Saturday, December 30, 2006

Why is Cincinnati so conservative?

Dan Hurley, in his most recent Post column, takes the question on with a historical perspective. The article is enlightening. It helps to clarify what Cincinnati is like and why. I think it describes in a very accurate (but not negative) way one of the problems with Cincinnati. Everyone has an opinion about what "the problem" with Cincinnati is of course, but this is the first time I've read something that I thought was really hitting the nail on the head. I don't think that this is the only problem we have here, but taking a good hard look at how we got to where we are now is an important boon.

Cincinnati Podcasts

I recently discovered that WXVU has podcasts for their two local shows Cincinnati Edition and Around Cincinnati. I've always been interested in listening to these shows when I hear commercials for them, but I never seem to be listening when they're actually on. With these podcasts I'll never miss an episode.

Cincinnati Edition:
on Odeo:

Around Cincinnati:
on Odeo:

Other WVXU programs:

Other podcasts tagged Cincinnati on Odeo:

Update: I'm fiddling around with these embedded players and I'm getting different results with different browsers. If it's not too much trouble, could you let me know what result you're seeing and what browser you're using?

Friday, December 15, 2006

The Parks Solar and Wind Energy Project

I think this announcement is really exciting. They're going to power the Parks Administration Building with solar and wind power.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Friends in Cincinnati

On Tuesday I went to a Linux Meetup and I met a guy who has this company and he is working on a new Cincinnati-centric social networking site. I've been checking it out a little bit this week, and it's not terrible. I'm not in love with it, but I think it's fascinating.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Miami University Center for Community Engagement in Over-the-Rhine

"While we understand the drive for more market-rate housing and do indeed see it as one element of equitable development in OTR, we caution that market-rate development has become an end in itself. We do not believe that markets will produce the diversity and economic mix so widely claimed as a common goal"

The Cincinnati Beacon recently posted a working paper produced by the Miami University Center for Community Engagement in Over-the-Rhine. It challenges those involved in development of Over-The-Rhine to reconsider the goals, strategies, and tactics used to make OTR a sustainable mixed-income community. This should be required reading for anyone interested in the development of the neighborhood.

Interestingly, I recently came across a link to the Open Architecture Network which is a sub-project of Architecture for Humanity. I'm a big fan of the OAN and I think it has a lot of potential. I bring it up because it just so happens that the Miami University Center for Community Engagement in Over-the-Rhine is linked to on the AfH's People We Like page. That gives them some cred in my book.

Additional Links:

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Worm's Way

I have always had an interest in hydroponics, but I have never really gotten too into it. I like to geek out over stuff like that, though. It is like a cross between gardening and keeping an aquarium. And it's got kind of a DIY self-reliance vibe to it. Anyway, I recently came into the possession of a gift certificate to a local hydroponics shop called Worm's Way. This was as good a time as any to check out the hydroponics hobby and get my feet wet.

I visited the store in Erlanger last Saturday afternoon. It was really fun. The only hard part was figuring out what to use my gift certificate on. The staff was extremely helpful. We basically had a hydroponics expert at our personal service. He explained the different approaches to hydroponics and helped us understand our options for getting started in the hobby. It was nice to have a store employee that genuinely wanted to help and not talk down to you. Also, the store itself was full of hydroponics setups of all different types. Plants of all shapes and sizes. It was neat. I think visiting would be valuable for the fun and educational value even if you weren't going to buy anything. Check it out.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

A Freddies Christmas

via Cincinnati Blog

New Visions on Vine

I just got done watching the new Visions on Vine piece on Channel 9. Here are some mostly un-edited notes:

The documentary was good but I felt it was a little bit short. Want I really wanted to see was more, "We recommended this - here's what has happened." There was some of that but, not a lot. There were some interesting factoids that I didn't get a chance to jot down. Mostly they had to do with crime numbers being down.

The general impression I got was that Vine was really seeming to turn a corner and get better. There were still some problems that people were having and they couldn't really understand why they weren't getting solved, but overall, the residents had a positive attitude about the neighborhood. I actually feel kind of optimistic about the street now.

The increasing cops walking the beats and the crackdown on crime seemed to make a big dent in the amount of crime on the street. But after an initial improvement, the patrols became less consistent and less effective.

The Kroger store was improved but is is still the number two hotspot for crime in the area.

3CDC started buying buildings and booted out some of the worst venues for crime, including Albert's. The crime stats bear this out; there has been a dramatic drop in those specific locations. But the buildings remain unused and residents are displeased by the vacant buildings.

A new pizza place, Venice Pizza, was designed by UC students, opened, and employs local residents. They have not had any problems with crime. People like the place.

Basically everything fit into three categories:
1 new owners
2 better residents
3 more police

The new owners were a good step, but they need to actually develop the undeveloped buildings.

A number of new organizations moved into the area, notably the Art Academy. This has been a general improvement.

The increased police have helped up to a point, but they need to keep up with what is working.

The piece also covered Main Street a bit. Basically it was revived a lot by an active night life scene, but then a bunch of night clubs closed, but the residents are actually kind of glad because apparently the night clubs were a nuisance.

My Thoughts:
I think the construction worker from Delhi said it best when he said, "It's all in the eye of the beholder." Most of the people interviewed that live down there were happy with the area. They acknowldged that there needed to be some improvement, but that is the case with many neighborhoods. Also, they pointed out that being smart is the best way to avoid crime, i.e. not going out at night by yourself, etc. Basically, people need to change their minds about the neighborhood and stop thinking of it as a war-zone. You aren't going to get shot just by setting your foot in OTR.

Anyways, I apologise for the very rambly post. I suggest folks check out the video and check out Vine St. and make up their own minds.

Friday, December 01, 2006

New Affordable Condos at Fifth and Race

Via Cincinnati Blog:

"The Post is reporting that development is in the works to build a Condo/Retail/Parking high rise at Fifth and Race streets Downtown."

They're turning my favorite downtown parking lot into affordable urban residences! How dare they!

But, seriously, this would be pretty cool if it actually happened. After reading the comments on Cincinnati Blog I have to admit I'm somewhat skeptical now, but here's hoping.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Young Professionals

Am I a YP in Cincinnati? Sure, I guess you could say that. I don't know to what extent the P applies to me, but I am Y.

Two pieces slid across my desk today:

Politicians as Innovators, A piece written by a new contributor to the Beacon. Not much is divulged about the author other than that they are a Young Professional and that they are interested in the retention of their peers in the area. I like the piece because I like to hear people come up with ideas rather than complaining. I agree with the premise that retaining YPs is critical and I also like the appeal for politicians to be more creative. I don't really know that the proposal would work, because (as is mentioned in the post's comment section) there is still a kind of chicken-and-egg problem. Namely, the firms with the Creative Class jobs have to actually be here in town first. But still, much kudos for starting up a discussion.

'Cities Compete in Hipness Battle to Attract Young' CoolTown Studios links to studies showing what cities are hip for young people, and what it takes to be hip. It seems like it's getting harder and harder to deny the basic ideas behind "Creative Class" Theory.

It's a huge multi-dimensional challenge. I'm in favor of anything that make Cincinnati's image more attractive, creative, innovative, happening, whatever you want to call it because, hey I want to live in a hip city too.

I see you!

Is the new Fountain Square a happening place? See for yourself:

I found these amazingly fun webcams. You can actually control the camera; move it around, zoom in and out. There are two rhino cams and a gorilla cam at the zoo in addition to the fountain cam.

Monday, November 27, 2006

New "Visions of Vine"

In December 2001 a documentary by Channel 9's Laure Quinlivan aired about Vine Street. You can view the video on channel 9's website here. The piece won a Peabody award. It was not without a little bit of controversy, however.

Quinlivan has revisited the topic in a New "Visions of Vine" piece and will examine what has changed and what has not changed since the riots in the new half-hour documentary that will air commercial-free next Tuedsay, December 5 at 9:3-pm.

Making a Square Hip

Some local bloggers have been expressing frustrations with the new Fountain Square.

I haven't been down there since the grand opening concert. It was fun but I agree with the sentiment that it was rather sparse looking (before the huge crowd showed up, that is). There really wasn't anything much to sit on. It didn't feel like a place you would stop to hang out for a few minutes. (The cold and wind might have contributed to this atmosphere a little bit.) I think that the empty feeling may have changed a bit with the recent opening of the ice rink, but I have yet to verify by making another visit.

I was reminded of these recent articles on cooltown studios.

As I was casually web-surfing around, trying to get ideas for how I would like to see the Square evolve, I happened across a site I've visited often before, but I was shocked to notice something I've never noticed before. The logos for the Project for Public Spaces and the new Fountain square are uncannily simliar.

That is very striking. It brings to mind some questions:

a) Is the logo intentionally similar?
b) Was the PPS involved at all in the Square planning?

And I have some other questions:

a) Can we see some plans and/or studies that examine the square in this fashion?
b) A number of initial gripes about the square have been solved, but what about seating? Are there tables and chairs down there now? Will there be eventually?

I have a hunch that the answers might be buried in 3cdc's site, so I'm going to do some digging. There are a number of .pdf's that I need to download and read.

The new Fountain Sqaure probably has a way to go before it is a real Third Place, but I really think the potential is there.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Fountain Square Broomball League

"Play under the lights at the brand-new, outdoor Fountain Square ice rink in the heart of downtown Cincinnati, with announcers and live game coverage on the giant LED video board.

Games are on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday evenings from January 8 through February 21, with the championship game on Friday, February 23, 2007, at 8:00 pm. Teams will play one night a week (days/times to vary)."

I don't know if I really could or would want to get a team started, but I think it would be entertaining to see. Broomball is fun to play and to watch.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Buying a Local Turkey

After, my initial idea to post about getting local, organic foods for Thanksgiving, I started doing some research online. I was quickly overcome with the amount of information to sort through. There are a lot more farms and farmers markets in our area than I had realized. So, I've been compelled to break down my local food quest into smaller chunks. First, let me link to That link will take you to search results for the Cincinnati area. The databank holds entries for farms, farmers markets, CSA's, restaurants, and grocery/co-ops. If you have any interest in finding local food, should definitely be your starting point.

I thought, rather than trying to summarize the entire local food scene, I'd do small research projects of particular foods, particular farms, or particular markets. Let's start with turkey. In Cincinnati, most people know about Findlay Market. Located in historic Over-The-Rhine, Findlay Market is open year-round and has merchants indoors and outdoors selling meats, produce, spices, flowers, and much else. I browsed through the list of merchants selling poultry and found a few that claim to have turkey: Busch's Country Corner, Charles Bare & Sons Meats, and Heist Fish and Poultry. Busch's page says that their poultry is free-range, has no preservatives, no hormones, no chemicals and is never frozen. A similar approach is used to raise poultry at Greenacres Farm.

Ok, that's as much as I have discovered on local turkey so far. Here are a couple other links that are good jumping off points for further research:

Friday, November 17, 2006

Who is Greg Harris?

Several local blogs are talking about news that Greg Harris is running for City Council in 2007. I personally have not heard of Greg Harris before now. So, I've started a page for him on the Cincinnati Wiki. I encourage anyone who knows anything regarding Harris that would be relevant to the city to edit the page and educate us all.

The object of everyone's conversation is the quote provided by CityBeat:
"My priorities include leveraging Cincinnati's existing assets," he says. "I would love for Cincinnati to become one of the greenest cities in America, including more brownfields re-development and connecting Cincinnati's core to our region's network of recreation trails. I think the Freedom Center can be better utilized to catapult Cincinnati as a heritage tourism hub that allows for immersion into the history of abolitionism and the Underground Railroad but also a site for the ongoing fight for human rights. I would love, for instance, to see an annual African American Theater Festival on the riverfront devoted to these themes. I also see a strong need to create a seamless public transit grid to unify and support the emergence of a central entertainment corridor that unifies The Banks, downtown, Over-the-Rhine, UC, Clifton, Northside, etc." source

I like the talk about greening the city and I like the talk about public transit. It's hard to really judge the "greening" comment until Harris comes out with more specific proposals, so I'll just keep my hopes up on that one. I also appreciate Harris' use of the phrase "seemless public transit". Nasty, Brutish, and Short seems to think that this implies Harris is talking about light rail, which for unknown reasons NBS opposes. I, on the other hand, hope that what the comment means is that Harris recognizes that transit in the corridor he is talking about is neither "seemless" nor "unified". I am in favor of multi-modal transit systems because they help accomplish those goals. I think our city needs to seriously reconsider light rail and/or BRT as components in a grid of transit. I can't recommend this BRT study put together by DAAP highly enough. I really think that if the options are seriously investigated, people will find that light rail or BRT (or God forbid a subway) are going to be necessary components in solving our transportation problems.

But, hey, us bloggers are probably making too much out of this one tiny quote. I guess that's what we do best.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Thanksgiving in the Ohio River Valley

I've been reading my new Worldchanging book and it is awesome. The last few nights I've been making my way through the sections about food. There are all kinds of neat little articles in there.

In one article I read last night, they were talking about heirloom species, heirloom breeds, and argicultural biodiversity and they mentioned as an example a particular heirloom breed of turkeys. That got me thinking.

See, my mom mentioned to me yesterday that she was planning to go to Kroger today and buy a bunch of food for Thanksgiving (which we're hosting for ~30 people at our house). So, me being the brilliant individual I am, put 2 and two together and I thought, "Hey, I wonder how much of our Thanksgiving we could make local, organic, and sustainable?"

So, naturally I wanted to write a post about this on this blog which I'm trying to make all about cool things around Cincinnati. But I don't know a ton about this particular topic. Not enough to give Cincinnatians shopping advice.

My mental notes so far are:
tewes poultry farm
hollmeyer orchards

So, I need to do my usual research routine and bust out my Google skills. But I thought I'd solicit comments from people first, too. That'd be the smart/fun/efficient way to begin.

Do you know anything about local food around Cinnati / Ohio River Valley. Know any good organic products available at Kroger that are Thanksgiving-y?

Look for a post, hopefully in the next few days here, since I would prefer my vast audience has my post in hands in time to shop.

More Cincinnati Wiki Articles Started

I created a couple more articles in the Cincinnati Wiki yesterday and today:

Milton R. Dohoney, Jr.: I wanted to put down some facts since I had no idea who he really was. I also tried to write a quick summary of this week's news about his budget proposal. This was the first real news I recall hearing about Dohoney in his new job as city manager.

Also, since I am in the process of educating myself about the structure and history of Cincinnati government, I made a page for City Manager. I just copied the text from the city's offical website.

I also created extremely brief pages for Hamilton County and Hamilton County Board of Comissioners. I edited the November 2006 Elections page with the winners of the elections and I wanted to go in and change the official positions of the people that got elected and voted out. But then I realized that the jobs don't actually change until later. So, I am in the process of figuring out when all the changes will occur. Hopefully, I (or someone) will remember to go in later and change the jobs of the people that got changed by the elections.

In all the articles, I have been trying to link-ify them in useful ways so that people can surf around to other relevant articles with ease.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The End of "Everything Alternative"

After the terrestrial demise of WOXY there was something of a vacuum in the "modern rock" category of radio in Cincinnati. In my car I mostly surfed between 7-10 stations just to find songs I liked and avoid songs I didn't like. (Actually, 90% of the time I was listening to 91.7, our NPR station in Cincinnati). "New Rock" 97.3 was pretty reasonable most of the time. One was always guaranteed to hear a Sublime song when one got the hankering for one. It was no WOXY though.

In any case, around Christmastime last year 97.3 went "on shuffle" which was meant to evoke the random mode on an iPod. They added some older music into the mix at this point too, and I began to like the station a lot better. So, excluding "Rover's Morning Glory", 97.3 had become a very decent radio station.

It was not to last however. Last week, I tuned to the station and heard to my surprise "Sold (The Grundy County Auction Incident)" by John Michael Montgomery. Apparently an abrupt takeover occured and the station had become WYGY "The Wolf", a Top 40 Country station. Whoa. The next day I checked into the situation and found only this text at the old 97.3 website:

As you may have heard by now,
97.3 WAQZ as of noon today, November 9th, is no more.

Thank you for listening.

We've had fun bringing you Everything Alternative on shuffle.

In show business, when one show closes, another one opens – so we'd like you to know about a new sound that will be shaking up Cincinnati radio: 94.9 The Sound. They'll be playing a wide variety of music from artists like Red Hot Chili Peppers,
My Chemical Romance, Staind, Panic at the Disco, Nirvana,
Green Day – and shuffling in surprises, too.
We hope you'll set a button for 94.9 on FM. Or you can listen online here. I know they'll welcome your input, too.

Again, on behalf of everyone at 97.3 throughout the years,
thanks for listening and thanks for your support.

And there was a link to the 94.9 The Sound website. The Sound has taken the old Mojo 94.9 spot which was vacated in September of this year when it moved up to 100.3FM . So far listening to The Sound has been good. I believe they are playing 9,490 songs straight to kick off the station and I haven't heard a commerical on there yet.

I guess, it all goes to show that the modern terrestrial radio market is a tough battlegroud.

My picks for best radio shows in town aren't actually on any of the above mentioned stations. These are shows that still feature old fashioned DJs that make the radio experience fun and local:
The Jelly Pudding Show - Sunday nights on 92.5FM WOFX
Cuttin' The Grass - Saturday mornings on 88.3FM WAIF
Carribean Express - Sunday afternoons on 88.3FM WAIF
Rockin' & Surfin' - Saturday evening on 88.3FM WAIF


Thursday, November 09, 2006

My Election Reactions

(Yes, I know it's several days tardy. So sue me.)

Governor: I'm happy Mr. Blackwell was defeated. I'm not expecting anything great from Mr. Strickland.

District 1: I'll admit that I wouldn't have minded very much if old Chabby had lost, because I wanted to see the control of the House flip. But I'm somewhat glad he didn't have to lose and I still got my wish.

District 2: It is preposterous that so many people continue to vote for Jean Schmidt. I don't know what to think.

Senate: Again, I'm not strongly for or against Mr. DeWine or Mr. Brown, but I do like the flip of the Senate to the Democrats because I like the idea of an opposition Congress. My theory is that with the Executive and Legislative branches opposed, it will be harder for the crazies to get their laws passed and their secret/illegal actions done. I want the Congress to quit having blind faith in the President, and I trust the President not to let them pass anything too extreme.

County Commissioner: I haven't heard anything much that I don't like about this Pepper character, and I've heard a number of things I don't like about Heimlich. Yes, I regularly read the Beacon, but I do take it with a grain of salt. My biggest hope is for some progress to be made on the Banks. Also, maybe some mass transit?

Minimum Wage: I'm happy that the populace decided that it needed to go up. I'm not happy that it had to be accomplish by constitutional amendment. I'm one of those "constitution should be for core principles" guys.

Smoking Bans: I voted against both. One for being a constitutional amendment. The other because I'm against smoking bans. Right now my thought on smoking bans is that bar proprietors ought to be free to decide whether they want to allow smoking or not. I think arguments about the health of the patrons are totally irrelevant. I am willing to entertain those arguments about the health of the workers, yet I still have not been convinced by them.

Slot Machines: I say again, I rather oppose constitutional amendments. Also, I was somewhat persuaded by those that said the law was poorly designed and would not really lead to as much funds for schools as its supporters implied.

Voting Machines: I had a very unremarkable experience. I used the fill in the bubble and send through the scantron type ballot. I still have a strong mistrust of computerized voting, but I'm satisfied with what happened on Tuesday. I'm looking for more improvement on the open-and-transparent front.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Minor Layout Changes

I added two elements to the right side of this blog: Links: This is a feed of links that I have tagged with the word 'cincinnati'. Hopefully I will continue to use and the cincinnati tag at least as much as I have up til now.

I Read: A barebones blogroll. I actually read A LOT of blogs, so I'm still deciding which ones belong on the blogroll over there and which don't.

UPDATE: I made changes to the colors, fonts, etc. Hopefully the page is more readable now.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

BRT: Bus Rapid Transit

This post on WorldChanging introduced the idea of Bus Rapid Transit to me the other day. BRT is basically a hybrid of bus systems and rail-based transit.

It's made up of buses that drive on roads but it adds a few features to make it more efficient such as ground-level entry, and paying before boarding amongst other things. The buses often have dedicated lanes too.

I was interested in finding out more about the idea and a quick Google search returned this really excellent project put together by DAAP. It has abundant information about what BRT is, what its benefits are, and what other cities are using it. Then, to top it all off, it goes into some very detailed preliminary studies of how BRT could be deployed in Cincinnati.

I'll be spending some time on that site to learn more and hope you will too.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

A More Perfect Voting Machine

Some bright minds got together to figure out what features a good voting machine really ought to have.

I strongly agree with the recommendations.

Ohio Secretary of State

The race for the Secretary of State for the State of Ohio has been getting virtually no coverage at all as far as I can tell, but it should be important to all Ohioans.

The controversies of the last presidential election were epitomized in Ohio. Much of the blame was slung at Ken Blackwell who, by virtue of being Secretary of State, was also Head of the State Board of Elections. His affiliations and activities were scrutinized after the allegations of fraud erupted.

So, the person to fill his shoes ought to be someone we can trust to make things run right. Voters should carefully consider the four candidates vying for the job and keep in mind what happened in 2004. Here is an article covering all four to get you started.

Vote smart!

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Downtown Loveland -> Downtown Cincinnati Bike Trail

I'm a big fan of this idea to extend the Loveland Bike Trail downtown. The Nati comments on and links to this Paul Daugherty Enquirer article. I agree with their assesments that this is by no means a cure-all, but it is a small positive step and small positive steps are really important.

My favorite line in the Enquirer article is "Our Can't Do mentality hurts us. We don't think big. As Schloemer puts it, "Too often, people here say, 'Great idea, we could never do it' instead of 'great idea, let's get it done.' " ". I hear that kind of attitude all the time. I don't claim to know a lot about all the issues our city is facing, but I think one big problem is a special Cincinnati-style pessimism that loves to shoot ideas down. Everyone here loves to weigh in with how plainly impossible or stupid other people's ideas are. I think perception goes a long way toward shaping reality and that if more people would just be a little bit more optimistic the overall effect would be extraordinary. People just need to start thinking "Cincinnati is cool. Cincinnati can get through its problems." and it will start to become true. But hey, that's just me.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

November 2006 Elections in Cincinnati Wiki

Made a few more minor edits to the Cincinnati Wiki. Main contribution being a page for the November 2006 Elections. My hope is that this can be a collection point for information about the candidates. I plan to add tidbits on the candidates as I come across them. It would also be nice to have a page about the local issues on the ballot. No time to write it up right now though.

Fountain Square opening this weekend

The Fountain Square opening concert is this Saturday. I'm really excited about it. There are going to be a bunch of good bands there. OK Go, Talib Kweli with DJ hi-Tek, Los Lobos. And I've also heard good things about some of the other bands playing there earlier in the day. Hopefully they will have the place looking ready by Saturday. Designating Fountain Square as an entertainment district to get more liquor licenses seemed like a completely obivous idea when I read about it. But then I thought about how there aren't exactly a lot of entertainment venues in the immediate area there. I say let's fix that! I'd like to see it becoming a more happening spot.

97X bam the future of rock n roll

WOXY bam the future of rock n roll is coming back to life once again and it sounds like it will be even better than ever (except when it was an FM station). Yay!

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Open Source in Government

I find that the ideas of transparency in open source software development and transparency in government align conceptually but not apparently in practice. This post grew out the growing unrest with regard to electronic voting machines. It contains a number of incomplete ideas that I'm publishing just to get them out there...

Free Software Consumers
I think that our governments should, when possible, use open source software and open standards rather than commercial software and proprietary standards. The key part of that sentence being 'when possible'. I acknowledge that in many circumstances there is no open source replacement for necessary software. I don't think that inertia should be an argument against change though. Just because an office is already used to used a particular product doesn't mean it should forego the expense of training employees on a superioir product. In my view a superior product is one that improves one's freedom. This is the precise nature of free/opensource software. It improves the user's freedom. Our government, which is an extension of ourselves, should not be subject to the motivations of a for-profit corporation if it can be avoided.

Open Source as Public Record
I think that the software that executes critical governmental algorithms (like voting terminal firmware or tax calculating code) should be made a part of the public record like laws. If we are governed by an algorithm then we should have the right to know how it works and we should have the ability to verify that it is being executed faithfully.

Department of it/software
The first question that comes to mind would of course be 'Where will all this software come from?' Surely we can't expect it to just crowdsource itself into existence spontaneously. Perhaps there could be something like an official government Department of IT/Software. It's purpose would be to create software products to meet the needs of the various other governmental bodies. This would operate like a hybrid of a software company, an open source project, and a Parks Department. It would have paid software developers to manage projects and write code. It would also keep all source code available to the public online and accept code submissions from the public. I imagine the governmental employees being something like Park Rangers watching protectively over the development and prudent use of the public (software) resource.

Bounty for Diebold firmware
Another route to getting open source software written is offering bounties. This is a common tactic for getting people to code things that necessary but perhaps not particularly interesting. If I had a lot of money or if I were a foundation dedicated to the public good I would offer a bounty for someone to release a free/opensource replacement for the software that runs on Diebold Voting machines. It has been shown that these machines are vulnerable to compromise (reference). If a publicly vetted software suite was available and ready to be simply dropped into place, then those in control of such decisions might be persuaded to mandate the use of the free/open software.

FLOSS has a place in Libraries

I'm a big fan of F/LOSS (Free/Libre Open Source Software). I'm also a big fan of libraries.

A recent post reminds me why I'm a big fan of that blog.

Is YouTube the future of Political Debate?

A recent post on Designing for Civil Society asks Can you YouTube?. The participatory "Web 2.0" is making another step into politics with the site The site is aggregating content from multiple sources regarding the Minnesota Gubenatorial Debate amongst other projects.

In theory it should be rather easy to put together aggregation sites like this based on any topic.

See also GeoPoli for an example of auto-generating YoutTube video blogs of political content.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Cincinnati Wiki Revisted

I've been recently coming to realize that I have an internal idea of what a good wiki is like, and what features one ought to have. I have been participating on and off in wiki for quite some time, and I've surfed through more than my fair share of them. These are the things I have come to see as the most important features of wikiness. Missing one of these things makes using a wiki fatally unpleasant.

Recent Changes
There needs to be a page on the wiki where anyone can view the most recent edits. This is useful for people who want to watch to see if particular pages are being edited or not. It gives the people watching over the wiki, a one-stop place to see anything that is happening anywhere on the wiki. It is also useful when a new visitor come to the wiki. It shows the "current events" so to speak, and it gives and idea of how much action is occurring on the wiki. It shows who is editing and how often. To some degree it indicates the nature of the community that uses the wiki. Recent Changes is the pulse of a wiki.

Serendipitous Linking
It has to be extremely easy to create links to other wiki pages, and there should be naming conventions that make it likely that pages will be linked to. One aspect of this is making it dead-simple to create new wiki pages. This helps people get ideas out there and into the hands of the community easily. Taking time out to think about the linking mechanisms interrupts one's train of thought. When you can link to an idea inline, without stopping the expression of the current idea it lends great freedom to thought. Another aspect of this is that pages have more value when other writers can link to them accidentally. It should be likely that someone could link to a page already written without knowing whether it already exists or not. I personally like CamelCase for this purpose, but I have begrudgingly grown to accept [links that look like this]. Even more important than the technical link markup is the community-developed naming conventions. Serendipitous linking is what makes the flat hierarchy valuable.

Open Editing
It should be possible to edit the wiki easily and anonymously. I concede that for some purposes, logins and wiki-lockdowns are useful or necessary. On most wikis there is always something useful that can be provided by anonymous editors. This can range from spelling and style fixes to sensitive information from parties that value anonymity. The barriers to editing should be as low as possible. This encourages both casual editing and participation by outsiders or new community members. The more comfortable people feel making changes the better.

Version History
The reason wiki participants should not fear a low barrier to entry is that anything can be undone. Reversion to older versions should be as easy to do as editing a page, if not easier. Additionally, it should be possible for readers to see how a page evolved over time to get a sense of its meaning and trajectory. This is what safeguards pages from those that would harm them.

Minimal Markup
This has to do with both the serendipitous linking and the low barrier to entry. When someone wishes to edit a page, they should be able to write without the mental overhead of marking up their words. Fancy markup should be kept to a minimum. This means easy and intuitive methods for formatting text like *bold* and _italic_. This means URLs should be auto-converted to hyperlinks. HTML tags can be permitted but it should be possible to do most text-formatting tasks with little or no knowledge going in.

What Links Here
For any given page in the wiki, it should be possible to find out which pages link to that page. This allows people to better understand how wiki pages and the ideas they represent relate to each other. It gives a view of the neighborhood of the page which helps to understand what the page should say. Also, if a page's content or meaning are altered, there is a mechanism for finding the references to it, so that they can be examined and changed if necessary. This enhances the cohesiveness of the wiki.

Cincinnati Beacon Wiki
So, that was a long way of saying that I'm not entirely satisfied with the Cincinnati Beacon Wiki. It only has a few problems, but I feel slightly inhibited from continuing to edit it. I have not brought my grievances up with The Dean of Cincinnati yet, but I may. Perhaps he'll even read this post. The biggest problem with it may simply be that it is not yet inhabited with much of a community of users, which is not necessarily an inherent fault.

In any case, I have found myself wondering if I could go ahead and try to implement my ideal Cincinnati wiki on my own. I have been considering my options, and I think if I were to do it, I'd go ahead and register a domain name and purchase some hosting for the project rather than trying to go via the Wikia or hosting it on my own personal server. So that leaves me with a little research to do.

I'm still reluctant though because I'm biased against forking if forking can be avoided. I'll be sure to post as I think about the issue more...

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Municipal Wi-Fi

In a recent post on Andrew Warner's blog he applauds the City of San Fransisco and Google for their plans to build a free municipal wi-fi network.

I also happen to think that municipal wi-fi is a Good Thing, but not for the exact same reasons as Mr. Warner. He explains that "more than an unnecessary luxury – it is a matter of social justice." I agree with this sentiment, but I don't think its the only or the most important reason why municipal wi-fi is good.

Municipal wi-fi networks as L. Lessig has put it more eloquently ought to be thought of more like streetlights and roads which government provides for "free" to citizens. Streetlights and roads are a general public good.

To make the point even more clear, consider what the uses would be of a municipal wi-fi network that was not open to the general public. Such a network could be hugely useful to city workers such as police, firefighters, ambulance drivers, garbage men, meter maids, bus drivers, etc, etc, in coordination of action, remote information access, and status reporting. There are a multitude of uses within government itself just as there are many ways that streetlights and roads are used by geovernment.

Then, also there are the more generally cited benefits: 1) incentives for people to gather/play/work in urban locations because of wi-fi and 2) access to the Internet for those who cannot afford broadband subscriptions themselves.

For more information on municipal wi-fi projects see:

In Cincinnati, we have the LilyPad Project which seems to have made good progress in spreading the idea of urban wi-fi as well as actual hotspots. Here is a map of LilyPad access points from their website:

I have never actually used one of their hotspots so I cannot vouch for their success, but I think they have the right ideas.

Here's hoping wi-fi continues to grow and spread in Cincinnati.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Cincinnati Wiki

I think city-oriented wikis are a Good Thing. They are useful as separate entities from encyclopedic entities (like Wikipedia) and city government sites. See for example how well the Seattle Wiki has turned out.

All the normal reasons why wikis are good apply with this (obivous) additional bonus: They are more responsive to the needs of their users especially because the users would fall into fewer categories than the users of a more general purpose wiki. Specifically the users are interested in a particular geographic location. One would expect them to be mostly residents, but also there should be tourists and people considering moving, to name a few off the top of my head.

I posted a couple minor edits to the Cincinnati Wiki tonight. It's hosted by The Cincinnati Beacon which may be emerging as an important part of the Cincinnati-blogosphere.

Like any wiki, this one will need a community to live in it if it is to thrive. Here's looking forward to seeing how it evolves.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Hello World

This is my obligatory First Post.