Digital Fill – Our Communities from Space

Sometimes there’s stuff that’s just too cool not to share. I feel that way particularly about space based images. Here’s a terrific new video that I discovered thanks to Gumboot correspondent Theodora Lamb.

It’s a time lapse sequence of photographs taken by the crew of expeditions
28 & 29 on board the International Space Station from August to October,
2011. And it is just stunning.

 Banner photo courtesy of Universe Today.

The MacDonalds Effect

My wife Katie is named after her great aunt Kate. Or at least that was the justification her parents came up with after watching a MacDonald’s commercial and deciding they liked the name.

Yesterday I attended a great workshop by Dr. Bill Turkel on the growing digital toolbox for historians and I learned about WolframAlpha, a computational knowledge engine, which has a growing curated database of useful information. Give it a try and search “China population” or “caffeine”. Along with this interesting demographic and chemical information, WolframAlpha has data from the US census on first names. Bill demonstrated a few names and I started punching Jim and Katie into the search bar. Turns out Jim has been on a long-term decline for the better part of a century.  The graph below show Jim was a lot more popular in the 1890s, when my great-grandfather Jim Clifford was born, somewhat popular when my uncle Jim Clifford was born in the early 1960s, and not very popular at all when I was born in 1980.  However, it made the first Jim Clifford’s widow, Florance Clifford, happy to have another child named after the husband she lost in the height of the depression fifty years earlier (I’ve got a cousin named Florence Clifford, born in the 1990s, who according to WolframAlpha, makes her almost one of a kind).

US Childern named Jim

The trend for my official name, James, is not much better:

US Children named James

Now I can’t do a post about names on the Daily Gumboot without stroking the ego one of the editors-in-chef, so here is the chart for the name John (it does look like Johnism‘s potential is in decline):

US Children named John

Now back to the MacDonald’s commercial and the name Katie. When I typed my wife’s name into the search bar yesterday I was really surprised to see the huge spike starting in 1980. Turns out the commercial was first aired on July 31 1980. Either the marketing team on Madison Ave were really in tune with the beginning of a trend or they made this trend.

US Children named Katie

Head to and test out your own name.

Digital Fill: Welcome to Riverdale

You ever read Archie comics when you were little? Me too. I loved the whole love triangle thing between Betty, Archie and Veronica. I enjoyed the goofy hijinks the “gang” got up to. I remember prowling many an antique store in search of old Archies when I was a wee little one waiting for my parents.

Part of the interest in it all was the amazing community that had been developed by the comic book writers over the decades. Riverdale was a lovely place full of interesting stereotypes. There was the jock, the cocky asshole, the nerd, the wholesome blonde – and everyone seemed to get along. The gang never seemed to have deal with more complex issues like drugs, booze, pregnancy, etc. At the most, Archie was only getting to first base with both Betty and Veronica. The worst addictions being managed by the characters was occasional burger-binging by Jughead. It was all so very wholesome – until NOW!

Recently, intrepid Province journalist Kate Webb wrote about an amazing trailer developed by a group of Vancouver producers at Point Blank Creative. It details the darker side of Riverdale that never made it into the comics. The video has gone viral and has now gained coverage from national papers like the Globe and Mail. After a quick view it’s easy to see why.

The whole production was done with only a couple grand and 100s of Craigslist supplied volunteer actors. The production brings the community of Riverdale to life. Dark life. Enjoy.

Digital Fill: Infographics

I’ve been doing a lot of work around data visualiation lately. Writing about it, sharing it, researching it. I’m even getting ready to launch an infographic series with a non-profit organization I work with (stay tuned for that.) Data visualization is taking a lot of data and presenting it in a visual and efficient way. The end result is an infographic. Magazines like The Atlantic and newspapers like The Guardian first made them popular (think Harper’s Index, only in pictures.) The web loves them because they’re easy to share and “like.” As well, in true millennial online spirit, infographics are easy on the eyes. And we’re beginning to see more sophisticated infographics appear across the interwebs.  According to writer and web guy, Darren Barefoot, data visualization is only going to become more popular. In fact, he’s recommending an education in data visualization if a journalism degree is your cup of tea.

Infographics are on the rise and I thought I’d share a handful of them, old and new, that I think are pretty cool.

This is an oldie but a goodie. Someone particularly clever has developed a series of infographics that represent famous movie quotes. Even though the actual quotes aren’t visible anywhere, I can still hear the actors saying it in my head.

This is a fairly recent infographic. I’m partial to it because it outlines the average day of an online community manager, which is pretty much what I do. It’s not too far from the truth with a few exceptions. Although, heaven knows who’s been working in social media for more than “20 years.” I dare you to prove me wrong on that one.

A friend of mine is an online community manager in China. I recently sat down with her and she explained to me the incredible selection China has to choose from when it comes to online communities. Here in North America, it’s easy to forget how other cultures and countries are using social media to connect and build community in their own ways. Infographics remind us how “flat” the world really is, at least in online terms.

You may recognize this infographic. It really made the online rounds in 2010. It presents the true size of Africa relative to the size of several countries.

Infographics don’t necessarily need to present massive sets of data. Sometimes it just takes one detail to make a visual impact. This particular infographic was featured on A technician collected data from 80 different internet providers and visually pin pointed the moment when internet activity was stopped by the Egyptian government. Stunning, no?

Last but not least, this is an infographic an organization I work with,, produced last year. It’s called “How Wild is North America” and I’m fairly partial to it.

Your Digital Fill – 7 Billion People

This is an amazing piece that gives you a sense of just how many of us are wandering around this giant global community. Created by our friends at National Geographic, who apparently are no longer focussed on producing ONLY those yellow academic journal like magazines that we all saw stacked in the used-bookstore or grandma’s apartment when we were kids.


Digital Fill – Nature by Numbers

Ok. So I was going to write something pithy about he current BC Liberal leadership race. But then my lovely redheaded partner pointed me on to this amazing site called Flowing It’s all about data visualization and there I saw an amazing example of how one can connect math with biology in an incredibly visual way.

I’ve always been interested in math and physics (and especially astronomy). But due to the lack of a mathematically inclined mind (John Nash I most certainly am not), I’ve never been able to really “get” the subject. Unlike many, I don’t see beauty in pi  - just a long string of integers. Maybe that’s why this video is so interesting and inspiring. Kudos to Christobal Vila for creating such a beautiful little piece.

Nature by Numbers from Cristóbal Vila on Vimeo.

Your Digital Fill – Ironic Icelandic Democracy

Dear Kurt Heinrich,

I know that you’re not Johnisms biggest fan. Fair enough. As someone not named John, you will be irrelevant and, probably, disappeared when the revolution comes. Speaking of “the revolution,” Johnism – actually, Jonism – just won a pretty hilarious victory on the Icelandic front (fun fact: the Icelandic front is one of the most important fronts in the Johnism revolution).

Kurt, even you must appreciate the politicking that must have had to happen in order for this fantastically grassroots story to unfold. So that you can appreciate democracy inaction, here’s a video for your review:

And, well, this guy is the new Mayor of Reykjavik, where two-thirds of Icelandic people live. Amazing. Go Jo(h)nism!

Have a good one, Kurt. And, hey, people named John will always be looking for helpful supporters a few years (or weeks) from now.

Your pal always (or until the revolution),

- John…ism

Kurt Heinrich: Trendsetter

Dear The New York Times Fashion Section.

Hi guys and gals. John here. Thanks again for all the fan mail. It really keeps us going. So, you know how your editorial department asks for our advice on a lot of story angles? Well, you kinda missed a pretty important one. As it happens, Kurt G. Heinrich is a fashion icon. Recently, you published an article called “The Art of the Pants Roll” and showcased the myriad “new” and “hip” and “trendy” and “cool” and “New York” and “fashionable” ways people can roll up their pants and, by doing so, be part of NYT-approved high-culture.

But there is a problem. Once again, you’ve stolen ideas from the Daily Gumboot. For you see, pals, Managing Editor Kurt Heinrich has been rolling his pants* up for years. Here on the West Coast – or FashionMeccaTrendsettingAwesomeTown – we call the look “The Huck Finn”. Your “pants roll” idea is cool too, though.

Anyway, there’s no need to send a written apology or anything. We know you feel bad enough already. But if you’d like to send Kurt a nice pair of rollable pants we wouldn’t hold it against you.

Thanks for your time and for the memories. Have fun with it.

Kind regards,

John Horn, Editor-in-Chief

*photographic evidence to follow…

Kurt Heinrich: trendsetting in 2008!

The New York Times's Fashion Section: Two Years Too Late!

Your Digital Fill – Leeroy Jenkins and the World of Warcraft

Ok, I’ll be the first to admit, many people might not understand/think this clip is at all funny. But my co-editor John did, and since he’s not a video game nerd like I once was (and perhaps deep in my heart still am) I think that says something. This video speaks to lots of things important to community. Cooperation, planning, and what happens when it all goes horribly wrong.

The clip features a group of “adventurers” planning a mission in Blizzard hit World of Warcraft. During the game people can speak to each other though a mic. It’s an effective mechanism for strategy and has been embraced by the online gaming community – that is unless one of your team-mates hasn’t yet figured out there’s no “I” in the word “team”. The result has spawned and entire new catch phrase in the world of online role-playing and vaulted young Leeroy to instant nerd-stardom. Don’t believe me? Check out how many hits come up on the YouTube video below.