The Locals (video)

Another in the Spotlight series of short films I created for Word11, Toronto’s 24-hour blogging festival, The Locals highlights two of the people responsible for the community website jane-finch.com, which covers the Toronto community near Jane Street and Finch Avenue.

What really struck me about Jane-Finch.com is that it challenges traditional notions perpetuated by Toronto media which make it seem that accentuate the neighbourhood’s crime. This community site tries to represent all aspects of the community, and give hope to those living near Jane and Finch.

The Cyclist (video)

Spotlight is a series of short films I produced for Toronto’s 24-hour blogging festival, Word11. They were designed to shed a light on the interesting and notable people responsible for Toronto’s many blogs.

In this segment, I talked with Herb van den Dool, who writes the popular Toronto cycling blog ibiketo (ibiketo.ca).

Adobe apps help bring Photoshop to the streets

I’ve been using Adobe’s Creative Suite 5.5 software over the past few weeks, and what I’ve noticed most is that it’s given me the tools to create richer mobile experiences. Indeed, Adobe’s Web design application Dreamweaver has included incredible tools for creating mobile websites, and its publishing application InDesign has included eBook and digital layout tools that help create EPUB docs across multiple platforms. But what is also intriguing is that Adobe is including mobile devices into the actual creation of content.

If you have Photoshop, and an iPad, which seems to be becoming an increasingly common accessory for Web designers, you can use three new Adobe iPad apps that extend Photoshop’s functionality beyond the desktop. Nav, Eazel, and Color Lava help you control and send images to Photoshop via Wi-Fi.

Adobe Nav lets you use your iPad as a custom toolbar for easily accessing the Photoshop tools you use most. While Nav may not appeal to hardcore Photoshop users who have keyboard shortcuts hardwired into their muscle memory, casual may find it a useful interface that makes their favourite tools easier to access.

Adobe Eazel enables you to paint by gliding using your fingertips over your iPad’s screen. I have to admit that my finger painting skills peaked somewhere between kindergarten and grade one, and I found Eazel to take the most time to get used to among all the new Adobe apps, but there are great online walkthroughs that show how to access menus using all five fingers.

With its excellent integration with Photoshop, I can see this appealing to many people who find the interface more intuitive than the mouse. One of the nice touches with Eazel is that the brushstrokes are still “wet” for a few seconds after you paint them, so colours will bleed until they “dry”. I actually found this very difficult to get used to, but I’m sure it would be intuitive for people who are used to actual painting.

If you can’t get used to Eazel’s wet brushstrokes, I’d recommend using Autodesk’s SketchBook Pro for an on-the-go drawing app, which contains a bevy of settings for brushes including brush type, size, and pressure sensitivity.

Among Adobe’s new apps, I’m most excited about Adobe Color Lava, which lets you mix colors using your fingertips to create custom swatches and five-swatch themes. You can think of it as the digital equivalent of an artist’s palette.

The dimension of the tablet that I find most intriguing is that it enables greater interaction with the real world because of its portability, wealth of applications, and the fact that it’s always within reach. This means that you can use an app like Lava wherever inspiration strikes. Lava lets you import your colors from the real world into Photoshop CS5 when you’re connected or via email.

Just as a writer would be wise to keep a notebook at all times to jot down a note or an idea, a designer may want to record a colour. While it’s tempting to, say, just bring along a camera to record colours, it’s not exactly the same thing.

There are technical limitations to reproducing exact colours using a digital camera. The quality of the light in your photos affects the colour reproduction; differences in exposure time can affect how bright or dark your colours are; camera settings such as “vibrant” or “soft” can affect the colours recorded; and light settings such as “tungsten” and “fluorescent” can affect the colours in your photos.

Lava lets you record colours as you see them, and, furthermore, it lets you make changes to the colours, adding a shade of another colour, or changing the brightness at will.

To test out Lava, I went around Toronto to create a custom swatch theme inspired by this city.

The colours I found included the green of a Steam Whistle delivery truck, the weathered blue of the Blue Jays’ logo at the Rogers Centre, the orange of Dupont subway station, the red of the CBC building on Front Street, and the off-white of the McLaughlin Planetarium at dusk.

Adobe’s new apps help make Photoshop a more tactile experience, but I can also envision many designers finding that these tools help their creative process. The three apps from Adobe just scratch the surface of what can be done using the Photoshop Touch SDK, which is available to developers, who now have the power to create iPad apps that interact with Photoshop. I encourage designers to use apps to bring more excitement to their work, and unleash more of their creativity onto the Web.

New Adobe platform addresses need to manage multi-channel customer experiences

Adobe's new platform lets businesses profile visitors, and manage their Web experience.

The rise of the Internet has disrupted the notion that an organization can ever have complete control over their brand.

A customer’s experiences are shaped by an intricate web of interactions. Positive experiences can create loyalty, while negative ones can breed resentment and mistrust.

Gartner Research’s Ed Thompson and Esteban Kolsky have defined customer experience loosely and elegantly as “the sum total of conscious events.” Under this model, consumers will gain their experience of a brand through interactions across multiple-channels, some controlled by the firm, others controlled by taste makers, other customers, and competitors.

It is little wonder that Adobe, whose software tools are used to create and measure online experiences, should want to pursue customer experience management (or CEM) as its latest venture.

“We see [CEM] becoming an enterprise-class problem that traditional enterprise systems, which are based on a system of records, not a system of customer engagement, are unable to answer in this increasingly complex and digital domain,” says Rob Pinkerton, senior director of product marketing for customer experience management at Adobe.

Adobe’s new Adobe Digital Enterprise Platform, announced Monday, is designed to enable enterprises to build and manage multi-channel digital interactions for social and mobile customers.

The new offering helps enterprises bring together marketing and IT to deliver engaging, authentic solutions that increase brand loyalty and bolster competitive differentiation. It is made up of tools such as Integrated Content Review, Web Experience Management, and Customer Communications, designed to provide more consistent and engaging customer experiences.

Integrated Content Review improves the workflow and processes required to create, review, store and rapidly adapt digital content through different target segments, reducing time-to-market for new marketing campaigns and customer experiences. Web Experience Management helps business and marketing professionals create, manage and publish rich content across Web, social, mobile and email. And Customer Communications is designed to improve customer loyalty by centralizing and managing the creation, assembly and multi-channel delivery of personalized, interactive correspondence and statements.

Also part of its CEM lineup are Social Brand Engagement, Selection and Enrollment and Unified Workspace, which are immediately in beta and will be generally released in Fall 2011

The common thread, Pinkerton says, is putting structures in place that enable a company to adapt to new market conditions and opportunities, while ensuring that changes do not undercut IT best practices or make the company otherwise vulnerable. Incorporated in this idea is making the best use of different members of a company.

“The big demand on companies right now is to get faster access and use of all the different rich digital assets that are produced – and scale them,” he says. “That is not what creatives are designed to do. They’re designed to be creative: they are rockstars; they are thinkers. You do not want your creatives spending time trying to figure out how to meta tag something, when to do version control, what to work on next… Also, marketers, and campaign managers of digital assets want to have a better understanding of when things get done, and how things can move more quickly, and not burden the rockstars, but at the same time deliver quickly the digital assets required to be in the marketplace.”

The Adobe Digital Enterprise Platform, Integrated Content Review solution, Web Experience Management solution and Customer Communications solution will be available August 2011.

Hacker prank helps deconstruct government secrecy

A fake news release appeared on the Conservative Party of Canada’s website early today saying that Prime Minister Stephen Harper had been taken to hospital after choking on a hash brown.

The news release, Conservative Party communications head Dimitri Soudas told CBC News, was a prank by hackers and the site has since been fixed.

More than just a prank, however, the deliberate misuse of the government’s official channel makes a mockery of Harper’s tight grip on his presentation.

The Prime Minister, for instance, limits his daily press encounters to just five questions. When pressed by journalists on the reasons, he simply ignored those questions. Controlling photo-ops and seeking background info on those who attended his campaign events, he has been limiting his public exposure. Far from Athenian democracy, where assembly attendees could freely ask questions of their leaders, Harper’s government ensures that it is prepared for engagements with the public and with journalists.

Jeffrey Edward Green, in “The Eyes of the People” writes that candor – frank, open, unpremeditated discussion of pressing issues – is missing from modern politics. He argues that when the public is not permitted information known to the political elites, they do not have the information necessary to perform their civic duties.

As the government surveillance of its own citizens increases, why are we not permitted greater transparency into the actions and motivations of government?

Three thoughts: Social networks propagate banality; we create ourselves as commodities; and the tight control of an Apple unveiling

  • Chris Anderson wrote about the exceedingly narrow niches that were to populate networked society in the 2006 book, “the Long Tail”. It turns out, however, that the squabble on social networks is generally dictated by common shared experiences. New York Magazine reminds us that the most discussed topics on networks like Twitter revolve around the news cycle.  While there are no doubt in-depth discussions about Dutch painters (see image), we mustn’t forget that the majority of what people talk about online, as in the real world, retreads already worn ground.
  • The hegemonic effects of globalism, says Rob Horning in an n+1 article, have given rise to forms of individualized self-expression like Twitter and Facebook. These forms give us the ability to express ourselves, but only in terms of what can be shared on the site, and what can be harvested by advertisers. “[M]ore and more of our social energy is invested in self-presentation—selling ourselves like we are consumer goods.”
  • And finally, in an affair that brings to mind Guy Debord’s spectacle, Apple unveiled the latest improvements to its i-devices at its developer conference. I think what’s most interesting about every Apple announcement is that they’re already deemed revolutionary before anything is announced. The announcement justifies its coverage and peoples’ interest. The company has control over the means of its publicity, and, therefore, a great ability to control our perceptions of it.

Atlantic launches Twitter book club; debate rages over the oral impact of social media; and journalists say technology has changed how they report news

Proposed rail transit in Waterloo could spur tech sector

Endorsed by Communitech, Rapid Transit option "L3" involves LRT from Conestoga Mall to Fairview Mall, and adapted bus rapid transit from Fairview Mall to the Ainslie Street bus terminal.

Avvey Peters, who heads operations at Communitech, says that Light Rail Transit is about more than moving people up and down the King Street corridor; It’s about improving the area’s ability to attract and retain talent. “Let’s face it – tech workers aren’t moving to Waterloo Region for the great weather and the spectacular mountain view,” she says.

Communitech, a non-profit that supports more than 700 tech companies in the Waterloo Region, has just released the findings of a survey of the region, which found widespread support for LRT. According to the report, 70 per cent responded that LRT would benefit the region, more than half said they would take LRT, and more than 87 per cent said it’s very or somewhat important to their company and coworkers.

Peters says that projects like public transit not only reduce problems of smog, traffic, road repair, and parking, but they can also play an important role in attracting the top talent that tech companies rely upon to remain competitive.

The Waterloo tech cluster, according to Communitech, employs more than 33,000 people, and is valued at $22B, and there are more than 2,000 open positions in this tech cluster which are struggling to be filled.

Creating a sustainable, forward-looking city, could very well be a main driver for outside talent from places that have extensive public transit systems like Toronto and Montreal.

Canadians concerned about digital literacy and Internet’s economic impact: CIRA report

The Internet’s current and future development is on the minds of Canadians, according to a new report summarizing the concerns of the country’s first Canadian Internet Forum.

With its pervasive economic, social and cultural impact undeniable, a new study, The Internet and Canada’s Future: Opportunities and Challenges, carried out by the Canadian Internet Registration Authority, has tried to identify the various Internet issues most important to Canadians.

And while Canada has, thus far, been among the world leaders in Internet deployment and use, the study found that confidence in Canada continuing on this course is fleeting:

“In recent years, international comparative studies repeatedly have shown that Canada is falling behind on key Internet indicators such as the speed and cost of broadband access and Internet uptake by small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). In addition, concerns were repeatedly expressed about current Internet adoption in the public sector, particularly in Canada’s education and health care systems.”

To combat this, respondents said Internet development and use should be a national priority to keep all regions of Canada competitive in the digital economy.

The strategy has two major themes: digital literacy and economic development.

Digital literacy can be broadly defined as the capacity to use the Internet and other digital media at school, in the workplace, and in daily life, and also to be able to understand, contextualize, and critically evaluate digital media. Economic development challenges and opportunities include fostering innovation, generating jobs, enhancing productivity and competitiveness, improving the quality and efficiency of government and public services, and supporting sustainable economic growth by helping reduce the environmental impacts of economic and social activities.

In discussing these goals, the CIF found that they fed off one another:

“[D]igital literacy and economic development should be seen as complementary components of an Internet governance strategy aimed at creating a virtuous circle in which widespread digital literacy enables sustainable economic growth, which in turn generates new requirements for digital literacy, along with the wealth needed to support its continuous development throughout the population.”

Creating this “virtuous cycle”, however, will take some work. The report identifies the following points as essential to creating this ecosystem:

  • Achieving universal and affordable access to world-class Internet infrastructure and services.
  • Equipping Canadians with the knowledge and skills they need to participate and prosper in the digital economy and global information society.
  • Ensuring a stable and secure online environment for individuals and organizations in the private and public sectors, through effective management of critical Internet resources and protecting the privacy and other rights of Internet users.
  • Promoting Internet-enabled innovation in business, government, education, and health care.
  • Promoting digital inclusion of all communities and segments of the Canadian population.

CIRA plans to present the results of the CIF to the sixth meeting of the UN Internet GovernanceForum this September in Nairobi, Kenya, in an effort to share Canadians’ experience on the world stage.

Vancouver Sun uses data to tell election story

After a very surprising election in which the right-wing Conservative Party won a majority government, and the left-wing New Democratic Party its greatest number of seats in Parliament ever, Canadian reporters are struggling to explain these dramatic shifts.

To this end, the Vancouver Sun has used technology from Tableau to tell this story online with data. The application shows the share of votes of the four major parties (Conservative, Liberal, NDP, and Green) as well as fringe parties and independents over elections from 2004 onwards.

This is a great way of understanding the changes in party policy, and in voter opinion. Some of the other data that would be fantastic to see on a similar chart are an average of independent polls, approval ratings, and a timeline of key political controversies.