Archive for July, 2006

A new day for RSS at WSU

July 31, 2006

I started thinking about RSS and XML formats in general back in 2002. I hoped to get the campus to adopt the format for slicing and dicing feeds of content and make small “N” news better distributed. For example, I watched the various seminar announcements in WSU Announcements and imagine that if there were an RSS of them, seperate from all the other stuff, and if all the molecular bio ones were together, regardless of college, they would be more effective in getting the work out to the narrow audience who is interested.

Now, with the upcoming launch of the WSU mySites, and the ability for users to make personal pages and place XML renderers on those pages, the potential for RSS grows– it has become more of a roll-your-own reader environment, with the reader technology (which has been readily available to the cognoscenti for years) now imbedded in a University platform.

The work to do remains selling people on making their news in RSS formats, segregated into finely divided streams. Blogging does this well for individuals. I’ve previously speculated on the tools to aggregate and display these feeds. It seems time to re-analyze this space and devise a new effort to promote RSS as a vehicle to networking.

Attend MSD Meeting to take public input on PPSEL Charter

July 26, 2006

On August 17, the Moscow School District will hold a public meeting (7:30-9:30, Moscow Jr High Music Room) to take public comment on the PPSEL charter. It is unknown at this time the exact format of the meeting, or if PPSEL will be able to make a presentation.

The PPSEL Board encourages members of the public with an interest in the school, Charter schools, or school choice to attend the meeting.

Using Wikis for Documenting Other Web Applications

July 26, 2006

The Center for Teaching, Learning and Technology is working on a new survey tool, called Skylight Matrix Survey System. The application has context-sensitive help links on each page of the application. Those links were planned to go to a web-based help system.

Rather than write such a system, we have adopted MediaWiki as our engine (see the site here) and have found the following benefits:

  • Application authors can write links to non-existant help pages, which other developers can follow and add text.
  • Help authors can create pages that support the context-help pages, but are not referenced by the application.
  • Help can be organized with multiple indexes (categories) and indexes can cross-reference on another.
  • MediaWiki tools can help the authors, by identifying short pages, requested pages, and otherwise helping authors locate where work is needed.
  • MediaWiki templates can be used by authors to ensure that the same language is inserted into each place it is needed.

Thoughts on improving the community email list

July 26, 2006

Moscow has an un-moderated, city-wide email list called Vision 2020, hosted by First Step Internet (thank you for that.) The mission is: “Moscow Vision 2020 is an informal, multi-partisan group of Moscow residents formed in 1993 to encourage more public information and debate about the future of Moscow and Latah County.”

On the list, I happened to catch Chasuk’s departure note (he was a frequent poster). A victim of flame war burnout. The waters closed over the corpse with hardly a ripple.

And where is the Liberal Moscow blog? A V2020 alternative, announced in early June 2006. I looked in via the RSS and the last post is mid-June. Another corpse un-morned, a better medium (blog + RSS) but no critical mass on the site.

I have a research interest in these types of communities. What would enhance the communication channel that V2020 can at times be? Chasuk spoke about wanting a better signal to noise ratio. It seems to me that much of the noise comes in the feedback to original posts — questioning of the poster’s premise, elaboration, or conflation, of the issues. Simple provocation. For some, that rhetorical exchange is clearly the fun of the list. Baiting and pouncing. Word play.

The problem is, some would prefer that the ‘exchange’ were taken “outside,” but then would it be fun, without a crowd to watch? For those who prefer an information dissemination channel, or a non-personal rebuttal or elaboration on a news or opinion piece in the DNews, the banter on V2020 is distracting at the least and more often off-putting.

For a long time, I have been reading the V2020 digests. This reduces the clutter in my inbox. I scan the table of contents of each digest for a couple features. First, is the post original or a reply. Second, who is the author. Third, what is the topic.

If the post is original, the author of good repute (to me) and the topic plausibly interesting, I typically read it (However, scrolling from TOC to item in the digest is clumsy.). If the reply is from a short list of authors, and the topic formerly interesting, I read. This choosing is hard to automate with a bozo filter alone.
Email seems to be a good vehicle for transmitting the content, but list processor technology is clumsy for separating the good from the bad? How might it look?
I posit that it would look like this:

  • Original posts could be subscribed to, without any replies, and readers could apply (or not) personal ‘bozo filters’ to the original posts.
  • The whole dialog, or the whole digest, could be subscribed to, as it is now.
  • Threads could be subscribed to on an individual basis. Making an original post, or a reply, would automatically subscribe the author to the resulting thread.
  • When reading a post, a reader would have the ability to one-click subscribe to the thread and perhaps see a digest of all the preceding posts in the thread.

Thoughts on Rezone to CBD; Forget the Parking

July 26, 2006

Comments I’m preparing for presentation to Moscow P&Z tonight (7/26) regarding rezoning 2 parcels to CBD

I’m going to read some tonight from The High Cost of Free Parking by Donald Shoup you can buy on this page of the American Planning Association website. You can read the first chapter before you buy in this PDF.

The website says:
“Free parking isn’t really free. In fact, the average parking space costs more than the average car. Initially, developers pay for the required parking, but soon tenants do, and then their customers, and so on, until the cost of parking has diffused throughout the economy. When we shop, eat in a restaurant, or see a movie, we pay for parking indirectly because its cost is included in the price of everything from hamburgers to housing ….  But free parking has other costs: It distorts transportation choices, warps urban form, and degrades the environment.

It doesn’t have to be this way. In The High Cost of Free Parking, Donald Shoup proposes new ways for cities to regulate parking, namely, charge fair market prices for curb parking, use the resulting revenue to pay for services in the neighborhoods that generate it, and remove zoning requirements for off-street parking. Such measures, according to the Yale-trained economist and UCLA planning professor, will make parking easier and driving less necessary.”

From the book:

“This book will argue that … there is no such thing as “free” parking. The cost of parking is hidden in higher prices for everything else. In addition to the monetary cost, which is enormous, free parking imposes many other hidden costs on cities, the economy, and the environment.  (pg 1)


“Free curb parking presents a classic “commons” problem. Land that
belongs to the community, and is freely available to everyone without
charge, is called a commons. City life requires common ownership of
much land (such as streets, sidewalks, and parks), but the neglect and
mismanagement of common property can create serious problems.

“The archetypical commons problem occurs on village land that is freely
available to all members of a community for grazing their animals. This
open-access arrangement works well in a small community with plenty
of grass to go around. But when the community grows, so does the num-
ber of animals, and eventually, although it may take a while to notice it,
the land is overrun and overgrazed. Harvard economist Thomas
Schelling describes the problem:

‘The commons has come to serve as a paradigm for situations in which people
so impinge on each other in pursuing their own interests that collectively they
might be better off if they could be restrained, but no one gains individually
by self-restraint. …’ (17)

“Free curb parking is an asphalt commons: just as cattle compete in their
search for scarce grass, drivers compete in their search for scarce curb
parking spaces. Drivers waste time and fuel, congest traffic, and pollute
the air while cruising for curb parking, and after finding a space they have
no incentive to economize on how long they park. …. (pg 7)


“Although urban planners have not ignored the commons problem created by free curb parking, they have misdiagnosed it. Planners have identified the source of the problem not as the city’s failure to charge market prices for curb parking, but as the market’s failure to supply enough off-street parking. Cities therefore require ample on-site parking for all new buildings. The logic behind this policy is simple: development may increase the demand for parking, but cities can require developers to provide enough on-site spaces to satisfy this new demand. If a new building increases the demand for parking by 100 spaces, for example, cities can require it to provide 100 new spaces so that competition for the scarce curb parking doesn’t increase. Curb parking remains a commons, and cities require enough off-street parking to satisfy the increased demand.” (pg 8)

Last time, P&Z was thinking about requiring Beebe’s development to provide ample parking. Beebe even offered to do this on the most southernly parcel. You then moved in the direction of seeking a ‘parking mitigation’ plan.

Beebe (following Shoup) might have proposed his mitigation plan as elimination of free parking throughout the CBD, arguing that the market would better allocate parking than the commons. Would such a plan have been accepted?

Returning to the book:
“Most markets depend on prices to allocate resources—so much so that it’s hard to imagine they could operate in any other way. Nevertheless, cities have tried to manage parking almost entirely without prices. To see the absurdity of this policy, look at it from a new perspective. Cities require off-street parking because the market supposedly fails to provide enough of it. But the market fails to provide many things at a price every-
one can afford. For instance, it fails to provide affordable housing for many families. Advocates for affordable housing usually find themselves in an uphill battle, but without a second thought cities have imposed
requirements to ensure affordable parking. Rather than charge fair-market prices for on-street parking, cities insist on ample off-street parking for every land use. As a result, most of us drive almost everywhere we go.”
(pg 8 & 9)

He goes on to analyze the larger social impacts of driving everywhere.

Consider another local example, the Food COOP.  The COOP is struggling with congestion in its parking lot, and from what I can gather, the COOP feels that some of the problem originates from people who park in their lot and then go elsewhere. The COOP is part of the free parking commons downtown.

To be as charitable as possible, let’s assume that everyone who parks in the COOP lot shops in the COOP, but then some of them run across to Howard Hughes or peek into Goodwill, or do another quick errand without moving their car. The COOP is unwittingly supplying part of the parking to the downtown commons. Were they to add another parking spot, or free one up by getting anther customer to use alternative transportation, the gain is not  theirs alone, it is a benefit to all their neighbors.  In the current situation, there is no incentive for any CBD property to add free parking because it is to the advantage of their neighbors and a cost to themselves. Its a situation of one member paying to build more commons.

Murf said it in his editorial (6/16) following the Beebe hearing: “Parking downtown is a problem that the City leadership needs to address.” I agree. Its time for some leadership from Council on this issu

While we await that leadership I suggest that P&Z not make the solution more complicated by bringing new parcels into CBD with special parking requirements. The proposal tonight is asking to join its self to the parking commons on the standard terms, and I assume its done with the knowledge that when there is a solution, the costs of the solution will be applied across all the members of the CBD.

I’d suggest you bring more parcels into CBD on the same footing, with no special parking requirements imposed and let developers decide if and how they provide onsite parking  — and keep pushing the real problem to Council.

Or, you could find that more CBD, with its mixed use, smart growth potential, is not in the interests of Moscow and direct retail development elsewhere (forbid the thought).

Come see PPSEL at Farmer’s Market

July 24, 2006

Palouse Prairie School, a new Charter school forming in Moscow, is planning on having a table at Farmer’s Market for the next few Saturdays. Come and drop by.

Our charter us under review my Moscow School Board, there will be a public meeting sometime in August. Right now, we are collecting names of families that might be interested in the school, and supporters of school choice, to prepare for the public meeting.

Introducing Palouse Prairie School of Experiential Learning (PPSEL)

July 20, 2006

I’ve joined the School Board for PPSEL, a new school forming in Moscow. The goal is to open the school in the Fall of 2007 as a K-6 public charter school. We are not at the beginning of the process, but there is a long way to go. The original five-person Board has done the work to create a Charter and budget planning, and to take those documents through Idaho state review. As I’m joining the Board, the revised Charter (responding to comments from the state) is before the Moscow School Board who are in their 60-day review period. The review will end in a public hearing on accepting the Charter (or not). Once accepted, the fun really begins.

Aware that this project is public in nature and that some documents and information need to be managed in a confidential way, I am launching a new section of the blog with updates, action you can take, and background information. RSS feeds of these are available, a page about all RSS from this site will help you know how to subscribe.

The topics:

  • Updates: Informational updates on the status of ongoing, or newly launched activities. Reports on milestones.
  • Action: Invitations to specific action you can take to advance the cause of the school. Public Meetings to attend, letters to write, work parties to join.
  • Background: General background information on Charter schools, school choice, resources, Experiential Learning/Outward Bound (ELOB) model, rubrics and assessment.