Thursday, 29 June 2006

Tuesday, 27 June 2006

Support Free College Tuition for Minnesota’s Best Students

MN Gov. Tim Pawlenty floated a plan today that would provide high school students graduating within the top 25% of their class 2 free years of college tuition. For an additional 2 years, just major in math or science.

Education is on my list of things I think US citizens should ‘get for free’, so I give the plan a hearty,’Hell yeah!’

It’s a smart solution and all MN gubernatorial candidates should be supporting it. According the the Strib and Minvolved, this change means 15,000 students getting an education without looking at a decade of student loan bills (which jump 1.84 percentage points on July 1 – ouch).

Sure, making it free doesn’t eliminate costs – there’s still infrastructure costs, decent salaries for professors and staff, etc. So, there’s a conversation around how those costs will be met. The obvious answer is to distribute the costs to those students still paying tuition; out-of-state students and those greater-than-25%-smart students. Providing a helluva disincentive to _not_ attend college. Definitely the wrong message.

There are other more interesting and sustainable options – like taxes. In fact – that creates a virtuous circle – better educated people make more, therefore they have more income, therefore they can be taxed a higher rate.

If I’m buying a ‘free’ education with my taxes – sign me up.

Garrick Speaking at Civic League’s Future of Policy Making in MN Series

On August 22nd, as part of the Citizens Leagues’ 2006 Summer Policy Series, I’ll be joining Tom Swain, Jean LeVander King, Jen Alstad, and Steve Borsch for a conversation on the Future of the Web and Civic Engagement. Should be an interesting conversation – especially since it kicks off at 7:30am.

Here’s my initial thoughts on “myspace meeting our space” – more flushed out as the date approaches;

  1. Collaborative document tools like: Wikis, Writely, SubEthaEdit, WriteBoard – provide a place where groups can refine and revise their message prior to sharing it publicly & in a more structured way than blogging provides.
  2. The number of people with their own blogs will continue grow. Meaning, the information about what’s happening in a very small geographic area (i.e. my block) will continue to grow. For civic leaders this means 2 things; first – they may be expected to blog, second – a network of publishers to spread messages and engage others is ever growing.
  3. All of these technologies are but extensions of existing social behavior and the foundations of civic engagement. To me, that’s the most important bit.

Special thanks to Mike O’Connor for recommending me to Sean Kershaw at Citizens League for this conversation.

Monday, 26 June 2006

Reliving My Past Lives

So, rewind a week or so Jen asks;
“What’s this $40 charge for Susy Q Hat Co?”
Me: “Susy Q? Huh? I have no idea….Oh, I ordered some Too Much Joy bootlegs and their tour/video DVD.”

Three discs, 2 from 1993 and the third from 1991 loaded into the iTunes a few days ago. I’ve been rocking out since. Odd thing is – unlike the polished, studio recordings I have – the bootlegs take me back 15 years. As soon as I hit play.

Which presents a fair question: Why would you want to be taken back 15 years?

In a lot of ways, the early 90s could have been better for me. Yet somehow, it’s the sunny, optimistic memories that are brought back.

  • Blaring TMJ on my dual cassette boombox sitting in my sunny bedroom.
  • Snowboarding the back hills of northwestern Wisconsin.
  • Blaring TMJ on my dual cassette boombox driving a raised Ford Ranger through the rural back roads

Thanks TMJ.

Looks like things in fact, have not gotten worse.

The Future Soon Flickr Flick

I got another Jonathan Coulton tune stuck in my head last week. As I’ve discovered, the best way to get the earworm out is to make a music video for it (i.e. purposefully listen to it repeatedly hundreds of times).

Inspired by JC’s classic Flickr, and the recently launched JoCoPro, I present you:
Future Flickr [quicktime].

Thanks to all the photographers (and JC himself) for publishing their works under Creative Commons – with special thanks to Chuck Olsen and J Wynia.

Photo Credits:

Sunday, 25 June 2006

Project Launch: Minnesota Judicial Branch Website

I’m happy to see the new Minnesota Judicial Branch site launched this month (old one’s available for a while here if you want to compare and contrast). Looks like it’s a somewhat ‘soft’ launch – as they migrate content from the old to the new.

Last year, I helped the Court Information Office with the redesign – specifically in the information architecture. Their goal was common – consolidate a number of separate sites – in this case, 10 district court sites and the state court itself – into a single, easy to understand and maintain, information system. All while still being clear about which level of the site you’re at (state or district).

Like all information consolidations projects I’ve worked on, the first step is asking: “What types of information is everyone publishing today?”. In fact, the answer resolved many of the information architecture issues. Asking the sites’ visitors what they were looking for answered some more.

There’s two new bits I’m most pleased to see made it through to the launch:

  1. The find-a-district by ZIP code (also by map or County). Chances are you know your ZIP code more readily than your county or judicial district. Made it easy to use that as a key.
  2. The ‘How Do I….?’ – global menu item for the most common questions asked by Minnesota citizens (Adopt a child, Change a name, etc). When we asked visitors why they were at the site, the vast majority of their answers started with ‘How do I….’. Only natural to have a top-level section filled with those common questions.

Congratulations to the Court Information Office on the launch. I’m glad to see it out in the world.

What’s Wrong with Most People?

I remotely participated in a couple BloggerCon IV sessions this past weekend. I’m still a little in awe of how immersive the combination of IRC and streaming audio – kudos to the Dave Winer and the other organizers for bringing in the rest of the world.

Somewhere in the Niall Kennedy-led ‘Standards for Users’ session a bit about ‘most people’ not understanding technology (specifically RSS) came up.

According to 2005 population counts, China and India have a combined total of 2.3 billion citizens.

Chances are, if you’re reading this right now, you’re not ‘most people’. That’s OK. No one has ever solved a problem for most people. Problems are solved for very small niche groups – sometimes, when we get real lucky – more people (if not ‘most’) benefit. Curb cuts in the sidewalk originated to help those in wheelchairs – baby strollers, bicycles, skateboards, scooters, and grocery carts also benefitted. OXO Good Grips were originally designed to help those with arthritis – they’ve also helped me.

Though BloggerCon is a ‘users’ conference – the distinction between users & developers is horribly blurred. Thanks to technologies like RSS – and unlike automobiles and other electronics – that simplify without obscuring the inner-workings.

It’s not that most people need to intuitively understand a technology – it’s that they can tweak it, build-upon-it, to easily make their specific situation better.

On a related note, ‘Explaining RSS in 5 Minutes’ sounds like an excellent exercise.

UPDATE: Eric Rice wins for the Most Creative explanation.

Friday, 23 June 2006

Treasure Hunters Not an Amazing Race

Of course ever-anxious Tivo recorded NBC’s response to CBS’ Amazing Race – Treasure Hunters. Off the bat, I have my reservations about a program that so obviously is the television version of the 2004 Nick Cage car-accident National Treasure and the Tom Hanks-starred Da Vinci Code.

Unfortunately, it’s much, much worse than that.

Aside from being a straight forward Amazing Race rip-off – complete with playing the part of Travelocity – it’s like NBC asked the producers of Deal or No Deal to clone last year’s crappy-tacular Amazing Race family-edition. The contestants are completely flat and stereotypical – more soap opera than reality. The pairings made this painfully obvious – ex-CIA with Air Force, Young Professionals with Geniuses, Miss America with Brown Family. The Southie Boys were the worst – stereotypical southern boys edited to be searching Mt. Rushmore as if the hunted treasure was the forgotten batch of moonshine (see Carl’s comment below). I kept expecting David Sedaris’ brother to bring out a fuck-it bucket.

Cause after this, I need one.