The end of security theatre.

I think it might be Seth Godin who came up with the term "Security Theatre", but it is so apropos. A few weeks ago we were at the airport in Toronto on our way to Boston. Security stopped me to tell me that the little gadget in my pocket – a Swiss Army card with a knife all of 1" long and a tiny flat screwdriver – would need to be confiscated for security reasons.

Now let me put this into perspective. This knife might give someone the equivalent of a nasty paper cut. Painful yes, but a weapon no. Yet confiscate it they did, in a pointless show. Certainly nobody else would take it seriously.

I’m always entertained when I’m told that I can’t bring my bottle of water through security, so it is tossed into a trash barrel three feet away. If they seriously suspected that the bottle contained explosives they wouldn’t be todding it three feet away. I’d even be happy to drink from the bottle to demonstrate how safe it is.

Don’t even get me started on the whole three ounce tube and sealed plastic bag rules. Or the fact that the rules are completely inconsistent from one airport to another.

I’d like to know if all of this purported security has foiled even one nefarious caper.

And we treat everyone the same way. As my friend Al used to say, you don’t see a lot of incidents involving children or 85-year-old grandmothers.

Perhaps we could do away with the theatre and do something that would actually make flying safer. It seems that Australia gets this:

Australia’s aviation authority has announced a return to sanity, allowing nail files, umbrellas and metal cutlery on its planes, saying that it will focus instead on "real risks."

Now if only everyone else would get it.

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What happened to free healthcare?

As my friends in the US consider their massive House and Senate healthcare bills, intended to provide everyone with access to healthcare, I thought I should provide this missive from today’s news about the state of healthcare in Canada:

Ontario residents should expect to pay upfront for more health-care services and endure longer lineups if the Liberal government makes good on its threat to freeze funding for hospitals next year, critics said Thursday.

Health Minister Deb Matthews is warning hospitals to brace for a possible budget freeze this spring because the province is grappling with a $24.7-billion deficit – the largest in its history.

The most hospitals can hope for is an increase below last year’s 2.1 per cent boost – less than inflation – which critics say is so meagre it has already forced hospitals to close beds and cut services. [Emphasis mine.]

Americans are often told that healthcare is free in Canada and that treatment is prompt and efficient. It is true that you won’t go bankrupt as a result of medical treatment in Canada. And you will receive excellent treatment for critical life-threatening medical situations such as heart attacks or cancer. However, as this article states, long waits are common and everything is not free.

But when the government deficits increase, healthcare is one of the first things to be sacrificed. No matter what the government tells you, having them takeover healthcare will not lower the deficit. Increasing the cost and controlling access clearly will though.

Sadly, hospitals in Ontario, Canada, are faced with the saddest Catch-22 of all. Annual block funding levels are determined by government bureaucrats with little concern for actual local hospital demand by patients, while hospitals are forbidden by law from running deficits regardless of their individual situations. Thus hospitals located in growing communities with increasing medical needs and doctor shortages are unable to keep their heads above water.

That is the true result of government-run healthcare. It’s not about medical outcomes; it’s about controlling costs.

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A decade long search for tomorrow.

Last Monday Mondoville suggested that the search for a digital media future amounted essentially to "all talk and no action" if I’m paraphrasing correctly. Unfortunately comments were closed so I’m going to comment on that post here. As I’m currently working with the Canadian Digital Media Network to establish an interactive community, this part especially caught my eye:

Canadian Digital Media Network, a federal government-backed effort with hubs in Kitchener and Stratford was evoked as a future model for Toronto, but it looks all too clinical — seemingly indifferent toward the business and marketing types who connect these ideas to the public. Who else is going to pay for the services of the designers and technologists? Well, stick with academia, and this intellectual exercise can go on forever: Canada 3.0, the Waterloo Stratford Institute’s annual conference scheduled for May 2010, promises to make this country a world leader in digital media — if not, there’s always the year after that!

Now it may come as a surprise to many, but I agree completely with that assessment.

No government effort, federal, provincial, or municipal, will ever create a sustainable industry. Period.

The Canadian Digital Media Network, or CDMN, does look all to clinical and politically correct, as any government-affiliated organization pretty much has to look. This is not going to be a controversial organization; that doesn’t make for good press.

CDMN is intended to be an enabling organization, helping others to create and/or grow digital media hubs. And every enabler starts with a grand, sweeping visionary statement, liking making Canada a world leader in digital media. This galvanizes politicians, industry, and people like you and I into actually doing something about it. Or maybe thinking that if there is somebody there to help then we can get something done quicker than we thought we could.

I suppose President John F. Kennedy had the same idea when he said that America would put a man on the moon within a decade. Great dreams with appropriate motivation behind them tend to make great things happen.

The Stratford Institute is one of those hubs, but is also an acacemic institution. It runs the Canada 3.0 Conference to bring together its constituent parties. Both the CDMN and the Stratford Institute, to their credit, recognized that they might not be reaching the entire digital media landscape. From that realization came the suggestion of DigitalMediaCamp.

DigitalMediaCamp is the grassroots face of the CDMN effort.It is open to everyone, shares with everyone, learns from everyone, and builds upon those thoughts while gathering them and allowing free comment on them. DigitalMediaCamp can be controversial, and occasionally should be. All comments about DigitalMediaCamp – uncensored in any way – are visible on the main page of the site. All of the content from DigitalMediaCamp is available on the wiki.

DigitalMediaCamp is already leading groups to galvanize around the issue, to take action, and to stand up and be counted.

Mondoville is correct. No government initiative could ever accomplish this. But sometimes a simple idea can push people beyond the tipping point into tomorrow.

(Cross-posted to digitalmediacamp.org).

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The downside of energy conservation.

I believe that we should conserve energy. But there are occasionally downsides. Compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs are difficult to read by. LED bulbs may rectify that, though the cost is currently very high, especially considering that LEDs used to be very inexpensive. But there are other problems that might never have occurred to us: Cities around the country that have installed energy-efficient traffic lights are discovering a hazardous downside:

The bulbs don’t burn hot enough to melt snow and can become crusted over in a storm — a problem blamed for dozens of accidents and at least one death.

[...]

Many communities have switched to LED bulbs in their traffic lights because they use 90 percent less energy than the old incandescent variety, last far longer and save money. Their great advantage is also their drawback: They do not waste energy by producing heat.

That’s a problem nobody really could have foreseen. We’re just used to the lights being visible in winter, without really considering why.

Energy conservation is, and always has been, a good idea. But thinking about the consequences of change is also a good idea.

Via Don Surber.

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Fear is front page news.

The media have terrorized us for months with front page news of the dangers of H1N1, or swine flu. The scare tactics continue event today.

Yet the other day I found this tucked away on page A6 of my local paper:

LONDON — H1N1 flu is far less dangerous than originally feared, British officials said Thursday — about 100 times less lethal than the 1918 Spanish flu.

[...]

Earlier this week, American researchers released a similar analysis of the virus and said H1N1 may turn out to be the mildest pandemic on record. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated H1N1 has a lower death rate than seasonal flu.

Hmmm. "mildest pandemic on record". "lower death rate than seasonal flu." That doesn’t sound very scary. In fact, it sounds informative, comforting, and reassuring.

Yes, I can see why that just wouldn’t work on the front page. I guess honest journalism just doesn’t cut it anymore.Truth is the first casualty when creating fear is all that’s important.

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Robbing the rich to give to the poor.

Or more accurately, robbing taxpayers to give to the poor artists. From today’s Record:

After years of work the Prosperity Council, which represents 3,400 businesses in this region, asked municipal councillors to provide the operating funds for an arts enabling organization beginning in 2010.

A letter was recently sent to every councillor in the region, saying the annual budget for the arts organization is about $450,000.

As municipal councils consider their 2010 budgets, the Prosperity Council suggests the Region of Waterloo could fund half of that annual cost and the local councils could share the remainder.

Isn’t that wonderful? The region and the cities can share the cost, all of which comes out of the pockets of local taxpayers regardless of how you split it up.

The first answer to any problem in Canada seems to be to ask some level of government for money. And why not? Canada has created a basic welfare state at every level. Businesses look to the government for loans and grants. So do Arts organizations. Municipal governments look to the provincial governments, and provincial governments to the federal government for funding.

Everyone has their handout for a decreasing pool of cash from the government. But as my Aunt Jean used to say, when you see the word "government", substitute the word "taxpayer". Plumbers, mechanics, accountants, factory workers – their hard-earned money is taken to give to someone else who is deemed to deserve it by someone else.

It doesn’t have to be that way though. Four citizens were able to raise $385,000 in a few months to put a rink in Waterloo’s public square after the city council said they didn’t have the money.Clearly that was something the community could get behind and support.

Now I do appreciate the value of the Arts, and I do understand what the Prosperity Council is trying to do. But not all arts or artists provide the same value, and how do we decide which to support and which not to support?

The Prosperity Council is also working on this for a somewhat selfish reason:

The Prosperity Council believes a vibrant arts scene is essential for the long-term health of the local economy as this region competes with Toronto, Ottawa and Hamilton for talent. Those cities spend significantly more on arts and culture.

If this is about competing for talent that benefits business, then those businesses should be willing to pony up more than $70,000, less than one fifth of that raised for that public skating rink. That’s my view as a taxpayer who has been forced to pay an ever increasing tax bill without seeing that much benefit. And I do enjoy the Arts. Imagine how unreasonable this seems to a citizen who does not. Why should they be forced to pay for something they may never use or enjoy? This is not like paying education, which benefits all. This is asking people to pay for something with a value that is highly subjective.

Arts and artists must consider learning ways to show their value to the average citizen. Even Shakespeare and Michaelangelo had to convince benefactors to fund them. We do have galleries, live theatre, and a symphony in the region, all of which I enjoy, and I hope they grow and prosper. But like it or not, they do have to reach our to average citizens for their acceptance and their ticket sales. I do wish the Prosperity Council all the best in helping them to accomplish that and I would love to help in any way I can.

Always relying on the taxpayer to foot the bill – or using the more recent tactic of threatening closure if we don’t pay up – are very poor long term solutions.

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Digital Media Camp Toronto

When we started planning the DigitalMediaCamp events, in the back of my mind I had the nagging feeling that this would be just another camp-style event. I knew it would be an interesting event, but an unremarkable one. Coincidentally, a good friend of mine says the meaning of "interesting" is never a good one.

We also wanted to attract a different audience than the usual tech folks who attend events such as StartupCamp. We wanted to incite not only tech people, but content creators and designers – the people who create the actual digital media. We started with a simple question:

How can we work together to make Toronto a globally competitive hub of digital media entrepreneurship and innovation?

Yesterday was the day. DigitalMediaCamp Toronto at OCAD in Toronto. With about 80 people in attendance we didn’t just meet; we engaged with each other. If the day had been 48 hours long I don’t think that we would have had enough time for everyone to say everything they wanted to say.

I was wrong. It was a remarkable event. And I’m comfortable saying that it shattered everyone’s expectations. But don’t take my word for it. Follow the #dmcamp hashtag on Twitter.Or check out these posts:

http://www.techvibes.com/blog/digitalmediacamp-toronto
http://bradfortner.wordpress.com/2009/12/13/will-torontos-digitalmediacamp-help-better-focus-the-understanding-of-the-citys-digital-media-industry/
http://citadelrock.com/www/blogpost4-Reflections-on-Digital-Media-Camp
http://beta.innovatetoronto.ca/?p=281

With 40 different conversations spread across 4 topic areas (check them out on the wiki) there just wasn’t enough time to discuss all that we wanted to discuss. I found myself moving from group to group, just to partake of some of the passionate discussions, and to add my two cents worth occasionally. Personalities contributed, clashed, and entertained. Several groups spawned projects from the conversations and planned to meet again, especially the #t4change group. And people who are usually more reserved (you know who you are) found their voices.

Even given a very long day on a Saturday, the energy was palpable all day long, likely spurred on by great food and coffee, and excellent work by Mark Kuznicki. I don’t make it to Toronto all that often – that 401 drive is a deterrent – but I’m certainly glad this was the day.

It was great to meet everyone and I look forward to chatting with all of you both virtually and live as we figure out how to answer that question. It’s going to take me a few days just to work through all of the ideas we generated in that one short day. Thanks to everyone who joined us on Saturday!

(Cross-posted to digitalmediacamp.org.)

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