Moving On…

Month: October, 2012

Council’s New Cameras

Finally for the first time I feel actually qualified to talk about an issue facing council, the underexposure on the live stream when our mayor was on camera.

Before we talk about the small problem I want to say how terrific it is to have a live stream (and archive) of council’s meeting available. I also want to than Greg Fowler for leading the way, doing it independently which showed that it was possible and that there was a demand for it.

I had noticed the exposure issue before Greg pointed it out but it was nice to hear that I wasn’t just being overly picky about camera settings.

The system is new and I’m not quite sure what capabilities the system the city is using has for adjusting exposure are, but I hope it gets straightened out soon.

For those of you a little more on the geek side…

The camera system council is using looks to be pretty advanced. Camera position and zoom are controlled by which council microphone is active. You can catch the camera moves as one speaker turns their mic off and another turns their’s on.

All this without the need for camera operators.

This is where the problem also lies. Without an operator (I assume and I may be completely wrong) focus and exposure have to be automatic.

The darkness is a result of the large white painted surface behind whoever sits in the mayor’s chair. This also is the case to a lesser extent with where Paul Hubert was sitting last night, all of them with those pesky white walls, Polhill and Usher looked great.

What caused that?

In an extremely simplified version the camera’s auto exposure looks at the scene and tries to make a guess at how bright to make everything, cameras have a pre-set neutral value, it has no idea what it is looking at though. Scenes that are predominately filled with light or dark colours cause problems.

Have you ever taken a picture outside in the winter of a snowy landscape and wondered why the snow looks grey or dark? It’s because the camera is attempting to reach an overall average grey. The old standard was what photographers call 18% grey.

So in our case the white wall behind Fontana causes underexposure (dark), the neutral wood wall behind Usher causes a proper exposure, while if a wall was painted black behind one of the speakers it would cause an over-exposure (bright). As a further example, I took frames from different positions into PhotoShop and blurred them to average their brightness and desaturated them to remove colour and you will notice they all turned out the same.

Exposure example

My first thought was exposure compensation, almost every camera has the ability to tell the camera not to use the default neutral value, but something brighter or darker. In this case it might fail though if there is not an adjustable level for each speaker location. Setting the compensation properly for Fontana and brightening the scene would cause the image to be over-exposed when the camera pans to Usher.

My second thought was manual exposure, something typically reserved for more advanced cameras where you remove the variable exposure system from the equation. All the speakers are similarly lit from the lights inside the room so their exposure values would be roughly the same. Problem being if there is any outside light chambers, or a light burns out, this would change the setting needed.

So what are we left with?

Either we paint all the walls in council chambers 18% grey, hope that the system has more advanced metering modes or features the ability to adjust exposure compensation individually for each position.

People Don’t Like Meetings

If there is one sentence that frustrates me every time I hear it, it would have to be:

“People would know this if they showed up to the meetings.”

I heard it again, although second hand, this week in reference to our new sick leave policy here at work.

Yes, the union conducts important work at general membership meetings, and yes members should attend them, and yes meetings are the optimal time to ask questions as well as have input into the union’s direction, but that does not give the union any excuse to not distribute information to it’s membership.

Meetings are just one way to communicate information.

Let’s face facts, people don’t want to show up to union meetings because they are boring. Having a geographically central location, childcare, door prizes, or coffee and donuts is not going to change that.

People do want information about issues that affect their jobs and their paycheque.

It’s the union’s job to ensure that information gets to individuals, not that the individuals get to that information.

 

Westminster Ponds ESA Update

Tonight I attended the Westminster Ponds Environmentally Significant Area Community Update held by the City of London, at the Western Ontario Fish and Game Protective Association on October 24, 2012.

Community announcement poster

The meeting had a great turnout of around 50 individuals, especially considering its limited geographical scope.

The meeting got down to business quickly and was packed with information. I’ll try to keep things brief.

Where does the city put pathways?

First off was the presentation about the planning the city has done around formalizing a process to decide where and what kind of maintained pathways can be placed within an environmentally significant area (ESA). The PDF is available on the city’s website.

City of London planning trails in ESA's [PDF]

Pathways are important within an ESA to direct or funnel traffic into less harmful routes and discourage the formation of several smaller “unofficial” paths.

The document is long, but a great reference.

What is the city doing to maintain the Westminster Ponds / Pond Mills ESA?

Next up was Jason with a presentation about the city’s current efforts such as:

Combating the Emerald Ash Borer.

  • most of us have heard about this problem already
  • workers identified 200 viable trees, prioritizing the ones near trails
  • using insecticide currently on 54 trees

Combating Japanese Knotweed

  • invasive species
  • 3 identified patches
  • chokes out all other plants
  • performing tests to best combat (treat with herbicide, or cut then treat with herbicide)
  • purple loosestrife has been returning possibly due to dry summer

Designation of a Heritage Tree

Updated Kiosks

  • new maps on kiosks at trailheads

Trail Closures

  • unofficial trails closed
  • some shortcuts still being used by commuters
  • laying brush across trail to discourage traffic

Raft Removal

  • some individuals thought they were Huckleberry Finn and built a raft
  • city workers dismantled and removed it

Graffiti

  • constant problem
  • workers are vigilant to remove quickly

Hazard Trees

  • dead and dying trees must be removed for safety
  • sprayed orange and numbered to mark

Did you say heritage buildings?

Well, actually no, but they are looking into a cultural heritage landscape designation for the old veterans lands, which includes buildings. Built for soldiers returning from war, it was ahead of it’s time allowing patients to look out the window to a beautiful natural area. beautiful surroundings are just now being proven to improve healing.

the city has hired the same consultant for the old London Psychiatric Grounds.

Will be presented to LACH on November 14 @ 5:30PM with public input to follow. BE THERE!

One attendee asked about the condition of the buildings and a representative of the hospital was there to answer that all the buildings have new roofs and are structurally sound. Three of four remaining buildings are currently in use by environmental groups, but the fourth (the big one) requires at least one million dollars of infrastructure to be useable.

Who the heck is the Westminster Working Group?

A better question is “why doesn’t every community have one of these?” You can get more information about them on Facebook on the Westminster Is page. They are a regularly meeting community group focused on urban planning, public safety, active transportation and accessibility, availability of food and physical activity. I’,, be looking to see if something similar exists in the Whit Oaks area, where I live.

The group has already brought a proposal to city council in hopes to get a walkway placed through the ESA to establish a route from Parliament Crescent to Commissioners Road.

The city has teamed up with them on this as well as proposing a branch run from Parliament Crescent to Silverdale Crescent. This is a safety concern due to the large amount of people who use it as a shortcut already.  The major issue is that a CNR track runs between the two. These must also pass though CNR approval, as well as engineering a safe elevated (bridge), or level crossing for pedestrians.

For funding, it was pointed out that existing budgets take care of the ESA assessments for the projects, the city has set aside money for the rail crossing, but additional money would need to be applied for, after all planning is done to build the actual paths.

Is that all?

Nope, but that’s the gist of what went on.

Feel free to ask me any questions on Twitter (@jasonfredin) or hit up my contact form and I will tell you what I know, or remember, or point you in the direction of who might be able to answer your question.

A Second Chance?

I was reading the minutes and agendas on the City of London website tonight and noticed that not one, but TWO of the appointees to the Community Safety & Crime Prevention Advisory Committee have resigned.

I wish K. Mueller and B. Urquhart the best of luck in their future ventures.

This leaves two vacancies, which I have inquired about. I am not getting my hopes up, as I was not selected when the committee was formed only months ago (and I wrote about it then), but there is a small glimmer of hope.

I have already emailed the staff contact asking if I need to resubmit an application. The spots appear to be filled by the members of the Finance and Administrative Services Committee.

Fingers crossed.

I’m Not Worried About Lance

You read that right, I’m not worried about Lance Armstrong, he will be fine.

So will all the other pro cyclists who are injecting/ingesting drugs to improve performance, putting their bodies though hell, and possibly shortening their lifespans.

They know what they are doing (or at least I hope they do). They are messing with their bodies in the name of sport, in the name of money, and in the name of our entertainment.

Eric Winston recently spoke to the dangers of sport at professional levels. Although discussing the dangers of football, I think this applies to the stress put on the bodies of almost all pro athletes.

“There are long lasting ramifications to the game we play, long lasting ramifications to the game we play.
Alright?
I’ve already kind of come to the understanding that I probably won’t live as long, because I play this game, and that’s ok, That’s a choice I’ve made. That’s a choice that all of us has made.”

Eric Winston

We have an arms race occurring in elite athletics. Every time the testing gets more sophisticated, the performance enhancements change to evade that test. Is testing possibly pushing athletes towards riskier and more unknown doping protocols?

All of this aside, they have some of the best doctors and scientists waging this arms war. What scares me is the high-school kid that tries to replicate this by himself, or with the advice they can find online.

What follows is a true story, hand to my heart, I swear.

We were in a local Shoppers Drug Mart a while ago picking up a prescription and a young male in his late teens approached the counter and asked the pharmacist for a “needle”. At this point I was curious, but the pharmacist sounded unfazed and quickly shot back “what gauge?” Dumbfounded the youth took a second and replied “one to inject myself, I don’t know, I got this stuff online”. After that the conversation turned to how they can’t sell items like those without a prescription (to my best recollection I was still reeling from the thought of injecting something that you bought without a prescription online).

I couldn’t believe this kid. What the hell was he thinking?

Then I realized that there are kids out there that see the reports of how much of an advantage performance enhancing drugs are, and the thought that they were the key to make their high-school team, get scouted by a college and maybe make it to the big time if everything works out right.

There are two problems, first is the media’s and sport’s treatment of illegal performance enhancers, like a magic potion that can make you twice as fast, or twice the strength. Truth is that you still need to put the work in. Many forms of doping don’t let you train less, their purpose is actually to allow you to train more or harder. Recovery is a major limiting factor in training, especially in endurance sports like running or cycling.

Second problem is the self medicating that occurs. Without a knowledgeable doctor who can run tests and monitor progress, all this is just taking a stab in the dark. Hey 100mg worked well last week, 200mg must be twice as good, right?

None of these problems have easy answers, but we need to try to find a way to keep everybody as healthy as possible while still competing on a level playing field in the sports they love.

The only way I can see doing this is through stricter enforcement and greater penalties for cheating.

How to do Social Media Right

Recently I have been listening to a new radio show in London called “Persuasion Inc. Advertising Exposed”.

Go ahead and tune in to this once a month show (or infomercial) or check it out online at Persuasion Inc’s page at AM980.ca.

On their last show titled “Dangers of Word of Mouth and Social Media Advertising” Craig gives an excellent overview on how you can run your own social media campaign into the ground. Not that any of his information is incorrect, it just doesn’t mention that there are plenty of ways to use social media effectively.

So how can we correct the ways businesses fail when it comes to social media? Let’s look at how to avoid Compel Media’s 10 Steps to Social Media Advertising Damage:

1, You come (or are led) to believe, social media advertising can replace traditional advertising.

This is a horrible way to run a campaign, with any form of media. Never put all of your eggs in one basket. Every company requires a mix of approaches to reach out to their target market. This mix will vary widely depending on the particular product.

2, You cancel some or all traditional advertising in lieu of “FREE” Social Media Advertising.

Again… see number one. Also mentioned on the show that there is “no such thing as a free lunch.” All marketing efforts have a cost to them, be it in discounts, media production, or purchasing air time, social media has underlying costs as well. Budget for these costs just as you would any other promotional program.

3, You or one of your staff “work” your social media.

Like any duty within your business, choosing the right person for the job is key. Finding a person familiar with social media and it’s use as a promotional tool might not always lend itself to an internal person. Just as not every company has a photographer on staff, there are many firms and freelancers out there who can handle these tasks. Putting together a social media strategy should assess your team’s abilities and use outside help to shore up your weaknesses.

No matter who runs your social media properties also needs guidelines. Have a conversation about how you want the business represented online. This avoids the need to have every post “approved” by several people and can set boundaries as well.

4, Your social media advertising or “feeds” are initially sales pitches for your services or products (because people love being “sold” in social settings).

You know you are in trouble if giving something away is the only way you can get attention. Treat social media just like you would any social setting. First, it helps if a known figure can introduce you to new people. Second, don’t try to steer the conversation to what it is that you want to talk about. You can learn a lot by taking your time and listen to what others are talking about, chime in when you feel comfortable and have something constructive to say. Just being a contributing member of the community will get you some recognition.

5, You soon find people only seem to respond to deep discount deals you offer. You find yourself offering such at increasingly frequent intervals.

Unless bargain hunters are your target demographic, I see no need to chase people like this. Although periodic give-aways and contests can build some buzz and good will if you use give-aways strategically. [1]

6, While you were originally updating a couple times a day, you soon run out of creative things to say….and you can’t afford to keep giving things away.

As above, you will run out of things to say if all you do is use social media as a platform to broadcast. There is always something to say or respond to when you engage the community.

7, Your updates become much less frequent.

Resist the urge to say something just for the sake of hearing your own voice. Maybe find someone with similar interests and try asking questions, the same thing you might do in a “real life” social setting.

8, Your intermittent future updates become personal puff pieces, sayings & sales pitches…accomplishing little.

I know creating content can be hard, but keep at it. What about thanking an employee for their hard work? rTraction did it on Labour Day and it was noticed widely. Who wouldn’t want to work for a company like that? See [2][3][4][5]

9, You’re now just part of the ignored background of your followers feeds…or worse, you’re an irritant.

Make sure you are listening and trying to gauge the response of the community. If you are being ignored it’s time to reevaluate your efforts and consider making a change. Consider more sharing and retweeting content you like from others, it can be just as important in building relationships.

10, Months pass…thousands, tens of thousands, or even hundreds of thousands of dollars of business are lost.

This is the end result we are trying to avoid. Like any other form of promotion, having a way to measure the returns on your investment are the only way to decide if your current marketing mix is working.

Not to say that I haven’t seen this pattern in many companies’ efforts, but these are just a few (of many) ways to avoid Compel Media’s 10 Steps to Social Media Advertising Damage.