Twitterholic Twitters a Tweet while Talking Twitter

For those of you who missed it and care, I was on CityTV news earlier this week. Amber Macarthur interviewed me about the micro-blogging sensation known as Twitter. What’s Twitter? Watch the video, silly. I thought I should at least document my moment in the mainstream media sun (ironically mostly in shadow) here.

We talked about Twittervision a bit, the Twitter Google Maps mashup. I personally don’t find Twittervision particularly interesting, but the Twittermap functionality is cool. Find Twitterers in your neighbourhood. It is through this that I discovered James Koole, who is located not far from me in Toronto’s west-end. Nice blog design (my template needs a refresh), he’s doing the production for the Social Media Today podcast and just joined TransitCamp-sponsor and original BarCamp Toronto supporters Tucows. Added.

Note to self: I really need to come out of lurk mode on the Social Media Collective group and start contributing more to the conversation.

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ICE07: Joost, Net Neutrality and the Future of Canadian Content

Ice-LogoI’m finally getting to my post about the ICE07 conference, (formerly iSummit). Ian Kelso and the conference team did a great job and the Carlu provided a comfortable and stylish venue.

I cannot say that the content, speakers or attendees were on the leading edge of thinking, but I always enjoy an opportunity to check the temperature of Canada’s digital media content industry. There weren’t many new ideas, but some good panel discussions provided insight into the current zeitgeist in the Canadian digital content industry.

Details after the jump…

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Continue reading “ICE07: Joost, Net Neutrality and the Future of Canadian Content”

What Can Zombies Teach Us About Can-Con?

I just finished reading a review for Canuck zombie-comedy Fido on BlogTO, which gives it a pretty warm reception:

Fido’s beautiful 1950’s art direction together with a spot on period score and eye popping cinematography meld perfectly with a laugh heavy script to make it one of the most pleasurable Canadian cinema experiences I’ve ever had.


Isn’t it sad that reviewers so often use that prefix “Canadian-” to qualify an otherwise excellent experience at the movies. English-Canadian film has a major branding problem. And no for godsake, a branding strategy is most definitely NOT the answer. At least, not Branding 1.0. Let’s start talking about audience appeal and user experience. Let’s Cluetrain and 2.0-the-hell out of english-Canadian film.

I think that BlogTO reviewer Matt Thomas describes it well. English Canadian film’s strength is really in niche, oddball and genre stuff in the global market for english-speaking cinema. An enlightened view of how to get Canadians telling stories in a long-tail global market for content means playing to our strengths and lightening up on the definition of what so-called “Can-Con” really means if nobody sees the results of our creative and financial investment.

So, Telefilm, tell us about the future of screen-based entertainment in a globalized and increasingly niche-driven market for content. Tell us how it changes the way YOU do business. Tell us at the ICE conference this week. Thanks!

Blog-Swarming Net Neutrality

I realized, thanks to Amber Macarthur’s recent piece and various related issues around open access on various internet platforms, that Net Neutrality as an issue appears profoundly silent on the Canadian scene.

Sure Mark Evans blogged about it a year ago, and of course Michael Geist and Rob Hyndman have been all over it. But what about the thousands of bloggers who benefit from the free, open and un-throttled internet we’ve become accustomed to? Where are all the YouTube fans in every office in the country?

Net Neutrality is not an obscure telecom policy issue for CRTC-watchers and hardcore policy geeks. It is fundamental to the shape of the future of human culture. You may not have an opinion yet, or you may be confused by it, but silence is no longer cool when the cultural, economic and political implications are this large.

We need to express ourselves in order to engage in the conversation; we need conversation to engage in co-creation – the social construction of the world we live in.

So I’m starting to ping people for a blog-swarm: Jevon MacDonald, Will Pate, David Crow, Tom Purves, Sandy Kemsley, Rohan Jayasekera, Sean Howard, Ryan Coleman and Ryan Feeley. Posts tagged “netneutrality” and “canada” will appear here.

Net Neutrality Canada -

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Is Traditional Activism a Dead Medium?

Or “How I Stopped Kvetching and Learned to Engage with the World.”

Kevin and Lori of Newmindspace are two of my favourite Gen-Y Facebook friends. When I met them at CaseCamp and again at TransitCamp, I immediately recognized their ability to combine fun and frivolity with keen organizational skills, grassroots guerilla marketing smarts, passion and thoughtfulness about the importance of public space in society. Subway parties, pillow fights and capture the flag, it turns out, are serious business.


Eye Weekly just published a piece by Liz Worth titled Is the Movement for Sale?, that raised the spectre that Newmindspace’s unique form of public space activism is being co-opted by corporate shills. Kevin brought to my attention several errors in the article, including Worth’s report that he and Lori had decided to “sign on to work for a marketing company” and her claim that Newmindspace had “inked a deal with Cundari Integrated Advertising”, thereby connecting them with such corporate evildoers as “BMW and Tim Hortons”.

For the record, Kevin clarified that they are doing some work for AMP, a new media think tank that has one Cundari employee on the board, and are focusing on campaigns for the nonprofit sector like what they did for the World Wildlife Fund. Newmindspace will never take a corporate sponsorship, nor will they market products to their community – knowing full well that the community would have none of it if they tried.

Also for the record, Cundari SFP (their proper name) was a $300 sponsor of Toronto TransitCamp, and Eli Singer was one of the organizers of that event. So sue me.

I’m glad we cleared that up.

How Many Angry Activists Does It Take to Create Something New?

I am sensitive to this kind of criticism myself, and can sympathize. I see myself as a social entrepreneur, a business person with a social mission that guides my activities. My methods mix social goals with entrepreneurial methods. Entrepreneurs, social or otherwise, are opportunity seekers and use strategy to achieve their goals.

TransitCamp received criticism from some in the established transit activist community who accused us for being outsiders to the cause who were giving the TTC a free pass on past egregious sins. We, of course, saw it differently. We saw an opportunity to use culture, creativity, fun and openness in an attempt to help transform the relationship between the TTC and its community, and we were successful in doing so. It should not be a surprise that Newmindspace, TransitCamp and BarCamp have some common inspirations and methods, as they are all about activating people’s passions and creating an open space for play.

I was not able to attend CampaignCamp, which was an attempt to bring activists, techies and communications people together to collaborate on new social activism campaigns. I heard reports that some individuals within the activist community were angry and antagonistic towards the marketers gathered together to help their cause. This saddens me. WTF is going on here? Why so much anger? Why bother?

Co-creation is the New Black

I fear that some in the activist community, just as many in the corporate world, are stuck in an old paradigm of thinking. Civil society and corporations are co-creating a new set of governance structures, what C.K. Prahalad calls a “New Social Compact“. In the context of global capitalism, with states in relative decline or receding from legitimate regulatory authority, private actors are increasingly placed in a position to create public goods and solve collective action problems that our governments are unwilling or unable to act upon. This is a characteristic of the new global reality, and the social mission sector and the corporate sector are quickly learning that it is a new world for them both.

I am not arguing that activism itself is dead. Far from it. I am arguing that in order to advance the social goals activist groups hold dear, they need to realize both the opportunity and the responsibility to engage with the private sector as legitimate partners in creating our shared world. The social sector must commit itself to engaging the creative imaginations of the public at large and must become strategic “norm entrepreneurs”, acting to transmit civil society values into the DNA of the multinational corporation.

For their part, corporations need to embrace the idea that cultural and normative values held in civil society are important inputs to production – as important to the bottom line as the customers, employees and investors who hold those values.

To withdraw from such engagement is to put our collective futures at even greater risk.

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What do the words “open cities” make you dream?

Over at the OpenCities wiki, the organizers of OpenCities Toronto 2007 are looking for contributions to help define what openness might mean in a city context on a global scale.

This is a space for your one-sentence dream statement. Please give some thought to crafting a statement that represents your dream, from your perspective.

Please contribute your dreams and leave your name and/or link-back to your blog. Open is the Answer. Community is the Framework.

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Transit in Toronto: Social Media and the Politics of Transit Funding

There’s been big news in the world of Toronto public transit since our successful Toronto TransitCamp on February 4th. First there was the funding announcement for the $2 billion subway expansion to York University and into York Region. Now plans are ready for a $6 billion network of suburban light-rail crisscrossing the under-served suburban communities in our mega-city. (See Steve Munro’s blog for more detailed comments.)

Show me the money.
TTC Tokens

So, where is the money to pay for this plan? And what can social-media-enabled citizens do about it? First you can sign the petition for Mayor Miller’s “one cent solution”: That was easy. But is that enough?

In order to continue investing at the level required to meet anticipated current and future needs, we need a more stable and sustainable source of funding than the fickle whims of senior levels of government. I am a proponent of a congestion charge for the downtown core, like the one used in London. It has been very successful there, with demonstrable results.

There have also been some protests and issues with implementing the congestion charge, as you might imagine. Thankfully we can learn from the London experience and do things better, using technology developed right in our own backyard.

Skymeter is a startup company that resides in the incubator at Mars and has the technology to efficiently implement pretty much any congestion charge pricing scheme a policy wonk might imagine. See Peter Evans’ post discussing Skymeter’s disruptive potential and its listing as one of Business 2.0’s top disruptive companies.

The model exists, the technology exists, the need exists. So what’s missing?

Political will.

“Tolls” have been the political 3rd rail in Toronto since 2003 when then-candidate Miller mused about their usefulness to meet the transportation challenges of the future. What can the Toronto blogging community do to make a congestion charge to fund transit a viable alternative on the policy and political agenda.

So, my fellow blogosphere citizens, let’s start a conversation:

Can a congestion charge for downtown Toronto reduce congestion in the core, improve travel times AND help fund transit expansion at the same time? If not, why not? If so, why is nobody talking about it?

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Enterprise 2.0 event coming to Toronto Tech Week, May 29th

Thomas Purves, TorCamp dynamo, Lifter, Beale fan-boy, indie-rocker, Mcluhan-esque MBA and all around fine citizen is leading the charge on “Enterprise 2.0 – How Collaborative Technologies in the Enterprise are Changing Everything“. This will be an amazing opportunity for the 1.0 and 2.0 worlds to crossover, interact and learn from each other. Featuring a keynote by Anthony D. Williams, co-author of Wikinomics and taking an unconference approach to workshops, this is setting up to be a milestone event in Toronto.

I’m helping Tom out where I can. What can you bring to it? Well, the event needs good sponsors who can live by modified BarCamp sponsorship rules: flat $1,000 limit, no tiers. And it needs volunteers to help get things going. Contact tom (at) if you’re interested.

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“Ancient Peru Unearthed” at the ROM: Bloggable!

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With the excitement building towards the opening of the Royal Ontario Museum’s captivating Liebeskind-designed Lee-Chin Crystal in June, I attended a special (and first of its kind) bloggers’ preview of the latest feature exhibit at the ROM, “Ancient Peru Unearthed“. Thanks to Eli Singer and the staff at the ROM for their hospitality.

This a good move for the ROM. Unlike mainstream press, bloggers take very personal and multidimensional perspectives to such a display of cultural excellence.

Mommy bloggers take note of the facilities for children. Fashionable young female bloggers see ancient tribal influences in contemporary jewelry fashion. Wonks and policy-geeks like me see contemporary lessons in the tales of the Sicán civilization’s rise and collapse.

In aggregate, these multiple perspectives communicate a much richer and more personally relevant understanding of the subject than a mainstream media piece will. I expect to see some interesting blog posts from this preview event.

Civilizational Collapse or Resilience?

I was intrigued that the Sicán civilization may have collapsed because of the structural burden on their economy and their society’s path dependence based on their obsessive-compulsive goldsmithing addiction. Tiny thin pieces of gold took 2 days to pound down into a paper thin 1 inch square. This goldwork drove much of their trade and cultural life. The contents of the Sicán Lord’s tomb featured in the exhibit contains almost a ton of gold handcrafted in this way, representing thousands of person-years of labour.

Thomas Homer-Dixon, in The Upside of Down: Catastrophe, Creativity and the Renewal of Civilization, develops and applies his theory that energy flows are the primary way to understand how civilizations rise and fall. “Thermodynamics of Empire” he calls it, and uses a tool called Energy Return on Investment (EROI) to prove it out. Rome declined, not because of barbarian invasions, but because of its inability to continue converting the sun’s energy into roads, aqueducts and armies through the use of arable land and slave labour.

Contemporary Relevance of Cultural Excellence

People sometimes question the relevance to the next generation of the major institutions of cultural excellence such as the ROM, the Canadian Opera Company or the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. That relevance was made clear to me during this preview for a gaggle of young, oh-so-hip bloggers. Captivation and “wow” moments are eternal human desires. Storytelling is always relevant. Lessons from history must be transmitted to the new generation using whatever media are available. These institutions must meet that new generation where they are and learn the norms of communication, authenticity and relevance by their rules.

I applaud the ROM’s initial steps to opening up the museum experience to a new generation in new ways. Eli has done a great job in stewarding them through this process.

Now, if we could just do something about all the flashtastrophe (neologism credit: Radiant Core) websites that the culture sector seems wedded to in search of a hipster figleaf. Rich media is not better media, people! Just look at Twitter.

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What is media? What is social media? What is mesh?

My favourite brainiac MBA, Tom Purves, has been doing some great Mcluhanesque thinking on media that is very relevant for this moment. Here’s his latest piece of distilled genius:

Media is simply about leveraging scarcity of human place, time and context…And with social media it’s not just leveraging my own scarcities of time and context, but that of my buddies, and that of the “networkâ€? of all of us…

Leave aside the MBA-word “leveraging”, and unpack Tom’s thought for a moment. We are not over-saturated in media, we are under-saturated. We have a limitless desire for more meaning. Our challenge is to innovate new forms of media that enable us to create more meaning under the constraints of scarce place, time and context.

Why Facebook?
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Why Facebook? Why the poke? Why blog? Why Twitter? Why IM instead of email? Why does LinkedIn suck? Why is broadcast dead? Why is Net Neutrality the most important cultural and creative freedom issue of our age?

Why? Because human beings are evolving through their technology and media, expanding our capacity for meaning-making and sense-making. This is ultimately one of the most potent and powerful creative forces to be unleashed since the printing press. Technology is enabling this transformation, but the technology itself is ultimately disappearing from view and what we are left with is us.

This is nothing short of a revolution that will help us create a world according to our hopes, dreams, aspirations and values. This should be a topic for discussion, we need to advance the dialogue, move ideas forward. Will the mesh conference provide such an opportunity? Lift started to take it on, with Stowe and Cerveny and Bleecker. Can “Canada’s premier Web conference” be as relevant, or even more so? Or are we teaching Canadian CEOs how to blog and think we’ve made progress?

That’s our challenge…not just the meshies (they have day jobs, btw!), but the BarCamp community and others who claim to building the future of the web. What is the nature of this massive shift and what are its implications?

What is Next?

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