer Thyssen AG, which he said hired him to pitch its light-armoured tanks to major heads of state.”

But a few months ago, he was claiming that the money was given to him to promote Mr. Schreiber’s pasta business.

In another instance:

“Mr. Mulroney said he was under no legal obligation to reveal the cash payments during sworn testimony in a 1996 defamation suit against Ottawa, and that he paid taxes on the funds after Mr. Schreiber was charged in 1999 to “clean” his files.”

So even though that investigation was seeking to determine if Mulroney had received money from Mr. Screiber, Mulroney didn’t feel it necessary to share this information? I suspect the public is going to start demanding that Mulroney pay back the $2.1 Million the government paid hims as part of his defamation suit. Clearly money did exchanged hands under dubious circumstances and the RCMP was quite right to investigate. The fact that they may have charged him with the wrong crime seems a lot less problematic now that we know manila envelops full of cash were going back and forth.

Indeed, what makes matters worse is that Mulroney only decided to declare the income after Schreiber was arrested for tax evasion. Mulroney likely knew that all of Screiber’s financial transactions would be scrutinized and that his own misdeeds would come to light. This, and not some new found guilt, appears to have motivated Mulroney.

Ultimately, Mulroney’s case before the Ethics Committee seemed to rest on the strategy of “you can trust me more than you can trust Schreiber.” It is true that given is pending deportation, Schreiber has every reason to lie. But given that Mulroney now has a proven track record of misleading the public, he is no more trustworthy. Arguing “he lies more!” doesn’t have the same ring as “he lies and I don’t.”

Consequently, if this is his best defense it is a desperate one. I very much doubt that, as he requested, the matter will be closed. The final decline of Mulroney may have just begun.