Missing persons geo-RSS feeds

After AccordionGuy posted this missing persons report, I realized that missing persons reports would be a wonderful application for geo-tagged RSS feeds.

If I could subscribe to all missing persons reports within 100 miles of me, odds are that I'd see at least one of them someday, identify them, and report it.

The Amber Alert system is a wonderful idea, intended to let citizens know about missing persons the instant something happens; I feel that providing tech-enabled citizens with an easy way to see missing persons reports relevant to their locality would be a highly beneficial activity for a non-profit to take over.

In the meantime, if you live in the Toronto vicinity, please click the link above and keep your eyes out; it's the most I can do from out here in the northwest.

A primary reason for having them in RSS is for syndication on other sites; if every government site included a picture of a random missing person, every time you hit a page on the site, there'd be a tremendous amount of exposure to human eyeballs -- and that's a very good thing.

The Missing Kids website has a rotating Java applet that displays 12 at a time.

Trademarking integrity

Trademarks are powerful because they visually and clearly identify the companies who own them and their products. When a trademark is used to control the ability of a critic to clearly identify the target of her criticism, trademark is being perverted and is being used to undermine democratic discourse.

Dead on. Using intellectual property laws to stifle consumers violates a basic consumer right: the right to publish an opinion about their purchase.

I see no reason why consumers discussing corporations should be restricted from referencing them using one of the most prominent public features a corporation can publish, the logo.

People on eBay have the right to provide negative feedback, associated with the public aspect of my identity; Consumer Reports has existed for years with the sole purpose of providing consumers with positive and negative feedback about products, with great success. Why should it be any different when providing feedback about corporations?

Are organizations exempt from the social and legal rules that apply to individuals? Nike recently argued for the right to mislead consumers, en masse; many, many corporations consciously lied about their earnings in the past few years (as emphasized by Enron); representatives commonly make promises during elections, then ignore them at will.

Individuals can get $10,000 and 10 years in jail for lying, intentionally or not, on certain government paperwork.

Where's the constraints for organizations? Consumers appear to no longer exert pressure on corporations for honesty, integrity, etc. Without that pressure, things have begun to turn sour. The recent war, in violation of U.N. regulations, was supported en masse by the public — and with the support of the public, how can one resist?

Until the populace begins to exert an influence requiring honesty, organizations will continue degenerating; as organizations degrade further and further each year (our government, by now, no exception), our populace in general gains more disillusionment and more apathy.

Without a strong consumer influence for integrity, many major organizations have begun degrading into something worse. This can only be stopped with participation, common interest groups, and the will of a thousand thousand concerned people.

Wandering party lines

People in public presume the right to converse with other members of the public at will. Walking in a park, talking with someone else, you generally have the right to do so. You can do this on a subway, too; it's quite common, no one's bothered at all.

There's one problem, though, with the cell phone interaction: the headset's speaker is too quiet. It's made for one person's ear, but in real life we all get to hear what's being said. It makes the usual interaction social (for some, one of the reasons they're on the train in the first place) where with a cell phone conversation it's impossible to hear the other person. That can grate on the nerves, and requires the use of predictive hearing and creative games of fill-in-the-blank.

One difference remains, though. With public social interactions comes the ability for someone who's not in the conversation to enter it. That's how many people meet, after all, and it's often a friendly thing to do. With a cell phone conversation, it's rare to hear the public comment on what's going on. With their voices unconsciously silenced, resentment grows and people begin to shift and glare (I'm from Oregon, this could differ in other localities).

I feel that the resentment could be alleviated if cell phones users understood more clearly that they are indeed in a public conversation — that a cell phone does not introduce an invisible barrier of privacy. Their conversation is not stopped by that barrier, and I don't wish my public excursions to be intruded on by bubbles of resented, unwillingly granted privacy.

O Librarian, My Librarian

The first round of library volunteer work training was quite fun; interesting people, good volunteer coordination, and I'll be shelf-reading the etiquette section. I took scattered notes from the whole thing, included within.

Continue reading "O Librarian, My Librarian" »

Gems in the rough?

many of whom hadn't heard of the bill before we arrived

Maybe it's just a matter of distinguishing one bill from a thousand. It only takes a single person talking to everyone to make them aware -- and aware people are more likely to think about it. That and a bit of presentation. More on this.

Starhawk, the experience.

Starhawk is visiting Eugene for a few days of teaching; it's time to get my old battered copy of The Fifth Sacred Thing signed, I suppose, but I'm really much more interested in the two activist training workshops. She's got a lot of experience in working with activism and spirituality; the benefit to learning from her in person would be immense. It's a big stepping stone on the way to participation, certainly.

Continue reading "Starhawk, the experience." »

Geekcorps, interviewed.

... could we find a way to do skill transfers between people in the IT industries in the U.S. and Ghana ... we basically work with people to build up their businesses ... we are trying to help build up companies that are already competent at what they do ... we completed the project but we've also transferred some very valuable skills at the same time ... we want to help countries get to the point where they're self-sufficient with their own IT needs ...

If you don't know what Geekcorps is, you can start with the interview; if you want more information, there's notes (and the powerpoint slides, too). Then there's the Geek Activism summit at OScon, as well.

I'd like to hear personal stories from Geekcorps, if anyone out there that's been involved is listening; I'm interested in knowing more.

Meet the School Board: Monthly district meeting for 4J

These are my notes from the school board meeting of Eugene's 4J school district, 7pm @ May 14th. The room's packed -- on one side. Apparently half the room is reserved for.. open space? Freedom of movement by the sitting members? I'm not clear, but there's people in the hallway instead of in the room.

Things start out with the pledge of alliegance; strange, I haven't done that since they stopped doing it in school. A couple of people I know here are looking kind of amused, too; I don't join in, it's far too ridiculous to me personally for me to participate meaningfully. I catch myself mouthing nonsense syllables at one point to avoid seeming "weird", and stop this immediately.

Next on the agenda, they talk about.. PERS. As today's paper said they'd be taking audience commentary on the privacy issue first, they've apparently decided to shift the agenda; people start looking a bit confused, but no one minds.

The discussion's so quiet as to be nearly inaudible if you aren't lucky enough to be in the half of the crowd that's in the room; there's no amplification out in the hallway, but there's active (if quiet) discussion, which is an alternative ? if you're trying to listen.

There's discussion and a vote on the PERS measure -- something about raising an amount by a very small percentage. Not sure what's going on, but I hear the echo of unanimous yays come out of the room. Onward to the next (hah) agenda item, the EBS program.

There's a five minute presentation on the EBS program; apparently there's a movement in the pre-high-school educational system to teach students to be respectful of others. Not clear on what the extra benefit is here; I thought this stuff was being taught all the time! But I guess if it's not already being taught to students, that'd be a better idea as to why things are devolving so badly by high school.

I'm not happy with the direction of the group behaviour instructions, though; it bothers me, some of these examples: teachers standing quietly in line, showing the students how; a kid quoting what's been taught him verbatim, talking about walking calmly and quietly in the halls; where's the life that I remember from my halls in middle school? Quiet is not necessarily respectful. There is a lot of focus on respecting others, which I do appreciate; I'm glad to see it, overall.

Next is the high school report, apparently; students from various local high schools talk about what they're doing this month (?). Interesting to listen to, not really meaningful to non-students; Churchhill apparently did something they haven't done since 1980 ? yay!

(to be continued)

Continue reading "Meet the School Board: Monthly district meeting for 4J" »

Congress thinks constituents don't care about media conglomeration.

When the folks at MoveOn.org talk to Congresspeople about this issue, the response is usually the same: "We only hear from media lobbyists on this. It seems like my constituents aren't very concerned with this issue." A few thousand emails could permanently change that perception. Please join this critical campaign, and let Congress know you care.


If you're an American blogger, your representative probably doesn't realize that you have a stated opinion on today's current issues: security, rights, media, corporations, war, whatever. The next time you post about something, make the choice to send your representative a copy of your post. Let them know your opinion in the form they're accustomed to getting it in, and maybe they'll actually start listening.

Geostumbling regional activism communities

People On Page: YASNS...

...or Yet Another Social Networking Service. PeopleOnPage is a browser plug-in co-browsing app, which supports two views of other people in the system: Dating, and World. (Gotta love two-category taxonomies...) And they seem to be following the Liz Lawley dictum -- "Its the faces, stupid!" -- by providing a user-created POPCard with a photo.


Add geographical services, and suddenly you have a live, roaming network of people who's cell phones are searching their local peer-to-peer network for compatible people.

Then you let someone watch your web browser, when you don't mind, and they can decide if they want to talk to you; it's like "hey, what are you reading?", Internet-style.

If all the personals people publish their client databases, minus an email address and location, plus a pgp public key. When you encounter someone nearby, you encrypt a greeting to their public key, sign it with your private key, and negotiate that you're you. They do the same, using the central registry for verification, and you've got basic identity verification.

Add a per-URL site filter, so that they can see when I surf sites that I deem appropriate for advertising: things that are on this list of organizations might be a good start; This would be another. There's a trend, here; I'm choosing how people see me, and they can interpret as they wish.

The web browser proxy software required to do this has been implemented as well, in POE; combined with a new link on the history page, Surf this site publicly. Stir in a Java app installed on my phone, reporting my location every two minutes to my website.

The killer app potential of this is that you can now show people an activism community's traffic, online, live. By tracking each person's individual comments on an issue (through their freely-provided and pre-configured blog), activism becomes a tangible, visible thing. It becomes something that people can see their effect on.

Continue reading "Geostumbling regional activism communities" »

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