Every picture tells a story.

When I look at this picture I see either an increase or flat electricity usage from 8:00-9:00 pm in Ontario, coinciding with Earth Hour. There is certainly no appreciable drop in usage.

For some reason The Globe and Mail gets completely different information:

At eight p.m. local time, enthusiastic participants turned off lights and appliances for the 60-minute event that swept around the globe in what was possibly the world’s largest voluntary power outage since the invention of the incandescent bulb.

So many people did their part in Ontario, that demand for power fell by 900 megawatts during the hour — a drop of just over five per cent.

"Canada is a leader in this," Mike Russill, head of World Wildlife Fund Canada, told a crowd of thousands who jammed a downtown Toronto square for the hour. "Climate change is the biggest threat to this planet and your individual actions count."

Wow! I’d hate to see the usage if all those people hadn’t done their part.

Interestingly enough, I was out with some friends last night at about 8:00 pm trying to find a place to eat, only to find that every place we went to was packed. Every restaurant and bar, jammed full of people, music blaring, and well lit. And if you aren’t home, you really don’t need the lights on anyway, do you?

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The Industry Standard

In case you didn’t know, I’m a regular contributor to The Industry Standard, a magazine focused on what’s happening in the world of technology. If you only want to read the stuff I’ve written (hi Mom and Dad) then you can read it here.

But if you aren’ related to me then you should start at the beginning.

My latest article, Walled gardens and the mobile Web, is up on the front page now:

How useful would email be if you could only send a message to someone else who used the same ISP? It would be pointless — imagine, a Verizon customer being unable to send an email to an AT&T user! Who would ever design such a communication system?

Yet when mobile phone companies implemented text messaging on their networks less than a decade ago, that’s exactly the type of framework that was developed. A Verizon user couldn’t text an AT&T user. Only recently has cross-network texting been enabled.

Read the whole thing here.

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Do what you’re told.

According to Canada’s Green Party, if you choose to leave a light on tonight to perhaps read a book about democracy let’s say, rather than do what you’re told, then you aren’t environmentally aware or concerned:

Between 8 and 9 tonight, I’ll be doing what I usually do at that time:

I’ll be out with my wife walking our two dogs 5km around our small town.

Tonight, however, I’ll be looking at my neighbours’ windows to see which ones are participating in Earth Hour. I’ll be noting those houses and when the election campaign comes, I’ll be knocking on those doors. I’ll be armed with the knowledge that these are environmentally aware and concerned people and they are prime targets for a GPC campaign.

I’m currently reading 1984, and this sounds all too much like the thought police; judging my intent based on simple gestures like leaving a single light on at 9 pm. Because they don’t care if I turn all of my lights out at 8:00 pm tomorrow or the next day, or every day next week for that matter. Only 8:00-9:00 pm tonight matters.

Because Earth Hour isn’t about thinking for yourself. It is all about doing what you are told, or your neighbors will know you are either an idiot or a conservative apparently, or you are perhaps committing a thought crime.

Tip of the hat to small dead animals.

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Earth Hour: A brilliant ad campaign.

Here’s my take on the World Wildlife Fund’s Earth Hour campaign:

On March 29, 2008 at 8 p.m., join millions of people around the world in making a statement about climate change trendiness by turning off your lights for Earth Hour, an event created by the World Wildlife Fund.

Because after all, this is really just a brilliant and trendy ad campaign by the huge advertising company Leo Burnet. Peter Foster of the National Post has an interesting take on it:

The presence of Leo Burnet indicates that this is very much about business and branding (a bit ironic for the No Logo crowd, surely). Guidelines about how the Earth Hour brand must be used are available on the WWF Canada Web site, along with the information that: "The Earth Hour tone of voice is human, optimistic, inclusive, passionate and caring. The Brand should never appear to be aggressive or use scare tactics to incite participation."

How this squares with all the greatest-threat-the-world-has-ever-seen stuff escapes me, but what the hell, this is about business and power, not truth.

Just a thought – I wonder how much WWF donated money went into the pockets of Leo Burnet?

The thought that turning your lights off for a single hour in a year will make a difference is pure silliness. Even funnier still is that you wouldn’t even be bothering unless an advertising company told you to. And again, this is just trendiness. It will all be forgotten the next day.

The Globe and Mail notes:

"They were looking for a way to demonstrate the public’s deep concern about climate change," said Julia Langer, director of the climate-change program for WWF-Canada.

[...]

Tomorrow, more than 50,000 Canadians and 2,500 businesses in upwards of 150 cities and municipalities are scheduled to turn off, forming the second-largest national group of participants – behind the United States and ahead of Australia. Toronto was the first Canadian city to join on as an event partner, followed by Ottawa, Montreal and Vancouver, alongside 21 other world cities.

Deep concern? 50,000 Canadians for one hour per year? That’s 0.15% of Canadians for 0.01% of a year. Far more Canadians are worried about watching the Leafs lose their next game.

When I was a kid, long before anyone had heard the word "recycle", my father composted everything, even soda cans that were then made of steel. We set back our thermostat every night – manually. We used the most efficient lights we could, and we turned them off when we weren’t using them. We used flourescent bulbs where we could, leaving them on because we knew it took more energy to start them than to run them (I wonder what happens when everyone turns their lights back on after Earth Hour?).

As an adult I recycle. I use compact fluorescent bulbs almost everywhere in the house, except in my family room where we prefer 60 watt regular bulbs because of the more pleasant light. I wash dishes by hand. In the summer we hang laundry outside to dry. We take short showers. We keep the house at about 68 degrees during the day, and set it lower at night. We generally use fans in the summer instead of air conditioning. I like to walk and bike every day, and I drive as little as I can.

Please spare me the self-righteousness about how you are going to do your part for the environment by turning off the lights for one hour this year. We do something for the environment every day. And I didn’t have to wait for an advertising agency to tell me to.

You’ll be able to find my house during Earth Hour. It will be the one that looks the same as it does every other day.

Earth Hour is symbolic of a problem humans seem to have. They always assume that the choice is between all or nothing. They never seem to understand that you can achieve any goal a little at a time. Like Jimmy Buffett says, moderation is the key.

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Like a girl.

Reading Andrea Learned’s comments about investing "like a girl" got me thinking about my previous post about sk*rt as "Digg for women". I’m finding sk*rt pretty useful. Right after I wrote about it a male friend of mine twittered to thank me as he had found sleeves for glass baby bottles on the site. Oh and he does the dishes too.

So far, two men have found Digg for women useful. So why do we insist on describing it on a gender basis?

Digg isn’t for men; Digg is essentially for geeks. sk*rt isn’t just for women. sk*rt seems to be useful to anyone, but probably not to geeks. It addresses a different audience to be sure, but I can’t see why we would suggest that audience is limited to women.

Maybe we can call it Digg for normal people. Oh, and me too.

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I might be the sexiest man alive.

Apparently, the sexiest man alive is the one who is doing the dishes:

What does the average woman visualize when she thinks of the sexiest man alive? Brad Pitt? Tom Cruise? Antonio Banderas? Not really. What the average harried, overstressed woman really finds attractive is a man who will help her with the housework. This means that whether or not a man helps his significant other with the housework can impact his sex life.

Hmmm. Today I did the laundry, cooked dinner, and did the dishes. I’ll bet Brad Pitt didn’t do that. Ok, dinner tonight was only sloppy joes, but that still counts, right?

Actually I do the laundry every Monday, cook dinner most nights and clean up afterward, and I clean the house too. But to be fair, my wife did all that and took care of the kids too for the first twenty years of our marriage, so I’m just returning the favor.

Ok, so maybe I’m not the sexiest man alive. But hey, if it makes me more attractive then it’s all good.

Oh and by the way, I found out about this from sk*rt, which I found out about from Guy Kawasaki, who called it "Digg for Chicks". Since I am in touch with my feminine side, I read it too, though I’ll call it Digg for Women.

Tip for men: Read what women read. You might not understand them any better, but at least you’ll be able to hold an intelligent conversation with them. Oh, and learn to cook too.

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Why newspapers are dying.

A simple answer:

They don’t care about their customers.

Now that’s a bold statement, but I’ll back it up.

I needed to check on my New York Times subscription, which is delivered in Canada by The Globe and Mail, a Canadian-based newspaper. So I went to their website to get the phone number for the circulation department.

No phone numbers on the main page. At the very bottom of the web page there is a fine print menu. I looked under Customer Care. No phone number for the circulation department, though there is a button to "Click to subscribe". I looked under Contact Us. There is no circulation department number, but there is a main number.

I call. The message gives me lots of information on how to dial an extension, but no way to reach the circulation department. I dial zero and ask the operator for "Circulation". I then wait on hold for five minutes because, though my call is important to them, all of their operators are busy.

Finally I get a person who lets me know the status of my paper. The Globe and Mail doesn’t care enough about its subscribers to make it easy to contact the circulation department. They might care about new subscribers, but ironically if you already have the internet connection required to click the "Subscribe" button, then you know you can just read the news online.

Now you might say that I could have just contacted the New York Times directly, as I am a subscriber. But as I’ve written before, the email they provide for their Senior VP of Circulation doesn’t actually go to the New York Times; it goes to Publishers Circulation Fulfillment Inc. The New York Times doesn’t even have a Senior VP of Circulation, and even if they did, he or she wouldn’t be taking your call.

Now I’m just one subscriber. I’m sure they won’t care if they lose my business. And maybe they won’t care if they lose a few more subscribers over this kind of thing. They’ll rail about how people don’t read newspapers anymore. They’ll complain about Google stealing their content.

And they’ll miss the fact that slowly, one by one, paid subscribers got tired of waiting for them to clean up their act. They found alternatives. And they left. How many have to leave before they notice that they themselves are the problem?

If it is too much trouble for you to serve your customers, then you don’t deserve them.

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Just get it over with. Really.

Just the other day I was writing about another round of Nortel layoffs. Today, it’s the fact that Nortel’s stock is tanking big time. In fact, it’s hit an all time low:

On July 26, 2000, its shares were trading for as much as $124.50. That’s equivalent, on a split-adjusted basis, to $1,245 in today’s market.

So Friday’s $6.71 closing price equates to a loss of 99.5 per cent of the company’s market value in less than eight years. Where its market worth was once close to $400 billion, it is now less than $3 billion.

I was leaving Nortel back in December 1999, and I managed to sell my stock at that market high. But then a while later Nortel stock was down to US $20 per share, and I told my wife that it couldn’t possibly go lower than that, so we bought some. Which of course has turned out to be a HUGE mistake. Luckily we didn’t buy that much.

Wow! Stock value down 99.5% in less that eight years. As a management team, how would you like to have that on your resume? And yet the management at Nortel have seemed to make out incredibly well.

In sports when things aren’t going well, they always fire the coach. At Nortel, they fire the players and give the coach a bonus. So what happens when there are no players left?

Remember the days when management actually owed a fiduciary duty to shareholders, instead of themselves?

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Shark problems? This is not the solution.

Are you a surfer? Are you worried about shark attacks? Gizmodo reports on one product you should not buy:

This is awkward…during the testing phase for the Shark Shield, an electronic device that is designed to go on the back of surfboards to keep sharks away, one of the devices was actually eaten by a shark.

Yeah, not only did this thing not keep sharks away, but it actually attracted the attention of a 12-foot great white enough that it mistook it for a tasty snack. Luckily, it was on a buoy and not a surfboard at the time.

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Saying what sounds good.

Canada’s Liberal Party is berating the governing Conservative Party for lowering the GST by two points to 5%:

During the session with delegates, Mr. Brison said the Conservatives’ decision to cut the GST by two per cent costs $13 billion a year, money that could go into infrastructure, poverty and the environment.

And Dartmouth MP Mike Savage said cutting the GST doesn’t "do a thing for the (homeless) men who sleep at the Metro Turning Point Shelter and have their breakfast at Hope Cottage."

[...]

Ms. Bazos, for one, said she wouldn’t mind paying a little more in GST if it meant helping those less fortunate.

"Nobody loves to pay taxes but I’d rather pay taxes than see people sleeping on the streets, which I think is horrifying," she said, adding the money could also aid public education and the environment.

Ok, so after 13 years of Liberal government, with the GST at 7%, why is there still poverty? Why are there still problems with public education and the environment? Why isn’t all of the infrastructure in good condition?

Could it be because politicians aren’t really concerned with infrastructure, public education, and the environment? Those things just sound good on TV. Nobody gets elected for rebuilding a crumbling bridge or fixing a pothole. They get elected for giving money to all of the special interest groups with their hands out. And judging by the response to last week’s federal budget, there are no shortage of those.

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