Sunday Roundup – March 9, 2014

Survey data is often relied on as correct, but is difficult to predict the element of choice. Making an informed choice about whom or what should be allowed into power relies on information, and the things we need to know is not always available.

Consumers could give up social media, stronger ties to phone, email.

First of all, I know smoking cigarettes and using social media are two very different addictions. One changes how much of a specific chemical is needed to elicit a response from nerves in the brain. The other is stimulus based on online social interaction (likes, comments, retweets, etc).

I think this survey indicates a prime reason to double-check any data. Many smokers say they want to quit. Many heroin addicts say the same thing. Checking a box in a survey saying that you believe social media would not be difficult to give up is easy – following through is different.

UN report identifies 30 drone strikes that warrant “public explanation” from US, UK, & Israel. The link leads to that report. It’s worth looking over if you have the time. I shared this because I think it is important for governments to converse openly with their people. The theory behind Western democracy is that governments have power because we give it to them through voting, so we have a right to know what actions the government takes. If we don’t agree with that action, then we can exercise our right to remove that government from power. Keeping too many secrets does not allow for voters to make an informed choice.

Over to You…

What do you think about surveys and government action? Did I miss something important? Let me know by commenting!

If you would like more content on an “as it happens” basis, click here to find me on Twitter.

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Response to the Law

The story I am writing about is old news. It has gone past the initial incident and into the hands of the courts.

I am talking about the shooting of Sammy Yatim. [Fair warning: The link leads to a video of the shooting.]

For those who missed it, allow me to set the scene. Yatim is a knife-wielding teenager on a street car surrounded by police officers with pistols drawn, pointed at the aforementioned teenager. After repeated calls to drop the knife, Constable James Forcillo fired 9 shots at Yatim. 6 shots are reported to have been fired after Yatim had fallen to the ground.

My Take

I believe this fiasco should spark a deeper discussion about police training. Police constables are not simply given a utility belt and then thrown into the community. They are taught how to do their job, and part of the job is making split-second decisions to protect their own lives and those of the public.

Yatim pulled a knife in public, but did not harm anyone on the streetcar. This video shows the streetcar emptying, and there has been no news report of any passengers being harmed, so he was not feeling murderous. The video also does not show Yatim advancing on police officers. It did not appear that the teenager was a danger to anyone other than himself.

Because of that, I do not understand why the officer began to fire his pistol. It is possible that Yatim began moving toward the police officers in a threatening manner, but there was another officer standing next to Forcillo and he did not fire even after Forcillo had opened fire.

Clearly, something has gone wrong before the incident; some training was ineffective or Forcillo was the wrong man for the job. Shooting an individual who poses no danger to the public or officers-on-hand is a decision that defies logic.

Two Questions

Are police being trained to make sound decisions in the face of ambiguity? The rash of violent police actions across Canada and the United States says “no”.

Are recruits being screened for personality traits? A person who is comfortable and calm in a confrontation is one thing; one who goes looking for a fight is another.

There are many questions being asked, but I believe those two drive to a cause. Police around the world are tasked with a difficult job, so being 1) trained appropriately and 2) the right person for the job are critical to successful policing in the modern world.

Futures

To me, the worst part of this whole situation is that it is now impossible to tell why Yatim acted the way he did, and he cannot be helped. His potential is lost forever, and that is the greatest tragedy.

Justice for that loss is one thing; preventing tragedy in the future is another. The only way to prevent mistakes is to learn from them, so I hope that the right lessons are learned from this horrible situation, and that those lessons leads to necessary changes.

Electile Dysfunction

Yeah, I’m writing about the election, but I’m not talking about politics.  “Election but no politics?” you say, “Russell, you must think we’re fools!”  First of all, I would never think of you as a fool (unless you put effort into it), and second, I’m talking about the mechanics of the election, not the politics of the event.  So fear not!  There will be no political analysis (or whining).

Onwards!

Need-to-Know Basis

There is an acronym used by marketers: SEO.  It means Search Engine Optimization, which is a fancy way of making sure a web page can be found on Google and other search engines.  The simplest trick is knowing keywords used when users are searching for a site.

I originally wrote this post on election day (Tuesday May 14, for those who missed it) when I realized that I had misplaced my voter information card, so I did not know where to cast my vote.  I opened my web browser and Googled “where do I vote”.  Nothing.  “where do I vote victoria bc”.  Nada.  “Where to vote”?  No results.  I tried a dozen combinations of search terms.  None of the search results told me what I needed to know.  The only Elections B.C. page that came up was their voter registration page, which did not contain what I needed to know.

My next step was Elections B.C.’s website.  Oddly enough, there is a page called “where to vote”.

When I searched that exact phrase on Google, that page did not show up.  Google does not know that page exists.  Anyone using Google will not know that it exists.  So how does this relate to SEO?  Elections B.C. does have page to help find voting stations, but Google could not find it.

Elections B.C. has a tough job.  They need to ensure that voters do their part and vote, especially younger voters as they have not been showing up for last two elections.  However, lazy and/or nonexistent SEO is not going to help.

I expect laziness from the government, but an organization dedicated to how B.C. residents exercise their democratic rights cannot afford to be lazy.  Voter turnout has been low for years, and Elections B.C. is not making it easier for voters to get where they need to go.  Speaking of low voter turnout…

The Non-Vote

Approximately 52% of eligible British Columbians went to the polls last Tuesday.  That’s 1% more than the previous year, and the number may increase: there are still ballots to be counted from those of us who went to the incorrect voting station.  Regardless, 1,629,422 out of 3,116,626 is not a great turnout (data courtesy of Elections B.C.).

Such low numbers make me wonder if low voter turnout is indicative of a larger issue.  The most common reasons to not vote I hear are that:

  1. “There is no candidate in my riding that meets my values”
  2. “I don’t believe in the political system as it currently exists”
  3. “I don’t know how the hell the political system works”

The last one is by far the most common, but I’m not soap-boxing about why people don’t vote.

An election is an opinion-voicing mechanism: say who you want to govern, but it does not capture the opinions of those who do not vote.  There is no empty circle where I can mark “abstain”, nor explain why I did not vote.  Mind you, I doubt anyone wants to go to a voting station just to say “no”.  So how could Elections B.C. measure the non-vote?

My father and I discussed the issue, and we reasoned that the voter information card mailed to every eligible voter in B.C. is the best space.  Postage is already paid, so why not use it to gather feedback?  Hell, just look at all this blank space:

Blank space.  So much blank space.  Oh, and whited-out important details: sorry, cyber-stalkers!
Blank space. So much blank space. Oh, and whited-out important details: sorry, cyber-stalkers!

Is it as easy as that?  Probably not, but that’s the best my father and I can come up with.

What do you think?  Comment below about how you think the non-vote could be measured!