“Smart Cities,’ Twitter, PIE and Politics


“Smart Cities,’ Twitter, PIE and Politics

As I was working on articles for PT April, I received stories from my usual sources (our columnists and unsolicited “over the transom,” plus the odd request from me). Astrid Ambroziak, Editor of PT’s Parknews.biz website, and I have been talking about doing more with transportation and “smart cities,” but I haven’t really done much soliciting of such articles, except for turning her loose on a first article (“‘Smart City’ Smart at LAX?”) elsewhere in this issue.

Then I noticed a trend in the articles I was editing and formatting for April. Kathleen wrote on “Social Media and Smart Cities.” Melissa pondered on just how “smart” a city was that ticketed homeless. Wes Guckert sent in a well-thought-out article on autonomous vehicles; and Suzannah at SpotHero has a great infographic on the effect of ride-hailing apps on the parking industry. Gorm Tuxen supplied a super article on smart city technology and sensor technology.

What’s that? Half of PT’s articles for April deal with smart cities or transportation? And we didn’t plan it; it just happened.

Folks who think about these things are thinking about Smart Cities. But when I read through the articles, half of them approached it from the point of view of making your city “smarter” without using technology, but rethinking how to approach the city’s problems.

Astrid mused on how to cut down congestion at the airport; Melissa had a great idea on how to solve the ticketing-of-the-homeless problem; and Kathleen pointed out how cities could use existing social media to determine what’s going on in their neighborhoods.

When I read articles sourced from the major “Smart City” suppliers (Siemens, Conduent, Google, IBM and the rest), the solutions are all technology-based. Fair enough. But the wisdom shown by PT’s three columnists in this month’s issue brought me up short.

Sure, go ahead and investigate technology, but also just look at what is happening and ways to fix it now, without major outlays of funding. Governments like to throw money at a problem, but sometimes the simplest solutions are the best.

PT Columnist Kathleen Laney and Bob Harkins spoke about social media at PIE 2017. However, Astrid and I spent the days leading up to their presentation tweeting everything we could find about the event. Hundreds of tweets, which begat 100s of retweets reaching around the world.

Two cases in point.

Astrid was live-tweeting Paul Barter’s keynote, and we actually got responses, while the talk was ongoing, asking us to ask Paul specific questions about his talk. Let me tell you, I was impressed.

I also got an email from Australia that said, in part, “I see from Twitter [that] PIE is going gangbusters and Paul Barter is speaking. Since he is from Singapore, do you think he would be a good fit for our events here in OZ?” The Prez of the Parking Association of Australia was following Twitter. Who would have thunk it.

Kathleen pointed out that social media is a long slog — we have been working Twitter and its ilk for a couple of years. Astrid has 1,840 followers; I have 1,409. (She works harder than I do.)  

It turns out that there are two issues when tweeting – one is “Hashtag #”; the other is including someone’s twitter “handle.”  Hashtag is a way of searching – if you put in #pieshow2017, anything with that hashtag will show up. If you include @laneysolutions, Kathleen will be notified that she was mentioned in a tweet.

So the more hashtags and handles you include, the wider the reach.

How did I learn this – by doing.  I’m still not very good, and never will be because I’m not 14 years old. But experts such as Kathleen and Astrid can wow the Twitter universe.

Try it – you might like it.

I know, “hate” is a strong word, but I hate politics. All politics – right, left, center, local, statewide, national, international, European, Canadian, Mexican, the concerns about the Neutral Zone and the Klingons. I hate it all.

Everything is politicized. I can’t buy a vegetable without feeling guilty that it’s not organic. My car is polluting the air; there’s not enough rain, there’s too much rain. You can’t get facts about anything because there is always a “spin.” The globe is warming; it’s cooling – no matter whether it’s caused by the sun, moon, people, oceans, clouds, yikes!

Politics has become so vicious that it is separating mothers from daughters, husbands from wives. Lifelong friends cross the street when they see the other coming. What is it when you can’t advertise for a roommate without asking their political affiliation? I mean, really.

I refuse to watch any live television. I glance at the front page of the paper (to be sure we haven’t been invaded), then read the funnies. But I can’t read all of them, because half of the cartoons are politicized. Don’t even talk about the Oscars.

It’s getting so that if I see a story in the paper, and it has any political spin at all, I believe exactly the opposite. It doesn’t matter which side. They are all so twisted there is no way of sussing out the truth. So, I just give up.

Psychologists are telling us that their patients are so taken with politics that they are deep in some sort of psychosis, and that the doctors are confused as to how to help them. What the hell is that all about? This is politics, for goodness sake, not whether your mother loved you.

So, I have given up politics for Lent. No news, no internet, no discussions – none, nada. The depression I had been feeling has lifted. The world looks better. If someone mentions anything political, I smile nicely and walk away. If somehow my laptop locks on to a political blog, I look away. 

After dinner, if I want to watch TV, it’s a couple of reruns of “MASH” and an “NCIS,” “Bull” or “Bones.” Then I read mysteries set in 19th-century England.

You know, I’ll bet that in a few years the sun will still rise in the East and set in the West. We will still be a free country. Food will still be on the table. Hopefully, the streets will be swept and the trash picked up. People will still park their cars.  Music will soothe the savage breast (yes, it’s “savage breast” – look it up). Life will go on.

And all will be right with the world.

Article contributed by:
John Van Horn
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