Counting public gatherings in 2017-Washington Post article

The point of this post is to show how complex and grassroots public gatherings can be counted and measured. The two main researchers quoted in these Washington Post articles are Erika Chenoweth and Jeremy Pressman, both respected analysts of the details of large-scale civil movements and gatherings. As a data junkie, I have followed this effort with a great deal of interest (and have even counted some of these gatherings in my own town to check others’ counts) and look forward to more of the analysis of both the methodology and the actual count data. The analysis included not just the number who gathered but who and what was being protested or being supported, where these events were held, what symbols were used, how many arrests were made.

For March 2017, we tallied 585 protests, demonstrations, marches, sit-ins and rallies in the United States, with at least one in every state and the District. Our conservative guess is that 79,389 to 89,585 people showed up at these political gatherings, although it is likely that there were far more participants.

Certainly, food and farming systems should note some of the systems used for collection and analysis. For example, the Crowd-Counting Consortium may be something that national entities involved in any grassroots data collection systems like food systems should discuss creating for their own use.

Here is their counting method:

We arrived at these figures by relying on publicly reported estimates of march locations and the number of participants involved in each. We started a spreadsheet and called for crowdsourced information about the location and number of participants in marches. Before long, we had received thousands of reports, allowing us to derive low and high estimates for each event. We carefully validated each estimate by consulting local news sources, law enforcement statements, event pages on social media, and, in some cases, photos of the marchers. When reports were imprecise, we aimed for conservative counts; for example, if observers reported “hundreds” of participants, we reported a value of 200 (“thousands” was 2,000, “tens of thousands” was 20,000, etc).

An example of their public data set.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2017/04/24/in-trumps-america-whos-protesting-and-why-heres-our-march-report/?utm_term=.ce99baecf0b6

Motion Card newest card technology to stem fraud

Motion Code to the rescue

At first glance these cards don’t look any different from the ones you carry around today, but they’re hiding some technological wizardry.

The three digits on the back of this card will change, every hour, for three years.ezgif-com-crop

“Juice wasn’t worth the squeeze”

So the story of the flameout of Dinner Lab is something to ponder. As a New Orleanian who watched it up close, I was mystified by what they were trying to sell; turns out, they were too. Even with 10 million bucks in venture capital available.
This type of badly managed tech “solution” often seems the food system equivalent of living in Tornado Alley: A high probability of sudden and uncoordinated disruptions with widespread destruction left behind. Of course, there are many excellent tech innovations that have also helped organizers too; just make sure that you investigate the goals, backers and the operation before encouraging farmers or markets to join up.

At each meal, Dinner Lab had guests provide detailed feedback on that night’s menu. The company thought it could make money off that data, but they learned there was no market for the information.

Since closing, Dinner Lab has ignored numerous messages from NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune about whether paid members would receive a refund.

Likely they will wait as long as the GoodEggs vendors waited for recompense for the orders they had prepared for delivery when that business closed without warning in mid week last August: forever.

Source: Dinner Lab autopsy: ‘Juice wasn’t worth the squeeze,’ CEO tells Forbes | NOLA.com

Chip cards can lead to higher debit fees for merchants

For example, when customers insert a chip-based debit card into a new terminal, they may be offered only Visa’s network as the choice. Or they may see two options: “Visa debit” or “U.S. debit.” Since most consumers don’t know what “U.S. debit” is — it’s actually is a link to smaller networks like NYCE — they usually pick Visa.

Instead of being prompted to enter their PINs, shoppers are asked for a signature, and the merchant is charged from 1 percent to 2 percent per transaction when a card is issued by a smaller bank. About a third of all debit cards come from financial institutions with less than $10 billion in assets, whose fees aren’t capped under an amendment to the U.S. Dodd-Frank Act.

By contrast, most PIN-based debit-card transactions, such as those over the NYCE network, have average fees of about 25 cents — and slightly more for cards issued by smaller banks. Visa and MasterCard have PIN-based debit networks too, but many of the new terminals are set up to favor their more expensive signature systems.

 

The main issue is that under the amendment sponsored by Senator Richard Durbin of Illinois, an ally of the retail industry, merchants must be given at least two options for routing transactions. However, many processing companies and vendors haven’t upgraded their clients’ terminals with software designed to steer transactions to the least-expensive debit network. In many cases, the choice is preset, or it’s shoppers who are making the decision when they are prompted to choose a network.

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-05-11/chip-cards-slap-u-s-merchants-with-unexpected-higher-debit-fees

 

Recent post on mobile wallet technology

The Small Business Beginner’s Guide to Snapchat

“Last week, we polled readers about which social media platform they felt LEAST comfortable using heading into the new year…
In just one week, we had hundreds of marketers respond that Snapchat was their least comfortable platform for marketing.

Now it’s true that we haven’t written a LOT about the social media platform ourselves, but the last time we discussed Snapchat, we said that their new feature Discover was worth exploring as a business. Many of the publishers who have joined the partnership already have given positive feedback saying it has allowed them to reach a new audience they would have never found without Snapchat.

When diving into Pew Research, we found that the audience they speak of is mostly made up of 18 to 29-year-olds on their mobile devices.

So before you continue on to read about how to start using Snapchat for your small business, think about your audience and see if your target market may fit into this category. If not, Snapchat may not be the right platform for you, if your target audience does fit into this demographic – keep reading...”

 

 

Responsive Web Design for Non-Profits’ Customers

The average person worldwide has five social media accounts and spends an average of 1 hour and 40 minutes browsing these networks every day on any number of devices. Therefore using what is termed “responsive web design” is vital. It means that the information is optimized for whatever device it is being seen on with a minimum of scrolling or resizing.
The site Non-Profit Tech picked three sites offered by non-profits that they think are especially good at this and I think additionally that one of the three, Pittsburghkids.org, is just a very useful site for markets to view. Simply designed and easily navigated, it offers a lot for those new to the site and yet has easy-to-find shortcuts to get into the site if you are a return visitor.
Nice to hear in the original story that non-profits were the pioneers of the use of social media, adding content and varied ways for their community to see and reach them long before businesses bought into the idea.

Big data and little farmers markets, Part 1

Recently, I have been reading a few books and articles on the new world looming over the next bend. This new world is called many things and includes shiny named ideas and tools to make it so. Here are some of those titles in case anyone needs some bedside reading:

•Collaborative Commons (Rifkin, (The Zero Marginal Costs Society)
•Disruption (Next City 2012, Fortune 2014 “Next up for disruption: The grocery business”, Urbanophile 2014, Disrupting the Disruptors )
•Flattened economy (Friedman The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century 2005)
•Spiky Economy (Florida, “The World Is Spiky” 2005)
•Alternative Economics, Community-Supported Industry (Anderberg 2012, Schumacher Center for New Economics)
•Social impact bonds (Jacobin Magazine Issue 15–16 “Friendly Fire”)
•Placemaking/Livable Places (PPS, Tactical Urbanism, CityLab)
•Human-Centered Design (LUMA, Ideo)

and then bunches on how to measure this stuff:
•Measuring Urban Design: Metrics for Livable Places (Ewing, Clemente 2013)
•3 Keys To Better Data-Driven Decisions (Technology Evaluation Centers)
•Five Borough Farm II: Growing the Benefits of Urban Agriculture in NYC (Design Trust for Public Space 2014)
•Data Infoactive (Chiasson, Gregory 2013)
•Disruption Index (Next City 2012)
•Livability Index (livability.com 2014)

and so on. (and please feel free to send me any that you find useful).

Much of this discussion of the new economy and its infrastructure centers around the use of technology to allow data (usually known as Big Data) produced by every system, sensor, and mobile device to be shared across sectors and users – aka the Internet of Things (IoT). Big Data and IoT are representative of what is both good and bad about the new world; they pressure public entities to adopt private sector characteristics and measures, and conversely, ask private entities to add public sector transparency as a mode of operating in this new world. Additionally, both sectors must respond immediately to any trends or innovations. This can be good and bad.
 (The intersection of public and private is what the non-profit sector is supposed to exist and, increasingly how it participates in Big Data, is a measure of its ability to do just that. I’ll come back to that very idea later in this series.)

Examples of Big Data:
Think of how that grocery store loyalty card transmits information about what, when and where customers purchase goods. Or citizen used tools to measure and report pollution, or how that electronic parking card tells the city the peak parking hours, letting planners know the need for more (or less) parking facilities. Or, the sensors that are timed to go off for irrigation to start for food production.
For food system advocates, the connection to data sharing is mostly through the public health sector at this point, but the planning and design sector of governments will be wanting data from us too and then, you can expect the line to form from other sectors after that.

Social media is not the center of Big Data, but it’s already helping to study the behavior of its millions of users. In the interdisciplinary Cornell University course entitled “Networks, Crowds and Markets” taught by professors David Easley, Jon Kleinberg, and Éva Tardos, they use data from online networks to talk about “strong and weak ties” and “bridges” and to map the patterns of why, how and when connections are made and what impact those connections have in the fields of economics, social sciences, and public health, among others. Since social media is mostly networking, informal updates, and chatter, (constant and sometimes as cheerfully mindless as an acquaintance’s wave from across the street), it may seem without value, but it is certainly changing the way that we communicate.
Social media can also power revolutions, allow for professional development and offer small businesses appealingly designed, low-cost online faces for their already-developed customer base. This blog you are reading is part of social media and as such, is written to be ephemeral and chatty opinion with links to other information sources rather than hosting peer-reviewed reports.

Recently, I had the good fortune (thanks to the Farmers Market Coalition) to be invited to a Knight Foundation technology gathering of social entrepreneurs and so heard many ideas for leashing the power of Twitter and other social media platforms to better aggregate data or reorganize news feeds. No doubt as new platforms are built on top of the first tier, there will be more usability and versatility, but for now, many people view it as a multi-platform address book to keep track of friends, colleagues, and friends of friends.

The ease of using social media is what was beguiling to many at first but the gossamer veil of privacy means that if not careful, one’s identity may be stolen or become the target of a bully. At that point, that once-enticing open entry can drive plenty away and that very fact is what is being argued about sites like Airbnb and Uber: 1) that the lack of regulation at city halls or public agencies allows for exemption of rules that their counterparts with physical outlets are not able to sidestep and 2) since there is often no face to face meeting between buyer and user, the perceived opportunity for criminal activity increases. My feeling is that the regulation needed for the IoT and online sites must be a new system rather than asking for adherence to the old since the old grey mare of city hall or the federal government is not suited for managing these (which sounds like what the community food system has been saying for the last few decades!)
The European Commission has already published a report outlined some best practices for architectural, ethics and governance of the IoT, highlighting social justice, privacy and opting out concerns (“consent activities” in designer language). Their early conclusions encourage better credential exchange systems and a deeper awareness of “reliance versus trust” parameters. In short, make sure most online relationships include a requirement for sharing some sort of identification and create some active boundaries between systems. Maybe the U.S. community food system can jump on these ideas, thereby leaping ahead in confidence levels to be able to share useful data more rapidly than other sectors.

Yet, even with the perception of these systems as being hackable, an increasing number of people in the Western world still participate regularly even while others hoot it down while they cling to their wall phone and postal stamps as their talismans against the new world of constant updates. Those folks are not likely to let us forget that social media is just a part of the communication sector and only the ephemeral part of it. We still read newspapers and books, meet people face to face and still have postal carriers and grocery store corkboards with lists of apartments to rent.
Therefore, how we use social media within community food systems has to be balanced far better than we early adopters have done so far. Plenty of markets and other food system initiatives use social media brilliantly within its limited use, but others often ignore traditional media entirely by not factoring in that those reached with social media are only a tiny portion of the audience that might be found. Or conversely for the Luddites among us, the need to adapt their thinking to understand that social media has worth for a low-capacity, face-to-face entity like a Saturday morning market.
What I have noticed is that social media helps drive farmers market or CSA sales for a single or a few products on a single day extremely well. It also does a passable to good job reminding its users that they are members of a larger community of doers and thinkers, which can extend the social and human capital of a market. It can connect producers to shoppers on non-market days (although I think less well than promised) and can do something akin to the Dot Survey method pioneered at market by Stephenson, Brewer and Lev: allow for an easy mood of the day give and take between market organizers and users. It also is that friendly wave from across the street that in our sped up world can stand in for reminder of community on a bad day and add a layer of connection. Let’s just not build our world entirely on chance meetings or depend on a small number of tools.

update This morning, I am sitting in a farmer workshop at Southern SSAWG conference listening to a 5th generation farmer talk about the open source free crop planning software system, sensors, and apps that he uses to run his direct marketing farm business; clearly, for some, the IoT is already here.

Coming Soon
Part 2 The minefield of analyzing Big Data
Part 3 Connecting farmers markets and food systems to Big Data
Part 4 Managing face to face and online communities in farmers markets

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Coming Soon
Part 2 The minefield of analyzing Big Data
Part 3 Connecting farmers markets and food systems to Big Data
Part 4 Managing face to face and online communities in farmers markets

FNS begins process to offer grants for replacement EBT services and equipment

This is a pre-solicitation notice to assist Department of Agriculture (USDA), Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) and State agencies to establish a process to award support grants to eligible farmers’ markets and to develop a method that offer replacement Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Electronic Benefits Transaction (SNAP EBT) equipment and services for farmers’ markets and direct-marketing farmers.
The solicitation package will be posted on fedbizopps on or August 22, 2014. All additional details (i.e. closing date, FAR Clauses, Evaluation Factors) will be included in the solicitation package.

The request for proposal (RFP) will have a two part evaluation. Part 1 will be evaluated using a pass/fail evaluation. Part 1 evaluation factor is Experience: Offeros shall demonstrate experience with Farmers Markets and direct-marketing farmers nationwide and associated partnership experience working with the Farmer Market and direct-marketing farmer.

RFP

Part 2 evaluation factors will be provided in the solicitation package.

Alternatively, interested parties may go to https://www.fbo.gov/ and search for the Notice by using the solicitation number AG82014.

Great infographic

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How A Government Computer Glitch Forced Thousands Of Families To Go Hungry

“The glitches in North Carolina mark another example of government technology gone awry, turning a program created to sustain millions of people through hard times into a new aggravation. The high-profile failure of the federal health care exchange last fall illustrated what many low-income people have encountered for years: faulty computer systems and websites that prevent them from receiving public assistance on time.

In North Carolina, the fix was simple: In August, caseworkers found that their computers stopped crashing if they switched browsers from Internet Explorer to Google Chrome.

But the backlog kept growing. By the end of last year, more than 30,000 families in North Carolina had waited more than a month to receive food stamps — a violation of federal rules that require routine applications be processed within 30 days. About one third of those families had waited three months or more.”

How A Government Computer Glitch Forced Thousands Of Families To Go Hungry.

111 Low-Cost or Free Online Tools for Nonprofits

This is an excellent list of tools of which many would be quite helpful for markets and other non-profit food system organizations.

I especially like
2, 3, 4, 14, 25, 29, 34, 44, 46, 50, 58, 71, 78, 84, 104, 110

111 Low-Cost or Free Online Tools for Nonprofits.

Cloud computing is a trap, warns GNU founder

This subject is one that markets must consider as we turn to online accounting and data management systems. Selecting a good offline backup system may be as necessary as finding the right cloud storage or computing system.

Cloud computing is a trap, warns GNU founder | Technology | guardian.co.uk.