Archive for portland

Breaking: is no more

Posted in media with tags , , , , , on January 30, 2009 by Pete Forsyth

One of the cool benefits of editing Wikipedia on a regular basis is coming across little tidbits of unreported news.

You’re probably familiar with the concept of biased edits on the “encyclopedia anyone can edit.” The mainstream media loves to express outrage when campaign staffers, PR agencies, or enamored spouses try to “doctor” Wikipedia articles, often leading to awkward hyperbole; last year, the Oregonian’s Jeff Mapes was happy to lend his name to this sort of sloppy thinking, accusing a staffer on Steve Novick’s campaign of inappropriately editing the biography of Novick’s opponent, Jeff Merkley. (In reality, the edit in question was mostly an improvement to the article, and was reviewed by an experienced and uninvolved Wikipedia editor within about 23 minutes. So the harm alleged by the Merkley campaign was pretty much nonexistent.)

Such stories miss the point in too many ways to mention. But self-interested Wikipedia editing is, of course, a reality. And for the regular Wikipedia editor, it can provide a fascinating insight into how the campaign staffers, PR agencies, and enamored spouses of the world are thinking.

This Wikipedia edit, which wandered across my computer screen earlier today, told me something interesting about Portland media — something that has gone unreported in other media outlets. But before I can properly explain it, here’s just a little more background.

LocalNewsDaily site branding

Last May, the Portland Tribune (a former employer of mine) dropped from two weekly editions to one, and laid off a bunch of employees. A sensible response to tough times in the industry. But they were roundly criticized by other Portland publications for the spin they put on it: rather than characterizing it as the downsizing it was, the Tribune was quick to pat itself on the back for their new plan to update daily on their web site, a product they called a “daily online newspaper.”

But the punchline on the joke was that they called it “” — rebranding their web site to combine the Trib and their numerous other community papers into a single web site, clearly advertising that they were producing some kind of innovative “online daily newspaper.” The name was a clear indication that they thought they had a truly innovative product — that they were somehow reinventing local news delivery by updating frequently on the web. (Apparently, they were using the domain as early as 2006, though they did not advertise the name that early.)

So, what’s the scoop today? Well, in contrast to the launch of, which created quite a buzz on the local scene, the disappearance of the brand name apparently escaped the notice of the local press.

The site as of January 2009

The site as of January 2009

But I spotted it, because of a tiny Wikipedia edit that caught my eye. Someone anonymous — and it’s hard to imagine it was anyone but a Trib employee — took the trouble to remove the references to from the article on the Pamplin Media Group (the Trib’s parent company). And sure enough, when I punched into my web browser, it redirected to a web site that’s now known as

Just like it used to, back in the day.

LocalNewsDaily site branding

Iron Bartender!

Posted in events with tags , , , , , on December 12, 2008 by Pete Forsyth

Tomorrow night, come down to the Crown Room in downtown Portland for the Iron Bartender!

This event, similar to the Iron Chef TV show, will benefit The Giving Tree, one of my favorite Portland non-profits. Founder Wendi Anderson and a cadre of dedicated volunteers bring art and recreational services to people in transitional housing, who are often at a loss as to how to reintegrate with society after prolonged homelessness. It’s an important niche that doesn’t get met by other non-profits, and is one of those things that makes Portland special.

Anyway, back to the event — a panel of celebrity judges, including Mayor-elect Sam Adams, Mixologist Lucy Brennan, and Bike Geek Around Town Reverend Phil, will evaluate the mixings of three Portland bartenders.

Just $10 gets you in the door, and there will be all kinds of chances to get more goodies if you have more cash to give. The competition is 9:00 to 9:30, followed by some fine DJs and dancing.

So come on down! 205 NW 4th Ave. Doors at 7pm.


Iron Bartender handbill

Iron Bartender handbill

Personal Telco, your 15 minutes of fame await…

Posted in City Hall, customer service, open government, politics, WikiWay with tags , , , , , , , , , on August 1, 2008 by Pete Forsyth

Personal Telco is one of Portland’s coolest non-profits. Back in 2001, they envisioned a community-owned alternative to telephone and Internet connectivity. But the tech world has evolved. In 2008, Personal Telco is a local — and maybe international — leader in advocating and building a “share-and-share alike” system for traditional Internet connectivity.

The theory is simple: lots of people have broadband Internet these days, and many of those same people like having Internet connections for their laptops when they’re out on the town.

So if all those folks would just open their home or business connections to the public, easy access fromjust about anywhere would become a reality, pretty quick. In fact, the project’s already well on its way; Personal Telco has a number of live hotspots, or “nodes,” all over town, with lots of Portlanders using them on a daily basis.

MetroFi, a for-profit company, tried to provide a similar, ad-supported service in partnership with the City of Portland over the last few years. But that project just went belly-up this summer. So with a rising number of Portlanders still seeking ubiquitous wi-fi, it’s Personal Telco’s turn to step into the limelight, and deliver the kind of service that may really only be feasible through voluntary collaboration, rather than an ad-driven business model.

Key to Personal Telco’s plan, in my view, is a shift in its emphasis. In the early years, Personal Telco sought to draw in a small number of really motivated and intelligent people, to take on the significant technical hurdles to deploying lots of free wireless. They were successful in their efforts; lots of geeks stepped up, and lots of free wireless has been delivered in the last few years. Their system works, and it’s ready for significant expansion.

But for that, what Personal Telco needs is a little different: with their elite squad of propellerheads in place, what is needed now is a rising tide of do-gooders willing to pitch in just a little, without the need to get all technical, attend monthly meetings, or the like. Lots of people doing a little bit of work is the order of the day. Get your node set up, and leave some time for an evening stroll; your node will serve friends and neighbors for years with little or no maintenance.

In order to achieve that, I think Personal Telco needs a new “elevator pitch.” Their web site, any printed materials, any contact with the press, etc. should reflect a very clear, very simple message: “our work brings you free wireless, and we’d love you to pitch in a little and help us deliver more free wireless.” 

To that end, I have written a draft of text for a new front page for their web site. Please read on, and if you’re so inclined, offer any feedback in the comments below. Many in the Personal Telco community have indicated general approval, but I’m sure there are lots of wrinkles to iron out.

Portland has a unique chance to build an invaluable free network, through community collaboration; let’s get it right this time! Continue reading

We are intelligent because we are social

Posted in WikiWay with tags , , , , on June 22, 2008 by Pete Forsyth

I submitted a couple talks to this month’s Ignite Portland event. This is a really cool series of events — basically, a bunch of people are chosen to give 5-minute presentations, accompanied by a slideshow, on any topic of their choosing. The topics vary widely, with topics like origami, how to buy a used car, and an excellent crash course in nuclear physics.

Thankfully, I wasn’t selected this time — what with the Oregon Revised Statutes issue I got embroiled in, I don’t know where I would have found the time to get a presentation prepared!

So I got to attend as an audience member, which was much more my speed. Here’s my favorite of the 5-minute presentations I saw, by Jenny Andrews:

MetroFi installed a great municipal wireless network. Seriously.

Posted in City Hall, open government, politics with tags , , on June 18, 2008 by Pete Forsyth

Or at least that’s how it looks to me — from my experience in the last few days.

The background: MetroFi built an extensive wireless network for the City of Portland. It didn’t work often, and when it worked, it didn’t work well. So the City opted out of the contract paying for bandwidth for core services. There’s lots of chatter in the blogs about the bad decisions made along the way, the cost to taxpayers, etc. Lots of gazing at trees.

But in the last few days, I’ve had what may be a remarkable glimpse of the forest.

I’ve connected to MetroFi nodes in numerous parts of town, and noticed two new things each time:

  • There were no advertisements, and
  • The connection WORKED.

Has anyone else had this experience? If you’re gonna check, do it quick, because the scuttlebutt says the whole thing’s getting shut down Friday. After that, who knows — sold for scrap?

But as we Portlanders contemplate what to do next, what about this possibility:

Was MetroFi’s network killed by a flawed technical approach to advertising? Did they shut it off after the contract was voided, only to reveal a perfectly functional municipal wireless network under all the junk?

And as we think that over, keep in mind that municipally-operated Internet access has been proven to work, with enormous benefits to citizens as ‘net consumers and citizens as taxpayers, alike. Since the late 1990s. In Kentucky. We can rebuild it. We have the technology.

Posted in City Hall, open government, politics with tags , , , on June 6, 2008 by Pete Forsyth is the City of Portland’s official government web site. It is, largely, a broken web site. Information that should be accessible on a web page is typically hidden inside a PDF file. Resource allocations of amounts like $84 million cannot be found without first tracking down the relevant ordinance number, and even then there is precious little information available. (Ten points for whoever can find the $84 million item on this page!)

And no, this isn’t just another one of Pete’s pointless rants — at the end of this post, I’ll explain what’s new and unique about the YouTube video below:

Continue reading

Elsewhere: Columbia River Crossing

Posted in City Hall, open government with tags , , , , , on June 3, 2008 by Pete Forsyth

Interstate BridgeThe “Columbia River Crossing,” a plan for an expanded replacement for the I-5 bridge over the Columbia, is a hot policy topic these days. The big local media and business interests are united behind a plan for a huge, expensive replacement; but several local officials have gained some traction advocating for a more affordable, more incremental, and greener approach.

This project will have a massive impact on the development of the Portland metro area, and on the kind of taxes we pay in years to come. It touches on innumerable other issues, including the Mt. Tabor Yard & Nursery planning process I’ve recently blogged about.

Former Willamette Week publisher Ron Buel published a good overview of their plan at BlueOregon. I’m turning comments off here, so we can join the bigger discussion over there.