Sunday, May 29, 2011

Don't mess with Grand Rapids

Back in January Newsweek published a list of the Top 10 American cities in decline and the folks in Grand Rapids didn't take kindly making the Top 10. But instead of writing a lot of angry letters (actually, they probably did that too) about 3,000 of them got together to create a Lip Dub to refute the charge.

The result is a pretty amazing piece of work that really makes you want to visit the city. It certainly doesn't look like it's a dying town. Here's the video:

It's also fun to read some of the coverage about the video, which is now well on its way to going viral.

The Grand Rapids Press gives us some of the back story, as well as some details on some of the folks in the video.

Awesome YouTube lip dub proves Grand Rapids is awesome from MSNBC gives a good overview of the back story, as well as including a response from Newsweek, which was posted on their Facebook page:

To the Grand Rapids crowd:

First off, we LOVE your YouTube LipDub. We're big fans, and are inspired by your love of the city you call home.

But so you know what was up with the list you're responding to, we want you to know it was done by a website called by Newsweek (it was unfortunately picked up on the Newsweek web site as part of a content sharing deal)--and it uses a methodology that our current editorial team doesn't endorse and wouldn't have employed. It certainly doesn't reflect our view of Grand Rapids.

The Daily Mail online also has a review of the video, including some more comments about the various scenes.

Anyone who tells you that social media is just a fad - well, that's just silly. Welcome to the revolution.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Wise Law Blog: Proposed California Law Tackles Social Media, Privacy Concerns

Just how much privacy should we expect in our life?

It's a question that's going to be coming up more and more often, as the social media world matures and our on-line worlds merge with our off-line world to become our "world."

Issues like the one I've linked to here are going to continue to be in the news - at least until we figure this out. And I suspect that given the pace of technology vs the ability of regulators to keep up, any "final solution" is unlikely. We'll all continue to struggle along.

Meanwhile, let's all review our privacy settings on our various online activities, keep track of our credit card information, watch out for gift cards and rewards cards that want to track all our activities - the list is long. On the other hand, most of those things end up improving much of your day-to-day experience - like the recommendations feature on Amazon, for example.

I'm not convinced that protecting privacy means that we need to close down access to our private information. I can think of plenty of situations where I want to be able to share that stuff. What we need is a way for me to be confident that when that information is shared, it's with people who will protect it. That's where the real opportunity lies. Figuring out that issue from the protection of the consumer point of view, while still letting companies benefit.

The link below refers to a blog post that got me thinking about that this morning. It's about a law being proposed in California that has Facebook gearing up its lobbying efforts to oppose. It's a good analysis.

Here's an excerpt:

A proposed new law in California would have radical implications for Facebook and other major social media sites:
The bill, which would apply only to users in California, would prohibit sites from displaying users' home addresses or telephone numbers without their consent and would mandate services remove of any information about a user within 48 hours of the request, or face a $10,000 fine.

Under the proposed law, social networking sites would be required to have all users choose their privacy settings--explained in "plain language"--as part of the registration process. It also spells out a privacy setting that would be mandated to serve as the default on all sites and that would prohibit "the display...of any information about a registered user, other than the user's name and city of residence, without the agreement of the user."
Perhaps predictably, Facebook has already commenced lobbying against the bill, claiming it is a "serious threat" to "California consumers' choices about use of personal data." However, their argument essentially hinges on the idea that consumers of social media products won't be able to give up their privacy until after they've become familiar with the service they're using.

Via Wise Law Blog: Proposed California Law Tackles Social Media, Privacy Concerns

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Why the Tory majority is good news for the NDP

It was a quite a night on Monday, as Canada settled into their couches to watch the results of the forty-first federal election unfold on their TVs. Or, in my case, tune in to hear the news that the Tories had already won a government, and were well on their way to a majority. Welcome to the four time-zone reality that is Canada.

I had been able to follow some of the results ahead of the polls closing here in BC, thanks to Twitter and the determination of some people to bypass Canada's blackout laws about results being transmitted to other provinces. But it's one of those issues that only really affects a few of us out here in the west - not the folks back in Ottawa, so I'm not sure it's going to get a lot of attention now that the election is over.

What has grabbed our attention is the dramatic realignment of politics that has given us a Tory majority and the NDP as official opposition for the first time in its history. My wife snapped a picture of the results as they flashed up on our TV screen, when the NDP moved past the 100 mark in seats leading or elected. Neither of us really believed that we'd ever see those numbers in an election.

Jack Layton and his newly-minted pack of rookie MPs - almost half of them from Quebec - now have a lot of work ahead of them to prove that they deserve to be the government in waiting. And that's why the Tory majority, which means the next election is four years away, is the best thing that could have happened for the NDP. They're not ready to govern yet - not by a long shot - but they have a lot of talented people and now they have a well-defined goal. They're ready to step into the big leagues and bring true social democracy to Canada.

Growing up in Saskatchewan, my view of the NDP has always been influenced by the fact that it formed the provincial government for a good chunk of the time I lived there. And under folks like Allan Blakeney and Roy Romanow, the governments were stable and good for the province. We didn't think of them as wild-eyed socialists. No, the crazies in Saskatchewan tended to come out of the other end of the spectrum - especially during the Grant Devine years.

But ironically, Saskatchewan voters always hedged their bets at the federal level and did not elect that many NDP MPs. And never was this more true than last Monday, when despite an Orange Crush that swept the country, the birthplace of the NDP did not elect a single NDP MP (although they did get almost a third of the popular vote.)

But despite the historic triumph of attaining Official Opposition status, a lot of the talk I heard on election night and since, has been disappointment about how the Tories achieved a majority despite receiving a minority of the votes cast. You'd think this was the first time in our history that this has ever happened, which is, of course, ridiculous.

Majority governments in this country are generally - if not always - won with fewer than a majority of votes cast. That's the reality of the first past the post voting structure, and the presence of multiple parties.

If people really are offended by the results, why don't they support measures to reform Canada's electoral laws and adopt some form of proportional representation, which would ensure that the number of seats filled in the House of Commons was a little closer to the way the votes were cast? Sure, it would take some doing, but it's definitely a possibility. If you want to know more about how that might happen, visit fair For example:

The (unofficial) results from the election were:
CON 167, NDP 102, LIB 34, BQ 4, GREEN

But if those same results were calculated as a percentage of the popular vote, the result would be:
CON 122, NDP 95, LIB 59, BQ 19, GREEN 13

source - fair

Of course, that's not going to happen. We saw that last year here in BC, where voters soundly rejected the idea in a provincial referendum, just as the idea has been rejected in Ontario and PEI (and an earlier attempt in BC). The bottom line is that as long as the people in power have to be the ones that decide to change the way they are elected, the chance of any true reform is unlikely. We're stuck with the system we have.

But, as we saw on Monday night, that can still be exciting and shake up the system. The Tory majority is the best thing that could have happened to Jack Layton and his rookie MPs. Now that they don't have to worry about the next election, they can settle in and prove to everyone that they've got the smarts and the skills and the savvy to turn their somewhat vague policy ideas into real programs that Canadians can be comfortable with. They've got a chance to show that they're a true alternative and cement the social democrat option for Canada.

That's the real breakthrough in this election.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

President Obama at the White House Correspondents' Dinner

My daughter Jaime has taken a real interest in the American political system in recent years. She's become a true media junkie, consuming all kinds of commentary about the process and the way that politics works in the US.

And like so many Canadians, she's watched as President Obama works his way through the transition from a candidate who seemingly could do no wrong to become a President who seemingly can't do anything right - according to his opponents and the pollsters.

But every so often, Obama shows a remarkable ability to put all the stuff that's happening in perspective. And Saturday night, he was at his best at the annual White House Correspondents' Dinner.

Whether it's bragging about the face he's now proved he's a "Real American" with the release of his long-form birth certificate, or releasing his never-before-seen birth video, or warning his opponents about some of the rumours that are likely to topple their presidential aspirations, he is in top form.

Take a look. It's an interesting video to watch today, one day before Canadians head off to the polls in our federal election. I wonder what our political landscape will look like in another day or so.