Opting out of phone books: Yes, and not yet but soon

Opting out of phone books: Yes, and not yet but soon

I did a story for CBC News in Vancouver today that’s already getting a bunch of comments on our site. It’s about phone books being delivered that aren’t wanted, and what companies are doing about it. Not one but two thick business directories arrived on Vancouver doorstops a few weeks ago. I didn’t think much more about them until I saw Darren Barefoot’s post about putting the new books straight into the recycling bin. Others have also been griping about it too. Jonathon Narvey blogged about it and last year started a group on Facebook called The Yellow Pages Must be Stopped. His concern, as he said in my story: I understand they are recyclable and I understand they’re made from recycled products, but the energy that goes into making a product that very few people want just seems to me a huge waste of resources.” So what do the companies say? Both say their print directory is still well used. But, they’re responding to the concerns by letting people get off the distribution list if they want to. Canpages: You can opt out now This is the newer book in Metro Vancouver, but Canpages still delivers more than 800,000 business directories here (about the same number as their competition, the Yellow Pages Group, and at about the same time). Their Director of Marketing, Michael Oldewening, told me you can opt-out now from Canpages directory — and you have been able to for years. This year, for the first time, he said, there is a feedback form in the directory (page 142 in Vancouver edition) where you can request...
Talking trash with the Clean Bin Project

Talking trash with the Clean Bin Project

I spent yesterday morning with the people behind The Clean Bin Project, Jen and Grant. They haven’t taken out the garbage in seven (!) months. They’re buying almost nothing, except food, and even with edibles they’re following strict rules to reduce packaging and waste.

Coming up: Storytelling for scientists

Coming up: Storytelling for scientists

I’m giving a talk next month to a group of health science graduate students, on how to communicate their work in the media. I’m no expert, but I have worked in both worlds, and understand a bit about how they often clash. Both sides have work to do. For example, many (most?) reporters will cover a story about a scientific publication without reading the paper itself (relying instead on the press release). But, since the talk is for a training day for scientists, this advice is for them. As I prepare I’m going to post my ideas here. Some working titles: An introduction to the other side Know what your story isn’t Be the one to make it simple Stay human Have confidence in what you know What does all that mean? I’ll flesh out each point and post it in coming...

On code, poetry and trying stuff out

[This is a post about making this site, so ignore if you’re not into that.] This site is built using the blog tool WordPress. If you’ve never heard of it, neither had I until I went to Northern Voice last year. (Besides all the WP evangelists, founder Matt Mullenweg was the keynote speaker.) The funny thing about WordPress is, it looks pretty user-friendly. The site is clean and conversational. It advertises a “famous 5-minute installation.” But then there is also this ominous warning: If you have no idea what to do with this download, we recommend signing up with one of our web hosting partners that offers a one click install of WordPress or getting a free account on WordPress.com. I had no idea what to do with that download. I went ahead anyway, but got scared off for most of a year by language like PHP and mySQL. I can happily say now you don’t need to know what that means to install or use the tool. But it takes way longer than five minutes. The rest was comparatively easy, although I found most bits I tried to add didn’t work the first time either. These worked (and thanks be to their developers!): PrimePress as a theme, with an easily customizable header. (Others I tried said they did, but my pic never fit well) cformsII as a contact form. It’s not listed on the WP site, but others didn’t allow for the styling I wanted. Twitter for WordPress to show my Twitter feed. Others looked weird. I’d like to style this one more too, but that would take...