Posts about Video
Technology is great. It has made our lives better in countless ways. It has the potential to solve a lot of problems. However, it will not cure every social ill or remedy every injustice.
That doesn't stop some folks in the Bay Area from letting their tech evangelism go just a little over the top, making it sound like they think technology will indeed solve every problem. This video advocating for a San Francisco tax law change, released today and featuring a number of well-known entrepreneurs, edges over that line:
Uptown Almanac poked fun at the video, translating its text:
0:02 - "San Francisco is dope and all..."When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail, said some guys named Abraham, and Silicon Valley attracts hordes of people who have a lot of computer, smartphone, and social network hammers. When I go back to visit friends there, there's always a bit of culture shock hearing some people talk so effusively about how their piece of technology is going to singlehandedly solve problems of illiteracy, poverty, war or whatever.
0:05 - "...but people get parking tickets and bikers look like assholes in my rear-view mirror."
0:10 - Disenchanted high school vice principal reveals himself: "It'd be awesome if we used technology to cure aggro cyclists. Let's give it a shot."
Of course, Washington can sometimes fall into the opposite trap, thinking that government can solve every problem. Neither is true. We need innovative startups, large companies, and boring government agencies all working together. It doesn't help when government officials are totally ignorant of startups, but also a little ridiculous for startup people to ignore the value of institutions besides those with 2-100 software engineers in a suburban garage or San Francisco loft.
This particular video happens to be an ad for a ballot initiative, Proposition E, that would change the tax code in a way that would work better for startups. Uptown Almanac notes:
Now, this isn't all to say that Prop E is bad (it isn't, and it's supported by pretty much every politician, NGO, and newspaper in town), nor that free public wifi would be bad for SF (it would plug up all those cellphone dead zones, reduce utility bills for businesses and residents, provide ever-necessary connectivity to low-income students and families).Twitter co-founder Biz Stone talks in the video about how great it would be to place a real-time information screen on every bus stop. That would, indeed, be great. The obstacle to doing that is very little about tech startups and very much about the fact that someone, probably the government, has to pay to buy, install, and maintain that equipment. It would be great if San Francisco, DC, or other cities did just that, but they're not going to do it with tax policy.
However, this ad does more than exaggerate Prop E's benefits or make small fibs
— it is straight up deceitful in claiming voting in favor of Prop E will do anything to improve ordinary San Franciscan's problems. Prop E won't give you wifi or fix Muni; all it will do is improve the San Francisco business tax code, largely for the benefit of tech start-ups.
(Disclosure: I worked with Biz for a little while, after Google bought his innovative startup Blogger and gradually smothered it under a mountain of amazingly scalable yet complex infrastructure and brilliant executives who all wanted to make every decision, and before he left to start some more innovative startups.)
At a recent conference, Google Ventures' Joe Kraus said, "In 5 to 10 years, your smartphone will replace your car." Smartphones can perform the function of watches, flashlights, even bubble levels, but unless they get a lot bigger and grow wheels, they won't replace the car, bus, train, or bike.
Kraus obviously knows this, and really meant, "your smartphone will be your first go-to resource for a trip instead of just hopping in your car." And it will. It'll let you plan a trip by driving, bicycling, or transit. It can let you compare the travel times, costs, and greenhouse gas impacts of each mode. It can get you a taxi or a shared ride (if regulators don't shut many of those down). It can show you traffic and transit delays.
Kraus wouldn't have gotten the same level of press if he had just said, "Your smartphone is going to be really useful for transportation." But while his statement might have been a lot of puffery, there's a fine line between saying that and a lot of people actually believing that the only thing you have to do to solve social problems is devise the perfect app.
Sometimes, an app or just cheaper technology can make a lot of people's lives better, but sometimes you also need other tools as well.
We mentioned this at the bottom of a Breakfast Links this week, but it's worth highlighting more directly. This ad, for Denmark's Midtraffik bus service, takes transit advertising to a new level:
The bus driver is cool, the passengers overjoyed to get on, and the ride speeds past traffic thanks to a dedicated lane. Bus service here (or there) might never achieve quite this level of passion in its riders, but projects like Montgomery's BRT or express bus lanes on H and I Streets could get us a lot closer.
When inconsiderate motorists stop their cars in the crosswalk, pedestrians are often forced to walk dangerously close to traffic or navigate raised islands to get across the street. The Rotary Club in the Brazilian city of Florianópolis came up with an innovative solution: a team of people to move the car out of the way.
Such an effort might face a bit of an obstacle in the United States, thanks to our obsession with large SUVs. But if 8 athletic (and jiu-jitsu-trained) Brazilians aren't around to clear the crosswalk for you, you can always fall back on the tried and true method: stink-eye. Or traffic cameras.
Thanks to The Atlantic Cities for bringing this video to our attention.
For a series of videos with local officials, Smart Growth America spoke with Tommy Wells about what it takes to make great neighborhoods in DC.
From their writeup:
"Great neighborhoods are not necessarily what we thought they were," Wells says. "We used to think we divided ourselves in sections…you put schools over here, housing over here, stores over here. And what we found was that in order to get anywhere and to do anything, you had to get in your car…And the more that we lived in our cars and in this sort of a sectional, stove-piped community, the more we didn't see each other."
Wells gave a name to the type of lifestyle for which he advocates: "Five-minute living." Being able to walk, bike or take public transit to one's destination as opposed to driving further away offers innumerable benefits to the community, Wells says. It makes for healthier lifestyles, keeps money in the local economy and supports the growth of strong traditional neighborhoods.
In Ward 6, Wells has spent much of his time emphasizing the need to break down barriers to change and to better connect sections of the city.
It's impossible to drive effectively while texting, but many people, especially new drivers, text anyway. When teens taking a driving test were told they had to text while driving, they realized this truth.
Belgian group Responsible Young Drivers organized the stunt. Somehow they apparently managed to make some new drivers think they were going for a real driving test. The examiner claimed that a new law requires them to demonstrate they can text while driving to pass the test. Several insist it's impossible; one says he feels "like an idiot who can't drive" and "will stop driving" if the law goes into effect.
EveryBody Walk, a national campaign funded by many companies and nonprofits, brought much of the cast of The West Wing together to talk about soemthing they did all the time on their hit show: walking.
The show was famous for many things, but one is the long "walk and talk" or "pedeconference" shots where cast members walked through numerous rooms and corridors, having long conversations and even being joined by new people, while the camera followed without a cut.
Sadly, it's clear that in this video they didn't have quite a large enough set to do the kind of massive walk and talk from the show or its antecedent, Sports Night, but the good news is, people can walk much farther at a stretch in most places around the country.
We all know walking is good for health. I haven't seen any studies on the health benefits of talking at the same time, though.
Montgomery County's communities range from dense urban to extremely rural. Like DC, the county is rewriting its zoning code, and the Planning Department created a video to explain how zoning works.
In the 35 years since the last comprehensive rewrite, the zoning code has grown through countless amendments. New zones were created, text altered, and uses added and subtracted. And there's been one major change: the county has no more space for greenfield development.
When this code made its debut in 1977, the county was still rapidly suburbanizing. But in the last 3½ decades, the county has changed significantly. There's almost no open land left that's not preserved for agriculture. For Montgomery to grow, the county's planners need tools to allow infill and encourage car-oriented commercial centers to redevelop into walkable places.
This is also an opportunity to make the zoning code easier to understand and more accessible to the lay person. Just see the part of the above video where our own Matt Johnson explains the rules for height in one single-family residential zone.
The Planning Department has put a great deal of information about the rewrite effort on a special webpage devoted to the project. And they want your input on the process.
This month, the department is hosting a series of open houses around the county to talk with residents. These meetings are a great way to learn more about the project and tell planners your thoughts on the proposed changes.
Four open houses remain: Monday, April 16 in Bethesda, Monday, April 23 in Germantown, Tuesday, April 24 in Wheaton, and Tuesday, May 1 in Rockville. All of the meeting locations are transit-accessible, and run from 5-8 pm.
A video animating London bikeshare trips on the day of a Tube strike has become a standard staple for anyone showing off the fruits of open data. Now, thanks to open trip data for Capital Bikeshare, MV Jantzen animated our system for
Sunday Saturday, November 20 19, 2011:
The bikes don't have GPS transmitters on them, so all we know is the data for the start and end of each trip. Thus, all dots are shown moving in straight lines. The speed of course doesn't correspond to the rider's actual speed, since we don't know their routes, or whether they paused for stops along the way. ...It would be interesting to see one for a weekday as well. We know weekdays look very different from weekends.
The CaBi data includes whether the rider was a casual or registered user, depending on whether the rider's membership was for a month or longer. The movie shows casual users with dots that fade from green to yellow. Registered users are represented with dots that fade from blue to purple. A histogram on the right records the number of bikes in use at each moment.
The movie excludes the 210 trips that began and ended at the same station. 63% of these "round trips" were made by casual users. (Casual users made up 32% of the other trips.) You will still see some dots that appear to be stationary, but they are actually moving very slowly, representing people who go far, far beyond the 30-minute time limit for free trips.
Update: Jantzen realized that the original video used data from November 20, 2010, not 2011 as he originally planned. He has now updated the video and the new video is in this post. You can also still see the original video. The new video shows data for Saturday, November 19, 2011.
Neha Bhatt, the chair of DC's Pedestrian Advisory Council, appeared on Newschannel 8's NewsTalk with Bruce DePuyt yesterday to talk about pedestrian safety and traffic cameras.
Below is the video. Her segment starts at the 16 minute mark.
The proliferation of smartphones and texting while driving has created serious problems for pedestrian and bicycle safety, but a new application, just announced, could solve these problems.
I recently interviewed local cyclists about the new TextSight application, now available for a wide variety of GPS-enabled smartphones:
The revolutionary app allows texting drivers to "see" bicyclists and pedestrians in their path, and promises to significantly cut down on incidents of drivers hitting these other road users.
Greenbelt Mayor Pro Tem Emmett Jordan, Dr. Allen Lim of Skratch Labs and author of the The Feed Zone cookbook, and cyclocross superstar Tim Johnson all shared their thoughts for the video. The product demos were done in conjunction with Tim Johnson's Ride on Washington and sponsored by Proteus Bicycles in College Park.
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