I’m in the forest, searching for the shore

Corkscrew tree
Searching for the way through

I’m percolating. Gestating. Mulling. Procrastinating. Whatever you want to call it, I’ve been in this mode for the better part of a week now. This happens regularly to me – something triggers my subconscious and it starts to take up and more and more mental resources. When I get phases like this, I’m sort of hopeless: I can’t remember anything, I’m  as distractable as – SQUIRREL! – my production nosedives. I almost never seem to get a warning that this is about to happen, just suddenly there I am – feeling like I’ve only got half brain-power. Typos go up. I’ll find myself staring off into space for who knows how long.

There’s a plus side to this. When I get like this it’s because I’m figuring something out. It sounds strange to say I don’t know what it is I’m figuring out, but historically, whatever pops into my head on the flip-side is fully formed, ready for me to copy down. I used to write papers this way – wander the streets aimlessly for a day or two, come home, sit down & type for a couple of hours before school, come home with an A paper shortly. Prior to agreeing to have kids I did this. When I wrote the first scheme for the original Pencilcase CMS, back in 1999, I couldn’t work for a week. Then in 1 sitting, I wrote the first version of the CMS over about 14 hours, with little to no edits.

So what have I been thinking about lately?  What’s going on back there? Well, there’s a bunch of stuff going on that are viable candidates for taking over my brain:

  • Moving: We might move away. We might buy  a new place in Vancouver. We definitely want to spend some time away – 3,6,9,12 months, who knows. The plan for that needs to resolve itself.
  • Community: I’ve been thinking a lot about the cross-sections of digital and real-world communities. My experience as a terribly shy human vs. a fairly chatty avatar. How to correlate the two, how to bridge the various communities I participate in on- and off-line.
  • CMS: The current world of CMS’s don’t really match the type of tools many of my clients need. Nor do the social CRMs. Nor does the issue-tracking software we and they all use. But they all form part of a solution to a real issue. And I feel like I’m on the hunt for a lightweight suite to handle lots of basic needs.
  • mobile & responsive design: Having now built a couple of responsive sites, in addition to 2 distinct “mobile” sites in the last few months, there’s a path there that I haven’t quite found. This is closely related to the CMS problem: solving the issue of ongoing site existence & emerging break points & client-control of content and so on.


So I’m in the forest, I’m looking for the path. I keep catching glimpses of the shore out there, where the horizon is clear and present, but I’m not there yet & it’s frustrating.

Elections & Technology

While it looks like eVoting will eventually arrive, we could likely streamline the current check-in/voting process. It seems ludicrous to me that in an at-large system, I must vote only at 1 particular poll. I watched at least 40-odd people turned away at Britannia in under 3 hours yesterday because they were supposed to be somewhere else. While we have large paper books of names, it sort of makes sense. But as I was scrutineering by iPhone, it occurred to me we have well-establish technology to make this easier. We’re all used to signing digitally at stores when buying things. Imagine the following scenario:

A voter is sent a voting card, like  normal. Only there’s a bar-code on it now. on e-Day, the voter goes to whichever poll is most convenient. At the sign-in desk, there’s a polling official with a hand-scanner. They scan the bar code & the person’s ino shows up on screen. They sign the screen (either with a stylus or a finger), then go vote as usual.

Behind the scenes, this san & signature is immediately updated across the system. Parties could likewise be immediately updated that voter # 12345 has just voted, further reducing the need  for scrutineers to do this work, reducing costs & ensuring that all registered electoral associations have equal access to this information & help them get out their vote.

If a voter needs to update their name, their address, or register, they can likewise do this digitally right there, updating the entire system. You wouldn’t even need particularly high-end technology to make this work. It seems reasonable to mandate that telcos/cablecos provide internet access on election day to make this possible.

It could even spit out live counts of voters by area, possibly alerting voters who have signed up for information that a particular polling station is busy or not, and suggesting alternates.

There’s probably various other ways existing, well-established technology could be used to help streamline the voting process, without digitizing voting itself – if you have any, let me know below.


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