I recently visited the City of Belfast, Northern Ireland and was really impressed with the infrastucture changes which are going on there. Belfast City Council outlined changed they were going to make back in 2001 and the update their plan every years or so (see Belfast Plan 2001).

Since then there has been a string of new developments throughout the metropolitan area. One such as the James Clow Building completed in 2009 was a pinnacle building which was a product of both the boom pre-2007 and the bust of 2007.

While Belfast has seen a string of new developments in the Belfast Metropolitan Area, it has also seen a string of developments in the Belfast Urban areas where several Belfast companies like the most recent company to move into the urban area of Belfast SEO company House of Search are taking up office space outside the city. I do a bit of work with them, I would personally recommend them as an excellent SEO company. By doing this they can take advantage of low rental costs, a better standard of office space and for the employees they get a better work life balance.

While some companies in Belfast still want to be in the city centre, there is definitely an argument for the continued expansion of companies into the urban area of Belfast. While I don’t live in Belfast myself I would like to see other cities in the UK and the US think about moving out of the cities and into more urban areas.  No more big motorways for the urban office workers! Check out this video on motorways and urbanism in Belfast. After you do that have a look at the latest Metropolitan Plan for Belfast.


Gawker Media – publishers of Gawker, Jezebel, and a host of other blogs – has an awesome “big data” Big Board which is available online and also installed in their office (above). Nick Denton has always been obsessed with metrics, and I applaud this level of introspection. The Big Board tracks the usual metrics, but also has other intriguing stats they are interested in:

  • Total & unique views
  • Total comments
  • Current “on page” visitors
  • New v returning visitors
  • Social engagement

Also interesting: the Big Board isn’t optimized for mobile viewing (at least on my iPhone 4s). I would assume that this will change soon.

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>Census Dotmap is a map of every person counted by the 2010 US and 2011 Canadian censuses. The map has 341,817,095 dots – one for each person – generated by a Python script from US Census block-level counts, and then generated the tiles with Processing. Here’s more detail for the interested.

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Rutherford Chang’s art/music/commerce installation We Buy White Albums where he purchases and showcases his collection of 650 first-pressings of the Beatles’ White Album at the Recess Galleryin SoHo at 41 Grand Street.

Listen to 100 copies of side 1 of the Beatles’ White Album:

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Wow: Tesco accused of using electronic armbands to monitor its staff:

Tesco workers are being made to wear electronic armbands that managers can use to grade how hard they are working.

A former staff member has claimed employees are given marks based on how efficiently they work in a bid to improve productivity and can be called in front of management if they take unscheduled toilet breaks.

The armbands are worn by warehouse staff and forklift drivers, who use them to scan the stock they collect from supermarket distribution points and send it out for delivery. Tesco said the armbands are used to improve efficiency and save its staff from having to carry around pens and paper to keep track of deliveries. But the device is also being used to keep an eye on employees’ work rates, the ex-staff member said.

This sort of process engineering – and treating people like meaty robots – is not the way to a better business. Maybe better short-term profits, but not on a long term scale.

Talk about inhuman-centered business.

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The internets are ablaze – mostly with scorn – over two different planned communities which have attracted attention after the Newtown, CT shooting: the Citadel and Glenn Beck’s Independence USA. The former is planned to:

…house between 3,500 and 7,000 patriotic American families who agree that being prepared for the emergencies of life and being proficient with the American icon of Liberty — the Rifle — are prudent measures. There will be no HOA (ed – Home Owner’s Association). There will be no recycling police and no local ordinance enforcers from City Hall.

While Independence, USA would combine Disney World with what appears to be Celebration, FL (also by Disney):

While Independence is very much a dream at this point, the proposed city-theme park hybrid would bring several of Glenn’s seemingly disconnected projects into one place. Media, live events, small business stores, educational projects, charity, entertainment, news, information, and technology R&D – all of these things would have a home in Independence. With the rest of the country and the world going away from the values of freedom, responsibility and truth, Independence would be a place built on the very foundation of those principles. A retreat from the world where entrepreneurs, artists, and creators could come to put their ideas to work. A place for families to bring their children to be inspired.

Some may scorn, but I say: more power to you.

America has a great and rich history of groups of people coming together to found communities which share their combined values. The various Shakertown’s – such as Pleasant Hill, Kentucky – which dot Pennsylvania, Ohio and Kentucky are but one example of 19th Century utopia settlements founded by the Religious Society of Friends. Another great one is New Harmony, Indiana founded by a pietist, communal German religious group, known as Harmonists, Harmonites or Rappites in 1814. The Village of Mariemont, Ohio is a suburb of Cincinnati and was built in the 1920s by Mary Emery and exhibits English architecture from Norman to classic Georgian style. And you can’t forget any contemporary suburban gated community. Americans just love to build these things.

That isn’t to say these experiments are a always success. Only one or two Shakers remain alive today (since as part of their religion they decided not to procreate), and the Harmonists were really a band of indentured servants for leader George Rapp; who eventually sold New Harmony to move back to Pennsylvania. Mariemont is still a pretty little suburban town, and well, Trayvon Martin.

What is interesting in many of these cases, is the perceived need to isolate the group from the “other” in order to maintain discipline, security, or order. Also unsurprising, is the retro and nostalgic tone of both developments: both look to old Germanic town centers, and in the Citadel’s case explicitly showcase Rothenburg, Germany:


What is objectionable about the Citadel is their total lack of being prepared to run a corporation (which a town is): they claim to require no credit check, no background check, zero down payment, zero interest, and zero property taxes. This is not a way to operate a going concern, even if you want to maintain “Liberty-driven freedom derived by Thomas Jefferson’s Rightful Liberty.”

Services cost money, and people are greedy, lazy, and willing to look the other way. If you want to see what a libertarian playground would look like, head over to Gurgaon, outside New Delhi, India:


In this city that barely existed two decades ago, there are 26 shopping malls, seven golf courses and luxury shops selling Chanel and Louis Vuitton. Mercedes-Benzes and BMWs shimmer in automobile showrooms. Apartment towers are sprouting like concrete weeds, and a futuristic commercial hub called Cyber City houses many of the world’s most respected corporations.

To compensate for electricity blackouts, Gurgaon’s companies and real estate developers operate massive diesel generators capable of powering small towns. No water? Drill private borewells. No public transportation? Companies employ hundreds of private buses and taxis. Worried about crime? Gurgaon has almost four times as many private security guards as police officers.

Urbanity takes shared sacrifice which extends past ideology, right into your pocketbook and your daily actions. These experiments don’t even realize this, and will fail much like the hippie communes of the 1960′s/70′s.
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