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My Day in Vancouver (Words)

Walking back from lunch at Urban Fare today, I was talking with Caterina Fake about blogging and how one's attitudes toward it change. When I started my blog, for each entry, I used the test, "Would someone who doesn't know me find this interesting?" Later on, without even realizing it, I stopped using the test and started posting simply based on what was interesting to me. Caterina and I also talked about the line between personal and private issues. Neither of us is the type to talk about close personal issues on our blog, but I find my attitude toward this changing as well. When I wrote yesterday, "I have been dealing with an unexpected and very difficult personal situation," it was a tough decision as to whether to include that in my entry. Caterina and I agreed that it would be nice to have a Live Journal-type blog, in which one could selectively decide whether posts are public or restricted. I wrote about this in December 2002:

Each of us has a unique vision of selective privacy. Some bloggers post intimate details of their lives, while others are careful never to discuss their personal issues. Some bloggers proclaim their identity loudly, while others remain in the shadows of anonymity. This is as it should be; we are individuals with our own preferences.

To implement our personal versions of selective privacy, we need the ability to create and modify privacy rings -- sets of people and the access we grant to them. Using off-the-shelf blogging tools, it's difficult to set up a blog so that the level of detail presented varies with the reader's identity. One person I know deals with this by running two completely separate Movable Type-based blogs: one public where he alone posts, and another completely private where anyone in his discussion group can post. Not only is this a time-intensive solution for the owner of the blogs, it means his discussion group must now track two URLs instead of one. What happens if he wants additional levels of privacy? Must he create yet more blogs? That's what current tools allow, but there must be a better way.

Lacking privacy rings, the choice is stark: write for anyone in the world, for all time (given the Internet Archive and other archiving services), or don't write at all. It's not always an easy choice.

I say all this because I faced a decision today about how much to discuss of my day in Vancouver -- not visiting with the great people at Ludicorp, which I'll write about separately, but my emotional reaction to being back here. I wrote a longer version of this blog entry which was a more personal account, but decided in the end that it was simply too personal for my own taste and edited it appropriately.

I spent a year and a half working at QDesign in Yaletown, a trendy downtown neighborhood which is, among other things, Vancouver's center for high-tech startups. I hadn't been in Yaletown in a year, and hadn't walked its streets in longer than that. I had almost forgotten how wonderful a neighborhood this is. There are art galleries on every block, restaurants too numerous to remember them all, and False Creek is just blocks away. It was a spectacular day today, warm and cloudless, giving the lie to the common belief that it never stops raining during a Pacific Northwest winter.

On our way to grab coffee this morning, a group of Ludicorpers and I walked past a pair of policemen handcuffing a suspect. "You know," I said to everyone, "I worked in Vancouver for a year and a half, and that's the first time I've ever seen a pair of handcuffs being used." Stewart and Caterina had the same reaction.

Over coffee, Caterina asked me how I would compare Seattle and Vancouver. I said that Vancouver was cleaner, had a better downtown park (Stanley Park), and had fewer traffic jams, not only because the geography here has less of a funneling effect, but also because Vancouver hasn't made the mistake of believing that new freeways reduce traffic congestion. For Seattle's part, I said that for historical reasons, Seattle has more of a Japanese-influenced culture, whereas Vancouver's is more Chinese, and I prefer Japan to China. I suppose I'd add to that the fact that Seattle has more and better shopping malls (if you're into that sort of thing), though Vancouver's downtown shopping district probably matches Seattle's.

Stewart had a great quote, which he attributed to someone whose name I can't remember: "Canada is a better country; America is a greater country." As much as I'd rather avoid paraphrasing a member of the Bush family, it has to be said: Canada is a kinder, gentler place. But I think it's true that it's easier to do great things in America.


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