Following the election I expressed my feelings about the outcome in an email with my sister. Today, with hundreds of thousands of people protesting around the world and 25-30 foot waves slamming the beach near my home they feel appropriate to post.
I don’t know where to begin so I’ll start in the ocean. To me the last week has felt like being in the ocean amongst big waves. I’m never fully comfortable in these situations, I’m always worried a big set will suddenly appear on the horizon and catch me inside. The current, which can be futile to paddle against, pulls in one direction or another making it impossible to be in the right place. My breath is always shallow—each breath is not enough, I have very little control of the situation.
The womp, womp, womp of a low flying helicopter sends chills down the spine of residents in my neighborhood, San Francisco’s Outer Sunset. The sound could very well be an emergency response to a desperate man or women being pulled out to sea by the strong rip currents of Ocean Beach. In the past four months four people have died, including two this week and in April the tragic death of two 16 year old boys who were simply wading in waist-deep water. Every year similar incidents occur at Ocean Beach. While the unique geography of Ocean Beach is primarily to blame, the City of San Francisco and the Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA) have continued to bury their heads, refusing to take steps towards improving safety at the beach, costing multiple lives year after year.
Yesterday the FCC proposed new rules which cripple the free and open nature of Internet. Among the many loopholes in the so called “Network Neutrality” regulations is the ability for phone and cable companies to apply fees for Internet services and/or content. For example AT&T could charge an extra two cents per megabyte to use Facebook on your iPhone. Or, Comcast could bill you an extra fifty cents a month to get videos from YouTube at a faster speed. The rules which are being touted by Barack Obama as a compromise on Network Neutrality are in fact worse than doing nothing. For the first time they explicitly approve online discrimination. The implications of this are far reaching and truly matter for anyone who uses the Internet.
When the Knight News Challenge put out a call seeking innovative digital projects, Austin Ellis and I jumped at the opportunity, applying with a plan that would make campaign contribution data more transparent on the web. Now in its fifth year, the contest funds projects that focus on the advancement of news reporting in the digital age that fall in the categories of mobile, authenticity and sustainability. Our proposal titled “Financial Footprints” would use a browser extension to display campaign contribution information to users on relevant web pages. A short quote from our application sums up the basic premise:
Malcom Gladwell makes a compelling case for why new media tools will not reinvent activism and become a catalyst that shifts our social or political landscape. His comparison of The Civil Rights Movement and social networks like Twitter and Facebook is particular interesting. It’s a lengthy article but well worth the read. I lingered particular long on this passage.
The instruments of social media are well suited to making the existing social order more efficient. They are not a natural enemy of the status quo. If you are of the opinion that all the world needs is a little buffing around the edges, this should not trouble you. But if you think that there are still lunch counters out there that need integrating it ought to give you pause.
If you’ve been in San Francisco recently you’ve probably seen posters urging you to vote “No on 23” in the November 2nd election and calling it the “DIRTY ENERGY Proposition”. It peaked my curiosity and lead me to research just what Prop 23 stood for. After digging through the muddy details it became apparent that this was a blatant attack on our environment, strictly to enrich the corporate bottom line.1 It’s also an assault on California’s burgeoning green tech field which is leading job growth in the state.
Network neutrality is one of the core concepts that make up the internet as we know it. The basic idea is that each packet or piece of data being transmitted over a network receives equal priority. No matter where the data comes from – be it a large corporation or individual website – and no matter what type of data – image, text, movie or voice – it’s all treated equal when traveling through the pipes that make up the internet. A level playing field throughout the internet allows my web site to load just as fast as IBM’s website. It’s what has allowed innovation to come from every corner of the world in the form of startups such as Google or Facebook. Without network neutrality large companies would gain a stranglehold on the internet – stifling new ideas and controlling everyone’s access to both view and publish information.
Bottled water is the new Hummer. Environmentalists are focusing in on the industry, Alice Waters and others are banning it from their restaurants, and the biggest brands are owned by Pepsi Co. and other multi-national corporations. But is the industry all bad? I consider myself an environmentally conscience individual; I recycle and compost (when my bin has not gone missing – but that’s a story for another blog post), buy organic/sustainable foods + products whenever possible and generally try to minimize my footprint on this earth.
An article in last months Fast Company by Charles Fishman explored the dilemma faced by first world consumers in a global economy. Every story has two sides and Fishman did an excellent job presenting the two positions with bottle water. I was left intrigued and slightly more open to the industry after reading the article. In particular Fiji Water and a new wave of ethical bottle water has made me consider that if done correctly bottled water may have something to contribute outside of corporate profits.