Iraq Casualties

Iraq Body Count now lists over 20,000 casualties. This report lists September 11 casualties at 2,819. That’s around 15% of the number killed in Iraq. And the Iraqi’s weren’t even implicated in the Sept 11 attacks. And that figure doesn’t include casualties in Afghanistan. It’s a mixed up world.

Reframe: Environmental investment

If It Makes Money, It’s Not a ‘Cost’!.

Some excellent examples of how being green means making money. Given the corporation’s drive for profits (enshrined in US corporate law), this is, literally, the “money” quote:

So I ask you: Why on earth do we allow high-return investments like these to be framed as “costs”? I propose that doing so should actually be considered a serious accounting error. Failure to take advantage of such obvious returns on investment is nothing more than bad management, and should cause boards of directors to worry about their fiduciary responsibility and lawsuits from shareholders.

Right on!


Spiralgirl is sceptical of the ethical credentials of Starbucks and Nike, as recently highlighted.

I, too, am sceptical. The problems have been well documented, from No Logo to The Corporation.

However, it pays to recognise even small behavioural changes, especially when those small changes have big impacts. Spiralgirl mentions that Starbucks introduced a fair trade variety of coffee through their stores. I’ve already had my say about this. However, when Starbucks introduced fair trade coffee in this limited way, they became North America’s largest customer for fair trade coffee.

When you factor in continuity issues (that is the ability for small suppliers to provide a consistent supply of product) this is an important step, and should be recognised as such, with the appropriate sense of caution. Sure, 5% is only a small step, but it’s bigger than most companies Starbuck’s size are willing to take.

When Oxfam et. al recently released it’s Play Fair at the Olympics they steered away from making a fuss against Nike, because Nike, in fairness, have done more than most sportswear manufacturers to clean up their act. Nike, understandably, cried foul of campaigners who consistently single out Nike while a) ignoring the progress and steps that have been made and b) refuse to point the finger at the other, worse, manufacturers.

The sweatshop-free supply chain issue is far more complex than most campaigners realise – Nike opening up their supply chain to outside scrutiny is a huge step forward, as well as opening Nike up to significant competitive risk and should, IMO, be applauded.

I suppose what I’m getting at is that most corporations are shite, but, if a corporation takes steps in the right direction two things should happen – a) they should be recognised for the good work they are doing, and b) pressure should be continued to keep the changes coming and to ensure that they live up to their promises.

Website content management

I’ve been thinking a lot of late about content management systems for the WWF-Australia website. Initially I thought this would be a great project to work on, but my role has strayed a bit from what I was expecting to being less hands-on technical and more strategic. Thus, I’ve been looking at open source alternatives.

Unfortunately, it seems, nothing out there quite does what we need. View the extended entry for more.


Blockbuster: How to lose customers 101

Went down to the Blockbuster video rental store in Broadway the other night, keen to pick up a DVD to chill out to. Previously I’ve rented using one of my housemates’ accounts, but they no longer live here so I figured, what the heck, I’ll sign up.

Turns out the store doesn’t really want new customers. First, they required a 100 point ID check – that’s the same amount of ID required to set up a bank account. Then half-way down the application form there’s a section where they require a credit card number for security. I thought to myself, and wish I had have said, “It’s not like I’m renting a hotel room or anything…”

Now, I don’t know about you, but I don’t usually make a habit of leaving credit card numbers with my local video store. So, we walked out without becoming a member, and we’re not likely to go back. Surely I’m not the only one who takes issue with this – or am I?

Anyways, I was thinking about it after and the only thing that I can think of is that their turnover of videos is pretty high and that their clientele are particularly hard to track down for some reason. But regardless, this is utter overkill for simply renting a video.

Murdoch Looks Ahead

Dan Gillmor on Grassroots Journalism: Murdoch Looks Ahead.

I’m certainly no fan of Murdoch either (quite the opposite in fact), but this does seem like an enlightened approach to emergent media from an organisation that is not known for this kind of thinking. My good friend Toby has mentioned to me offline a couple of times that there is a real awareness of the power of weblogs and citizen journalism in – from fairly high up as well. It will be interesting to see how this develops.

Creative Class: alternative view

Metropolis Magazine: Why I Don’t Love Richard Florida.

I found Richard Florida’s book an excellent and thought provoking read. I felt that it was a little “broad brush”, but overall captured the essence of what I have seen happening in my professional and social life. Of course, I live smack-bang in the middle of his definition of the Creative Class, so that’s hardly surprising.

After a fair amount of fluff, the article above makes it’s point:

I don’t think there’s a developer alive who doesn’t think that the way to give a slow-moving property some cachet is to install a gallery or a few artists’ studios. Which is to say that I don’t think Florida is wrong. It’s just that his distillation of creativity into the kind of prescription routinely proffered by management consultants makes me fairly sure that what he’s selling is not the virtues of creativity but rather the ingredients of a formula.

It’s been a while since I read the book – but as I remember it Florida cautions, on numerous occasions, that you can not create a formula – that it is authenticity of place that needs to drive change. This, to me, was a big hole in Florida’s argument in fact, but the author of the article seems to have missed those warnings (or is ignoring them for expedience, or I’m remembering them being there when they weren’t). Perhaps the “management consultants”, like so many advertising agencies trying to cash in on the “markets are conversations” and “markets are relationships” vibe, have got it wrong? Surely the disagreement should be with their interpretation, not with Florida’s book?

The hole in Florida’s argument, broadly speaking, is the same hole as the “growth is infinite” argument of capitalism. In the same way that an economy can’t just keep growing infinitely (their has to be a ceiling because the earth and society cannot hold the weight any longer), not everywhere can be “hip and cool” for the Creative Class. After all there’s another 70% of the population (probably more given Florida’s expansive definition). So any “marketing consultant” that thinks they can transform a city/region by applying a boiler plate is going to fail dismally.

The Creative Class is an interesting way to look at how the economic centers over the past decade or so have grown, but it is not a fix-all solution to areas that are suffering. But it does hint at some ways that governments and developers might want to rethink their usual methods of recuscitation. Authenticity, diversity, tolerence. All worthy, and oft-debated, values in their own right, but combined in the right way (dare I say creatively), they can be also be a force for powerful economic change.

Linkage (cont…)

  • WorldChanging: Gorlov’s Helical Turbine
    Interesting technology, but more interesting this statement: “There’s also the question of what happens when major flows of water see a 35% reduction in energy. Gorlov suggests that 656 full-size turbines could capture sufficient energy from the Gulf Stream to power North America — but what happens to the Gulf Stream after losing some portion of its kinetic energy?” Reminds me of some thoughts I had previously about “hot rock” technology. As an aside – I asked one of our climate change folks about hot rock, specifically about potential impacts of energy transfer on that scale. He didn’t have an answer on the spot, but I will follow-up and report back soon.
  • WorldChanging: Show People Their Energy Use, and They Use Less
    Apparently there are plans to put so-called “smart meters” in homes across NSW – I’m wondering if this is one of the benefits they provide?
  • Seth Godin: Thinking about the Long Tail (part 1)
    “The better path, though, is to figure out how to be: patient, persistent, and low cost”. This was certainly our approach at NETaccounts. Let’s hope Seth is right 😉
  • Davos Newbies: More hours, please
    This is one of the great dichotomies facing the fair trade movement, and why there are generally provisions in fair trade definitions/charters for the inclusion of worker representation (i.e. from local unions or worker’s delegates) in decisions. It also shows that the best intentions can go awry for the most unexpected of reasons (but I also think a good sign that companies are listening and trying to do the right thing, however imperfectly).
  • Alternative Fuel Cars: Plug-In Hybrids and Electric Cars
    Interesting just how much car companies are underestimating demand for alternative energy vehicles. Reminds me of the time that AGL in Australia could not offer green power for about 18 months because it could not supply that demand (I think that was a bit of a cop-out by the way, but indicative of how far behind the eight-ball some energy and car companies are).