A Note to Future Shawn

Four months ago, after years of sitting on the fence, you finally became a vegetarian. You dragged your ass on that decision for far too long, try to be a little more decisive in the future would you?

You made this change because you couldn’t reconcile the prolonged suffering of sentient creatures for your momentary satiation at dinner time. You did it because this kind of farming is devastating to the planet.

You may reach a point where you will consider switching back to eating meat so I’m writing this to (hopefully) give you pause. I’m writing this down so maybe these reasons will stick in your head. Next year when this pops up on your Facebook feed (assuming Facebook still exists) I hope it will serve to act as a reminder that you did this for solid, carefully considered, ethical reasons. And if you need a reminder of these reasons go back and check out Sam HarrisYuval Noah Harari and Peter Singer.

Your life was undergoing a lot of change in 2016 and 2017 and you’ll almost certainly be a different person when you read this again but I hope you’ll have the strength to carry on with this decision. Maybe by next year you’ll be eating cultured meat and maybe another year or two later society will be embracing it as well. You can’t change the world Shawn but you can keep trying to give it a nudge.

Keep walking, keep meditating, stay vegetarian, be kinder to people, be kinder to the earth, be kinder to yourself, and try to live a good life. Be a better Shawn. And give Jodi a kiss for me.

Begin Again

Last year, after 15 years working at a place that I loved and helped to build, I knew it was time to move on to something new. Most folks get a grip onto something new, something safe, before they let go of the familiar but that wasn’t in the cards for me. It was time to let go so I let go.

Now I’m letting go again but this time I have a hold on something meaningful, something special to me, something that I’ve been close to for a long time (before it was even a thing really). So I’m announcing that I’ll be joining my partner Jodi at her business CityMatch. We’ve been talking for a while about how her business could navigate the fantastic growth that she’s been experiencing so a few weeks ago we got methodical and sat down to look at the gaps that need bridging and how to effectively scale and manage this growth. When we looked at the areas that needed help: strategy, marketing and project management. We both agreed that I would be a natural fit with the added bonus of knowing the business intimately.

Now leaving a new business that Chris, JP and I have been building since last December isn’t easy either, after all these aren’t just business partners, these are longtime friends, close friends. But unlike CityMatch, our partnership didn’t have gaps that needed filling, as a matter of fact we had really great overlap. You see JP has years of experience with marketing so he’s in an excellent position to backfill my skillset so as I step away JP will step in.

It’s a day of mixed feelings but it’s a day of new possibilities for everyone too. It’s hard to let go of of an idea that’s so filled with challenge and potential but I’ve been on the road with CityMatch since it was just an idea and I’m seriously chuffed about lending my talents to support Jodi’s growing business (and luckily for me, so is she). I’m a big believer in meaningful work and have loved watching Jodi bring all her passions and talents to make newcomers feel truly at home here. This is great work that will make me happy to get out of bed in the morning.

Chris and Jean-Paul are starting anew so we’ve agreed that I’ll take the Wyrd brand with me. I will continue to do digital marketing work for special clients, it’s a passion that I just can’t walk away from completely. Recently I had a lot of fun working with the team at Polishuk Camman & Steele and I hope to be able to participate in more collaborations like that. There’s real joy in that work for me.

I’m really looking forward to the road ahead. It’s going to be a lot of work and it’s going to take a lot of patience as Jodi and I find a groove working together but I can’t wait to get started. Thank you Chris and JP for your energy and support, I can’t wait to see where you go from here!

Forward to the Past

Having made the decision to hand Pints & Politics over to a new set of leaders it’s time for me to start thinking about the future … um, the past … um, the future of the past.

Let me back up a bit. History and I don’t have the greatest history. Like many I expect, it was something that we studied as a requirement to getting through school but it wasn’t anything that we dwelled on much. Also like many, I went to work, came home, ate dinner, watched TV, went to bed and then did it all over again. I was only peripherally involved in The World.

So when people stood hand in hand around the Talbot block to preserve a bunch of old buildings I didn’t get it. This, despite the fact that I took architecture in college and constantly decried the state of modern building design. That I wasn’t there with them is one of the larger regrets I have.

Then rtraction happened and London seemed to matter to me like it never did before. Then Twitter happened and I fell in love with London’s people like never before. 25 years after moving here London finally became home and every decision became about doing right by her.

So when it came time to move our business we wanted to do honour to our city by using this opportunity to invest in its heritage. It’s safe to say that it was love at first sight with The London Roundhouse and I made a commitment to the building owners that I’d learn everything that I could about the building’s past.

Oh boy.

Before I cut the cord on TV (who the hell has time for TV when you have community?) I loved detective shows and it turns out that historical research is solving mysteries. I was talking to people from all kinds of fascinating backgrounds, sifting through clues, following leads, hitting dead ends, righting wrongs, hearing amazing stories and learning, learning, learning.

The best bit? I found a couple of tribes to belong to: heritage folks and railway enthusiasts. I’ve spent hundreds of hours on my new passion. It’s fun, it’s fascinating, it’s relevant and it’s strangely zen.

It’s a bit selfish but now I want to spend more time with these tribes and want to find cool ways to help grow them as well.

Let me preface this next bit by saying that I know that there are a lot of excellent people doing a lot of excellent things in this area and there’s no intent to reinvent the wheel … maybe, if everything goes well, we’ll just be adding a bit of grease to the wheel.

The intent is to start a small, casual gathering of folks to get together and chat about the past. London’s past, Ontario’s past, Canada’s past. A Hops & Heritage kind of thing. What will it all look like? This is just the beginning so I have no idea, I hope you will be one of the excellent people to help with that.

So this Wednesday, January 21, I hope you’ll come for a bite and a beverage at Milos’ Craft Beer Emporium at 5:30pm before wandering over to the London & Middlesex Historical Society meeting at the old courthouse at 7:15pm.

If you’re interested in this gathering or future developments please drop me a note, or just show up and say hi.

Pride, London and the Sochi 2014 Games

Dear Mayor and City Councillors.

Canada set the bar with Vancouver’s Pride House in 2010 and cities across Canada are flying the Pride flag in solidarity with our LGBT olympians.

This Council has enthusiastically supported Pride events here in London and I hope that you will continue to support our LGBT community by supporting the motion to fly the Pride flag at City Hall for the duration on the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games.

Thank you for your time and consideration,

Shawn Adamsson

cc/ Cathy Saunders

Replies from Council (posted in the order received):

Nancy Branscombe:
Thanks for your email. I will be happy to propose your motion so we can join many other Canadian cities in support of ALL of our Olympians. It would come forward at Tuesday’s Council meeting as an emergent motion. I will look for a seconder and notify the Clerk and the Mayor tomorrow that it is coming forward.

Joni Baechler:
“On Fri. I sent a note to the Mayor and Cathy Saunders requesting the flag fly until games are over. Cathy may be able to ok request internally. If not, we can make a motion at SPPC tomorrow night to go to Council Tue.Cheers

Judy Bryant*:
“Hi Sean,
Sochi presents a great opportunity and I am on board. I do not want to start an electronic illegal meeting.

Stephen Orser:
“I will fully support this Joni and Nancy.
Ward 4 Councillor
Stephen Orser”

Cathy Saunders:
“good afternoon. You would need to direct that the policy be amended.”

Denise Brown:
“Shawn, you can count on my support “

* I sent this to all of council in one shot so “reply to all” could be considered a “meeting” I guess.

On the Ropes

I doubt many people would deny that London is having economic challenges at the moment. Unemployment, while not the highest we’ve ever experienced, is high and most wonder when we’ll break free of this “forever recession“.

Many in our city favour the strategy of tackling these hard times through austerity. I’m not an economist and I don’t pretend to have a deep knowledge of these matters but I have to wonder about the effectiveness of such a strategy.

I love analogies so you’ll have to forgive what follows …

If you’re a good (not great) boxer and you’re up against the ropes getting pummelled is it strategically sound to cover up, pull back and conserve your resources in the hope that the other guy tires out? Does it make sense to bet on having enough stamina to withstand the barrage of punches?

Or is it a better strategy to muster all of your resources and fight back?

If your coach was recommending that you to just take the beating and that it will get better soon would you consider that sage advice? Would that increase your confidence in a positive outcome?

This is our home so what are we going to do about it?

(this isn’t a new argument – see links in the second paragraph for deeper discussion)

The rules of engagement

Here’s the thing about civic engagement; it doesn’t happen only in a room in City Hall, it doesn’t happen only in committees and it doesn’t happen on a schedule dictated by city staff.

Most importantly civic engagement doesn’t start and stop at the ballot box. You didn’t give someone a detailed mandate on election day nor did you write them a blank cheque. You get to hold them accountable during their term of service and not just at the polls.

Engagement happens where, when and how you decide it happens. You don’t have to fit in a little box that someone else defines anymore.

Your voice is all you have, use to speak for the things you believe in.

Respect others, follow your head and heart and you cannot go wrong.

RCDR: Responsible Citizens Drinking Responsibly

This idea has been kicking around the Twitterverse (thanks to Matthew Beard, Scott Courtice and a number of other folks) for some time so now’s as good a time as any to kick it off. And yes, I know it’s not a great name but it’s a place to start.

Starting October 3rd, 2010 a few people are going to start gathering whenever Council meets to witness our city governance in action and then get together for a pint and a bite to eat.

For those unfamiliar with Council proceedings* (and I am in no way any expert on the subject):

  • Council typically starts at 5pm with a number of awards and or citizen recognitions (30 minutes or so) before it gets into the meat of the agenda.
  • Around 7 or 7:30pm it pauses for a 1hr dinner break** (this can vary a bit depending on the issues before Council).
  • Following dinner it continues until all agenda items have been addressed.

This social group doesn’t have a set schedule, pop by when you can and listen/tweet/Facebook/blog/whatever.

At the break we’ll meet near the elevators and quickly head over to Crabby Joe’s at Dundas and Wellington (http://www.crabbyjoes.com/locations-london-276dundas.php) for a drink and a chance to discuss the goings on.

Show up for any of it, show up for all of it. Some people won’t be able to make it to the early session and some won’t be able to make it to the late session so this break will be a great opportunity for everyone to meet.

This group doesn’t have an agenda, isn’t affiliated with any organization and isn’t owned by anyone, we’re just a bunch of citizens who care about our city.

* If you have never been to Council Chambers, take the City Hall elevator to the 3rd floor. Turn left OR right at the Clerk’s Office and follow the hallways to the room. Public wifi is available.

** If you want to know exactly when we’re heading to the bar please monitor my Twitter feed at – http://twitter.com/late2game or email me at adamsson at gmail dawt com and I’ll ping you when we head over.

Getting it Done

So that’s one idea. There are a MANY other great ideas floating around.

  • Mobilize creative minds to raise awareness of issues that tackle our city (sprawl, transit, urban renewal, livability, etc) – see BrokenCityLab.org and this cool video for No Tankers.
  • Brainstorm large community projects (like the Community Portal), acquire funding where available and guide the project to completion.
  • Pair creative and technical minds to broaden each others portfolios (creative designs portfolio sites for dev and artist and dev brings them to the web).
  • Pair creatives and techs with senior mentors.
  • Pair creatives and techs with charitable organizations. Provides portfolio work and experience and serves the community.
  • Hackathons (open data, scraped data, international contests).
  • Collaborative marketing projects for the community.
  • Work with community groups to find out where the gaps are in their needs and where the technical and creative communities can assist.

Can we build a corps of citizens to build projects that strengthen each other and the community?

London has some brilliant minds but many aren’t connected outside social events like the always excellent London Creative Network and Geek Dinner London.

Do you think we have the people and the passion to bring this to the next level?

(Take a look at this for a bit of inspiration – http://www.nycservice.org/)


Belonging and a Better City

I’ve been having trouble finding my mojo this year. Last year I was lucky enough to be involved in some great initiatives in the city. They weren’t all smashing successes but that’s ok. Failing is fine – learn and move on.

After my recent participation in the Community Engagement Task Force it became apparent to me that all of these incredible initiatives were engaging the already engaged. That’s a big problem.

I love hanging out with the true believers. Passion inspires passion. The problem is that we need more of these folks. Many more.

Where and how do you start to build passion?

A few months ago I met a brilliant guy named Michael Lewkowitz. He was interested in the election and why people weren’t feeling engaged so he did something pretty cool. He knocked on every door on his street and he talked to his neighbours about it. Michael’s excercise left a pretty big impression on me (and likely his neighbours).

Not long after the election Glen Pearson told me about a small street (not even in his riding) where a bunch of neighbours had gathered in a living room and asked Glen to come talk to them about politics.

I just found out recently that there is a group that gathers to jam on guitars in people’s living rooms.

So let’s start building where people have an interest already. Some people have a hobby, some have a club and some have a physical community that they belong to. Many of those people look for a good way to keep in touch and the web is awash in different tools for folks to use. But like our normal society these virtual gathering places are scattered and can be very difficult to find.

I’ll call this a Community Portal for now but here’s the idea:

  • a platform that allows any community or community of interest to have a free website
  • flexibility for the groups to customize and brand their sites
  • include all of the features that you’d expect to find in a web 2.0 site – news, events, blogs, social media links, galleries, etc
  • all of these communities feed back into a home page that highlights all of the energy that already exists in the community
  • partner with sites like LondonFuse and bring in an RSS feed of entertainment/event postings
  • make the whole thing location aware and mobile
  • build in a reputation system to reward contributions and reduce abuse/spam
  • tagging for groups and posts to cross polinate great events between groups (You might also like …)
  • open source the end product so that any community in the world can leverage the work
  • branding and advertising to bring this idea into the real world and into the other social media platforms

It’s not a comprehensive list of features but it’s a start.

Can small things like this build a sense of belonging? Does belonging build engagement? Does engagement builds a better city?


A Platform Against Apathy


So ideally we’ve started a dialog. How do we keep it going? 

After the unconference has wrapped there are a number of tools available to keep the individual project teams connected – wikis, Google Wave and even old fashioned e-mail but there’s another conversation that we haven’t touched on. 

We all hear little bits of information regarding the politics of our city – radio, TV, internet and newspaper. Some of you may even follow our more enlightened local politicians as they blog, tweet and Facebook. Problem is that most of these media outlets have no real persistence – the dialog happens in passing and no record is kept and thus there is little long term accountability. 

So let’s envision a web based platform to make local politics open, engaging and persistent. 

Of the three key ingredients in our local democracy the most important part of the system is you, the citizen, so this system will be based around you first and foremost. The entire system will endeavour to make the other two ingredients (the politicians and the issues) more transparent to you. 

How do we encourage an open, civil conversation? 

Think of it like a meeting hall – everyone is free to discuss any of the issues but they will do so without anonymity. The theory being that a democracy functions better in the light than in  the dark. Systems like this can quickly devolve into shouting matches – the hope is that by making each individual accountable for their words this will be somewhat mitigated. 

Every comment entered in the system will have a voting mechanism – if your input into the system is valuable you will gain “karma”, if your input is not constructive or disrespectful you will lose “karma” – lose enough “karma” and your comments will be muted by default. There will be a mechanism for everyone to un-mute a conversation with a single mouse click. There will also be several layers of abuse detection. The goal is to provide a useful platform and mitigate against those with no constructive input. No comments will be removed from display in this system (unless there is a legal order to do so). 

What kind of information could we present with this platform? 

Let’s start with a blog/wiki system so that you can contribute articles and opinions for other citizens. Full comments would be enabled and a voting system so that others can provide feedback on the quality of the article. 

This website would have a list of big picture issues (transportation, environment, taxes) and questions relating to each (bike lanes, garbage collection, expenditure priorities), while the big picture categories would be pre-defined – anyone could add a question underneath. In addition anyone can rank the priority of these questions for themselves. Each question would be open for comment as well to better define the overall issue. 

In addition each politician or candidate would have a dedicated page in the system – this will combine: a bio, contact information, voting record, appearance schedule, tweets, facebook info and a list of news articles that would pertain to their stand on the issues that concern you. Again, you will have the option of voting on information to determine its potential value to other users of the system. Politicians will be given the opportunity to engage in the discussion here as well. 

The site would also contain a calendar of upcoming public participation sessions and agendas (where available) for these sessions. Live tweets, pictures and blog summaries would also be amalgamated on this page. 

This is by no means a comprehensive list of all of the functionality that will be in the system – additional ideas are welcome. 

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this project – please leave comments below. 

A few notes: 

** The entire system would be built on open source technologies and would be available for anyone to download the source code for use in other municipalities, provinces, states and countries. A license would be selected that would keep the source available in other communities so things stay transparent. 

** Not every feature would be available in version 1 of the platform and some components like the “karma” system would be under ongoing development to ensure that it is as fair as possible. 

** While a few developers have already expressed interest in participating in the development of this platform others are encouraged to participate. Existing open source platforms (likely Drupal for the base functionality) and modules will be leveraged wherever possible. This will reduce the build time on the project and enable the code that’s generated to be used in other open source projects. 

** Should someone want to contribute information anonymously they would be encouraged to use WikiLeaks or a similar service and provide links to one of the site administrators. 

** This is an independent project and is in no way affilliated with rTraction Canada Inc.