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Open Letter to James Glave February 4, 2009

Posted by paulrickett in Bowen Island.
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This is an open letter to James Glave, fellow Bowen Island resident, author of “Almost Green’  http://www.dmpibooks.com/book/9781553653202 , blogger for Huffington Post (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/james-glave/) and  OneDayBowen (http://www.onedaybowen.ca/). His home blog is at http://glave.com/. James is also on FaceBook where he has been posting his views on island development and twitter @jamesglave.

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Dear James,

In the 17 years I have lived here I have never written so much and so publicly as in response to the posts in your blogs, facebook and twitter on development issues that deeply divide our community. Why, for the first time, have I been so roused when all the developer puffery over the years has not stirred a rush to comment?

I thought you were green in the traditional sense; quirky, left of centre, grow rather than make, etc. But you are a more modern and insidious varietal.  In short, you propose to help save the earth by championing a level of development that will massively and irrevocably change the complexion of the island.  The extravagant investment in your  ‘eco-shed’ is symptomatic of the thinking that building is the solution to all issues. You say we should not and cannot control growth through low density zoning and  the refusal to build amenities that can only be justified and funded by a significantly larger population and tax base. 

You argue that unless we build like topsy the island will become home to only the well-heeled. You promote sustainablity but in reality your vision is economic not environmental sustainability. The effect of this, given we have no bridge to the mainland and larger ferries cannot be accomodated without large-scale redevelopment of parkland is to turn us into an island that will need the trappings of the big cities we have come here to avoid. We will need large scale and ‘Big Box’ stores to serve groceries, clothes and everyday necessities because that will be the only way to deal with the transportation bottleneck from the mainland. We will want a Starbucks in every ‘village’. And every dense development further dilutes and fragments our identity.

Your championship of a population boom seems to be simply because you see it as the route to carbon efficiency. To take CRC, for example, you are happy to accept the developer’s bribe of parkland and money for a development that in itself ultimately will increase the total existing population by 60% and emit 5 times the carbon than the basic zoning. You then voice support for another large dense development and I expect you, now to support others – is there a limit, James? This support is couched in logical, almost unassailable, environmental terms so that we who oppose appear to be luddites, squanderers and short-sighted polluters of the worst kind. But by applying urban density rationale you encourage the very thing that you rail against  – carbon emssions generated on the island. This is the paradox, you would destroy us to save the world. A very self-sacrificing motive, except many of us do not share these pseudo-noble objectives.

We sit on the periphery of Vancouver, we have access to every facility after a relatively short journey – sure its a pain at times to take a ferry but our moat is what differentiates us from every other municipality, we have a physical boundary. Our moat makes us a relatively safe community, our moat unites us in good and bad times but our moat does not decree we have to be economically self-sufficient nor that we have to create the environment that puts a metaphorical Statue of Liberty off Snug Point. Call me elitist but I see no obligation that requires us to make Bowen into Richmond or Port Coquitlam. For mainland cities, density seems to be a good solution but they are already large impersonal societies built on industries and businesses that span the lower mainland.

James, the question every ‘old islander’ asks at time like these is why does someone relatively new to the island suddenly want to change it. You knew what you were moving to and presumably made a rational decision with all the facts to hand. So why, for the sake of your passion, would you want to so completely remake our and your community? Everyone who moves to Bowen changes it just by being here. I was part of an immigrant wave that finally moved the island from an “everyone knew everyone ” community so in the eyes of old-time Boweners perhaps my presence is also an anathema. However, I did not create new building or development nor have I ever actively attempted to change the island, I am not a property owner so, unlike you, will have no personal benefit from increasing property prices. I like the eclectic people here, the slightly down-at-heel Cove and the lack of amenities and facilities. I am happy to find on the mainland what the island cannot deliver .

As much as many or even most of us here would like, we cannot freeze ourselves in time, some change is inevitable given our proximity to Vancouver. So what can we agree on? A focus on the Cove area only for some density and community facilities is a possibility. By holistically considering our limited landmass  this makes sense as it centralises where people gather and socialise. The carbon emissions of travelling across the island must be minimal given your expectations of the future of vehicle design. Programs that might make the island more energy efficient or self-sufficient through wind/tide generation perhaps? A compromise on CRC that restricts the development to say one third of the proposed size and accept less parkland?

I do not presume that you will change your views as a result of this letter but do thank you for taking the time to read it. My only hope is that you might gain a little more empathy and understanding of why I (and many others) oppose your approach. Ultimately these issues must be resolved at the ballot box. The change you advocate for us so undermines what I love about our island that I cannot be a passive observer anymore. What you support is a huge socio-economic change for our community – the price of your vision is too high for me.

Kind regards,

Paul Rickett

twitter @paulrickett

A Community’s Social Media Demographics January 16, 2009

Posted by paulrickett in Social Media.
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I live on an island. Our island is adjacent to a major West Coast city so many adults and kids commute to the urban area for work and school. We are not isolated, but have a moat. Our 1600 households are wealthy with median income 30% above the Province as a whole. We have a very eclectic mix of people. Officially our population totals 3300, of which 2600 are adults over 20 with 2/3 over 40. Broadband internet access is available to virtually every household and I’d estimate over 90% have it. Part of my life involves marketing a beer and wine store in the community; I have an email newsletter which goes to 200+ people, I advertise in the local paper, write a wine column etc. I am on Facebook, LinkedIn and twitter. So having set the stage, read on…

How far does social media reach into this community? I’ve done some research and come up with the following:

Of my total email contacts worldwide and my store mailing list, about 30% are on Facebook.  About 20% of my global list are on LinkedIn but only about 10% of my store list are on that network. 3%  of global email list and near 0% of store mailing list are on twitter

LinkedIn users in the communitys: < 100

These are primarily male (> 70%). A good proportion of whom work off-island. I estimate that around 40% of these are inactive users based on a recent resynchronization of email addresses and invitations. Many of the inactive users were persuaded to set up on the network by friends but don’t use it and don’t have automated email notifications on. Before you say they just didn’t want to connect – I have talked to most of the unaccepted invitations! Many had forgotten they even had a LinkedIn account and were surprised when I told them I’d invited them.

Facebook users  < 400 adults

About 35% of my store mailing list has an FB account. Majority are  female (4:3 ratio). Very small overlap with LinkedIn of around 10% and that primarily in the male gender.   However I can identify some customers who are not on the mailing list so this gives me another way of developing a personalized contact if desired. The total user base is a bit of a extrapolation based on a combination of sampling from the telephone book, age distribution of the population, etc. (our 20-29 age group accounts for a mere 210 people). A small personal semi-random poll of 50 people turned up only 20% with FB accounts and  30% of them are rare or inactive users, NONE of the rest were intending to have one anytime soon.

twitter 10+ tweeps (out of 2300!)

Very concentrated in the 40+  demographic! c. 60% on FB, around 30% on LinkedIn, with a large overlap

Local moderated on-line forum

This has been around for quite some years and sells classifed and banner advertising on site . Has about 50 active posters. Claims 800 registered members but my sense is that more than half are inactive in that they don’t read it at all.

And by contrast the local newspaper (which also has a website) has a paid on-island circulation of 1400 copies per week. Given that most are shared within a household, this media has far more penetration than any digital network – but of course its not capable of 1:1 and interaction.

My big revelation is the number of inactive users in the two social networks. I don’t know if its endemic but when big numbers for social media get thrown around (e..g FB’s 150M) I think its time for them to publish better metrics about activity so that realistic assessments of their utility can be made, especially when compared to the wealth of data about print media. it also indicates to me that there is a big ‘fad’ factor at work where people join up under encouragement without clear ideas of how they will use it or of its utility and after they’ve made the obligatory hook-ups with family and friends its left to languish.

The surprise was the proportion of female users on FB. It poses a question, is FB skewed gender-wise? That could have big implications for how and what one communicates.

For our store, traditional media is still the best way to get mass eyeballs on our products here, seeing as we don’t use web/SEO/SEM yet. Given the internet penetration the latter is a great way to capture eyeballs in the community and far more pervasive than the social networks.

Does traditional media influence local buying more than digital? For that the jury’s out but I believe will rule in favour of digital. I use both email and printed media to promote the store. I can draw very few examples of cause and effect, except for the fact that our sales are up considerably since I started doing both in conjunction with in-store marketing. My assessment is that print advertising has raised our awareness and brought new customers into the store but its digital media  that has driven specific purchases once we have captured their email address.

As for LinkedIn, FB and twitter? Twitter I will use and expect a lot more islanders to be there in due course, plus its complementary to all other social media. Facebook is the predominant social network here but its not yet reaching enough of my customer base.  I don’t have time or the margins to use it for 1:1 proactive marketing – but there is potential there. I love LinkedIn but that’s for my business life, I won’t be looking at that as a marketing tool  for the store. All three vehicles are valuable to me as a consultant and wannabe wine guru beyond our island confines.

twitter: @paulrickett