Saturday, June 23, 2007
Once a few years pass and a generation (with a small g) comes of age with social networking technology, and the hub-bub of college freshman's profiles coming back to haunt them as job seekers (and similar stories) disappear, I think you'll find the data, user base, and applications supported by a platform like Facebook to be truly enriching to our day to day lives - from dating, to maintaining friendships over continents, to nurturing communities of interests, to professional uses like job seeking, recruiting, and even relationship-based selling.
It'll be interesting to see how it all plays.
In related news, LinkedIn has announced that it will be opening up its platform, as well, in the next year. Also, check out Mashable, a cool blog that I've only recently found, reviewing trends in social networking websites. I'll try to come back to what I like about Facebook, and more generally on social networking and community websites in a future post, but it just hasn't been top of mind recently.
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
"For the Olympics, a designated weather modifciation office will reduce air and ground pollution before the Games by shooting rockets filled with silver iodide into the sky to make rain. Beijing's Science and Technology Department has been experimenting with hormone therapy and cross-breeding to produce flowers that can withstand a Beiging August. "I'm sure that during those three weeks it will be crystal-clear in Beijing," energy analyst [Jim] Brock says. "They're playing with all sorts of things."
On a separate note, CNN.com carried a story today about Google.org announcing an initiative to develop plug-in hybrid electric vehicles that would far out-pace current standards for mgp. While it seems doubtful that even $10 million is sufficient to make a dent in the problem, Google's commitment to innovation in new problem spaces continues to impress. More over, the dual focus on technology innovation and thinking about new ways of addressing the market are also very encouraging:
Google said Tuesday it is getting in on the development of electric vehicles, awarding $1 million in grants and inviting applicants to bid for another $10 million in funding to develop plug-in hybrid electric vehicles capable of getting 70 to 100 miles per gallon.
The project, called the RechargeIT initiative and run from Google's philanthropic arm, Google.org, aims to further the development of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles - cars or trucks that have both a gasoline engine and advanced batteries that recharge by plugging into the nation's electric grid.
"Since most Americans drive less than 35 miles per day, you easily could drive mostly on electricity with the gas tank as a safety net," Dan Reicher, director of Climate and Energy Initiatives for Google.org, wrote on the organization's Web site. "In preliminary results from our test fleet, on average the plug-in hybrid gas mileage was 30-plus mpg higher than that of the regular hybrids."
The project also aims to develop vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology, allowing cars to sell their stored power back to the nation's electricity grid during times of peak demand.
Monday, June 18, 2007
While Jack Shafer gives the story the rod from a journalistic perspective, I'll issue my one and only piling-on: which is my general dismay at the way both market researchers and consultancies (like Jupiter, the issuer of the data) and the NYT are able to take the data-rich markets and behaviors of the web and gin up sensationalist stories that don't really add up to much. Do I have lots of evidence of this happening? No, not right now. Does it irk me, nonetheless? Yes.
Urbanites, even in poor cities, tend to have the money to consume more than their rural brethren, Rees says, so cities tend to have outsized ecological footprints. However, he notes, public transportation, efficient heating, streamlined services, and other things that are economical in cities but not elsewhere can ease urbanization's impact on the environment. “Cities do enable—if we organize them properly—the displacement of private cars in favor of public transportation, cogeneration, recycling, and remanufacturing,” he says. “In general, high-income cities increase the ecological footprint because of rising incomes and rising consumption, but we could—through intervention in the economy, appropriate planning, densification, and tax policies—turn it around. But so far we are choosing not to do so.
”The number of urbanites has tripled since the early 1960s and now represents half of the world's 6.5 billion population, which approximately doubled during that time. Meanwhile, our global footprint has more than doubled since the early 1960s, when it took up half the planet's renewable resources. It now exceeds the Earth's resources by about 25 percent, meaning that we are degrading the planet's ability to support us. If you think of those resources as a bank account, we are no longer living only off the interest. We are spending capital.
So how to disentangle the assertion of urbanites as bad actors? Well, the first is to understand the comparison. When comparing the Environmental Footprint of an urbanite to a ruralite, I think the assertion probably holds true. Let's consider a developed economy comparison of an urbanite in a city like New York or London to their rural counterpart - it is probably true that the urbanite both consumes net more products and services as well as requires those products and services to be imported in to the city and disposed of out of the city, whereas the ruralite may consume more locally produced products, and be able to dispose of them more efficiently (if not, necessarily, any more safely). Similarly, in a developing country standpoint, the challenge often may be that those ruralites are, in fact, rural poor, and simply do not have the economic capability to consume at parity with their urban counterparts, even the urban poor. In both cases, the impact is likely to bias the comparison against the urban population.
The challenge in that comparison lies in the fact that, at least as far as modern economies have grown, people get drawn to urban centers based on the ability of cities to create wealth, jobs, and opportunity. The logical conclusion of a finding that rural living is more sustainable that urban living - which would be to encourage more people to live in rural settings - does not hold at scale, because rural economies generally can't sustain the population mass, and therefore, those populations migrate to urban centers. Hence, global trends towards urbanization.
I think the more salient and actionable lessons from the analysis are to focus on patterns of consumption (among both rural and urban populations, but probably exaggerated among urban populations), trying to align consumption more closely with sustainability (i.e., how can we convince people to simply consume less) and separately, investing in public policy that continues to increase the efficiency by which products and services can be delivered to urban markets.
And a last note - the greater difficulty in the urban vs. rural comparison above is that it is probably not the demographically relevant comparison. Rather, of a greater concern is the trend to suburbs, exurbs, and other types of "cities" where citizens have the "richer" consumption patterns of urban environments, but benefit from none of efficiencies in delivering those services created by dense, urban environments. This rapid development of suburbia, and the patterns of living and consumption there are the demographic trend probably warrants the most concern.