Friday, July 24, 2009

Connecting with urban agriculture in Calgary

Blog: Calgary Urban Agriculture is a blog I contribute to. Links to articles, guides, videos, commentary and other resources, as well as notices of events and local actions.

Email: Calgary Urban Agriculture Google Group is an email list of announcements, planning and discussion for people wanting to work on and advance urban agriculture in Calgary.

Facebook: Urban Agriculture Calgary is for connecting people who are on Facebook.

Meetup: Calgary Community Gardens Meetup Group.

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Thursday, July 23, 2009

The many shortcomings of the City of Calgary’s website

With the push toward open data at Calgary City Hall, and complaints about some members of council setting up their own, individual, websites to communicate with their constituents, the many limitations of the website are coming to the fore.

From slow update times, difficult navigation and the lack of a lot of information people might actually reasonably want from the city, to the use of proprietary content formats (such as Microsoft’s painful Windows Media Player format for city council streaming webcasts) and unintelligible and difficult to share URLs like:
There is, as they say, lots of room for improvement.

Some commentators have been complaining about the websites set up by individual council members, portraying them as just self-promotion for those politicians. While there may be some of that at play, the question that really concerns me in this is: Why did those councillors feel the website wasn’t adequate?

I’ve had my own speculations for a while now; primarily around bureaucracy and difficulty of use. Today, however, I got the chance to ask some of the council members directly. There were some points that stood out in those discussions. The administration of the existing site has very restrictive content policies, limiting what can be posted; the councillors do not have the ability to just post information for their constituents. There can be considerable delays in content going through the required channels before appearing on the site, greatly limiting the capacity for the timely sharing of the information that is allowed. The site is awkward for end users meaning that even if the information is somewhere on it, many users won’t be able to find it.

There are, however, some cracks in the tower of the City’s web infrastructure. The existence of the individual council websites is one part of that, putting pressure for change by embarrassing the main site. The new “Calgary City News Blog” produced by some staff at the City and the City of Calgary’s Twitter feed are providing avenues that are opening up the City’s flow of information a bit, but which also end up highlighting inadequacies of the site.

I think we may, finally, be hitting the point where the City may be ready to begin replacing the old, inaccessible and restrictive, website with internet access for citizens that opens things up not just to rapid information flow and access, but also to citizen input in the vein of so-called “Government 2.0”.

This is looking to be quite exciting, and could potentially contribute to a real advance for local democracy. Colour me actually hopeful.

This could be an amazing project to be a part of. I actually envy those folks at the city who will get to be a part of designing and building the new systems. (Now, who do I have to talk to to get them to hire me as a project lead on designing this new web infrastructure? [he said with a sigh…] )

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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Essential reading on why rape jokes perpetuate harm

For people who are not survivors of rape, get ready for some seriously valuable learning about rape in our society. This is such essential reading in my view, that the only people who I think can reasonably skip it are rape survivors (given that it has lots of trigger potential) — although many survivors may still find it very worth reading.

A woman walks into a rape, uh, bar” is an excellent exploration of the way the use of “humour” (in quotes because it’s not really funny) is used to reinforce the acceptance of rape in our culture. I don’t really have anything to add to it, so I’ll just say: Please read the article now.

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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Brian Pincott discusses the coming election year for Calgary City Council

Here’s news that’s sure to shock all of… nobody. Brian Pincott, city councillor for Calgary Ward 11, “revealed” to me in an interview yesterday that he intends to run for re-election in the next municipal election (October, 2010).

Not much of a scoop, I know, but it’s my first. I had to agree not to take the scoop on a more surprising tidbit he revealed to me in the interview because another buddy gets to announce that one. I’ve prepped the video, though, and will post it once the announcement is made. Actually quite exciting to me.

Here’s the video clip of Brian talking about the coming “election year” and his intention to run:

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Monday, July 20, 2009

Counterintuitive, but true: Reducing lanes improves traffic flow

It’s easy to make the assumption that if you reduce the number of lanes on busy roads that you’ll get greater congestion. It’s harder to comprehend that the reality can be quite the opposite.

In New York, a city notorious for high levels of traffic congestion, an experiment with car-free squares on Broadway (not what you would call low-traffic or a side-street) has had a very positive impact on traffic flow, in addition to the expected benefits to pedestrians and cyclists.

What is also impressive is how quickly a relatively simple and inexpensive realignment of roadways can transform things.

This short video from Streetfilms really highlights the positive impact of road closures for almost everyone affected.

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Sunday, July 19, 2009

Videos: Friends of Medicare rally from May

Earlier this month, I finally posted videos from the Friends of Medicare rally for public healthcare that was held at the Alberta Legislature, in Edmonton, on May 5, 2009.

People drove and bussed in from many communities around the province. Along with a variety of speakers, the rally featured a few different musical groups: A rock band who’s name I didn’t catch, Edmonton’s Raging Grannies, and Notre Dame des Bananes.

I didn’t post everything from the rally, but here is what I did put up:



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