Category Archives: Uncategorized

Why is this getting more difficult, not easier?

Thanks to we are social for pointing me to this slideshow from Bart De Waele. As we blog less, can’t be bothered to comment on others blogs, have less time for meetups, push back on Facebook default privacy rules, find Twitter and Foursquare a necessity rather than fun how can we get engaged again? or is this just the usual mid summer malaise… Anyway the slideshow reaffirms that it is “hard work” and nothing falls into your lap, as we are finding out now trying to build the “24 conversations” brand/place/meme.

Flat tracker or cafe racer?

As you will know my Brit bike preference pretty much goes Triumph>BSA>Norton (oh no, where does Vincent fit in?) but with new Norton Commandos  being produced it was time to fight back 30-year-old prejudices. The 961 Cafe Racer looks OK (but not in yellow and the rear seat unit still looks too heavy, even “bulbous” – Suzuki TL1000R or Hayabusa). Would you spend £13.5 k on it? You would need to have a test ride but I fear sentiment and patriotism will deliver old boys of my age to the showroom before 0-60 figures or aesthetics: 

 

 

 No my Norton is being built, again in small numbers, a long way west of Birmingham – at Colorado Norton Works. The model 38 in particular combines visual cues from American flat trackers and Brit cafe racers successfully, imho. and any bike with flat bars, an alloy tank and single clubmans seat gets my attention… 

 

  

You don’t get the Keihn flat slide carbs from the show bike, but fuel injection and a lot of engine work. Front 4 leading shoe drum brakes on the first bike will be replaced with a disc (shame!).  There are only going to be 12,  at (gasp) $39,500.00 each and getting it back from the Rocky Mountains could be fun, but wouldn’t you want one?

Does anyone still need to be told? Yes

There are plenty of “social media 101” slideshows on the web, this is better than most for the newbie, some good strong images, maybe could have done with pecha kucha discipline to see if the story could be told in 20 slides, but thanks to Marta Kagan of Espresso or putting it together (nearly two years ago!).

One year later Marta gaves us the improved updated version… I really like this one:

Thats all, just thought I would share these with you 🙂

Mass Localism?

Last month Nesta published its report  “Mass Localism”, which builds on an emerging theme in political and activist circles. Last year John Denham led the charge with “Making Local the Answer” lecture at the RSA, ironically saying after 10 years plus of centralisation “local” is the big idea…

The Nesta report is OK, wishful thinking in places and idealistic perhaps but the application of community led approaches to achieve sustainability goals (“The Big Green Challenge”) may have some lessons for a cash strapped public sector who need to allocate limited funds (but perhaps lets not call it a “challenge” or competition).  It also suggests that the local angle can be delivered in poorer communities as well as the more affluent, where active village leaders are thought to be much easier to find.

Expect to hear a lot of buzzwords like localism and communities over the next four weeks of electioneering, but probably less and less after one of the parties actually gets elected.  The Conservatives are speaking about “big society” instead of “big state” and want to recruit 5,000 “community organisers”, with a new role for government ( “no role for government”  is not what David Cameron is telling the Guardian readership, who unsurprisingly don’t appear to believe him).

But I always thought that centralising and controlling is the default political mode (just see episode 16, “The Challenge” of YesMinister  for a masterful exposition of the ground rules by Sir Humphrey). For my part I am looking to see what the new neighbourhood business model will be when we want to deliver HS2 – perhaps 263 separate sections of track autonomously funded, built and managed by enthusiasts?

The bebo classroom – unleashing creativity

this is fairly old now in internet terms – over 18 months – but I was researching education and behaviour so this hit a chord. Ewan McIntosh’s edublog argues the case for schools, naturally suspicious of new technology, to embrace and allow students to use the social media they are immersed in once they leave the school gates (or follow the Canute like businesses who restrict access to social media on productivity or specious commercial grounds).

See also his “Social media creates open education” keynote and commentary on “Bebo-boomers” (and his quote from John Hunter – “Dont think, try” – hmm, could use that at work).

“Theatrical machine” – architecture/engineering mashup

Worth watching for the last two minutes of speeded up transformation of the space. Ingenious…

The architects views on the process also struck a chord, as it’s not too different from any of our projects – client buy in, controlling costs, no surprises, use established technology, etc.

Again its a Dallas architecture/planning innovation, see my earlier post on Re:Vision – I can’t remember the place being that exciting when I lived there in the mid 60s.

Changing the way you think

Every year I repost/review the Edge Annual Question as a refresh/reboot as my new year starts. The 2010 Question – “How is the Internet changing the way you think?” appears at first as a bit mundane, but as the 137 writers approach the task with their own personal take on the question I find enough to provoke some – um- deep thinking.

A few of my favourite behavioural themes get an airing – Nassim Taleb, author of the Black Swan, considers the impact of information:

So consider the explosive situation: more information (particularly thanks to the Internet) causes more confidence and illusions of knowledge while degrading predictability.

So much information, so much ignorance is his view – before he switches off the internet and returns to his well stocked physical library. David Myers states the obvious that the Internet as social amplifier can work for good and evil, and Chris Dibona (Google) doesn’t think the net creates ignorant people – they are just as likely to be ignorant without it.  Most of the other authors accredit the net to broadening their horizons and despite the brain power on show often in relatively simple ways. (I was expecting Andrew Keen to pitch in on how we are letting the amateurs take over, but sadly no room for just one more iconoclast). Brian Eno finishes his answer/essay off with:

I notice that almost all of us haven’t thought about the chaos that would ensue if the Net collapsed.

I notice that my daily life has been changed more by my mobile phone than by the Internet.

Stephen Pinker is robust:

To be sure, many aspects of the life of the mind have been affected by the Internet. Our physical folders, mailboxes, bookshelves, spreadsheets, documents, media players, and so on have been replaced by software equivalents, which has altered our time budgets in countless ways. But to call it an alternation of “how we think” is, I think, an exaggeration.

OK… no need to read every essay but surf the names you know or the titles that take your fancy – we still need the Edge Question every year.

Social capital & the strength of weak ties

Following a RT from the Herdmeister this presentation has much to get your head around.  For me the exploration of weak and strong ties, social capital and norms echoes a book on economics I read on holiday last week ( I know, I have a real life on order, just Amazon couldn’t deliver in time) – Diane Coyle’s “The Soulful Science”.

From the slideshow it looks like the Guardian are trying to measure connectedness, a theme of econometrics geeks as well. As behavioural economics inches closer to social sciences and indeed social marketing there is a niche market opening up perhaps…

Oh and Diane Coyle has one mention of transport planners in the 250+ pages, in the concluding section on where economic research has “improved policy and made people’s lives better”:

“Not all transport planners make use of good economics, but where they have the efficiency and impact of the schemes has been transformed”

Thanks, that will be us then 🙂

Measurement

It is a truism that there’s no shortage of advice on social media measurement, just not one silver bullet solution that everyone gets… coming at this from a real world engineering perspective I understand the difficulties, just as I am impatient for a solution.

Looking for answers I noted that this post even mentions the traditional engineers approach, not just asking what is being measured, but why are we measuring it?

For example is this guy right in his chosen objectives in his slideshare presentation, Social Media ROI? That link came from we are social and again this month their blog focuses on measurement. I like their approach to dis-aggregating the different media impacts, depending on whether you are looking for a quick hit or long term relationship:

Working on a campaign in Brighton with our friends at Qube I have been doing my own research on social marketing measurement just so I can understand the questions I have to ask as a client – “What does success look like?”

I keep coming back to the resources on Measurementcamp, I can just about see how you can measure the success of selling a product through SM, for example, but not so sure about pushing a concept or position ( “think how you travel”)?

This is a Sunday morning  “where do I go next” blog post, fuelled by a big mug of tea and pain au chocolat…

Guzzi Cafe Racers

Moto Guzzi retro – an ongoing fascination which has yet to result in a project bike in my garage, but it is only a matter of time…

From Firestarter Garage – the Zero

and a V11:

modern Guzzi cafe racer/streetfighter, also from Firestarter

and this what I am after – shiny 🙂 

Re:Vision

I have just returned from a few days in Little Rock and since I lived there many years ago the city centre, like many US cities, is starting to come back from the loss of confidence in urban living in the 70’s. However apart from the Clinton Library and some regen of the riverside areas (usual makeover aimed at tourists) it appears to me that there is no radical new architecture or cohesive planning being applied – locals please correct me if I have missed something?

There is a US model to follow – Dallas.

With its recent urban regeneration completions under the generic Urban Re:Vision title – the latest is scheme is a design competition for urban living for otherwise uninspiring one city block (see above) – Re:Vision – this gives rise for optimism about urban planning in US cities away from the usual suspects – Portland, etc. As the Urban Vision people say:

“What if one block in Texas became the sustainable model for the world?” 

(of course it would be more relevant if one block in Delhi became the sustainable model for the world, but we get the point…)

Previous competitions include designs for transport, energy, construction. One of those competitions, Re:Route, considered urban transport with a good mix of deliverable schemes and fanciful architects ideas (says the cynical transport planner).

Driving to a better place

I read about Shai Agassi’s plans for electric cars in Wired last summer and while it is high profile, with big name partners including Nissan Renault, I just wondered whether it was another software millionaire playing with cars (see Tesla as exhibit A). His plans are set out in more detail at betterplace.com , including a high minded vision:

  • A world living free from oil.
  • A planet healing and thriving.
  • And our environment and economy brought back into balance with each other.

The video of his speech is found on TED and it is worth watching for the undoubted enthusiasm – oil free nations such as Israel and Denmark by 2020 is the dream – I am still just a bit cynical (surprise). Key aims are affordable and convenient, no new science, using existing battery tech. Charging points everywhere so you can always charge and easy battery swaps, like gas stations.  All good in theory…

What is interesting is the willingness to go with an open source, but standards based infrastructure approach. A lot of the solutions being supported by programmes such as the UK’s Technology Strategy Board  Ultra Low Carbon Vehicle Project will play into the hands of monopoly suppliers.

BTW Wired are launching a new UK print version this month – how brave is that? I remember the short lived Wired UK from 1995, but then I was the only subscriber 🙂

Intellectual Property

One of the most telling moments at Mipim this week was the Innovation seminar. Now seminars at Mipim are never that well attended – theres deals to be done, wine to drink – but even so less than 100 people in a big room reminded me of the industries weaknesses – introversion, conservatism, complacency.

The speaker, Robert Newhart II, an American innovation evangelist, preached a pretty mainstream spin on innovation (and creativity) compared to some of the more edgy stuff we hear in the UK, whether from Nesta or the social marketing sector. Drawing on his “Free Radicals of Innovation”  film, there were examples – the usual suspects – Apple, Sony, Nike – and the theme was the usual “innovate or die”, more innovation when times are tough, etc, with quotes from Darwin, Edison, Einstein as well as video clips with Guy Kawasaki (yep, him again). Not bad as an advert for the Innovation Center.org, but not sure the real estate guys got anything from it.

So what else did I see?  – lots of glass towers optimistically proposed for small towns in eastern Europe, big Russian stands, but fewer Russians, Boris Johnson positive and idiosyncratic as usual, UK public sector led regen strong, a lot less money men and yes just a few people saying there are good schemes coming forward. But as Newhart says too many think its “keep your head down and in two years time you can carry on as before” – no, the old model is not only broke, but gone.

As for the anticipated Twitter #Mipim buzz it didn’t really happen – a few from individuals, the magazines – especially BD &  Estates Gazette, but maybe everyone was too “busy” to report their progress minute by minute. Most were saying “its less busy, but the key players are still here” – perhaps justification for the bosses back home?

Now back to the real world for me too…

Smarter, faster, younger

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It is with some quiet satisfaction I report that a Japanese study (admittedly sponsored by Yamaha) led by the nueroscientist behind Nintendo DS Brain Training, Ryuta  Kawashima, has tested a number of middle aged men who after returning to motorcycling  saw improvements in memory, information processing and concentration functions. 

The riders said they made fewer mistakes at work and felt happier.

Kawashima said “Our final conclusion is that riding motorcycles can lead to smart ageing.” So can I get some tax breaks on my health plan that involves more motorcycling?

Also in the comments on Hell for Leather– “you don’t stop riding because you get old, you get old because you stop riding”

and another cafe racer image for the fans out there – Ala Verda – Norton Commando engine, Laverda frame:

Risk & reward

Just a quick redirect to an article by Kevin Kelly (not the guy from Long Now, Wired, etc) in Forbes about risk and innovation, which has been a topic I have spent a lot of time on this week. Apart from the references to our old friend Daniel Kahneman  (see 18 previous posts) Kelly makes some valid but perhaps a bit general points on the balance between risk and innovation – one bank executive’s innovation is another civil engineers risk, as I might have said to Rod earlier this week.

Kelly says “Everyone is taking, if anything, too little risk.” well yes, but lets explore that…while the points he makes about framing and emotion reflect Tversky and Kahneman, its still a stretch in the current economic situation to feel that corporate risk taking will save the day. Or maybe I misread it – if so I blame the last glass of red wine. I did, however, like this bit:

“How can you as a leader instill a culture that makes your employees wisely embrace risk and figure out new ways to build revenues? Here are three suggestions: (1) Ensure employees see unanimity across the senior team about the firm’s priorities; (2) encourage mistakes. “If you fail, try again. Fail again. Fail better,” said the playwright Samuel Beckett (we can learn a lot from the creative process); (3) make collaboration desirable. Complex problems require collaborative solutions. Where leaders fail to persuade their people to collaborate, ambiguity and competitiveness rush to fill the vacuum.”

From air to z

 

Networks

Russell Davies, from his blog “as disappointed as you are”,  quoting  Clay Shirky:

“We’re not going from a world of Business Model A to one of Business Model B, we’re going from Business Model A to Business Models A to Z”.

That was what I was trying to explain to a potential client, our new method doesn’t depose the old method, just massively increases your options.

The Stephen Johnson quotes (he wrote “The Invention of Air” – about Priestley and science, also the excellent “Ghost Map”), picked out by Russell, emphasises the role of groups coming together outside of the traditional frameworks to further science, technology and industry.

This focus on groups of common interests, often very niche and specialist, reflects what we are trying to build in our new behavioural change models (applied to transport this time). Still need to get evidence to convince clients of the multiverse of options, because risk is number one on everyones mind these days – “no one got sacked for buying IBM” as my old boss used to say… (well it was a long time ago)

3:31 minutes to explain it all

I have been looking for a quick way to explain to clients the move from the broadcast model to social marketing – this just may be the answer. Enjoy.

19.20.21

New video  for an old project from Jon Kamen (Radical Media) exploring urbanisation and the rise of megacities, on Fora TV.

192021

The 19.20.21  project draws attention to the way such cities are growing and the problems of mass urbanisation, particularly in developing nations. How do we live in cities and how does that change over time?

“Finding the future first” means sharing data and information, so that better decisions are made, from infrastructure to health to culture.  The benefits of vertical living to save space, energy efficient mass transit systems are cited. 

The section on the largest cities at 1000, 1500,1900, 1950 and 2005 are as expected – the global cities are now mainly in Asia – as Kamen suggests urbanisation driven by water supply and location – well, yes and a few other factors .

Ultimately this is a promotional video for a potentially  interesting information project, so dependent on the audience you probably know this stuff already (or couldn’t care less). The site is OK, although my website designer pals would have plenty to beef about, just need to come back in 12 months time and see if its objectives have been met. As the idea has been kicking around since 2007 I perhaps won’t hold my breath waiting.

Nieuw architecten

Not sure about you, but I am less and less interested in the showy new, nouveu riche, architecture of Dubai and China. With the northern European architects I constantly find much more to enjoy, where sensitivity to place and context is job 1, but not reduced to neo classical kitsch or Quinlan Terry faux Nash terraces (see Richmond Riverside) – one good example is the work of NL Architects.

By 2014 Groningen will have a striking new building on one side of the Grote Markt that I will want to visit, with NL winning the design competition. The Groninger Forum will be (dread phrase) a “cultural centre”, but perhaps like the Pompidou Centre will go from alien to much loved in as little as 20 years…

On the NL website the flythroughs and walkthroughs are particularly good, giving a sense of how the building will work.

MotoGP could be exciting once more

Amongst my reading of learned journals  – “Coach and Bus Weekly” , “Treehugger Monthly”, “Economics World”, “Which Behaviour” – I await the delivery of Performance Bike  magazine each month with great anticipation. They tell me that the new Suzuki GSXR 1000  (“The ultimate evolution of the GSX-R family. Born to be on the track.”) beats the Honda Fireblade (“Stronger Looks. Sharper Performance. Astoundingly Responsive Control.” ) by 0.1 secs. in perfect conditions on a test track. Great.

In Bike magazine, amidst the 600cc race replica shootouts and after a foray into alternative fuels last year ( a Triumph 675 fuelled by apples!) Rupert Paul writes this month about how we could make racing fun again and get great bikes for the next three generations. After describing his vision of the 2016 Estoril GP, with a wide range of competing fuels – methanol, bio-ethanol, batteries, LPG, solar, fuel cell, etc. – he says:

“this is what racing could be like – a feast of competing technologies not seen since the 1920s. All it would take is one rule: to limit every machine to a fixed amount of start-line energy” 

This view of the near future is prompted by a paper by Turner and Pearson of Lotus Engineering, home of the Exige 270E Tri-fuel. They recognise that current racing regs, particularly F1, do not encourage fuel savings or alt tech (or social responsibility). If racing really does improve the breed and we get trickle-down then let it lead the charge to new technology. 

The TTXGP at 2009’s Isle of Man TT should be the first opportunity to test the theory… hopefully I will be there.

The paper, “The Application of Energy-Based Fuel Formulae to Increase the Efficiency Relevance and Reduce the CO2 Emissions of Motor Sport”, is available from SAE.

Why stop at racing – if all new vehicles had a inception and lifetime energy limit, based on a common megajoule measure, then manufacturers would rethink their fuel strategies pretty quick.

So what is the risk?

From the Digital Life, Design 2009 conference I found this video of a discussion with Daniel Kahneman (2002 Nobel Prize winner in Economic Sciences) and Nassim Nicholas Taleb (author of “Fooled by Randomness” and “The Black Swan”). In “Reflections on a Crisis” they explore how economic behaviours, bias and risk taking got us to where we are in the global recession and how counter-intuitive actions may help us recover.

DLD is not a conference that I was too aware of until recently, but with the benefit of offering all their sessions on video we can all get the benefits without a trip to Munich (although I may be making the case for a ticket to next years event!). Other speakers videos this year well worth watching include Dan Airely (of course!), David Weinberger “Knowledge in the Age of Abundance” , Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook growth and where next and a panel on Internet Politics in the age of the first “Internet President”.

Productivity tool

Thanks again to Jessica Hagy  & “Indexed” for an image that reflects my last 7 days… luckily my friends and colleagues have been doing the heavy lifting on the blog frontline:

http://silverleigh.wordpress.com/

http://logistical.wordpress.com/

In the words of the Private Eye  “From the Message Boards” parody – “great stuff, guys!”

Standup economist

Avoiding work constructively and so enjoyed some old clips from Yoram Bauman, PHD and the self styled world’s first “standup economist”- although a little theoretical knowledge might help in crossing over the humour barrier for mere mortals (or neo Keynesians).

Recent gigs at Chartered Financial Analyists local meetings… World tour promised, the LSE should book him now.

He was also on PBS today (which why I checked out his YouTube back catalogue, in a long tail sort of way) and in a relatively straight interview, surprise, surprise, he got asked about the recession – almost missed the reference to Black Swans, though.

All the top sites

I am very impressed with Alltop.com, from Nononina, which I have been using for some time now.  Its one of the best news and blog aggregators I have used – “aggregation without the aggravation”. Clear easily usable web 2.0 design, lots of nice features.

As they say:

“Alltop is an “online magazine rack” of popular topics. We update the stories every hour. Pick a topic by searching, news category, or name, and we’ll deliver it to you 24 x 7. All the topics, all the time.”

I now have the social media page as my gateway to the net, problem is there’s almost too much good content – it also highlights the need for good titles for your blogposts (yes, I know I have a lot to learn still).

Apart from getting this blog into one of the categories (which one, any suggestions?) I will be recommending they add transport – luckily they have economics, environment, motorcycles, music, pop culture, etc. so my other interests are covered. Decision Science is another good page…

The main thing is that it does save time in giving a focus to the content you want, without missing out on serendipity.

Eco transport – before the crash

Ah, yes, time for the reviews of the year, and in our specialist area how does transport – general, green, any mode – fare in the analysis, especially in the economic context where eco innovation is:

  1. Our saviour, or
  2. Too expensive

The US transport top ten trends from Inhabitat includes the death of the SUV, green cars saving the industry, high performance sports cars saving the planet , (pedal) bikes are cool, etc. The view from over there suggests some naivety about what we achieve in Europe, however. Conclusions for 09: more mass transit and greener cars – thanks, I could have guessed that. Although for mainstream US of A that may be still too radical.

And imagine my disappointment when the electric  GM Chevrolet Volt concept car of 2007:

became the boring pre production car shown in 2008 (first deliveries in 2010, kids):

I was not the only one to be disappointed

But before I pour self righteous scorn on my brothers across the sea what have we identified as worthy of mention in the UK and Europe? What Car votes a turbo diesel Ford Focus as its green car of 2008 and Toyota for its technology. The Eden Project and the Co-op sponsored the sexy green car show in summer 2008. ..and er, that’s it, apart from a few comments on the “fuel crisis” in the review of the year in mags such as New Scientist.

PS thanks to Oxtran to alerting me to “Traffic Jam”, the review of the last 10 years of sustainable transport  – which ended up on my xmas shopping list (sad but true).