Being a Citizen Shouldn’t Be So Hard! Part 2: Beyond Government

NOTE: This is part 2 of a multipart series. See the series intro. More to come over the next few days.

This series is a work in process. I’m counting on Contentious.com readers and others to help me sharpen this discussion so I can present it more formally for the Knight Commission to consider.

So please comment below or e-mail me to share your thoughts and questions. Thanks!

To compensate for our government’s human-unfriendly info systems, some people have developed civic info-filtering backup systems: news organizations, activists, advocacy groups, think tanks, etc.

In my opinion, ordinary Americans have come to rely too heavily on these third parties to function as our “democracy radar.” We’ve largely shifted to their shoulders most responsibility to clue us in when something is brewing in government, tell us how we can exercise influence (if at all), and gauge the results of civic and government action.

Taken together, these backup systems generally have worked well enough — but they also have significant (and occasional dangerous) flaws. They’ve got too many blind spots, too many hidden agendas, insufficient transparency, and too little support for timely, effective citizen participation…

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Transit sites: Go mobile, please!

If ANY web site should have a mobile-friendly layout that automatically loads when accessed by a mobile device, it’s public transit sites.

Seriously — people want to use transit sites on the go! That’s kind of the whole point of transit.

My local transit agency is RTD Denver. Go check out that site. It’s hard enough to navigate on a computer with a big display and a real keyboard. Just try it on your phone! Torture!

And if they offer a mobile version, they sure don’t make that obvious.

Got some especially good examples of mobile-friendly public transit sites? Give your examples in the comments.

Posting to wordpress from my iphone

I’m writing this on my iPhone. Just installed the free wordpress iPhone app. This would really be great if there was a Bluetooth keyboard for the iPhone. (I loathe this $@?:&@!!! Touchscreen keyboard for anything more than a few words at a time…)

But the big bummer here is that I don’t see any way to create links in a blog post here. Just text. Hmph.

(UPDATE: I might be wrong about that. Editing here to add a link to my Twitter page. We’ll see if that works…)

(UPDATE 2: AHA! It does work! I can handcode HTML with this app. But it’s ultra-tedious.)

Of course, there’s still the glaring usability problem that there is NO GODDAMN COPY AND PASTE on the iphone! :-/

What am I supposed to do, memorize URLs 4 characters at a time & keep switching between the wordpress app and mobile Safari until I get the whole thing? Probably I’ll just scribble them down in my paper notebook and then type them in. How’s THAT for cross-platform technology integration?

Well, at least the WordPress iphone app works. That’s a good start.

UPDATE 3: TECH BREAKING NEWS!!!

New iPhone copy & paste tool:

My Tumblr experiment: Exploring options for fast, easy posts

People contribute more when contributing is easy. That’s true for posting to sites or forums as well as donating money.

That said, many sites make it surprisingly hard to post. Not excruciatingly difficult — but just laborious enough to be a barrier to some would-be contributors.

This week I’m experimenting with using different tools to post to Contentious.com. Here’s the first one:

My Tumblr Experiment

I’m doing this because some of my clients use fairly complex content management systems, where each post requires a surprising number of steps.

Most commonly, here’s what site contributors must do…

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Rupert Howe mourns his dead Nokia N93

A post by Beth Kanter today introduced me to the work of videoblogger Rupert Howe, who recently emigrated from the UK to Canada. I checked out his videoblog, Twittervlog.tv, and saw that I’m not the only one who’s been having a passionate, torrid, heartbreaking affair with Nokia’s N-Series high-end phones.

Here’s Rupert’s moving tale of the sudden death of his N93:

Since Rupert just moved to North America (where Nokia’s service and support for its N Series phones may be slightly, um, more limited than what he’s been accustomed to in the UK), I left a comment to warn him about the situation here.

Good luck, Rupert. I hope you have better luck than I did.