A towering idea

My friend Peter Macleod has a great idea in a comment piece in the Toronto Star today. He suggests that the new LED lighting system on the CN Tower should be used to show the city the impacts of citizens’ collective behaviour:

A nighttime glance at the tower could tell us whether we were gradually rolling back car usage or whether it was continuing to spike. It could tell us whether power consumption was in hand or we were headed for a brownout. Most importantly, it could illuminate our public imagination – to remind us of our goals and the progress we want to make.

Here’s the full piece.

More on open source tenders

Nick Booth (of the mighty Podnosh) has written more on David Wilcox’s open source bid to the Office of the Third Sector. He’s also nominated them for an award, which I think would be thoroughly well deserved.

Whether or not David and the collective win the bid or not, they’ve done something genuinely new. It’s one of the neatest institutional hacks I’ve seen in a long time.

Forbes on networks

I meant to mention a couple of weeks ago the special ‘networks’ issue of Forbes magazine after Chris Anderson pointed it out (I’m not a regular Forbes reader, I have to admit). It’s an interesting read and has quite a lot of similarities with the Demos collection that I edited with Paul and Helen called Network Logic a few years back.

Anyway, the fact that it was Forbes reminded me of a blatant name-dropping story from my short stint as a humble intern on Newsnight. George Bush had just made his axis of evil speech and I was dispatched off to help a team find an American foreign or military policy specialist to get a response. We hit lucky and found out that former US Defence Secretary Caspar Weinberger (since departed) was in London and staying at the Forbes house in Battersea.

Off we went to get a few minutes of Caspar (the friendly defence secretary as he was referred to by the editor of Newsnight at the time) on tape. He was already heavily showing his years but as soon as the camera started recording a sparkle returned to his eye and he gave us some brilliantly barbed comments about George Bush junior.

While all this was going on we were being looked after handsomely by the Forbes housekeeper and fed the spare food from a dinner that had been held for Caspar the night before. It was only as we were leaving that the camera man looked in the visitors’ book to see who had been there. The last name stood out. Margaret Thatcher. We’d been eating her leftovers. Suddenly the taste in my mouth wasn’t quite so sweet.

Opening up Cabinet appointments

Gordon Brown is in a fairly unique situation in that he knows that he will be Prime Minister in six weeks time. Normally in the UK, leaders become Prime Ministers overnight. So how about using the advance notice to get people to apply for Cabinet posts and opening up the process a bit?

It might go something like this:

  • Gordon decides what posts he wants in the cabinet
  • Invites people to apply (I’d suggest only Labour MPs to begin with and that people can apply for a maximum of three posts)
  • Applicants send a proposal for what they would do in the job, how they would do it and their relevant experience in the form of a CV
  • Gordon and an elder Labour statesman (Neil Kinnock springs to mind) interview the best candidates.
  • New Cabinet is announced on 27th June and their applications made public

Crazy idea?

Be careful when you Google yourself

Jon Ronson had a great little piece in the Guardian Weekend yesterday that illustrates in just a few hundred words what’s changed and stayed the same about journalism in the last couple of decades.


is one of my favourite non-fiction books — way ahead of its time in terms of the characters Jon chose to follow. He was writing about Omar Bakri Muhammad well before anybody else was looking at radicalisation of Islam in the UK. It’s also one of the funniest books I’ve ever read.