Posts Tagged ‘social networking’
Spacing Toronto’s John Lorinc describes the push for a landlord registry and licensing system.
When the members of the Municipal Licensing and Standards committee meet tomorrow at City Hall, they’ll be considering the latest attempt to license the apartment sector, with a motion to create a public consultation process around how such a system might function, and how the city should rate multi-unit buildings, which provide homes for hundreds of thousands of Torontonians.
For those with long memories, the lobbying and caterwauling that will begin to escape from the powerful landlord industry in the wake of this meeting will likely rival the complaints from Toronto’s restaurant sector circa 2000, when Mel Lastman’s famous “rat shit” quote ushered in a new era of public health ratings for eateries (now known as DineSafe).
Times have changed, and the licensing debate that begins after Thursday’s session will be informed and shaped by the open-data movement.
Firing the first volley, ACORN Canada, a tenants group, and a New York civic tech firm, RentLogic, have teamed up to create something called Toronto Landlord Watchlist, which is modeled on New York City’s Landlord Watchlist, a project of the NYC’s Public Advocate (currently, Letita James). The site, which went live this morning, contains information drawn from inspections triggered by tenant complaints. That data has been used to compile a list of what the organizers call Toronto’s 100 worst apartment buildings. (The data sets are available here.) Let the searching begin…
In New York, RentLogic has set up a beta site for a Big Apple apartment rankings service, which draws on all sorts of granular information from open-data releases, including reports on rodents, electrical problems and hot water interruptions.
In “Apps promise to cut through gridlock, now if only Torontonians would learn how to drive”, Chris Selley looks at Toronto drivers and how technology can help them improve, among other things.
Heading out of city hall on Wednesday afternoon shortly after five, the Swiftly transit app revealed that I had just missed a Bay Street bus. But as it turned out, I hadn’t: walking north at a leisurely pace, I soon caught up to it. And then passed it.
Then I stood on the corner of Dundas, for perhaps eight minutes, mouth agape, watching as eastbound motorists blocked the intersection over and over and over again. At one point not a single northbound vehicle made it through for three consecutive green lights. If you had been quick about it, you could have had a jolly picnic in the middle of Bay Street, anywhere between there and Gerrard.
There are many reasons for gridlock in this city. Some could be ameliorated if politicians had the courage to risk motorists’ irrational anger for the greater good: more restrictions on turns and parking; ending the ludicrous mixing of streetcars and cars; towing away illegal parkers even more mercilessly, and raising fines even more, than has been done under Mayor John Tory’s crackdown; a James Bond-style helicopter magnet that picks up intersection-blocking automobiles and drops them into a junkyard from a great height.
As such courage is not in overabundance, it is all the more satisfying to see private enterprise doing end runs around the problem. Using open data about transit vehicle locations, transit apps now compete to navigate you better through the gridlock. Some offer Toronto Transit Commission, Uber X, Car2Go and bike-share options on the same screen. Swiftly claims it can predict the next vehicle’s arrival better than its rivals, using its own algorithm.
And for motorists, there’s Waze — a free, advertising-supported GPS navigation app that routes and reroutes you, as necessary, based on other users’ speed (passively monitored as they go), and any reports of accidents, constructions or gridlock they enter into the app (hopefully not while driving). The more users there are, the more data there are to optimize your commute.
In The Walrus, Asmaa Malik writes about how a Facebook group that she joined on moving to her new neighbourhood managed to disabuse her of the idea that racism in Canada was confined to Québec. It’s much more pervasive than that.
Before I moved to the east end, I joined two east-end Facebook groups. One was public and the other was not. I joined the invite-only “Pocket” community group hoping to learn more about the area and the people who share my streets, my grocery store and my subway station. The neighbourhood borders my own and is defined by its closed-loop streets that end at the ttc streetcar yard. It is located within the economically and ethnically diverse Blake-Jones corridor, and in 2012, Toronto Life listed the Pocket as one of the city’s ten hottest real-estate neighbourhoods. The volunteer-run community group is known for its work to beautify the local park and to rename an alley after the late street musician and long-time mayoral candidate, Ben Kerr. It organizes several events for residents, including movie nights for charity and block parties.
When I first joined the Pocket group, I was pleased to get useful insider information about local daycares and eavestrough-repair services. The tone of the comments on the Facebook group seemed friendly and appeared to come from well-meaning neighbours who took pride in their community.
[. . .]
On a sun-dappled summer afternoon, a member of the Pocket Facebook group posted photos of black teenagers biking on a residential street as a warning, saying that she had seem them “snooping” into private laneways and pegging them as potential suspects for a recent bike theft. As I read the comments below the pictures, I was alarmed to find that a majority of Facebook group members appreciated her alert.
Again, the assumptions about the membership of the Facebook group were evident. The poster and her supporters were not concerned about the potential consequences of uploading photos of teenagers without parental consent. Implicitly, the move pre-supposed that the parents couldn’t possibly have been members of the group. These youth were black and allegedly up to no good. Never mind that the teenagers were not guilty of doing anything but being teenagers. What was worse, the Pocket Facebook group membership included a local community police officer, who now had access to images of these targeted teens.
My earlier misgivings about the nature of the neighbourhood group quickly returned. Under the neighbourly chatter, the local recommendations and friendly swaps, lay a layer of racial assumptions, coded messaging and micro-aggressions ready to be expressed but later vehemently denied at the first provocation.