Friday, June 20, 2008

"Virtual Sticky Notes" - Reasons to Believe Durham Brand

Innovation is a value within the overarching Durham brand. Reasons to believe are published several times weekly to Durham Image Watch.

Yesterday, Duke University engineers announced the innovation of virtual, site-specific "sticky notes" or a "mini-blog" to leverage the rapidly converging technologies around social networking, cell phones and global positioning.

The innovation turns the cell phone into a "telescope lens" allowing a user to tap into a virtual network of site-specific information tagged by other cell users whether it be traffic conditions, restaurant reviews, directions or anything else site specific. The Duke research was done in conjunction with the National Science Foundation and Verizon Inc.

Click here to review 300 Great Things About Durham

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Culture is a Part of a Community's Infrastructure

I’ve been asked for some time to post this blog that I originally posted to the Inter-neighborhood Council of Durham listserv.

From: Reyn Bowman
Sent: Thursday, June 05, 2008 4:12 PM

Subject: RE: INC NEWS -

I only imagine the bind City officials feel but a vibrant and indigenous cultural landscape is just as crucial a part of this community’s infrastructure, as streets, sewer and water, open space, greenways, bike paths and much, much more.

The days when corporate philanthropy filled the funding void for non-profits is vanishing…everywhere. But especially here, where many of our largest corporations now distribute half or more of their philanthropy where commuter employees live rather than the community where they are based.

We can lament it and decry it but it is what it is. We need new paradigms.

Funding for many things including the arts has fallen back on local government. It might be frustrating but we can’t just push them out and expect cake sales and car washes to sustain them at the level of excellence necessary to sustain our quality of life and economic well-being. Just because, like sports, they may evolve from enthusiasts, doesn’t mean they don’t serve a central purpose for the entire community.

The weaning process may have been premature, no matter how well communicated or well intended. We need Durham’s legendary creativity to evolve a coherent system for self-funding the arts, e.g. a dedicated admissions tax which would function as a user fee.

But we also need a coherent way of making decisions about cultural facilities and how to hold arts groups accountable and to determine obsolescence. All easier said than done.

A great deal of our cultural landscape has already eroded. And once gone, it can be very quickly be replaced by McArts or generica and be almost impossible to restore. Places that look like they went shopping for culture one day and brought back one of everything don’t thrive in the long term.

We must solve this problem and I believe together we can.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Top 10 Travel Innovations

This top 10 list of travel innovations for the past decade by Budget Travel drives home why this is such an exceptionally exciting and equally challenged period to be in the promotion of travel as a tool for economic development.

Each one of these makes travel more enjoyable. But they have even more dramatically challenged destination marketing organizations to stretch limited resources and be relevant in many more ways.

I’ve been at this for well more than 30 years….it has always been exhilarating but at time more than now.

Roller BagsWorldwide ATM Access
Online Travel BookingGPS Navigation
TripAdvisorOnline Flight Check-in
Global Internet AccessDigital Photography
Cell PhonesOnline Maps

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Are We “Fantasia” or “Another Reality”?

Did you see this map in the New York Times with a review of a new book called The Big Sort?

I didn’t but fortunately my friend Bill Giest did and blogged it. The map is hilarious. But as the review notes though, the phenomena isn’t new. I read recently that Mormons were persecuted in Missouri and Illinois before they trekked west to be left alone in what is now Utah. Most people who went West early on were trying to escape the tyranny of a majority way of thought…

And then conformity caught up with the people in Utah and demanded they be a state…but to do so, Utah not only had to ban polygamy to be made a state, they went from household to household and appointed every other family, a Democrat or Republican so they wouldn’t tip the balance of power.

This kind of pressure to conform even happens in small sub-regions like the Triangle. Ever hear someone label someone as not a regional “player.” That means they don’t belong to my “clique.”

And you thought "high school hallway politics” was in the rear view mirror. Maybe the big sort is just about people doing what they did hundreds of years ago…not as much trying to find a place where people think like they do as much as where people are tolerant of people who are different.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Sadly, No Surprise

A study by Travel Industry of American quantifies now what we’ve all suspected. People are avoiding air travel, more than 41 million trips in just the past few months.

Security hassles, higher fares, chronic schedule and service disruptions are taking a huge toll. The avoided trips cost the US economy $26.5 billion in just the past 12 months in lost sales for airlines and travel related businesses and of course, the destinations and local governments relying on visitors for tax revenue.

It may have begun back when they cut peanuts…and meals….but my guess is it began when instead of using the 80/20 rule with security, we took a 100% lockdown approach after 9/11.

This doesn’t just impact airlines and airports or the cities like Durham that own them. This is a blight on the entire brand of travel, one of the biggest generators of economic activity in the nation.

We must address it together.

“Market Driven” Trumps “Shoulds”

To me the experience of the past drought points out the practicality of “market incentive/disincentive” vs. preaching “shoulds.”

It isn’t likely that anyone considers themselves a “water glutton” when they hear the term, any more than people who absent-mindedly contribute to road side liter identify themselves as “litterers.” Even when we buy into the “should” as in “you should conserve” it is human nature to assume “we do” and “they don’t.”

And of course there are people who seize issues like this with tenacity, wrap them around another agenda and use words like “coerce.” They are easy to spot because they automatically demean the motives of others, usually to make others look stupid or immoral to make a point. That approach rarely works either.

What does work or market driven incentives like the new tiered system for water rates where the more you use, the more you pay per unit. Government should ratchet that up to just the point where people begin conserving because it makes sense. But this won’t make sense or work as well during times when water is going over the dam and into the ocean. Times like those will require something more than the conservation message and rely more on other logic, like the need to pay for infrastructure.

Another problem with “you should” is that it often leads people to try to tackle 100% of the problem no matter how small or big rather than selectively targeting the 20% of people or businesses who contribute to 80% of the problem. For instance, it doesn’t make sense to obsess with whether water is serviced at a banquet or restaurant vs. mandating hotels and restaurants to install updated low flow devices.

The latter will rapidly address 80% of the problem by focusing on a smaller group (20%) while the 100% solution is very inefficient and costly.

Keep in mind that an upscale restaurant of say 100+ seats will serve about 7 gallons of drinking water a night or about 1/5th what is used to wash a load of clothes or “half” what it takes to flush only once a toilet that hasn’t been upgraded. They also have high efficiency dishwashers.

A banquet of 300 might use 18 gallons or about the same amount required to run a dishwasher once or to take a shower…even low flow. When one table is preset and no one shows, it might use 1.6 gallons or much less than one person brushing their teeth.

We’ll get to “real” vs. “perceived” conservation more quickly and efficiently by focusing on where we can make the biggest impact first…vs. trying to eat the elephant whole.

Another way to look at it….do we really feel more safe flying because we’re spending billions to require every single commercial airline passenger to forfeit tweezers and bottled water? Or would we feel even more safe if we knew officials were deploying the billions of dollars into systems profiling and targeting the minute number likely to commit a crime?

Monday, June 02, 2008

Durham’s Visitor Related Product Earns Its Share of Accolades

Naturally, DCVB promotes the incredible depth and breadth Durham receives as one of 32,000+ places in the US. But equally impressive to me are the accolades earned by Durham’s visitor related sports venues, festivals, attractions, shopping and dining options and hotels.

Here is a list of just 50 to make my point. It takes great marketing to draw visitors but it also takes a destination product that excels. We should never take these accolades for granted and always pursue continuing and never ending improvement.