Monthly Archives: March 2010

Not one but many Ada

As part of this years pledge to blog  part of the Ada Lovelace international day, I have been thinking long and hard on who to ‘nominate’ and blog about.

Last year my Modern Ada was Pam Broviack and in many ways still is.

Through my involvement in web technology, be2camptwitter and social media I have had the opportunity and privilege to meet, be inspired by, motivated by and discuss many issues with some great Modern Ada’s.  It would be wrong to single out any one in particular.

However, a mention for  Aleks Krotoski who through work at the Guardian and recent Virtual Revolution TV series has done much to popularise and mature internet and game  ‘stuff’.  (We actually met in second life back in 2006 at the Guardians SL Festival, Aleks wouldn’t recall, but we had a discussion about music in second life with Groove Amanda playing in the background.  The meeting has stuck in mind as Aleks was one of the first ‘real world’  people I had met in SL)

But in my mind Ada was someone who rolled up sleeves and got stuck into to the machinery and code of the internet, not just used it as a communication and conversational tool.

It is again in the world of second life and other virtual worlds that I see the modern day Ada Lovelace, and for that Pam would still get a vote, for work in Second Life Public Works and lately in OpenSim, along with others such as Annabeth Robinson (twitter and avatar Angry Beth) whose energy in virtual environments continue to amaze and inspire.


Notes on recent #emailfail & how social media can help.

I recently got caught in a frustrating email fail situation which has reinforced my thinking that emails, having been invented in the 60's hence a dated concept, prone to failure, attack, cloning and phishing are not suitable today for a variety of communication issues, and that education in use of emails is lacking.  

A recent email from LMU promoting a Women in Construction event was, apparently and unfortunately rejected by a recipient and resent to the 300 plus on the distribution list, which of course commenced a seemingly endless loop of resending. This repeated sending continued even when the original account had been deleted from LMU servers.

This of course caused great annoyance even anger from recipients, who I guess like myself received hundreds of copies of the email. The frustration resulted in a good number replying to the whole list complaining about the situation, shouting in CAPITALS, requesting the emails be stopped, one even suggesting the author had damage to women in construction movement.  These reply to all's were of course rejected by the recipient failed server and spammed out to the whole list again repeatedly, causing more frustration, more reply to all responses and more spam flooding into in boxes.

Amazingly many replied to all suggesting that we shouldn't reply to all!  Many suggested incorrect email responses (block, report as spam, complain to LMU, set up auto-redirect to sender etc)

In addition many of those reply-to-alls may have been reported as spammers by a good number of recipients, where in fact they were not at fault. It is possible that these are now permanently blocked by colleagues/contacts as spammers

I understand LMU contacted many on the email cc list by telephone to explain the situation.

The numbers:

Each email as it embedded a picture was approx 200kb, The original was sent to approx. 300 recipients. One send therefore = 60,000kb. Repeated resent some 1500 times. Add in the reply to all spams = say 50 at 200kb to 300 recipients @ say 25 times before they were blocked as spam. Add in local machine and server backups and the numbers grow exponentially very quickly, necessitating more server space, more energy, more cooling requirements more cost, increasing the carbon footprint of emails.

I would estimate I have deleted something in excess of 400 emails, but still today some 5 days later, they trickle through.

I was please to hear yesterday that through all this people have signed up for the event! 

Twitter and social media

Interestingly a twitter back channel chat took place with those affected, discussing how do you reach a list of 300 people to tell them not to reply to all on the email without sending to all, or without using email.

At the same time, and perhaps ironically,  we sent out invites for the forthcoming Lancashire best practice club event: Working with Technology. The event details were posted onto eventbrite with the link e-mailed to club members and communicated via twitter.  Six tweets (original and retweets) had a reach of 2,000. The eventbrite site had some 300 views that day with 25 joining up (the number has grown since). The invite link was also sent via email to club members.

Somehow this approach seemed cleaner, easier and fresher.  Members and delegates have commented on the ease of use of eventbrite for previous events, and, linked with a survey monkey feedback afterwards, drastically reduces admin burden


Emails are not always the best event communication route 

A mixture of traditional (email) and social media (e.g. Eventbrite, Twitter) routes has greater potential reach and success

Emails are too prone to fail and attack

We are too quick to blame individuals for email 'system' fail, often replying in Capitals (i.e. shouting)

There is a lack of eduction in how to use email or how to deal with emails in fail / attack situations.

There is a need for social media awareness and education in use of alternatives to email

Counting construction carbons with ConstructCO2

This blog has reported on numerous occasions (eg here and here) on the need to measure and improve carbon emissions from construction activities separately from that of the building itself or the facility in use. And the need for an easy, simple to use tool.

As noted many of the available applications for calculating carbons were linked dubiously to carbon offsetting schemes.  Of note for use in construction were the Google Carbon tool (but not construction specific enough) and the Environment Agency tool (but is proving to be too detailed and cumbersome for most projects)

Measuring and improving carbons on site is increasingly important as more and more projects seek higher standards to BREEAM and Code for Sustainable Homes (and soon Non Dom Buildings).  One recent project set ‘damages’ for the contractor not achieving the ‘management points’ (for waste, CO2 and considerate constructor standard) for CSH at £40k per point. (See the CSH Technical Manual for more on this)

Recently at EcoBuild Paul Morrell, Construction Tsar commented  that focus on carbon emissions should be a number one site priority as it is measurable and addresses other areas of ‘waste’ in the industry

And yet the majority of contracts just do not know their project carbon footprint, whether its close to 1tonne or over 100tonne. We do not have a feel for the magnitude of emissions, or indeed what 1kg of CO2 actually looks like.

So it is good news to see the release of ConstructCO2, developed through Evolution-ip, by construction people for construction use.

ConstructCO2 is a simple carbon calculator based on the premise of keeping it simple and easy to use on site. It makes use of existing site approaches for data collection (induction sheets, daily log-ins, plant sheets, utility invoices etc). Carbon emissions through transport are calculated through use of google mapping API .

Construction (people) travel miles are recorded for management, operatives and visitors. (With a dispersed project management team you will be surprised at the carbon footprint of a project site meeting and probably think of alternative arrangements) Material transport miles are derived from delivery notes or goods received sheets.

Where the power of ConstructCO2 lies however is in its reporting. Construction carbons can be measured in terms of co2/£project value, co2/dwelling, c02/m2, co2/bed or other, enabling benchmarking with other projects and generically through KPI’s such as those from Construction Excellence.

But simply knowing the project footprint, the construction company’s total project footprint, and where the biggest areas for carbon emission are enables action for real improvement.

ConstructCO2 is currently being used by a number of different projects in what I guess would be called a beta stage. Current projects include a large new build hotel project, a small industrial refurb project, school extension and an architect’s office.

Currently the use of ConstructCO2 as a tool is free, with a (currently optional) fee based support and training package to help contractors understand carbon issues, carbon standards requirements, measuring, benchmarking and improving carbon footprints.  So it makes sense to take the opportunity now, measure and understand the carbon footprint of one of your projects. At the moment sign up is through request via email contacts on the ConstructCO2 front page

Future developments include the option for live energy feeds from site power meters to ConstructCO2 and live exporting from ConstructCO2 to Google and Pachube for example.

ConstructCO2 is on twitter at @constructco2 and has a ning forum in development for discussion and benchmarking of project carbon issues.

Note: As an associate with Evolution-ip, I have been involved in the ConstructCO2 concept development and testing.  Evolution-IP is a be2camp partner, presenting at and sponsoring be2camp un-conference events.

Built Environment items of interest from Sustainable Development Research Network ….

New research suggests energy efficiency in the home may not save energy
In a forthcoming special issue of the ‘Building Research and Information’ journal, researchers from the Carbon Reduction in Buildings (CaRB) Consortium present new evidence on how people use energy in buildings. It suggests that installing energy efficiency measures, such as double glazing, insulation and energy efficient boilers, seems to encourage householders to turn up the heat, leave the heating on for longer and heat more rooms. They attribute this to greater levels of concern about comfort than about energy savings. The researchers propose a more integrated approach to help meet the Government’s 80% emissions reductions targets. This would include: targeting national refurbishment strategies at larger homes and other types of property where the greatest gains in energy reduction can occur; changes to the design and marketing of building products and services to improve energy performance; and a social marketing programme to establish ‘social norms’ for reducing temperatures in overheated homes. More…

Defra’s Greener Society debate
Defra is hosting an online Greener Society debate to enable contributors to share their views on what a greener future might look like. Debate topics include: homes, shopping and eating, travel, the business world, and the environment. Take a look at the pages setting out some of the changes envisaged by Defra in these areas, and then add your comments. Visit the site…

Foresight Report – ‘Land Use Futures: Making the most of land in the 21st century’
The Foresight Programme has published its report on land use futures in the UK, a project which aimed to explore the future of land use in the UK in order to identify the most important challenges and opportunities and to consider what actions could be taken to manage land in a more sustainable way whilst unlocking its ‘value’. Challenges have been identified in three broad categories and five key requirements are highlighted for addressing these challenges. These requirements include: decisions take account of the full value of land in alternative uses; value is assessed on a consistent basis by decision-makers at different spatial levels and in different sectors; private incentives are aligned as far as possible with social objectives and values – to minimise tensions in the system and deliver better outcomes; opportunities for multifunctional land use and benefits are identified and promoted; and, a combination of regulatory, institutional and economic mechanisms are deployed to enable best value to be delivered most efficiently and at least cost. More…

Green Alliance Publication – ‘From hot air to happy endings’
How people understand climate change affects how supportive they are of policies to do something about it; the way politicians talk about climate change matters. Yet, what politicians say is only part of the story. People make decisions unconsciously and are influenced as much by what they see and experience as by what they hear. In this guide, Green Alliance argues that government should focus on the signals it sends out through what it does (its actions and policies), as well as what it says. They asked the experts to suggest the ways in which politicians could improve their communication and inspire stronger public support for action on climate change. In two parts, the guide first examines what is wrong with current efforts and then proposes how to get it right. While a communication strategy may not lead directly to behaviour change, it can help to reframe the debate on climate change, and shift public perception so that individual campaigns, incentives and legislation are more successful. More…