Tag Archives: interesting people

What I'm Digesting: Good Reads from the First Week of January

Government Procurement is Broken: Example #5,294,702 or “The Government’s $200,000 Useless Android Application” by Rich Jones

This post is actually a few months old, but I stumbled on it again the other day and could help but laugh and cry at the same time. Written by a freelance computer developer, the post traces the discovery of a simply iphone/android app the government paid $200,000 to develop that is both unusable from a user interface perspective and does not actually work.

It’s a classic example of how government procurement is deeply, deeply broken (a subject I promise to write more about soon). Many governments – and the bigger they are, the worse it gets – are incapable of spending small sums of money. Any project, in order to work in their system, must be of a minimum size, and so everything scales up. Indeed simply things are encouraged to become more expensive so that the system can process them. There is another wonderful (by which I mean terrifying) example of this in one of the first couple of chapter of Open Government.

How Governments Try to Block Tor by Roger Dingledine

For those who don’t know what Tor is, it’s “free software and an open network that helps you defend against a form of network surveillance that threatens personal freedom and privacy, confidential business activities and relationships, and state security known as traffic analysis.” Basically, if you are someone who doesn’t want anyone – particularly the government – seeing what websites you visit, you need Tor. I don’t think I need to say how essential this service is, if say, you live China, Iran or Syria or obviously Egypt, Libya, Tunisia or any of the other states still convulsing from the Arab Spring.

The hour and 10 minute long speech is a rip roaring romp through the world of government surveillance. It’s scary than you want to know and very, very real. People die. It’s not pretty but it is incredible. For those of you not technically inclined, don’t be afraid, there is techno-babble you won’t understand but don’t worry, it won’t diminish the experience.

The Coming War on General Computation by Cory Doctorow

Another video, also from the Chaos Communication Conference in Berlin (how did I not know about this conference? pretty much everything I’ve seen out of it has been phenomenal – big congrats to the organizers).

This video is Cory Doctorow basically giving everybody in the Tech World a solid reality check the state of politics and technology. If you are a policy wonk who cares about freedom of choice, industrial policy, copyright, the economy or individual liberty, this strikes video is a must view.

For those who don’t know Cory Doctorow (go follow him on Twitter right now) he is the guy who made Minister Moore look like a complete idiot on copyright reform (I also captured their twitter debate here).

Sadly, the lunacy of the copyright bill is only going to be the beginning of our problems. Watch it here:

Ada Lovelace Day – On Dr. Connie Eaves

For those who don’t know: Today – October 7th – is Ada Lovelace Day. It’s a day where you “share your story about a woman — whether an engineer, a scientist, a technologist or mathematician — who has inspired you to become who you are today.”

It would be remiss for me not to blog about Dr. Connie Eaves. For anyone who thinks I travel a lot, work long hours, or have a passion for evidence and data, I am really just a pale shadow when compared to this inspiring and globally recognized cancer researcher. For those not familiar with her – which is probably anyone outside the field of cancer research and not an avid reader of the journal Blood – you can catch her bio on Wikipedia here.

She is, of course, also my mom.

Obviously, if you are a woman (or a man) interested in getting into science – particularly human biology and stem cell research – I would point you to my mother (and father) as people to get to know, but for me her inspiration is much simpler. At a basic level, there are two invaluable gifts my mother has given me, which I feel are particularly salient to her scientific achievements.

The first, and most important, was the building blocks of critical thinking: To break down an argument and understand it from every angle, as well as dissect the evidence embedded within it. These lessons were hard ones. I learned a lot of it just through observation, and sometimes – more painfully – from trying to engage her in debate. I’ve seen graduate students tremble in fear about engaging my mother in debate. While my victories have been few, I’ve been doing it since probably the age of five or earlier, and it has helped shape my brain in powerful ways in which, I suspect, many masters or doctoral students would happily travel around the world to be exposed to. I am exceedingly lucky.

The second gift my mom bestowed me is her work ethic and drive. I have grown up believing that working for 12 hours, 7 days a week may actually be normal behaviour. There is good and bad in taking on such norms. Neither one of us probably thinks it is healthy when we skip eating all day because we zone out into our work. But that intensity has its upsides, and I’m grateful to have been exposed to it. Indeed, I’d like to think I work hard, but standing next to her, I still often just feel lazy.

I mention these two traits not just because they have had such a great impact on me, but also because I think they’re a reflection of what extraordinary skills were required by my mother to be a successful woman scientist embarking on a career in the 1960s. The simple fact is that in that era, as much as we’d like to think it was not true, I suspect that to be a women scientist – to get on tenure track – you had to be smarter and work harder than almost anyone around you. It is one reason why I think the women scientists of that generation are generally so remarkable. The sad truth is: They had to be.

The happy upside is that for me, purely selfishly, is I got the benefit of being raised by someone who survived and thrived in what I imagine was at times a hostile environment to women. Paradoxically, the benefits I enjoyed are those I would wish on any child in a heartbeat, while the asymmetric expectation are those I would wish on no one.

Happy Ada Lovelace mom.

Articles I'm digesting – 25/5/2010

Been a while since I’ve done one of these. A couple of good ones ranging from the last few months. Big thank you’s to those who sent me these pieces. Always enjoy.

The Meaning of Open by Jonathan Rosenberg, Senior Vice President, Product Management

Went back and re-read this. Every company makes mistakes and Google is no exception (privacy settings on Buzz being everyone’s favourite) but this statement, along with Google’s DataLiberartion.org (which unlike Facebook is designed to ensure you can extract your information from Google’s services) shows why Google enjoys greater confidence than Facebook, Apple or any number of its competitors. If you’re in government, the private or the non-profit sector, read this post. This is how successful 21st century organizations think.

Local Governments Offer Data to Software Tinkerers by Claire Cain Miller (via David Nauman & Andrew Medd)

Another oldie (December 2009 is old?) but a goodie. Describes a little bit of the emerging eco-system for open local government data along with some of the tensions it is creating. Best head in the sand line:

Paul J. Browne, a deputy commissioner of the New York City Police Department, said it releases information about individual accidents to journalists and others who request it, but would not provide software developers with a regularly updated feed. “We provide public information, not data flow for entrepreneurs,” he said.

So… if I understand correctly, the NYPD will only give data to people who ask and prefer to tie up valuable resources filling out individual requests rather than just provide a constant feed that anyone can use. Got it. Uh, and just for the record, those “entrepreneurs” are the next generation of journalists and the people who will make the public information useful. The NYPD’s “public information” is effectively useless, much like that my home town police department offers. Does anyone actually looks at PDF’s and pictures of crimes? That you can only get on a weekly basis? Really? In an era of spreadsheets and google maps… no.

Didacticism in Game Design by Clint Hocking (via Lauren Bacon)

eaves.ca readers meet Clint Hocking. My main sadness in introducing you is that you’ll discover how a truly fantastic, smart blog reads. The only good news for me us that you are hopefully more interested in public policy, open source and things I dwell on than video games, so Clint won’t steal you all away. Just many of you.

A dash of a long post post that is worth reading

As McLuhan says: the medium is the message. When canned, discrete moral choices are rendered in games with such simplicity and lack of humanity, the message we are sending is not the message specific to the content in question (the message in the canned content might be quite beautiful – but it’s not a ludic message) – it is the message inherent in the form in which we’ve presented it: it effectively says that ‘being moral is easy and only takes a moment out of each hour’. To me, this is almost the opposite of the deeper appreciation of humanity we might aim to engender in our audience.

Clint takes video games seriously. And so should you.

The Analytic Mode by David Brooks (via David Brock)

These four lines alone make this piece worth reading. Great lessons for students of policy and politics:

  • The first fiction was that government is a contest between truth and error. In reality, government is usually a contest between competing, unequal truths.
  • The second fiction was that to support a policy is to make it happen. In fact, in government power is exercised through other people. It is only by coaxing, prodding and compromise that presidents [or anyone!] actually get anything done.
  • The third fiction was that we can begin the world anew. In fact, all problems and policies have already been worked by a thousand hands and the clay is mostly dry. Presidents are compelled to work with the material they have before them.
  • The fourth fiction was that leaders know the path ahead. In fact, they have general goals, but the way ahead is pathless and everything is shrouded by uncertainty

The case against non-profit news sites by Bill Wyman (via Andrew Potter)

Yes, much better that news organizations be beholden to a rich elite than paying readers… Finally someone takes on the idea that a bunch of enlightened rich people or better, rich corporate donors, are going to save “the news.” Sometimes it feels like media organizations are willing to do anything they can to avoid actually having to deal with paying customers. Be it using advertisers and relying on rich people to subsidize them, anything appears to be better than actually fighting for customers.

That’s what I love about Demand Media. Some people decry them as creating tons of cheap content, but at least they looked at the market place and said: This is a business model that will work. Moreover, they are responding to a real customer demand – searches in google.

Wyman’s piece also serves as a good counterpoint to the recent Walrus advertising campaign which essentially boiled down to: Canada needs the Walrus and so you should support it. The danger here is that people at the Walrus believe this line: That they are of value and essential to Canada even if no one (or very few people) bought them or read them. I think people should buy The Walrus not because it would be good for the country but because it is engaging, informative and interesting to Canadians (or citizens of any country). I think the Walrus can have great stories (Gary Stephen Ross’s piece A Tale of Two Cities is a case in point), but if you have a 1 year lead time for an article, that’s going to hard to pull off in the internet era, foundation or no foundation. I hope the Walrus stays with us, but Wyman’s article serves up some arguments worth contemplating.

Urban Aboriginal Peoples Survey Launched

I’m very excited to share that today is the launch of the Urban Aboriginal Peoples Survey. For the last two years, more than 125 people have been working at various times to make this project a reality – the first ever survey of First Nations, Metis and Inuit who live in Canada’s major urban areas. I was lucky enough to sit on the steering committee of this project and so have had a very, very small role to play in this project. I’m happy to put anyone in touch with the amazing people who made this ambitious project a reality. People like Ginger Gosnell and David Newhouse (who is intelligent, compassionate and wise beyond description) are Canadians everyone should get to know.

Below is the press release that went out earlier today and you should be able to download the report here. This is a tremendously important piece of work as First Nations increasingly live in urban settings – indeed over half of the First Nation population now lives cities. Yes. Over half. And despite this, Canadians know almost nothing about this important group of citizens. Who they are or what they want. In short, there is almost no dialogue. I, like many involved in this project, hope this survey serves as a one starting point for changing that.

Urban Aboriginal peoples (First Nations peoples, Métis, and Inuit) are an increasingly significant social, political and economic presence in Canadian cities today.

First-of-a-kind Research Study takes new, in-depth look at growing population in 11 cities.

TORONTO, April 6, 2010 – An extensive new research study has gone beyond the numbers to capture the values and aspirations of this growing population.

By speaking directly with a representative group of 2,614 First Nations peoples, Métis and Inuit living in major Canadian cities, as well as 2,501 non Aboriginal Canadians, the Environics Institute, led by Michael Adams, has released the Urban Aboriginal Peoples Study (UAPS), which offers Canadians a new perspective of their Aboriginal neighbors living in Canada’s eleven largest cities. In the 2006 Census 1.172 million people self-identified themselves as “Aboriginal”, half of whom (one in two) reported living in urban centres.

“This study is about the future, not the past. The Urban Aboriginal Peoples Study offers Canadians a new picture of Aboriginal peoples in cities. Ideally, the things we have learned will help people understand each other better, have better conversations, and live together better in our urban communities.” ~Michael Adams, President, Environics Institute

Guided by an Advisory Circle, Aboriginal people designed the research themes, methodology, and executed the main survey. The Urban Aboriginal Peoples Study may be downloaded free from www.uaps.ca.

“When urban Aboriginal peoples are researched it’s often about problems like homelessness and sexual exploitation. There are hundreds of thousands of us living in cities, and there are a lot of positive things happening in our communities; it’s not all crises. But unless someone comes along and says, ‘This is interesting. Tell me about your choices; tell me about your community,’ then people don’t notice that they’re part of a wider social change.” ~Ginger Gosnell-Myers, UAPS Project Manager

KEY FINDINGS

For most, the city is home, but urban Aboriginal peoples stay connected to their communities of origin. Six in ten feel a close connection to these communities – links that are integral to strong family and social ties, and to traditional and contemporary Aboriginal culture. Notwithstanding these links, majorities of First Nations peoples, Métis and Inuit consider their current city of residence home (71%), including those who are the first generation of their family to live in their city.

Eight in ten participants said they were “very proud” of their specific Aboriginal identity, i.e., First Nations, Métis or Inuk. Slightly fewer – 70 per cent – said the same about being Canadian.

Urban Aboriginal peoples are seeking to become a significant and visible part of the urban landscape. Six in ten feel they can make their city a better place to live, a proportion similar to non-Aboriginal urban dwellers.

Six in ten were completely or somewhat unworried about losing contact with their culture, while a minority were totally (17 per cent) or somewhat (21 per cent) concerned. As well, by a wide margin (6:1), First Nations peoples, Métis and Inuit think Aboriginal culture in their communities has become stronger rather than weaker in the last five years.

They display a higher tolerance for other cultures than their non-Aboriginal neighbours: 77% of urban Aboriginal peoples believe there is room for a variety of languages and cultures in this country in contrast to 54% of non-Aboriginal urbanites.

Almost all believe they are consistently viewed in negative ways by non-Aboriginal people. Almost three in four participants perceived assumptions about addiction problems, while many felt negative stereotypes about laziness (30 per cent), lack of intelligence (20 per cent) and poverty (20 per cent).

Education is their top priority, and an enduring aspiration for the next generation. Twenty per cent want the next generation to understand the importance of education, 18 per cent hope younger individuals will stay connected to their cultural community and 17 per cent hope the next generation will experience life without racism.)

Money was cited as the No.1 barrier to getting a post-secondary education among 36 per cent of those planning to attend – and 45 per cent of those already enrolled in – a university or college.

Urban Aboriginal peoples do not have great confidence in the criminal justice system in Canada. More than half (55%) have little confidence in the criminal justice system and majorities support the idea of a separate Aboriginal justice system.

A significant minority (4 in 10) feel there is no one Aboriginal organization or National political party that best represent them, or cannot say.

The perspective of non-Aboriginal urban Canadians:

Non-Aboriginal urban Canadians are divided on where Aboriginal people fit in the Canadian mosaic: 54 percent believe Aboriginal people should have special rights and 39 percent think they are just like any other cultural or ethnic group (this divide varies across cities).

Perceptions of the current state of relations between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people are divided, but there are signs of optimism.

NA urban Canadians are starting to recognize the urban Aboriginal community and their cultural presence, but have limited knowledge of Aboriginal people and issues, although they do demonstrate a desire to learn more. There is a widespread belief among NA urban Canadians that Aboriginal people experience discrimination.

The Study

Through UAPS, more than100 interviewers, almost all of whom were themselves Aboriginal, conducted 2,614 in- person interviews with Métis, Inuit and First Nations (status and non-status) individuals living in eleven Canadian cities: Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Regina, Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Thunder Bay, Toronto, Montreal, Halifax and Ottawa (Inuit only).

The study also investigated how non-Aboriginal people view Aboriginal people in Canada today through a telephone survey with 2,501 non-Aboriginal urban Canadians living in these same cities (excluding Ottawa).

This first-of-its-kind study, conducted by the Environics Institute, and guided by an Advisory Circle of recognized experts from academia and from Aboriginal communities, is designed to better understand the values, identities, experiences and aspirations of Aboriginal Peoples (First Nations, Métis and Inuit) living in Canadian cities.

Findings and insights from this research are intended to establish a baseline of information on the urban Aboriginal population in Canada, prompt discussion within Aboriginal communities and between Aboriginal and non- Aboriginal peoples, and inform public policy and planning initiatives that pertain to urban Aboriginal peoples.

Major sponsors:
INAC – Federal Interlocutor
Trillium Foundation
Province of Alberta
Province of Saskatchewan
Province of Manitoba/Manitoba Hydro
Province of Ontario (Aboriginal Affairs)

Sponsors:
Canadian Millennium Scholarship Foundation
Calgary Foundation
Elections Canada
The Mental Health Commission
City of Edmonton
City of Toronto
Province of Nova Scotia (Aboriginal Affairs)
Winnipeg Foundation
John Lefebrve
Tides
Edmonton Community Foundation
Toronto Community Foundation
Vancouver Foundation
Halifax Regional Municipality
Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami

Media contact:
Claire M. Tallarico: 416-616-9940, uaps@rogers.com.

The Environics Institute for Survey Research was established in 2006 to sponsor relevant and original public opinion, attitude and social values research related to issues of public policy and social change. We wish to survey those not usually heard from, using questions not usually asked.

The 21st Century Bookclub

For the past six months I’ve been engaged in a fantastic experiment.  6 months ago my friend David Humphrey emailed three friends whose blogs he enjoyed. Each of us (Myself, Humphrey, Mike Hoye and Luke Hill really only knew Humphrey and were essentially strangers to one another. Humphrey proposed we each read each others blogs for 3-4 months and then meet for dinner in Toronto when I was next in town.

I immediately became a fan of the experiment because it highlighted how the internet is reshaping culture. Admittedly, people have been sharing and talking about their writing for decades and centuries, but this activity was often reserved for “writers” or, perhaps, aspiring writers. By greatly reducing the costs of sharing and giving anyone a potential audience blogging has changed everything. Suddenly a group of strangers who only a decade ago might have collectively read something that someone else had written (most likely a book) are instead reading each others creations. It is just a further step (or more of a leap) forward in the democratization of culture and creativity.

In addition however, it was also just purely rewarding. I got to know a couple of guys in a way that was surprisingly personal. Better still, I developed a blogging peer group. I don’t actually know that many people who regularly blog and so having a group who has read what I write and of whom I could ask questions, advice and critiques of my writing was invaluable. More interesting is the ways of I’ve come to admire (and envy) their different styles and approaches: Luke is so unconstrained by form willing to write pieces that are short or long; Humphrey’s blog is so personal that you really feel like you get to know him; and Mike’s blog is just plain fun – with rants that leave you laughing.

If you blog, or even if you write (at which point I think you should blog as well) I can’t encourage you enough to create a 21st century book club (or should we just call it a blog club). You’ll find you will become a better blogger, a better writer and, I think, will make a few new friends.

Here are some fun posts from the others blogs I’d recommend:

Dear Former Homeowners Redux Redux Redux Redux Redux – pure fun for anyone who has owned a home (or note)

A Note to Some Friends – an important rant on the state of community over at Firefox

Fun Facts about the Amazon Kindle – #Canada #Fail

New Media and the Public Sphere – yes. it is that simple.

A Room of One’s Own – no reason, I just liked it.

The Web vs. Canada – funny (and sad) cause it is true.

Defining Open Data – cause it’s important.

Three guys with three different styles. How I love free culture.

On Google Maps, In Seattle, Talking up Health Canada

Exciting and fun news today… Google Maps blog announced that Vancouver has became the first Canadian city to add local experts to the Favorite Places on Google Maps. The site shares some of the favourite places of:

Bif Naked (map) – rock singer-songwriter, breast-cancer survivor
Gordon Campbell (map) – Premier of British Columbia
Kit Pearson (map) – children’s book writer, Governor General’s Award winner
Monte Clark (map) – owner of Monte Clark Gallery
Rebecca Bollwitt (map) – Vancouver’s Best Blogger & Top Twitter User for Miss604.com
Rob Feenie (map) – Food Concept Architect for Cactus Restaurants, Iron Chef champion
Ross Rebagliati (map) – Olympic Gold Medallist, snowboarding
Simon Whitfield (map) – Olympic Gold & Silver Medallist, triathlon

and… me! (My map can be found here).

The people at Google asked me for 10 locations and to have a mix of places I like to go as well as places that relate to my work and advocacy around public policy, technology and open government. Very excited to be included and want to thank the people at Google for thinking of including me.

Speaking of public policy and open government, yesterday I drove down to Seattle for a couple of hours to present to their City Council on open data and open government. You can see the presentation here, on the City of Seattle website. Seattle is definitely beginning to look more and more seriously at this issue, especially with the arrival of the new mayor and the leadership of some strong city council members. If you’re in Seattle and feeling passionate about this issue try linking up with following Jon Stahl (his blog) and Brett Horvath on twitter.

Finally, had a great time delivering my talk on The Future of the Public Service to a meeting of Middle Managers of Health Canada’s BC region. Lots of great feedback and conversations after the talk and in the hallways. Many of the ideas shared in this talk are also due to be published in a chapter in O’Reilly Media’s upcoming book on Open Government – very excited about this and will share more about it soon!

Anyway – this is all to say, sorry, no hard core policy or political blog post today…

CIC: New Thinking on Canadian Foreign Policy?

Really pleased to hear that the Canadian International Council (CIC) has launched “The GPS Project: A Global Positioning Strategy for Canada.” After several years of fits and starts I’ll confess I haven’t seen the CIC strike off in a new  and interesting direction – something that has worried me. This new initiative however, has real potential.

First off the project has good timing and a firm deadline around which to make suggestions. As the press release notes:

The project will generate and disseminate fresh perspectives and ideas both in the short term, as Canada prepares to host the 2010 G8 Summit next summer in Huntsville, Ontario and, more fundamentally, for the years beyond. The “Muskoka” summit will also have to co-ordinate its work with that of the new G20 summit institution that came to fruition in November 2008 as a result of the global economic crisis.

But more important is who is involved. Projects like this are never guaranteed to succeed, but at least the CIC is being forward looking with this initiative. Gone are the same old voices we frequently hear debating Canada’s foreign policy. A number of the names are on the young end of the spectrum and many are impressive:

I’ve never met but have heard great things about Andre Beaulieu and Gerald Butts (very pleased there is a strong environmentalist voice within the group). Roland Paris is a great choice out of the academic world: young, smart and not lost in the ivory tower. Jonathan Hausman, George Roter and Mercedes Stephenson are both friends and great choices – young, thoughtful and active in the international arena. I’ve also had some long chats with Yuen Pau Woo – the President and CEO of the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada here in Vancouver – he is very smart, thoughtful and an essential addition to the group. For a country that frequently talks about Asia, but does very little about it, his perspective is essential.

Indeed, the diversity of perspectives and overall youth of this group is its strength. As the CIC noted, they wanted a group “largely from the generation that came to age in the post-Cold War era of global horizons and digital connectedness.” I think they have done well in choosing it.

I’m looking forward to hearing about the process and reading their outputs. Let’s hope they generate some good discussion and debate about Canada’ foreign policy.

With The GPS Project, two heads are better than one and more better yet. The CIC has assembled a panel of 13 emerging leaders to assist with this project. All in the ascendancy of their careers, the panelists are drawn from diverse career paths and largely from the generation that came to age in the post-Cold War era of global horizons and digital connectedness. The promising, upcoming leaders committed to working together on The GPS Project are: