Monday, February 23, 2009

WordPress - Where's my Domain?

I used to blog at as well, since Nov 23, 2006. I can’t any more because my domain is in no-mans land.

Wordpress says some one else owns it, I can’t understand how that can happen as I renewed with them well in advance.

I first bought the domain through on Nov 23, 2006 and renew it annually.

This year I renewed on Nov 17 using’s PayPal link. PayPal transferred the funds to them on Nov 18 and Visa billed me on Nov. 19th.

That’s 4 days to renew my domain – an eternity for the automated systems that actually do the registration.

Through the rest of November and December things looked ok. In early Jan I went to post and PetesView was off line so I wrote Wordpress support. Here’s what they said:

You purchased the credits on 2008-11-18 but the upgrades were not renewed. This happens if the PayPal transaction doesn't clear right away. I'm sorry but someone else registered the domain and there is nothing we can do. You'd need to lookup the domain and contact the current owner of the domain if you want to attempt to buy it back from them.

Or as I read it: “It's PayPal fault. You’re on your own”.

That doesn’t make sense given the financial tracking through both PayPal and Visa shows they had their money no later than Nov 19. And it doesn’t explain why a search of WhoIS shows that the domain is valid until Nov 23, 2009 - which would have happened if my Nov 18, 2008 renewal through Wordpress occurred as ordered. And if it’s someone else’s why does it displays what appears to be an RSS feed of my content.

WordPress’s answer - refund my registration fee and wash their hands of it.

That’s not satisfactory for several years building a brand and domain. Surely 4 days is sufficient to register a domain. Surely a company focused on blogging recognises the value of both the content and the links associated with a domain.

Has anyone else had similar experiences with domain registration?
Can anyone speculate what might be the cause?
Is the refunding the registration fee acceptable?
How can I get WordPress to correct this?

Looking forward to your thoughts?

Friday, June 06, 2008

Freedom of Information Request

Tired of getting answers like this:

"The information signs on Rochester Street were implemented by the Project Manager at the request of the Preston St BIA. This was coordinated with the local Councillor and approved by our Program Manager, and myself. Staff of Traffic and Parking Operations Branch were contacted concerning the traffic detours and to create the signs. The Councillor's office circulated 375 flyers about the signs in the area. The signs were paid for from the project budget, and are based on signs that were used during the Richmond Rd reconstruction."
In response to questions asking for detailed information of the cost, internal review/approval processes and precedent for advertising in conjunction with road construction I filed a freedom of information request today.

Information Sought:
  1. Detailed breakdown of the costs for the (1) design, (2) manufacturer, (3) installation & maintenance and (4) removal for all informational (advertising) signs erected, or to be erected, on Rochester Street or other streets around the Preston Street Sewer reconstruction, and directing citizens to BIA businesses on Preston Street.
  2. Copies of requests for review of this signage, and related responses, from appropriate approval departments, including but not limited to signs by-law and traffic (or meeting minutes where such approval was sought or given).
  3. Copies of the request from the BIA for such signage – or copies of the meeting minutes where it was requested.
  4. Copies of any meetings minutes or documents (including with the councilors office) where this request was reviewed or approved.
  5. Copies of the instructions issued by the department to the manufacturer of the signs as well as assess to any documents covering the standards uses to define those instructions.
  6. Access to review all notes, meeting minutes, approvals etc related to the erection of what the department refers to as similar signage (and precedent for this signage) erected during Westboro sewer/road construction in 2007.
The real pity is that I have to do this despite the mayors office requesting more than a month ago that staff and the local councilor supply detailed information.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Tax spending - Relative or absolute?

People have a hard time with big numbers - and processes that control them.

Once a big purchase has been made people think of every additional expense related to that purchase as a percentage of the original - not in terms of the absolute value of the item.

So it was yesterday when I was at a meeting where someone argued that since the cost of an item was only 0.00072% of the overall budget of the project that it doesn't matter that the cost was unjustified or the city process that led to it being spent flawed.

That's an interesting perspective. That same person would likely never accept that the is-appropriation of 0.00072% of their assets - but if the city gives it to favoured group outside any mandated requirement or review process - it's supported - because it's hard to think of misspent tax money in the same way as miss-appropriated personal assets.

Of course the local councilor - who's waist deep in the handout wants to further blur the issue by suggesting that all city projects have funds set aside for special circumstances - suggesting the item I have concerns about is the same as the city pro-actively replacing lead water pipes as part of this project.

What a crock. Lead pipe replacement has been mandated and budget set aside - the 0.00072% has never been approved.

And what is that 0.00072% equal to - one installment of your typical taxpayers tax - $1800.00.

The way the city, and some groups, think about it spending that amount isn't worth a thought - which is why so many taxpayers see increases year after year - while the actually amount of money they send to th city increases - the city spends percentages not dollars.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Advertising or Directional signs??

These 4 foot (1.2 meter) square signs requested by the local BIA and paid for out of road construction budgets have appeared in my neighborhood.

Supposedly they are to reduce traffic circling the area during construction but its hard to believe given they are 4 times larger than most road and traffic signs.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Our Economic Future

In Sunday’s Ottawa Citizen Columnist Randall Denley writes about a Conference Board of Canada study that suggests “Acting Canadian is killing our economic future” (ppA4). He’s right.

Canada, and most of the developed world, faces a very difficult economic future if we don’t come to grips with how we compete as globalization re-writes the world economy. It’s not just a case of picking a few winning cities and universities, pour money into them, and hope that their rise pulls us all up – because that’s just the tools – and as Denley notes China and India pour out graduates, and have cities, at 100x the rate we do.

What’s needed is a strategy that leverages these efforts to address specific competitive areas – like entrepreneurship. While labour increasingly moves to the lowest cost producer – value remains with the group (and country) that controls product design and the relationship with the customer. What’s more the businesses and business models that flourish in a global economy have not been fully defined - yet. With the right resources and approaches it could be a time of incredible opportunity.

So what’s needed? First we have to address the stumbling blocks for entrepreneurships – team formation and business execution knowledge. Entrepreneurship leverages individual insight, risk and personal motivation to address the productivity gap. Focusing on team formation shifts the basis of competition from labor to skilled teams and their customers and product. While addressing business execution knowledge companies concentrates effort while avoiding missteps.

If Canada, and Ottawa, is going change our economic prospects we need to recognize that entrepreneurship is a process. It can be made both more frequent and successful with tools and processes that connect people and retain knowledge.

Friday, December 15, 2006

So rail is dead!

Wow – Council killed the project.

I hope that’s a lesson because this thing has been on questionable for a while – and it all a result of flawed consultation and (excuse the reference) railroading opposition.

This morning I heard one councilor suggest that they didn’t sell the public on the vision – and then explain that vision – the last developable land is in the south. What a vision; serve developers not the citizens in communities east and west of the core stuck in traffic daily.

That was the core problem for most people – the travel problem is east west not north south. What’s more there’s lots of developable land in side the green belt – we don’t need an 800M sop to developers to meet the real population growth.

The pity about this project is that the warning signs have been there for some time. From the first complaints that the environmental assessment was to narrow to the location of the service yards at every juncture opposition grew not diminished. And staff’s and councils response – push on, create artificial deadlines, allude to a secret contract, posit legal repercussions. In the end the citizens were not buying any of it.

It’s time that those councilors who supported this thing – and placed the city in it’s current position – asked themselves – will I let this happen again? And voters need to ask themselves – four years from now (when we know if we get sued and what the cost was) if my councilor supported the project at every juncture do I want them back.

Let’s hope that more than a rail project died yesterday – lets hope an approach to governing died as well.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

By-Law Control Officers - Approach & Controls

In the past month I've seen two incidents which make me wonder about the training and oversight of Ottawa's By-Law control officers.

The first involved my neighbour, a mild mannered elderly gentleman who speaks neither English or French. In the process of jockeying vehicles he had reversed incompletely into another neighbours driveway so that his vehicle crossed the sidewalk.

A passing By-Law officer took exception to a running vehicle stopped across the sidewalk, even though my neighbour was obviously moving between one vehicle and another. Surely a running vehicle has the right to pause or stop across a sidewalk - as that's often a necessity to safely enter traffic.

When I came outside I heard the officer say he was going to issue a ticket "because of his (my neighbours) behaviour" - as if there's By-laws on behaviour .

I thought that was an aberration but today I had a similar experience. I was stuck behind a timid driver at a T junction. For three lights they wouldn't enter the intersection - though their was room to - because drivers going straight through partially blocked the intersection during our light. By the time I jumped out of my car to urge the driver to nose forward there were 20+ cars and people honking as we waited through a fourth light.

A By-Law office stopped and asked if there was a problem - "no just trying to get traffic to move" - "You're the one blocking traffic" was his immediate accusation - delivered in a threatening tone.

To me both these incidence point to training and oversight issues.

I've asked my councillor after the first incident to provide a link to the By-law department abuse complaints process. Of course I'm still waiting - likely because there is no policy or oversight - which means these types of issues will continue.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Small Companies and Economic Development

Cities have a vital role to play in economic development – especially in forming and growing start-ups. It’s work that’s often misunderstood or overlooked – but it’s potential to change the fortunes of a city should not be overlooked – especially as the ability to do business globally is rewriting companies investment and business strategies – often to the detriment of cities employment base.

The solution is encouraging entrepreneurship and companies that define the products and own the relationship with the customer. It’s also a big step from courting existing businesses with tax incentives and the promise of cheap labour.

Cities need to understand that by setting the right conditions they can increase company formation without spending much. Those conditions:
– tools to help people connect
– mechanisms to turn information into knowledge
In a nutshell databases and discussion that leverages the self interest of potential entrepreneurs to move form concept to company – and from company.

Increasingly it will in turning idea in companies that can define and connect with the market that will define a cities economic prospects – as it’s in this knowledge that value resides – not in the manufacture of the product.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Understanding Slippery Slopes - How little changed become big

Came across a fascinating article “In Defense of the Slippery Slope” which outlines how apparently good decisions can have undesired bad consequences – ie how the initial decision becomes a slippery slope. (read the whole article here

The author proposes the following mechanisms:

- When the initial decision changes the economics for implementing the undesirable outcome. This can happen by making it cheaper to do the undesirable thing (and therefore making it easier to achieve financially and politically) because it also removes that portion of the objectors who objected on cost alone
- When it changes enforceability of the undesirable consequence by changing the economics and ease of enforcement
- When the initial decision might lead to a change in attitude that would make the undesirable consequence more likely
- When applied to a law as the is/ought rule applies which posits that people attribute rational, pragmatic and moral attributes to laws that may not have those basis in fact. The fact that it is law may build support for more sweeping versions of the policy.
- When the proposal changes the balance of power among political groups – either by giving voice, money or both to a group that didn’t have it before.

The author argues that both law and politics are heavily influenced by precedent and that watching for these mechanisms helps determine whether a proposal really is the first part of a slippery slope or not.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Economics of Block Busting

I've been thinking about block busting - or the putting out of scale building in the middle of blocks.

The issue is that less sophisticated owners near a project end up supporting it because they believe that a building larger than the zoning allows increases the potential that someone will want to buy their property for top dollar to build something similar.

That ignores the laws of economics. First block busting buildings put a lot more of the unit type the zoning allows on the market at the same time. In the short term those additional units decrease the likelihood that additional builders will be build because it removes the economic incentive for any new builder (because of the number of units that must be absorbed - unless the market is red hot). In effect an above zoning building "steals" the value from surrounding lots for it's self.

Above zoning buildings have other effects as well. If the additional units sit on the market for a long time, as can happen at the end of a boom, when builders move into less expensive areas to help land reduce costs an above zoning building can depress an area for years. Builders look at the building as an example of the what they can expect from the area - no profit. The above zoning building also diminishes the options that adjacent owners have in selling their property because it creates uncertainty in the minds of potential buyers. Are they buying in an area of known development parameters (ie the zoning) or is the above zoning building the actual pattern. Unless the potential owner is interested in redeveloping the property, or buying it as an investment, the risk is typically to great and they look elsewhere.

It's my opinion that spot exceptions and overly broad zoning previsions (ie a myriad of commercial uses in residential areas) also depressed areas - often for years. Many of these terms were put in the zoning, or the exceptions supported, because people thought that broader possibilities for land use increased potential value - rather than the actual effect of decreased it.

I did a study of house selling prices once in an area with identical housing stock and two zones - one 100% residential and one residential with commercial uses. There was a substantial difference in sale value between the 100% residential side and the residential + commercial side. This difference in value was in part due to levels of maintenance as people will invest in their properties if they are secure that that investment will not be lost due to changes in land use allowed on the abutting properties. The side with all lot of commercial uses inherently had more risk - and therefore less investment.

Block busting and zoning are shaped - and shape the economics of an area.