Monthly Archives: May 2009

Connecting Yourself to a New Job

When is the best time to plant a tree?
20 years ago.

When is the next best time to plant a tree?

Chinese Proverb

What is true for trees, is true for networks — build your network before you need it!

This is an interesting article for job seekers and networkers.

UK effort to release works from Crown Copyright

Cover story: Government urged to release ??300m of agency ideas | News | New Media Age

By Justin Pearse, Will Cooper

The UK Government is locking away up to ??300m worth of intellectual property from digital content created by agencies and production companies.

The claim by the production company trade body Pact is part of its campaign to abolish the practice whereby digital content created for government, local government, NGOs and other public bodies is held under crown copyright.

Pact, supported by the IPA, is proposing a Digital Rights Framework for all publicly funded content. This would allow greater opportunities for agencies and production companies to reuse work and stimulate a secondary rights market.

The move could enable the Government to gain revenues from licensing and release assets that would help to stimulate the digital economy.

A similar approach could work in Canada. Instead of working to abolish Crown Copyright altogether, it could be very productive to work toward a broad copyright licensing framework for government information. As much as I’m a fan of Creative Commons licences might not be appropriate for this particular use.

It is also worth noting that beyond stimulating the digital economy with government documents and information, releasing works from Crown Copyright would reduce costs to government itself — believe it or not, sometimes the largest cost of initiatives in one government department is licensing works from other departments.

RSS isn’t just for news anymore

  1. Track Packages. Nobody enjoys visiting a site and punching in a tracking number just to get shipment status on a package. allows you to create a custom feed that gets updated as your package moves along its route. UPS, Fedex, USPS & DHL are supported.
  2. Create a Calendar Feed. This is a cool way to share events with others. allows you to create an account, add events and meetngs, and then share a feed for others to consume. They can use a standard feed reader or the site to keep track.
  3. TV Listings Via RSS. Track programming on your favorite TV channels via Bootleg RSS.
  4. Keep Up With Specific Emails Via RSS. Mailbucket will pump any emails into a feed that you forward to Just create an Outlook rule against whatever (e.g. emails from particular senders) and get the sent out to a feed once they come in. Just keep in mind that such feeds are unencrypted and can be consumed by others.
  5. Deliver Your Contacts Via RSS. If you need to keep track of your contacts on different machines or want to share your  contacts with friends, allows you to create a feed and upload your contact information to do just that.

Many people think of RSS as a way of feeding blog content or headlines from news sites to RSS readers. Yes, it’s good for that, but it’s much, much more than that too. This site lists some of the more creative ways RSS can be used to deliver content that you might not have thought of.

Where gets its data

Michael Geist has a new service online today called which resurrects the government’s ATIP request tracking service, CAIRS. And how does Geist get the content for the site? How does he find out what ATIP requests government departments are handling? I can’t be sure, but it looks like he makes ATIP requests to find out!

In this image from, from here, we see Elections Canada reporting that one of the ATIP requests they got in July 2008 was a request for a list of all ATIP requests received. I enjoy the recursiveness of this.

In fact, I’m considering making an ATIP request for a list of ATIP requests resulting in lists of ATIP requests that do not include their own requests. Would my request be on the list? [Sorry, math nerds — I couldn’t resist!]

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Google Street View car in Ottawa

I was following a car yesterday on Richmond Road in Ottawa that looked like it was taking pictures for Google Street View. It’s about time Street View came to Canada!


WhiteHouse 2.0 — where is Canada?

In the President???s last Weekly Address, he called on government to “recognize that we cannot meet the challenges of today with old habits and stale thinking.” He added that “we need to reform our government so that it is more efficient, more transparent, and more creative,” and pledged to “reach beyond the halls of government” to engage the public. Today the White House is taking steps to expand how the Administration is communicating with the public, including the latest information and guidance about the H1N1 virus. In addition to, you can now find us in a number of other spots on the web:

The Whitehouse was already aggressively using internet technology to connect to citizens, continuing the high level of engagement established by Obama as a candidate. Today, they took it to a new level, joining Facebook, MySpace and Twitter to deliver information to citizens through new channels and to provide more ways for citizens to participate in the conversations of the day.

The Parliament of Canada should be doing the same thing. These services are inexpensive to use, and provide more channels of communication to citizens.

In fact, Parliament has a terrific opportunity here. Laconica is a Canadian-developed microblogging platform, similar to Twitter, that is free and open source. It’s also “federated”, meaning that users with accounts on any Laconica server can communicate with users on any other Laconica server. That is in stark contrast to the “walled garden” (or “walled ghetto”) of Facebook and Twitter.

I’d love to see the Canadian Parliament set up a Laconica server for Parliament and Government of Canada use. It could have the GoC look and feel and provide bilingual support and be accessible from within the GoC networks. This would open communication with Canadians and promote Canadian innovation, and demonstrate that the Canadian Government and Parliament really understand why they would adopt these technologies, rather than simply jumping on the Twitter bandwagon.

Wolfram|Alpha: the killer app for Mathematica

Wolfram|Alpha is being readied for release and is gaining profile as a new, smarter search engine, one that will not only find information that you ask for, but will find information about what you ask for.

Although it???s tempting to think of Wolfram|Alpha as a place to look up facts, that???s only part of the story. The thing that truly sets Wolfram|Alpha apart is that it is able to do sophisticated computations for you, both pure computations involving numbers or formulas you enter, and computations applied automatically to data called up from its repositories.

Why does computation matter? Because computation is what turns generic information into specific answers.

And Wolfram|Alpha gets its ability to do these sophisticated calculations from thousands of algorithms and Wolfram’s better-known product, Mathematica, a popular and very powerful mathematical computing platform. In fact, as the article by Theodore Gray concludes,

Wolfram|Alpha is in a sense the ???killer app??? for Mathematica. It is a chance for Mathematica to show off the astonishing range of things it is capable of doing when it is deployed, not against a specific problem, but against all problems.

Wolfram|Alpha looks absolutely fantastic for searching for data and doing complex calculations on data in a wide range of fields. It will be released later in May and, like many other data addicts and math nerds, I can’t wait!

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