Category Archives: random

Dear Neglected Blog Readers… (some updates and cool links)

… I’ve not stopped blogging! I’ve just been really swamped and having my intellectual batteries recharged.

Frankly, I’ll admit they were feeling flat, but I got some really juicy posts I’m mulling over. In the mean time I’m just trying to catch up on life – it’s been an exciting 7 days. Here’s a list of what I’ve seen/been up to with lots of links to great people and wonderful orgs. Feast on the great people to great things in the world – I know I have!

I spent the weekend at FooCamp – a gathering of the Friends of O’Reilly – where I hosted sessions on “Why is there no Open Data in Open Source communities?” with old friend and Wikimedia Metrics lead Diederik Van Liere, “The End of the World: Will the Internet kill the State or Will the State Kill the Internet” with Vivek Kundra and then “How to Negotiate with Someone and Stay Friends” on my own. All the sessions had amazing participants but, of course, the real renewal came from other peoples’ sessions and the great conversations that happened all over.

From there it was a red eye flight from SFO -> JFK and taxi straight to the Personal Democracy Forum. If you’ve never been to PDF I highly, highly recommend it. Great speakers on the dangers and opportunities that arise around the intersection between technology and politics. Van Jones, Susan Crawford, Todd Park, Cheryl Contee, Masha Gessen and many others gave great talks.

Thanks to the generous support of the Omidyar Network I also moderated a panel on the Open Government Partnership (OGP) with Juan Pardinas from the Mexican Institute for Competitiveness, Marko Rakar a Croatian OGP committee member, John Wonderlich from the Sunlight Foundation, and Caroline Mauldin from the State Department. The conversation balanced opportunity with criticism and, we had great comments from audience members like Anne-Marie Slaughter, and most interestingly, the room was packed. I thought a topic as technical as the OGP would only gather a small audience, but could not have been so wrong. Finally, Mozilla had an interesting sessions with Beth Novak, Clay Shirky and Mark Surman on teaching hacking as a way of building citizenship skills.

Following PDF on Monday and Tuesday I headed over to the Council on Foreign Relations on Wednesday to give a small luncheon talk and do a panel with Warren Krafchik of the International Budget Partnership. Title: Innovations for Open Government: Can Transparency Promote Accountability, Equity, and Economic Inclusion? the speedy team at the council has already posted an audio recording which you can listen to here. Very grateful to Terra Lawson-Remer for inviting me to come speak and for the engaging audience who prompted Warren and I with great questions.

And, in the midst of all this, I’ve been joined in New York by my wonderful partner and our cute little son which of course, means that I’m being more father than blogger at the moment.

But, as I mentioned above all of this has gotten me renewed on a lot of different questions so am looking forward to blogging about all of this in the near future. I apologize for the scarceness of blog posts of late. Trust me, it won’t last long!


My LRC Review of "When the Gods Changed" and other recommended weekend readings

This week, the Literary Review of Canada published my and Taylor Owen’s review of When the Gods Changed: The Death of Liberal Canada by Peter C. Newman. For non-Canadians Peter Newman is pretty much a legend when it comes to covering Canadian history and politics, he was editor of the country’s largest newspaper and main news magazine and has published over 35 books. I also think the review will be of interest to non-Canadians since I think the topic of the decline of Liberal Canada are also true for a number of other countries experiencing more polarized politics.

Some other articles I’ve been digesting that I recommend for some Friday or weekend reading:

Why China’s Political Model Is Superior

This one is a couple of months old, but it doesn’t matter. Fascinating read. For one it shows the type of timelines that the Chinese look at the world with. Hint. It is waaayyyy longer than ours. Take a whiff:

In Athens, ever-increasing popular participation in politics led to rule by demagogy. And in today’s America, money is now the great enabler of demagogy. As the Nobel-winning economist A. Michael Spence has put it, America has gone from “one propertied man, one vote; to one man, one vote; to one person, one vote; trending to one dollar, one vote.” By any measure, the United States is a constitutional republic in name only.

Unattractive Real Estate Agents Achieve Quicker Sales

Before getting serious on you again, here’s a lighter more interesting note. I often comment in talks I give that real estate agents rarely use data to attract clients – mostly just pictures of themselves. Turns out… there might be more data in that then I thought! Apparently less attractive agents sell homes faster and work harder. More attractive agents take longer, but get more money. Food for thought here.

Andrew Coyne: Question isn’t where conservatism is going, but where has it gone

Another oldie but a goody. Liberal Canada may be dead, but it appears that Conservative Canada isn’t in much better shape. I’ve always enjoyed Coyne and feel like he’s been sharper than usual of late (since moving back to the National Post). For Americans, there may be some interesting lessons in here for the Tea Party movement. Canada experienced a much, much lighter form of conservative rebellion with creation of the Reform Party in the late 80s/early 90s which split off from establishment conservatives. Today, that group is now in power (rebranded) but Coyne assesses that much of what they do has been watered down. But not everything… to the next two articles!

Environmental charities ‘laundering’ foreign funds, Kent says

Sadly, Canada’s “Environment” Minister is spending most of his time attacking environmental groups. The charge is that they use US money to engage in advocacy against a pipeline to be built in Canada. Of course “Laundering” is a serious charge (in infers illegal activity) and given how quick the Conservatives have been in suing opponents for libel Kent had better be careful the stakeholders will adopt this tactic. Of course, this is probably why he doesn’t name any groups in particular (clever!). My advice, is that all the groups named by the Senate committee should sue him, then, to avoid the lawsuit he’d have to either a) back down from the claim altogether, or b) be specific about which group he is referring to to have the other suits thrown out. Next headline… to the double standard!

Fraser Institute co-founder confirms ‘years and years’ of U.S. oil billionaires’ funding

Some nifty investigative work here by a local Vancouver reporter finds that while the Canadian government believes it is bad for environmental groups to receive US funds for advocacy, it is apparently, completely okay for Conservative groups to receive sums of up to $1.7M from US oil billionaires. Ethical Oil – another astro-turf pro-pipeline group does something similar. It receives money from Canadian law firms that represent benefiting American and Chinese oil interests. But that money is labelled “Canadian” because it is washed through Canadian law firms. Confused? You should be.

What retail is hired to do: Apple vs. IKEA

I love that Clay Christiansen is on twitter. The Innovator’s Dilemma is a top 5 book of all time for me. Here is a great break down of how IKEA and Apple stores work. Most intriguing is the unique value proposition/framing their stores make to consumers which explains their phenomenal success as why they are often not imitated.

Sharing ideas about

As some of you may remember, the other week I suggested that on its one year anniversary we hack – specifically, that people share what data sets they find most interesting on the website, especially as it is hard to search it.

Initially I’d uploaded a list of all the data sets on the catalog to buzzdata. However the other day the administrators added a data set that is a list of all the data sets available on the site (meta, I know). This new list is, apparently, an even more robust and up to date list than the one I shared earlier and is available in both official languages.

If you do end up finding data you think is particularly interesting, creating a list of your favourite data sets, doing a mash up or visualization or (most ambitiously) creating a better way to search please send me your results, a link, or at least an email. I’ll be posting what I find interesting tonight or tomorrow morning and would love to link to anything anyone else has done too!


Like me, Canadians prefer Patriots over Giants this sunday (or so says Google data)

After a rough bought of food poisoning… I’m back.

For some random reasons I got a PR notice from the people at APEX communications in Toronto who Google insights to see which of the two Superbowl NFL teams Canadians were searching for more.

So… okay, just Canadians searched more for the Patriots doesn’t mean that they prefer them but as a hard core parts fan, that’s what I’m choosing to believe. It was, nonetheless, a great reminder that I should be checking out Google Insights more. I have, for example, noticed that the Globe and Mail has been using Google searches as a proxy for assessing the popularity of NDP leadership candidates. Going to try to think of a couple of interesting search querries I should set up… For example, I wonder how often people are searching for Open Government or Gov 2.0 and in which jurisdictions…

Go Pats!

GoDaddy, Mashable and Kernel – mistaking protests for mobs

This week, while enjoying a little down time, I’ve been peeking online from time to time to see what has been going on with the Go Daddy boycott. For those who haven’t been following the story, Go Daddy, a internet domain registration company, came out in support of SOPA – a proposed US law that, in my and the minds of many internet users puts intellectual property rights ahead of civil liberties and creates an “all-you-can-sue-buffet” that essential eliminates due process for many creators who choose to publish on the internet.

As a result of the boycott thousands of internet users – including a number of famous sites such as Wikipedia – have been transfering the domain registration from Go Daddy to alternative companies.

It has been great to see so many internet citizens choose to stand up for their rights and vote with their pocket books. What has been less inspiring is seeing some social media experts completely miss the boat.

For example, I was stunned to see of Mashable write a piece entitled It’s Time to Cut Go Daddy a Break and Milo Yiannopoulos of Kernel write GoDaddy, a hapless victim of the mob both of which profoundly misunderstand what is going on because they look at the issue solely through the lens of social media and not through that of political action.

In the Mashable piece Wasserman seems to believe that once Go Daddy reversed its position – the protests should end:

Now that Go Daddy has unequivocally opposed SOPA, haters are still up in arms because the company seems to have only done it because its business was at risk. Wasn’t this the point?

As it stands now, people seem to be angry at Go Daddy for not succumbing to groupthink. It’s as if just thinking differently than the majority is some sort of crime.

This, unfortunately, is a common phenomenon of the social media age.

Errr… I’m not sure that this is an issue of group think. I agree this can be a problem, but I’m not sure thousands of people engaging in a product boycott out of concerns for their civil liberties is the example I would jump to. This thoughtful piece on the Penny Arcade cyberbulling and counter cyberbullying of Ocean Media would make for a MUCH better example.

I’m actually deeply comfortable with thousands of people crying foul about a company that sought to bring technology sector legitimacy to a deeply, deeply problematic piece of legislation and demanding that it demonstrate some deep introspection, rather the changing its position a couple of times and then grudgingly arriving at an answer that is somewhat okay. Groupthink suggests an unthinking hoard. The boycott is composed of very rational, relatively informed (compared to the general public on this issue) group of people with a political agenda.

This is why Wasserman’s question is naive, it seeks to answer a social media question, not engage the politics of the problem that motivates people – getting Go Daddy to change its position was only part of the point. The real goal here isn’t just to change Go Daddy, it’s to change a whole range of actors position. This is a political action as much as a conusmer action. More importantly, it appears to be working since EA, Sony and Nintendo have quietly dropped their support for SOPA.

But more to the point, the manner by which Go Daddy changed its position has done little to give protestors (yes that is what they are, not a mob) confidence that they should stop. Again this is something that could only be understood by looking at this issue through a political and not purely social media lens. Consider Go Daddy’s statement on their blog:

Go Daddy opposes SOPA because the legislation has not fulfilled its basic requirement to build a consensus among stake-holders in the technology and Internet communities. Our company regrets the loss of any of our customers, who remain our highest priority, and we hope to repair those relationships and win back their business over time.

There is no recognition about the concerns of their protestors/fleeing customers and no discussion about how Go Daddy would contemplate decisions like this in the future. This is maybe the most grudging change of heart ever made. When Johnson & Johnson pulled Tylenol, everyone had confidence that decision making at the company was aligned with their values and their concerns. Go Daddy has gone out of its way to do the opposite.

Does Go Daddy have the right to do this? Absolutely. But do we have the right to boycott them. Definitely. But to label those seeking to defend their civil liberties who – for pretty good reasons – think the target of their boycott is less than sincere as a mob merely engaged in groupthink is a gross oversimplification. Or maybe its just link-bait, I’m sure it drove a lot of traffic. But I suspect it isn’t going to earn any speaking engagements with Greenpeace, Amnesty or pretty much anyone trying to change the world.

Of course Yiannopoulos piece in Kernel is even worse. Here Go Daddy is a “hapless victim.” Indeed, the most priceless line in the piece is this one:

Holding authority to account is an art best practised by professionals in the media.

Yes, I’m sure a San Francisco Chronicle editorial would have had a much bigger impact.

Apparently, to Yiannopoulos, consumer boycotts are a bad thing, or at least, too important to be left to actually citizens and consumers. This is even more the case when they are organized online and can actually achieve scale and impact. Oh, and better still, those participating in the protest “had no choice but to comply” as they were “swept up in the flood.” The pure contempt for people is truly staggering. None of you have free will or critical thinking skills! Leave all this important stuff to important people who can think!

And this from a internet culture expert. Yeow.

There are real risks of mob mentality online but this is about the poorest example you could use at the moment. Here you have thousands of people engaged in effective political and consumer protest, one that is causing larger actors to rethink their positions and potentially achieve political goals. And somehow this is all a mon engaged in groupthink? My sense is a lot of people protesting Go Daddy actually have thought about the issue – they are at least informed enough to care. More importantly thank god they have a sufficiently developed sense of civic duty to act.

Research Request – Transit Study

After writing yesterday’s post on the economics of opendata and transit I’ve really been reflecting on a research question that emerged in the piece: Does having transit data embedded in Google Maps increase ridership?

My hypothesis is that it would… but I did some googling on the topic and couldn’t find anything written on the subject, not to mention something that had been rigorously researched and would stand up to peer review. This leads me to believe it could be a great research project. I willing to bet that some transit authorities, and Google would be of enormously interested in the results.

Obviously there are a number of variables that might impact public transit ridership: budgets, fleet size growth or cutbacks, the economy, population growth, etc… That said, I’m sure there is someone out there who could think of a methodology that would account for these factors and still allow us to tell if becoming available in Google Maps impact’s a city’s ridership levels.

The helpful thing is that there are lots of data points to play with. A brief scan of the public transit feed lists suggests that there are roughly 150 cities that provide Google with GTFS data of the transit schedule. That’s a lot of cities to play with and would allow a study to offset regional variations. I’m also confident that each of the transit authorities mentioned in the list publicly publish their ridership levels (or they could be FOIAed/ATIPed)

If anyone has done this study, please let me know, I’d love to know more. If no, and someone is interested in doing this study, please go for it! I’m definitely happy to offer whatever support I can.

Upcoming talks, events and other activities

So despite the fact that I only left Vancouver once(!) in August, things have been quite busy. Lots of work.

September and onwards is going to be a bear however. Lots of travel so I thought I would lay everything out in case their is overlap with readers, friends and/or clients who might be interested in catching up. Friends and colleagues who don’t already should definitely connect with me on Tripit. Awesome service. Like Dopplr, but on steroids.

So what’s on tap?

DjangoCon Keynote – Portland, Oregon, September 6th

I’ll be giving the keynote on the opening day of DjangoCon in Portland. I’ll be talking about open source community management and in particular the use of metrics and negotiation theory to rethink how communities self organize, engage new contributors and resolve differences.

Panelist, Transparency: Towards a New Generation – Mexico City, September 9th

In Mexico I’ll be doing a panel, for Mexico National Transparency Week, on the future of open government and open data, along with Andres Hoffmann, the General Director of Revista Politica Digital and Jose Eduardo Romão, the Ombudsman for Brazil’s Office of the Comptroller General. Mrs. Maria Marvan, IFAI Commissioner, will be moderating.

Negotiation and Collaborating in Open Source Communities, Mozilla All-Hands – San Diego, September 12-15

This is a event for Mozilla community members only – providing training on negotiating skills.

Interview with Charles Leadbeater (to be confirmed) – Toronto, September 19th

Obviously I’m a big admirer of Charles Leadbeater’s work. SIG is organizing an event in Toronto and Vancouver that week and if you are able I strongly encourage you to check them out.

Open Government Partnership Launch – New York, September 20th

No talk here, just excited to have been invited to the launch of the Open Government Partnership to serve as an expert. With luck, the Canadian Government will sign on and I won’t be only Canadian in room.

Fraser Valley Real Estate Board Speech – Vancouver, September 21st

The Real Estate Industry is changing. I’ve done some thinking on this subject and will be sharing how I think some emerging trends, along with open data and the competition bureau’s decision will alter the real estate landscape.

Breakfast talk on Net Neutrality and the Digital Economy in Canada – Vancouver, September 23rd

Joyce Murray, the MP for Vancouver Quadra holds regular gatherings where people like Dr. Julio Montaner (AIDS expert) and Dr. Karen Bakker (water expert) come and give brief talks. She’s asked me to come and talk on the internet, government surveillance and the digital economy. I’ll be talking around 8am at the Enigma Restaurant at W10th and Trimble.

Negotiation Work – San Francisco, September 28-29th

Some negotiation consulting for a client, but I’ll be in the Bay Area.

Panel on Open Data: A World of Possibilities – Ottawa, October 5th

I’ll be doing a panel at the 7th International Conference of Information Commissioners on “Open data: A world of possibilities” with Elizabeth Denham British Columbia’s Information and Privacy Commissioner (who, surprisingly, I’ve never met). We’ll be talking about how open data can generate innovation and economic opportunities as well as stimulate citizen engagement.

British Columbia Real Estate Association Speech– Vancouver, October 6th

Co-Chair, the Code For America Summit – San Francisco, October 13-14th

Pacific Northwest Drupal Summit – Portland, October 15-16th

I may be giving a talk at the Pacific Northwest Drupal Summit as well – waiting to hear the full plan. Definitely going to be working on some cool community management stuff with some of some Drupal community members. Promises to be fun.

Opening Keynote, Open Government Data Camp (tentative)- Warsaw, Poland, October 21st


Okay, so that’s about it. There’s a few things in there that are missing, some for personal travel, some for other clients. I have of course, also updated my public speaking page, so you can catch all of this, and other emerging things, there.





Oyster Burger. Enough said.

It would have been easy to blog about the Conservative British Government’s appalling choice to muse openly about shutting down social media sites or deny access to certain users in response to the riots… but enough people have commented on how colossally dumb this is (not to mention hypocritical given that only last year Britain lectured China about freedom of speech) that I think we are okay.

Instead, I’m more focused on sharing the joys of oyster burgers. Indeed, devouring one of these is just one of the many, many great reasons for coming to Tofino.


This bad boy was purchased from Big Daddy’s Fish Fry in Tofino – you can see two deep fried oysters in a bun with some mayonaise type sauce, and other toppings. While this a pretty fine burger, I confess that I find the oyster burger from the Wildside Grill just outside of town (who also have spot prawns as a special) to be superior, rather than separately fried oysters they mash them together into a single patty and it is just delicious…

Oh, and for the many people who’ve nooooo idea where Tofino is: some maps!

I’ve pretty casually looked to find oyster burgers in Vancouver and elsewhere and haven’t run into any success. Given how delicious these things are… it makes me wonder, why can’t I find them elsewhere?

Hoping to maybe have some photos of fish tacos from Tacofino later today – although these can now, thankfully, be bought in Vancouver as well since they have street vending license for the English Bay area. Good stuff!

Ah, summer.