Dad. Assistant City Manager. Surviving.

Category: Opinion

North Carolina Forces Amazon Associates to Leave

TechCrunch is reporting that Amazon Associates members in North Carolina are having their memberships discontinued because the state of North Carolina will be taxing Amazon Associates payouts.  Amazon Associates is a program that allows members to get referral fees for directing customers to Amazon.com.  I’m not a huge fan of internet-type taxes, but this law forces Amazon to collect sales taxes (I don’t quite know what on, because the Amazon Associates member isn’t purchasing anything) to raise minimal revenue (the source of which will dry up, since Amazon is dropping the program in North Carolina).  Apparently online music and e-book purchases (think iTunes or Amazon Kindle) will also be charged sales tax.

Links: Complaints via Twitter, Smartphones, Eagle Scouts

To follow up on my last post, here are some more random links that have recently come across my radar.

First, I am writing this in version 2.8 of WordPress.  WordPress 2.8 is an incremental improvement on 2.7, but it really rocks.  Here is the post announcing WordPress 2.8 (check out the video for the highlights) and here are some tips and tricks for using WordPress 2.8.

And because of the new WordPress release, I have fixed up a few things around here.  I disabled WP-Super-Cache (this takes a bit of load off the server by generating static HTML pages instead of querying the database ever page load) because it was messing with the Twitter bar on the right (really old tweets were showing up).  I will likely reenable this is traffic every picks up, but for now the site doesn’t need any caching.

I have also changed the byline of this site (again).  It began as Life in Athens, GA, then switched to Life in Lawrence, KS (when I moved to start grad school), then to Life in Jefferson County, CO (again, when I moved to Colorado).  These were all adequate descriptions of the site, but it needed something more.  WordPress includes that byline in the page title, so it shows up when you search on Google.  So I decided to use a more applicable byline for what I’ve been writing about.  Now the page title (and Google) read Chris M. Lindsey: Technology and Social Media in Public Administration.  I’m not completely sure about this, but hopefully it will last for a while.

Now for the links:

  • This article from the New York Times introduces the country to a 31-year-old Brian Deese, who is a major player in the automotive industry recovery.  Great article, and great job for Brian.  I hope more young people can make it into positions of influence, because I know we can bring a lot to the table.
  • The City of San Francisco is accepting complaints from citizens via Twitter.  I think this is the biggest of all the links, because it shows a city trying to connect with their citizens in the ways they communicate.  And you know what, this probably didn’t take very long or cost much (if any) money to implement.  Here is the Twitter user that is accepting the complaints.  More governments need to be doing this.
  • The New York Times says that smartphones are a necessity.  Especially if you are out of a job (sarcasm).  Seriously, why do jobless people need to be spending the money for a smartphone?
  • Ars Technica reviews the Palm Pre smartphone.  What I find interesting here is the discussion on the second page about having better contact integration.  It doesn’t necessarily need to be syncing (because who wants to have all of their Facebook friends or Gmail contact listings on their cell phone address book), but you should be able to access the contacts on these services.  And search all of them from one place.
  • Time has a great article on whether computer nerds can save old-fashioned journalism.
  • Gina Trapani linked to this great article in the New York Times that profiles Jim Collins, the author of Good to Great.  If you’ve read the book, read this profile.
  • Last but not least, the Athens-Banner Herald covers an Eagle Scout project.  Paul (a fellow Eagle Scout) sent me this link.  Jamie Jackson of Athens went above and beyond the call of Scouting and created a fish habitat from discarded Christmas trees.  The fish habitat is quite needed at Lake Chapman (in Sandy Creek Park, Athens) because of the way the lake was constructed (pretty much all lakes in Georgia were man-made), it cuts down on natural fish habitats.  Way to go, Jamie Jackson!

That’s it for today.  I hope to be writing more as I get into a more regular schedule with work.

Some Random Links

I’ve recently moved out to Colordado (for my job with Jefferson County). Lots of links piled up, and I wanted to share some.

The Wall Street Journal had a great story on how Google uses complex algorithms (imagine that) to project which employees are likely to quit.  Governments are beginning to need to project retirements (really, they have been trying to do this for a while), and a little Google help could go along way.  There are so many factors that go into employees leaving or retiring, some real science would be really helpful.  I’m optimistic.

This story broke while Emily and I were moving, when it was featured on Good Morning America.  Everyone was saying that the Ida fossil was the “missing link”.  I was skeptical after the GMA report and interview, because a long time ago, a good anthropology professor told my class that there is never a “missing link” find.  All finds look to be a missing link because they have never been seen before, but each only adds to our knowledge.  The theory of evolution almost details that there will never be one missing link, because changes are gradual over long periods of time and these are difficult to be found in one fossil.  And then Ars Technica followed up all the hype by detailing the media circus and the long-term damage done to science.

Lastly, ComputerWorld has an excellent article about the advancement in municipal technologies (dubbed “City 2.0”).  Besides the fact that I hate everyone using the 2.0 deal to classify anything as new, there is a lot of good stuff here.  The article talks about new electricity initiatives and technology, the use of social media and social networking in local governments, city-wide wireless internet possibilities, sustainable data centers, and use of the cloud.

This little bit, though, bugs me:

San Jose, Calif., is one of the most high-tech cities in the U.S. Over the next few years, the city will create a social network on Wikiplanning that helps citizens learn about the city, chat over instant messaging, complete surveys and download city podcasts.

What bugs me is that the technology exists to deploy this, for free (see WordPress, BuddyPress, Jabber, etc.), right now.  And it’s easy to do!  A city might need a Linux server, but this can be deployed very quickly.  So why is this going to take years???  You can use these technologies to increase the communication with your citizens and stakeholders right now!

Ok, enough for now, I have to get back to unpacking.

When The Internet Goes Out

Early on April 9th, the City of Morgan Hill (California) experienced a mass internet outage, started by a targeted infrastructure attack.  Bruce Perens has a good outline of what happened, why, and the lessons to be learned.  Especially important are the local services that went down:

That attack demonstrated a severe fault in American infrastructure: its centralization. The city of Morgan Hill and parts of three counties lost 911 service, cellular mobile telephone communications, land-line telephone, DSL internet and private networks, central station fire and burglar alarms, ATMs, credit card terminals, and monitoring of critical utilities. In addition, resources that should not have failed, like the local hospital’s internal computer network, proved to be dependent on external resources, leaving the hospital with a “paper system” for the day.

The City of Morgan Hill, prepared for natural disaster, reacted quickly and used local amateur (ham) radio operators to reroute emergency services and other essential communications.  It is surprising (to me, at least) that the local community made it through this emergency with little harm.  The warning, though, should be clear: our communities are becoming dependent upon internet access, and when access goes down, so do many of our everyday systems.

Update (4/23/09) – Scott at the CIO Weblog provides a calmer reaction to the situation in Morgan Hill, but he still sees room for improvement:

My own preference is not to avoid new technologies and outsourced services, but instead to focus on independent and redundant lines of communication with which to reach them. This approach is much less reactionary, is less costly overall, and pays much greater dividends in the event of trouble than does basing all services at your own site.

The problem with this thought is when there is only one fiber provider in town, you are stuck with the level of redundancy the telecom company builds into their infrastructure.

… And 3.5 Inches of Snow Today

And today Lawrence got the snow. 3.5 inches to be sure. If I had finished my last final by dark, I would’ve been playing in the snow.

3.5 Inches of Snow Today

I’m finished with finals now! Fall semester at KU is finished, and I’m heading home for Christmas in the morning.

3 Degrees

3 Degrees

Seriously, 3 degrees is way too cold. This picture was taken very early this morning (don’t ask, it is finals week).

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