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 librarian.net 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 e-democracy.org. 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.