California global warming deal

The California legislature and governor agreed on a deal to cap greenhouse gases and set up a market that lets polluters trade greenhouse pollution credits. Yesterday, a SacBee columnist argued that this was window dressing, but it seems to me like a big deal. Limiting greenhouse pollution helps the world on global warming, and helps California develop a post-peak-oil economy.
The Reality Based Community has a great post comparing/contrasting to the Kyoto protocols. The Cali bill is somewhat weaker in terms of goals — a reduction to 1990 levels by 2020, instead of 5% below 1990 levels by 2020. Also, the bill is slower in timeline, with operation kicking in in 2012. California could join the European trading group by piggy-backing with an existing member.
Even though the terms are somewhat weaker than Kyoto , this is a huge step in the right direction. The anti-Kyoto-camp argue that if everyone isn’t doing it, nobody should do it, but that discounts the role of leadership, which gets others moving in the same direction. California’s policies often lead the US; the bill sets a strong precedent for national action, and additional regional action in advance of national action.

Bar Camp: Attention tools

Went to a session on capturing attention stream. There are three ways this could potentially be useful; we talked about two of them; for the individual and for marketers. For the individual, it could be cool, but have the potential to add to synchronous overload (popping up recommendations when you are trying to concentrate) and asynchronous overload (giving you even more things to sift through and file). It would be a gold mine for marketers, but needs a high level of shared consent to avoid yet another dimension of creepiness to the surveillance society.
Looked at tools including Root Vaults and

Bar Camp: Yahoo Finance and community

A session at Bar Camp on Ajax UI best practices veered into a discussion of UI for community reputation. We were there with the designer of Yahoo Finance, who has a truly thorny problem, where UI is the smaller bit of the problem.
In smaller communities, where people go by their real names and misbehavior has serious informal and formal consequences, like a wiki in a company, misbehavior is minimal. Many larger communities have mostly good people, with a few bad actors trying to spoil it for the rest of everyone. These communities develop specialized mechanisms for fending off trolls and crimiinals — Ebay, Craigs List, Slashdot and Wikipedia (for much of its content) fall into this pattern. Slashdot has tools for making the nuisances inaudible, WIkipedia has tools for banning them, Ebay and Craigs List have processes for getting them locked up.
But with Yahoo Finance, a large population of the most active users are day traders. Their intent is to pump up the stocks they want to buy and trash the stocks they want to sell. There seems to be less of a core of “good community” than there is of bad actors.
One thought – is there a way to utilize explicit social networks, like investement clubs, plus “friend of friend” features in order to protect the good folk, and to create reputation that expandss the circle of known good folk?
And the perennial takaway – the tools you use to foster community online are dependent and interdependent with the nature of the community.

Campaign finance reform, censored

State Assemblyman Ira Ruskin had a series of town hall meetings this weekend. Menlo Park was emergency preparedness, Palo Alto was campaign finance, Los Gatos was renewable energy. It’s pretty cool to have one’s state rep be out advocating global warming and public campaign finance legislation, among a sympathetic crowd.
I went to the event at Palo Alto city hall because it was nearby and the time was convenient. That program wound up strange because the Assemblyman was not allowed to talk about Prop. 89, the ballot initiative. Instead, he spent his time talking about AB253 (I think), a state bill for public financing that he favored, but that didn’t pass. After the event, outside city hall, a few proponents of prop89 handed out literature and explained the differences — prop. 89 is apparently a mildly weaker version of public financing, that is supported by the powerful Nurses Union which had opposed the assembly bill.
The event was surprisingly low-tech. Palo Alto city hall doesn’t have wifi, which would have made it easier to fact-check questions live. When an audience member asked a question the assemblyman and his staff couldn’t answer, he offered to send out the answer in his monthly newsletter, instead of, say, posting to the blog later that day. I was pretty interested in the renewable energy event; it would have been cool to podcast.
Volunteer opportunity #253, podcasting 101 for state reps.

Hello from Google Wifi

It’s geek tourism day — just cycled to downtown Mountain View to check out the Google wifi service. It’s linked up to your google account — when I fired up firefox, I got this message: “Welcome to Google WiFi. Welcome back, Adina. Before using Google WiFi, we need to know a little more about you. Please enter the additional information below.” — but clicking though just took me to a portal page with some info about downtown Mountain View. There wasn’t signal a few blocks away, when I missed the Moffett/Castro turnoff, crossed the highway, and realized I wasn’t quite in the right place. So I took out the handy paper bike map and turned around.
p.s. just looked up directions to another store on Google Maps. Thank goodness it doesn’t say “you are here”.
p.p.s. sitting on the plaza benches catty corner from the starbucks by 650 Castro. There are flowering trees planted in a trough below sidewalk level, and there are working power outlets in the well by each tree. Wifi is fine.

Kathy Sierra on getting beyond P mode

Kathy Sierra’s question about digital camera usersstuck in pre-programmed “P” mode was answered by Kodak a century ago in its pioneering advertising. Before Kodak cameras, there was no such thing as “home photography”. In order to sell people on the new-fangled cameras, Kodak needed to introduce the idea of memorializing life cycle events and sentimental occasions. Kodak’s advertising started early with “how to” use a camera — its earliest ads focused on ease of use, but its landmark ads tought people why to use a camera.
Today, everyone takes the snapshot for granted. Now, a large number want to use newly affordable digital cameras to learn how to take better photos. Flickr is encouraging broader appreciation of the nuances of better photography. The techniques known to professional and skilled amateur photographers are now coveted by a larger number of people. The training that the Digital Camera class attendess is not in how to use the camera’s features, but in how a given feature is used for esthetic effect.
It takes a higher level of skill to take visually nuanced photographs than to take a snapshot of a kid blowing out birthday candles. Users need technical training in light, filters, focal lengths. In Kathy’s comments, a number of readers suggest that Canon isn’t responsible for technical training. Geoff Moore in his classic Crossing the Chasm series on high-tech marketing explans how to bridge that gap. Complicated products like software and cars develop a large “aftermarket” in the training and additional products needed to get users the “whole product” they are looking for — not just accounting software, but the skills to keep books; not just an automobile, but the services to keep it fueled and clean. Canon might not want to take on the very different business of providing training in popular art photography, but could cultivate a network of providers of photography classes, contests, clubs, and other services and incentives for people to learn how to make better pictures.

Pursue justice?

A propose of not much, I finally put my finger on why the “media justice” meme strikes me as going in the wrong direction. In political vocabulary, “justice” is a a buzzword and a code word. It implies a strategy of pursuiing redress of grievances, speaking truth to power, protest.
The lightbulb came on when I was reading an article in the Nation about the need for environmental and progressive groups to rebuild a grass roots base, that quoted Peggy Shepard of West Harlem Environmental Action. That group was born out of street protests to call attention to a sewage plant that had been making people sick for years. The group organized a demonstration that held up traffic at 7 a.m. on the West Side Highway in front of the North River plant on Martin Luther King Day, eventually filed a lawsuit, and catalyzed a $55 million repair operation by the city.
When pollution is making people sick, protest politics make sense. Polluters can get away with it as long as the harm is kept quiet and it’s easier for the polluter to continue than to stop. Protest politics raise awareness and make it less convenient for the polluter.
The “justice” metaphor and strategy makes a lot less sense to me when applied to media. When there’s a polluting sewage treatment plant or chemical plant in your neighborhood, you don’t have a lot of power on your own. You can’t shut it down or move it. You rely on recalcitrant business people and politicians to help you. In classic form, you need to organize and and petition those that have the power for redress of greivances.
With media, though, a community group or an individual can easily get a voice and become part of the media. By easy I don’t mean trivial, it takes work and information-gathering and networking. But it is within the power of an individual or group of people, unlike, say, shutting down a polluting chemical plant. So, a large part of the focus to get “justice” in media coverage is DIY and entrepreneurial. Don’t ask somebody to do it for you, just do it, and then reach out to get the story amplified. There are tremendous opportunities for business and civic entrepreneurship here. Don’t ask, do.
There are some aspects of media where political activism is needed, where the rules are overly influenced by folks with concentrated power. In order to get open spectrum, organizers need to wrest it back from the claws of the incumbent oligopoly. In order to get net neutrality, organizers need to win the battle with the incumbent oligopoly – or, harder but better, break the oligopoly. Even then, the rhetoric of petition isn’t nearly enough to win the war, since this speaks to a fraction of the supporters. Allies in that battle include the tech entrepreneurs who want to ensure space for a competitive market. They don’t see themselves as the powerless asking from help from the powerful — they want market forces to work, and concentrated oligopoly works against the competitive market.
So, environmental justice is a powerful strategy for a set of problems. “Media justice” plays a much narrower role, motivating a particular constituency on a particular subset of a set of issues where other strategies are a larger part of the solution.