Most of us vagabond laptop workers are highly aware of the fact that Panera Bread has free wi-fi in every one of their stores. On any given day, I am all over the city & suburbs meeting with clients, picking up my kids, sending documents, etc., and the mental geography of all the spacious, clean, coffee-filled, outlet-rich Paneras is a major consideration in my motion planning.
Thank you, Panera. You get my money.
It's always dangerous to talk to reporters-- you never know what quotes they're going to cobble together and say you said. But I think he did a good job of attributing some cohesive text to me based on my rambling.
When I said that I was "incredibly interested in the ability of human beings to affect their surroundings instead of whining and complaining", what I was talking about was a concept I've been thinking about alot lately:
Open Source Emergency Response.
The current way we deal with emergencies (terrorism, service outages, etc.) is that the people who are near the emergency but not immediately injured are considered objects who must be managed or removed so that the First Responders (fire, police, EMT) can do their jobs.
But what if we applied the things we've learned from the open source software movement-- that everyone can help everyone, that an immense and loosely coupled group of people can often outperfom a finite set of professionals, that you don't have to wait for the answer to come from on high-- to emergency response?
If we all knew what to do in emergencies-- how to move the injured, how to spot remaining danger, where to go for cover, and so on, we could all be assets and not just obstacles.
The CTA Alerts utility is a small step in that direction. That's what I meant to say.
As the former president of a Catholic elementary school board, and a member of this-and-that parish group, ad-hoc committee, and other community groups, I am pretty familiar with the inside of a meeting room.
I am also pretty familiar with the idea of obsessively photographing obscure picture sets.
That's why I am taken in by Paul Shambroom's, MEETINGS SERIES, a set of photos taken at town council and community meetings across the country. Banal and oddly similar in both people and room types. Here's his take on the project:
These photographs emphasize the theatrical aspects of meetings: There is a "cast", a "set", an "audience" (sometimes), and a "program" (the agenda). Seating arrangements, clothing, and body language all provide clues to local cultural traits and political dynamics. The subjects play dual roles as private individuals and (sometimes reluctant) public leaders. Power may be relative, but the mayor of a town of 200 has much in common with the President of the United States. We see ourselves reflected (either in positive or negative) in our leaders, exemplifying both the highest ideals and lowest depths of the human spirit. Our reactions to them help define our perceptions of our own place in society, as insiders or outsiders, haves or have-nots.
via Design Observer.
So my brother Kevin has a weblog called CTA Tattler. It has lots of readers and a pretty broad community of people interested in the daily live of the Chicago Tranist Authority has formed there.
The site get lots of action when there is a service interruption on the CTA– people log on after being frustrated after rough commutes peppered with precious little actual useful communication coming from CTA employees– the people who “should” know.
But I also noticed that people posted tons of specific information about the transit conditions that would have been useful if it was received at the right time (like, during rush hour when people were making transit decisions).
So I started a group on UPOC, which is a pretty nifty free wireless notification utility. I signed up years ago and started a group called “Five Dollar Meals in Chicago” as a test. It kinda went nowhere, but I never noticed much spam in the group and I’ve never been solicited by UPOC directly, so they seemed to be a relatively non-evil group providing a useful service for free.
The new group is called CTA Alerts and its description is “Rider-to-rider communication in the event of service disruption or emergency on the Chicago Transit Authority”. Kevin posted about it this morning and we have 52 members already.