digEcon scandals

[I’m breaking some of my digEcon issues down into a three part series across my blogs. The first part is published in the wind where I usually look at copyright issues as a content consumer and a writer. This second part here in Oh! Canada and the final part in StopUBB. When all three are complete I’ll add link arrows.]

Canadian Flag

One thing we all seem to love about the Internet is the opportunities we have to “Like” things. A simple mouse click bestows or withdraws our approval on comments or news stories on the Internet. It gives us the power to be heard.

Voting in the Digital Economy Consultation

classic thumbs up hand

The Canadian Government recognized our liking for “Liking” and gave us the means to do so on the Digital Economy Consultation website. The top three ideas appeared on the home page, right under Industry Minister Tony Clement’s video opening. Every time I logged in to the DigEcon site the same three ideas were on the front page. If you wanted to participate in the consultation you had to be registered and logged in to vote for an idea.

Classic thumbs down image

I’m not entirely sure how these ideas got there although I think they originated in the online discussion forums.

digEcon Voting Scandal?

One idea did really well, one which sought to Reinstate our Census Long Form aka Questionnaire 2B based on the understanding that in a digital world information is vitally important, especially for Government’s long term digital economy planning. A great many visitors to the digEcon site agreed with this idea and it quickly rose through the ranks.

Apparently the Government didn’t like this.

So the Government relocated it.

‘Reinstate our Census Long Form’ was pulled and tucked in an out of the way corner. Even after being pulled, at the end of the day it still held second place, having received +389 votes.

I learned about this from

But “officially” it didn’t count. As far as the Government was concerned, only the three ideas on the home page were the “winners”.

To Compete You Must Compute with +463 votes
A discourse on the importance of Supercomputers, it also appears to be an advertisement for Compute Canada

The idea to provide Open Access to Canada’s Public Sector Information and Data called for the creation of “a data.gc.ca for Canada’s public sector information” garnered +338 votes.

Finally in third position a proposal for improved access to publicly-funded data
with +197 votes.

The Census idea was removed July 9th, a day after Compete/Compute arrived onsite.

The Census idea was unfairly treated, but in all fairness you could still vote for it– if you could find it.

The Government claims the subject matter was outside the guideline, which clearly was not the case. Even if it had been true, it should have been taken down much sooner. It sat on the front page for a very long time to get that many votes.

The sad thing is that it has been well proven that this type of “voting” system can be easily “gamed”. The fact that it was done so heavy handedly is bad. I have to wonder about the appropriateness of Compute Canada’s vote getting campaign. Clearly the only concern is getting votes. I would hope that the Canadian government isn’t planning policy based on such flimsy data.

From the Compute Canada Website:

screenshot from the Compute Canada web page above a photo of Industry Minister Tony Clement, text  which reads Consultation on Canada's Digital Economy  Please vote for the Compute Canada submission "To Compete You Must Compute" at http://de-en.gc.ca/home/ . Instructions are:  1. Click the "Log in" link along the left hand side just under "Home" 2. Click register to get an account. The standard email confirmation process then occurs. 3. After you have an account, log in. 4. Click Idea Forum along left hand side of home page. 5. Click "Digital Infrastructure" in main window 6. Search for "To Compete You Must Compute" 7. Read and Vote. Or just vote a thumbs up.
Compute Canada's website campaign

Does Canada really want our future decided on the basis of an advertising campaign?

As amazing and important as supercomputers may be, in the real world there are very few Canadian Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SME) that would actually need supercomputer access. Certainly there are a few specialized cases where it would be ideal, but I suspect that most SMEs don’t use the PCs and equipment that they have now to the fullest. Everything changes so quickly, just keeping up is both cost and labor intensive.   It would be a lot of fun to play around with a Supercomputer, but as a writer all I actually need to write novels is my ancient laptop.

Maple Leaf that says "Oh! Canada"

digEcon Canadian Content Scandal?

I didn’t have time to be active in the forums, but something about the Digital Economy Consultation website disturbed me a little at the time. The more I’ve thought about it the more irritated I’ve become. The blue Twitter bird mascot

White lowercase letter F on a blue field is the FaceBook logo

The site gave you the option to share your submission, and probably your forum ideas as well via email, Twitter or FaceBook.

And of course there were problems with the Twitter partnership, most likely because of Twitter’s extremely proprietary nature. Although it is the kind of thing that frequently happens with proprietary software and digital locks…

Digital Economy forum entry about software conflict between Twitter and the Canadian Government websites causing users to be blocked from sharing
digitaleconomy.gc.ca

So often ordinary users aren’t aware that the technical difficulties they are experiencing are DRM side effects.

red maple leaf graphic

What bothered me is that the Government of Canada has chosen to include both Twitter and FaceBook here on an official Canadian Government website. This is effectively an advertisement and a government endorsement of these two American corporations.

I am well aware that Canadians use these services, as I myself do.

That’s not my problem. I am wondering where the Canadian Content was. Hmmmmm… isn’t that one of the things that our current Heritage Minister James Moore is in charge of watching over?

In particular, I’m wondering why the Canadian Government chose not to give equal time to Identi.ca?

an Identi.ca page
My Identi.ca account

Why wasn’t Identi.ca included along with Twitter and FaceBook? Identi.ca is a Canadian Micro-blogging service. Like Twitter, only better in a lot of ways. I do almost ALL my “Tweeting” as “Dents” on Identi.ca

Like a lot of people, I have Identi.ca and Twitter connected for the best of both worlds.

using Twitter online
My Twitter account

Identi.ca runs on open source Status.Net software. Which isn’t at all surprising since both are part of the same Canadian company from Montréal. People and corporations all over the world are creating their own Status.Net sites. A corporation can easily run Status.Net software  on their own LAN.  It can be contained as an internal system or interconnect with other systems (without  FaceBook type privacy issues) because it isn’t proprietary software. I know individuals who run their own Status.net domain they then connect to Identi.ca

Status.net logo

I am not saying we can’t use American services like Twitter or Facebook. I’m writing this blog post on a blog on the American WordPress site.

But Status.Net is a Canadian digital economy success story.

I would have thought it elementary that the prime directive of the Canadian Government’s Digital Economy strategy would be
promotion of the Canadian businesses who are out there building Canada’s Digital Economy.

At the very least I would expected our Government to give equal time to Canadian Digital Enterprises.



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Image Credits

“Thumbs Up” by David Benbennick, Wikimedia Commons under a Creative Commons Share-alike 3.0 License
Image Credit “Thumbs Down” by Joe Goldberg under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generc

a horizontal border of red graphic maple leaves



7 thoughts on “digEcon scandals

  1. First off, let me say that I agree that it was illegitimate for Industry Canada to take the census off the Digital Economy Consultation webpage; I tweeted about it at the time. But for much of the rest… well, I think you’re wrong.

    “As amazing and important as supercomputers may be, in the real world there are very few Canadian SMEs* that would actually need supercomputer access. ”

    This, of course, just isn’t true. Every company with an R&D department, however small, can use high powered computers to make it cheaper and faster to develop new products; and it’s the SMEs in particular, those who can’t afford their own huge clusters or who haven’t got in-house experience to start up on big computers, who most need the centres like Compute Canada’s.

    Startup companies that want to do big web2.0y type things desperately need the sort of expertise that comes from these supercomputer centres, and need to use similar facilities to test their ability to scale out. And again, it’s especially the small and middle sized ones that need this.

    And increasingly, companies that don’t do any high-tech stuff at all need big computers and big computing expertise. Wal-mart is sort of the classic example of a company that does no R&D at all but uses continuous analysis of the torrent of data being generated by its retail stores, warehouses, and suppliers to kill off its competition by pushing down costs. Whether you like the results in that particular case or not, even companies that do fairly mundane tasks have the opportunity to use “business analytics” which is all about supercomputing.

    As for this:
    “Does Canada really want our future decided on the basis of an advertising campaign?”

    This is just bizarre. Why is the advertising campaign to vote the census topic up presumptively legitimate, while Compute Canada’s is illegitimate? It’s not like anyone was forging votes, or bringing in votes from outside Canada; in both cases it’s a get-out-the-vote campaign, where all the people who feel strongly about the issue and are effected by it have their voice heard.

    I think you, like a lot of people (including me) are pissed off that Industry Canada turfed off the census stuff. Which is fine. But that doesn’t mean all the other high-vote stuff on the consultation is wrong, or illegitimate, or tainted.

    • “This, of course, just isn’t true. Every company with an R&D department, however small, can use high powered computers to make it cheaper and faster to develop new products; and it’s the SMEs in particular, those who can’t afford their own huge clusters or who haven’t got in-house experience to start up on big computers, who most need the centres like Compute Canada’s. “

      What we have here is a failure to communicate. There are a very great many small Canadian businesses that don’t have an R&D department. Or an I.T. Department. To my mind, any business with an R&D department is too big to call a “small business”. Not all small business is tech business. In Canada, small businesses include laundromats and janitorial services, theatre groups, co-ops, and restaurants. Some are sole practitioners with zero employees. There are all kinds of small businesses in Canada. I am quite sure that a very large percentage of small Canadian businesses are not using their PC’s effectively.

      I did not say that there are no businesses who could make use of Supercomputer access. Certainly there are SMEs would be well able to make good use of supercomputer access. The Canadian Tech sector has proven itself over and over again. But that is still only a small proportion of Canadian SMEs. My problem is overstating the case for SME access to supercomputers.

      To me, Wal-mart is BIG.

      Not all Startup companies want to do “big web2.0y type things”. There is a world outside of tech, and technology is increasingly impacting on it. These businesses, and the people involved with them, also need to be considered by our policy makers.

      “This is just bizarre. Why is the advertising campaign to vote the census topic up presumptively legitimate, while Compute Canada’s is illegitimate? “

      As a firm believer in merit, I don’t think any government policy should be made based on an advertising campaign. Or polls for that matter. The results obtained by either of these methods can be skilfully manipulated. As the Compute Canada site suggested. “7. Read and vote. Or just vote.”

      I was not aware of an advertising campaign about the Census topic. I would have disagreed with that just as strongly.

  2. “To my mind, any business with an R&D department is too big to call a “small business”. ”

    This suggests a very odd view of what will drive innovation in the coming years, a view I can’t really believe you have. Anyone who is developing any new product or service

      does

    have an “R & D department”, even if they don’t call it that; they need to create their new stuff! And the best, most creative of these come from small buisnesses; too small, as you say, to have a big IT department. They’ll need to lean on, and leverage, investments others are making. And that’s where the publically supported expertise and hardware of the CC consortia come in.

    “The Canadian Tech sector has proven itself over and over again. But that is still only a small proportion of Canadian SMEs.”

    Two things here. This is about the *digital economy* consultations, not “generic small buisness” consultations, so yes, tech firms disproportinately
    play a role in these discussions.

    But I disagree strongly that only tech firms need computing. All firms can benifit from business analytics, and it’s small firms who are most nimble that can adapt to what they learn most quickly; but it’s also small firms who are least likely to have the number-crunching power or expertise in house. I gave the most spectacular example of analyzing business data to make good buisness decisions and cut costs I could think of, Walmart; but maybe that was misleading, as now but you seem to think I mean that only big firms can benefit. Nothing could be further from the truth! Googling SME “business analytics” gives over a million hits.

    “I was not aware of an advertising campaign about the Census topic. I would have disagreed with that just as strongly.”

    How could you possibly not? All the blog posts, all the tweets, all the emails? They were ways of pointing interested people to the consultation web site, which is good and proper; it’s how you make sure that people get out and make their voices heard. Making sure that Canadians know that a topic that directly effects them is being discussed at ministerial levels and they should vote is important.

    • Yes, this >is< a Digital Economy Consultation, but it is also a Public Consultation. Any digital economy policy made by the federal government will impact all of Canada, not just the digital sector. Because we are all living in a digital world.

      I did not say "too small to have a big IT department", I said too small to have an I.T. Department.

      If you've never encountered one, surely you can imagine a one person small business. Besides hairdressers, dog groomers or sign painters, a great many writers, designers, illustrators, painters, sculptors, artists, musicians, publishers and record labels are one person sized small businesses.

      There is a whole world out there that you simply aren't seeing.

      I am a small business; a self publishing writer. My only R&D department is in my head, which is also where my I.T. Department lives. The internet is an amazing research and distribution tool; the computer on my desktop is vastly superior in scope to the gigantic computers of my childhood. I don't need access to a supercomputer, although I love the idea that they are out there.

      And I have never said small businesses don’t need computing. They most certainly do. It is the level of computing they need at issue here.

      You are probably unaware that the sign painting industry has been revolutionized over the last couple of decades with the introduction of digital vinyl cutters. Or that technological improvements have brought the price of recording a music CD in a studio down to around a thousand dollars. And of course, tech savvy musicians can create professional calibre recordings at home on their laptops at negligible cost.

      My point is that the type of small business I am talking about needs different levels of computing than supercomputers. And in a public consultation, the federal government needs to take ALL SMEs into consideration when formulating Digital Economy policy.

      The Voting Issue

      There is a world of difference between “pointing interested people to the consultation web site” and directing people to vote for something without reading it.

      You are incredulous that I did not know about the “voting campaigns”?

      email: For starters, no one sent me email about the digEcon, because most of the people I know wrote it off as a lost cause.

      tweets: My primary microblogging service is the non-proprietary Canadian Identi.ca service, which I link to Twitter. Although my Identi.ca Dents pass over to Twitter as Tweets, I don’t see posts originating on Twitter (a proprietary issue) unless I log in to Twitter. Most of the people I subscribe to who would have been likely to Tweet about the digEcon tend to be on Twitter, and pretty much the only time I’ve been on Twitter over the past few months have been to connect with the Twitter writing community.

      blogs: Again, I am way behind on reading the blogs that I want to read, but I heard about the census voting from Digital Copyright Canada.

      So actually it was really quite easy for me to miss blog posts and tweets and emails about the consultation because I was working on my novel.

      The only reason I even KNEW about the Census topic was from seeing it on the digEcon homepage several times. I voted for it. It was only AFTER the consultation that I even worked out where the voting questions originated. During the consultation I did not have time to even look at the forums.

      Because this is not my job.

      I was incredibly impressed with last year’s U of T supercomputer presentation at Linuxfest. But it’s a question of proportion. Certainly some Canadian SMEs would be able to make use of Supercomputers access. It would be excellent to allow them access on an as needed basis. But you are being disingenuous to suggest that this would be good for all Canadian SMEs, particularly when I well know that most Canadian small businesses underutilize their desktop PCs. For most Canadian SMEs supercomputers would be like using an elephant gun to kill an ant. Overkill.

      “And that’s where the publically supported expertise and hardware of the CC consortia come in.”

      And there’s the rub. The “publicly funded” bit.

      On one hand you want to dismiss non digital Canadian SMEs from the equation, while on the other hand you’re quite happy to accept their funding. Perhaps some investment is called for here; I don’t know. What I do know is that it is misleading to claim public funding of supercomputers will benefit ALL Canadian SMEs because clearly it won’t.

      The digital world is changing how we all do business. I don’t think it’s the government’s place to “drive innovation”. Far better for government to provide an environment conducive to innovation. Starting with real Net Neutrality.

  3. […] Forward to digEcon scandals Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)copycon: the continuing sagaCopyconcopyrightconsultation.caCopyright Consultation from → Canada, copyright ← Canada’s Digital Economy Consultation Extended publishers, writers and rights, oh my → One Comment leave one → […]

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