Tragedy at Second Narrows: The Story of the Ironworkers Memorial Bridge by Eric Jamieson

Tragedy at Second Narrows: The Story of the Ironworkers Memorial Bridge by Eric Jamieson

Browsing the second floor of the Chapters on Granville and Broadway one winter evening, trying out the SnapTell consumer product image recognition iPhone app, I happened upon Tragedy at Second Narrows: The Story of the Ironworkers Memorial Bridge by Eric Jamieson. Having seen it at another branch of the Canadian bookstore conglomerate, and not content to buy a hardcover, I reserved the book at the library then and there. A few weeks later, it arrived. Books borrowed from the local book repository must be more urgently read than those borrowed from friends, so I set about its 300 pages of Jamieson's history of the Burrard Inlet's second crossing.

The book details the political machinations to sell the idea of the bridge, fund it, select the company to build the bridge, its initial construction and what led to its collapse while only half-built. After explaining the engineering mistakes and subsequent errors that led to 18 deaths of ironworkers, painters, and later, a diver, Jamieson examines the royal commission to investigate the collapse and the ironworkers strike and legal wranglings resulting from that strike. Some details, he concedes, he can only leave to mystery, such as who made a crucial correction to one of the calculation sheets and when.

Ironworkers Memorial Second Narrows Bridge

Books like these I can really dig into. It relates to a subject about which I know very little at the outset, in this case, bridge building, and the author takes the time to detail the context in which a singular event happened. The stories of all involved, from decision-makers to the planners to the engineers to the ironworkers to the rescue teams to the judges and lawyers and union officials, all serve to bundle the entire narrative of why Vancouver landmark fell down. Jamieson never condescends the non-engineers by explaining the physics involved thoroughly yet rewards those who have a technical background by teaching the lessons future generations can learn. Every chapter contains several photos of the bridge and participants in the story of its making and destruction and rebuilding. Especially compelling are the photos of the rescue and recovery operation, which show the massive scale of the destruction and the urgency to find survivors.

I can't recommend this book enough to fans of Vancouver and its history. The Ironworkers Memorial Second Narrows Bridge figures daily in the lives of hundreds of thousands of Lower Mainlanders who need to cross the Burrard Inlet in their travel mode of choice. Jamieson has done the city and the bridge's builders a great service in recounting a terrible day for British Columbia in its then-unprecedented period of construction growth.


The past year, especially the past six months, have revealed sides of me I didn't necessary want to know about. A slightly fuller range of emotions and a slightly fuller range of experiences up until today, which marks the end of one decade and the start of another. My girlfriend and I will celebrate it quietly by re-watching episodes of a certain science fiction TV thriller she has yet to catch up on.

In the past year of reflection I haven't come up with anything resembling a 5-year plan. Instead of retirement objectives, I've a better sense of who I am. Instead of setting big goals for the rest of my life, I made small changes. Small changes like acknowledging that biking to work is the form of exercise that gives me the most satisfaction, helping solve two problems--weight stagnation and mental sluggishness--that irk more than plague. It's not social like basketball (my true love) or dragon boating or floorball. It gets me somewhere, up and down hills and past soccer pitches and baseball fields and cars and, more dishearteningly, other cyclists whizzing by. No longer do I type two spaces after a sentence. I don't buy fancy coffee anymore, partaking only when it's free and only often enough, not too often. Ice cream only consumed outside the house, that is, no containers of it allowed in the freezer anymore. A smarter routine at work, finding its way into my personal life (why is it hardly ever the other way around?), which means less social media during the day. It works out: I'm looking forward to the era of social media divestiture anyway.

Today, when other thirtysomethings welcomed me to the club, I joked that now I have to spend the next 30 years undoing the damaged caused by the first 30 years. That's a joke at my own expense, among the many bad habits not yet discarded, and really, my life up until this point has been easier than I'd like to admit. If daily urgency at work, as opposed to the weekly urgency of months past, is an unwelcome if necessary change, then I need to assert my right to relaxation to ease the belly stress. More swimming in the pool, going out less, working out with a physical destination rather than a number on a scale in mind, and more Sunday brunches on Commercial Drive are included in the self-prescribed remedy.

It doesn't feel like thirty, yet. Maybe, as one person already suggested today, I just need practice.

Getting to Maybe: How the World Is Changed by Frances Westley, Brenda Zimmerman, and Michael Quinn Patton

When shopping for Christmas gifts at the Laughing Oyster bookstore in Courtenay, I came across a book whose subtitle, or rather, its very long and prominent description, spoke to me. Ever since befriending people who were able to project an attitude that they can change the world—or at least their world—for the better, I've started to believe the same thing. This belief came in direct conflict with my long-held attitude that I was just one person, that I neither had the energy nor the inclination to find the cause that I couldn't not join, the something so undeniably wrong that I couldn't not do something about. Everything seems taken care of. Global warming? Somebody's working on that. Sexism? A whole cadre of activists are on it. Hate, poverty, racism? All issues that I can outsource my conscience to someone else because these were so obviously problems that there were enough people on the job.

Getting to Maybe: How the World Is Changed by Frances Westley, Brenda Zimmerman, and Michael Quinn Patton

Enter Getting To Maybe: How the World Is Changed by Frances Westley, Brenda Zimmerman and Michael Quinn Patton. The "subtitle", in text as big as the title, that grabbed my attention reads: “This book is for those who are not happy with the way things are and would like to make a difference. This book is for ordinary people who want to make connections that will create extraordinary outcomes. This is a book about making the impossible happen.” I showed the book to Karen, my agent of change, who knew my struggle with cynicism and with trying to find my passion. She offered to buy it for me. She thought this might be something to knock me into action, whatever that might be. She was right, but it won't knock me into action soon.

Westley, Zimmerman and Patton describe the people who are the forces behind social change as "social innovators". I see social innovators all around me, but I yet don't have the confidence to describe myself as one. (Yet: one person, who will remain nameless, has pointed out that I'm at the top of a pyramid, and whether or not I agree with the idea that I'm "over" people, I concede that there are people who listen to me and take me seriously during the times I want to be taken seriously, and that my influence with them is nonzero.) The authors challenge the mindset that problems have simple explanations and simple solutions, and argue that embracing complexity and, most difficult for me, ambiguity lead to the change that social innovators seek. They also challenge the notion that the best social innovators are the strong personalities, and argue that they are rather people from all dispositions that felt a calling. They could not not act. Even if the social innovators knew for a fact that they wouldn't solve the problems in their lifetime, or even ever if they lived forever, they could not stand idly by while it was happening. "Not on my watch", Ulysses Seal of the Conservation Breeding Specialist Group said to himself. Write the authors: “that watch will last his lifetime, but by thinking about his mission in this way, he makes it human-scaled—manageable enough to carry without succumbing to despair.”

The authors recommend constant evaluation during implementation and finding moments to sit still, to see where social innovators are and to note changes in the social landscape and adjust. Citing the case of PLAN (Planned Lifetime Advocacy Networks) and their struggle to scale their network out, the authors suggest that not every movement can be replicable, or at least not quickly, despite pressures to do so. Other case studies offer more lessons. The case of Opportunities 2000 in Waterloo, Ontario suggested that even though the implementors believed they had only a small but measurable effect, theirs was the motivating force. Others found success through their failure: Roméo Dallaire, a Canadian hero if there ever was one, could not prevent a genocide in Rwanda, and lost everything after he retired. His current stature amongst Canadians has vindicated him, and he finds success in speaking tours around the country. (His stature amongst Belgians is another story.) MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving), Bob Geldof, and other cases illustrate the calling, the struggles, the failures, and the changing landscapes social innovators face when making the change they must make.

The authors tend to repeat their stories for effect, and sometimes showcase overtly political motives (as opponents of the war in Iraq and President Bush), and their approach might be a tough sell in an age of one-liners and easy solutions. Despite that and not being able to identify with many of the cases presented, I found the book inspiring. Karen, unwittingly or not, bought this not for the current me, but rather the future me. The me who lets the ideas and stories in the book rattle around in his brain for a little while and waits for the forces that cause me to find my calling align. Or, as the chapter title has it, for hope and history to rhyme. They haven't yet, and they will. After having read this book, I'm better prepared for when they do.

GPS Logger Tomfoolery: Getting the GlobalSat DG-100 Working On a Mac (Successfully!)

One of my intentions this year is to track more of my movements and document them in photographic form. One of the downsides of the GlobalSat DG-100 GPS logger is that there is no support, at least not officially, for Mac users to retrieve tracking information, necessitating a trip to Windows and then back to get the photos matched up with the coordinates at which they were taken. Many have tried, and failed, to hack it in, and after spending a couple of hours today, I can now declare myself as part of those who have failed. But I came oh so close.

GlobalSat DG-100 GPS On WestJet

Spurred by Richard Akerman's writeup and screenshots of HoudahGeo for the Mac, and especially his sidebar comment about support for the GPS logger we both own, mixing metaphors like few have mixed before me, I dove into the swamp of programs and yak shaved until the cows came home. Or, rather, until an error message that I couldn't debug appeared on my Terminal screen. Cough. Here are the steps I took to get where I got to before giving up.

First, I downloaded the GPSBabel command line program and graphical interface, but not before spending a few minutes looking at the documentation. It's not clear from their downloads page, but you have to click through another link to get through to the SourceForge project page. SourceForge, despite improvements in their interface, is still not easy enough to use, and not easy enough to get a direct download link for a package (which I often need when at the command line using wget). That's another story. After downloading the Mac OS X package, and hopelessly futzing around with the command line supplied for the DG-100, I searched around a bit and found someone who had also tried GPSBabel with the DG-100 and found out that indeed DG-100 support wasn't built into the 1.3.4 release. They suggested checking out the HEAD version from the SourceForge CVS repository. If none of that previous sentence made any sense to you, consider yourself part of the blissful majority.

That of course meant compiling software. And what do you need when you compile software? A compiler! The compiler I needed was gcc, and seemingly the only way to get gcc is to install it from the DVD that comes with your Mac. People like me lose stuff like that. Not yet, in my case, as my DVDs are in a cabinet at my apartment, but having done most of the work at the office, they needed to be at the office. Good thing I work with Mac users.

After a couple of tries at installing gcc (I needed the SDK for Mac OS 10.4), I was able to compile a developmental version of GPSBabel. Somewhere along the line, it occurred to me that I didn't know how to access the USB port via the command line, that is, which argument to use. The command line suggested at recommended /dev/ttyUSB0, but there was no such 'device' on my Mac. I came across a forum post about DG-100 support for the Mac, which tipped me off to an open source driver, which has something to do with a Prolific PL-2303X USB-serial adapter on the DG-100. That got me closer.

(We break into regular programming to note that a "Jaako" posting in the forum was able to get the DG-100 working with his PowerBook, but that all the dates of the readings were from the fist day of 1970. Is that the same Jaako that went driving around Taiwan and reported it on Good Fishies, the blog of his and his incomparable girlfriend Cathy Wang's trip to Japan and China? If so, he got closer than I did. Now back to the thrilling conclusion.)

After installing that, and restarting my MacBook (along with the customary baby feline sacrifice), satisfied that my yak had been sufficiently shaved, I modified the command line slightly to look like the following: gpsbabel -t -i dg-100 -o gpx /dev/cu.PL2303-0000103D outputfile.gpx I get the following response: dg100_recv_byte(): read timeout

And that's where I'm left. Looking at the C code that does the work for the DG-100 with PHP-coder eyes, it's not clear what could be changed to make it work. Searching for the error message or the function name only gets me the C code or forum posts I've already looked at. Any ideas?

Time passes and Jaako reports in the comments on how he got the GlobalSat DG-100 working on a Mac. You'll need gcc to compile the C file, in which I've changed 3B1 to 0000103D. The software is GPL, so I distribute it under the same terms. Thanks Jaako for the pointer, and thanks to Mirko Parthey for the original work.

One Week Documenting My World With a Nokia N95

Along with Kris, Roland, Dave, and Rebecca, I'm participating in a week-long Simon Fraser University research project centered around social media and the Nokia N95, a feature-rich mobile phone that takes amazing photos, acts as a media (video and audio) player, and tracks my movements. After two days of playing around with it, I've walked around my neighbourhood, taken video of trains, mapped out my morning commute to work and the full length of the 101 bus from 22nd Street Station to Lougheed Station. Bus routes are boring, I know, since they're already well-documented by the people that operate them, but I endeavor to accurately map my bike route using satellite technology, rather than draw it imprecisely by hand based on memory.

Ideally I'd be using some of the location tools built for Drupal to map out my adventures on my site using external services like Google Maps or Google Earth. Using these tools, either Drupal or the external services, would then spit out RSS and other XML-based feeds so that others can take the information and remix it somehow. In fact exactly a year ago today I wrote (Re-)Documenting My World With Drupal and the Nokia N95, which laid out a rough recipe of how that might happen. The development of some of the tools have atrophied (e.g. Aggregator2), but others—especially the Drupal core CMS and map creation services—have matured and people are finally baking location into the web. A week isn't long enough to get these things humming, though.

Impressions of the "phone":

  • the S60 user interface is still non-obvious and therefore hard to use
  • beautiful photos from a camera with an autofocus that I can't get the hang of
  • I can't take photos at all while tracking my movements with Sports Tracker, though that application is cool, giving you graphs of speed and altitude over time, exporting into multiple formats so that you can, for example, display them on Google Earth
  • everything's faster and better than my regular luxury phone, the Nokia N70
  • absent a data plan, having wi-fi that works on my phone rocks compared to not being able to get instructions to share an internet connection with an N70 working
  • vibrating when turning the thing on scares the crap out of me

Rebecca started things off accurately calling the research project a 'taste test', and has been posting photos of her travels around the Vancouver area. If it wasn't for Roland, I'd be using about half of the functionality that I'm currently using. He has his first day Blink! reaction and sober second day thoughts. I'm looking forward to hearing from Kris and Dave, who are most likely to document with video.


Today I enter the final year of my twenties, turning 29 years of age. The last few weeks I've been reflecting on how to get my shit together, and the prospect seems overwhelming. Money currently ain't a thang, but I have no plan for 5, 10, 20 years from now. My hobbies revolve solely around a computer, and the only thing I know how to cook is spaghetti. I lead a disorganized life in a small apartment, something I feel condemned to continue. Other issues nettle, like health (much improved due to floorball and dragon boat) and sleep schedule (closely related to my so-called diet), so over the coming weeks and months I'm doing a complete assessment of my life as I live it presently and coming up with at least the outlines of the next 30 years.

Where do I want to be? What do I want to do? What should I do? Whom do I want to spend my time with? What's that goddamn beeping noise? These questions and more I'll be asking myself. And my friends, annoying them surely. Some of them have it together in my view, so I'm not about to let this social network I've developed over the years go to waste. But first lunch (you guessed it, left-over spaghetti), then off to buy a new notebook to make it seem like I'm starting over. Because that's what it feels like.

iPhone, Co-Housing (With Wife-Swapping Jokes), Next Bus Info on Facebook, and Spying on Your Readers at DemoCamp Vancouver

After some initial confusion about the location of tonight's DemoCamp Vancouver, we all made it to the Irish Heather to hear about the iPhone, co-housing, a Facebook application for bus schedules, and tracking the movements of people while they visit a site. And then networking ensued, at least presumably, since I left after the demonstrations.

First a demonstration by a self-described fan-boy of Apple's iPhone, the latest status symbol among geeks and affiliated. I happen to think the iPhone is pretty awesome, so after someone said "it's just a phone!" I yelled towards the presenter, "what else can it do?", knowing full well it's a better looking but smaller (in disk space terms) version of the iPod than the current non-nano non-Shuffle versions. It was cool, and dude answered all the questions reasonably without going into hype overdrive.

Next up was a "presentation" about co-housing, which I think left people wondering why we should care about it. He started off with a joke about how people hear it's about wife-swapping and that yes, it's about wife-swapping. Stupidly thinking that this was a bombed joke that needed resuscitating, I blurted out something like "so tell us about wife-swapping". Yeah, real smooth, seeing as how my girlfriend was sitting across the table from me, among other women in the audience (though they were a distinct minority in the crowd). I know what my girlfriend thinks already, but Megan and Ariane, you were there, what did you think? Was it just an attempt to get a cheap laugh that failed, or is it negatively indicative of the type of events that have the word "Camp" in their title?

The co-housing presentation itself seemed to lead to more questions than answers. Usually, if I don't come out with more questions than answers, I give the presenter a lot of credit for raising them in my brain. In this case, however, I knew there would be a presenter on the subject, and came for that reason, but came away with two questions that a lot of audience members might have also come away with. I for one would have started right away attempting to answer 1) what is an intentional community and what are some examples and 2) how is co-housing really different than a strata, or is it? I came in with those questions, and left without an answer.

I'm no doubt getting the order wrong, but John Boxall presented on MyBus Vancouver, a Facebook application that shows you (and only you) bus schedules on your Facebook profile. I'm more interested in next bus information via SMS, since I'm not bringing my Facebook profile with me to the bus stop, but we were assured that the developers are making progress in re-igniting the service that does that. If TransLink would only open their data to an API...well, that's an argument that deserves its own series of blog posts.

Finally, Andre Charland got up to demonstrate RobotReplay, which tracks the movements of person visiting a website and records them for playback later by the website administrator. The goal is to figure out what people are clicking on and what they are typing in in order to make the experience better for current and future users. Or, it's a tool to spy on your readers, but I don't see how different that is than what Google Analytics or the various statistics packages many people unproblematically (and rightly so) use already. The demonstration itself could have had better examples or people navigating a site for a period longer than 10 seconds, but it's cool, lightweight tech and Andre knew his shit and addressed the concerns people had about privacy and future features.

This was a very well-documented event (with multiple video and still photographers), so I don't regret not bringing my camera.

The Presidency of Gerald R. Ford by John Robert Greene: A Review

Before the new year, the death of former United States President Gerald Ford took the sails out of former-Senator John Edwards' announcement that the latter would run for the highest office in the land. Press platitudes described Ford—the only in American history to be neither elected as Vice President nor as President—appointed by Nixon after Spiro Agnew resigned, ascending to the Presidency after Nixon resigned—as "decent" and "honorable", an image that despite press clichés, still has resonance. Ford appeared at the end of an episode of The Simpsons, asking Homer if he liked football and nachos, and whether the latter wanted to join him in watching the football game while eating nachos. Homer, the episode makes clear, identified with the former President, because both were a little dim and a little clumsy, but at the core, decent human beings unlike the episode's portrayal of a hateful George H.W. Bush.

John Robert Greene's book, The Presidency of Gerald R. Ford attempts to portray the President as a man leading an administration in search of an agenda, only to have it derailed by both his miscalculations and Congress' increased power after a nation appalled at the executive branch's excess. We are given a tour of Ford's domestic and foreign policies, as well as political intrigue involving Ronald Reagan's challenge to the incumbent's re-nomination (nominations of a sitting President these days being a done deal), as well as former Nixon administration officials who either disliked Ford personally or were bitter about their exit from the halls of power.

The Nixon pardon was—and remains—Ford's most controversial act as President. Anticipating neither the outcry nor its vociferousness, the pardon shattered Ford's image of humble, honest President who appealed for healing after Watergate. Ford was an angry, partisan, political president that sometimes acted on principle (school busing and desegregation) and out of political concerns (New York City's bailout). Greene does not judge Ford as harshly as Christopher Hitchens about the Mayaguez rescue mission, one of the few foreign policy crises Ford faced. Greene recounts the punitive air strikes matter-of-factly, almost as if Ford didn't care that the crew had been released already. (While both discuss the Solzhenitisyn snub, Hitchens covers Ford's turnaround against the Kurds in Iraq, while Greene does not cover it at all.) Greene devotes full chapters to Ronald Reagan's challenge to Ford for the 1976 Republican presidential nomination—Ford ultimately eked out a victory both in the primaries and at the convention—and another chapter to the presidential campaign against Jimmy Carter, to whom Ford lost.

Greene's book, while short at 193 pages (this excludes the endnotes, bibliographic essay and index), comes very detailed, outlining Ford's rise from Congress to the vice presidency to the presidency. The book also features tidbits on major contemporary political players, like the aforementioned Reagan but also Richard Cheney (currently George W. Bush's Vice President) and Donald Rumsfeld (up until recently Bush's Defense Secretary). Greene has written another book about a one-term president, George. H.W. Bush, and that book is next on my reading list about U.S. Presidents. One-termers have necessarily less written about them than two-timers. While they seem a little more mysterious because of that, they still have enough primary resources to draw upon for book-length studies. The George H.W. Bush book no doubts talks about players in that Presidency that will make up a future Republican presidential administration.

Ford's brief experience offers lessons for future presidents—and decision-makers in general who are thrust to the top of an organization with not a lot of preparation, and that is what makes Greene's study of Gerald Ford so interesting. The writing is accessible, not bogged down in interpretation or policy details, but written as a story about a football-playing midwestern President with a public image of sometimes having a few sandwiches short of a picnic, whom the American people judged still too close to Nixon and the perceived moral failings of the Republican Party in the 1970s. A President, in Greene's mind, who nevertheless set out to heal the nation and succeeded.

Personal and Social

Jason Kottke links to Nicholas Felton's personal annual report for 2006. Last year, while on the airport express from downtown Toronto to Pearson International Airport, I started making a list in my notebook of terms from business and other fields that sound cool if you put "personal" in front of them. Note that some are real things that people do, and others are not-quite-neologisms (in that the words are all English words, but the mixing of them are new).

  • personal mission statement
  • personal tagline
  • personal data model
  • personal use case scenario
  • personal business model
  • personal valuation
  • personal value proposition

Note that if you substitute "social" for "personal", you get the same effect. Are there any other terms or phrases that sound more interesting—or make something you think is bad turn into something you think is good (e.g. "social networking")—if you add either "social" or "personal" to them?

What If You Created A Community Site and Nobody Came?

A few months ago, Jen announces she's one of the new writers at Metroblogging Vancouver, in addition to Jonathon Narvey. Making a note it of it at work, I said in our internal group chat something to the effect of "it's almost as if you have to make something appear like an exclusive club in order to get people to join." I was a little on the grumpy side when writing that, mostly because Urban Vancouver, which has free weblogs, forums and event listings for anybody who signs up, but I actually consider Metroblogging Vancouver to be a successful group weblog: the authors have different perspectives on the same thing, and frequently contribute interesting writing. Same goes for Beyond Robson, of whom I'm envious of their Vancouver's art and music scene coverage.

Among the reasons Urban Vancouver isn't a successful community site:

  • the design as seen in Internet Explorer is broken.

  • even with the redesign there's a lot going on on the site: lots of blocks with 'most recent x' and 'popular y' and navigation that can be confusing
  • I along with Ray are the only regular writers for the site, and I generally just cross-post Vancouver-related material (which I'd love if people like Darren Barefoot did with his great writing about Vancouver). Jonathon Narvey says he'll cross-post, and want to encourage people to do the same on Urban Vancouver.
  • you have to register to post comments. That a pretty big impediment to participation. It was my decision and I stand by it: spam overwhelmed the site. As soon as we upgrade the software that powers it, that should cease to be a problem and 'anonymous' people—who can leave their contact info, just like on any other weblog—will be able to respond.
  • the event listings sometimes show the correct time and sometimes don't. I'm hoping that's something related to the need to upgrade as well.
  • what do you think? What would make Urban Vancouver (or similar community site) more iviting?

(Among the reasons Urban Vancouver is successful:

  • fairly high traffic, and high ranking in search engines
  • almost 4500 contributions over 2 plus years
  • an understanding of how getting included in the aggregator, which I find useful in tracking what Vancouver bloggers talk about, benefits their weblogs even though it's technically republishing their writing. Note that inclusion is both opt-in and opt-out: you can ask to be included and to be removed as well.
  • an identifiable brand, which gets me and others into some events for free as 'media'.)

We managing editors have other ideas for the site, but it languishes a bit as we work on things that are a little more mission-critical. Something I've been struggling with is, working for a company that provides tools to build community sites, I haven't created a lot of them. Successful ones, that is. PDXphiles, improvident lackwit and even 43 Thongs are good candidates for opening up for user signups. (That last one is the least likely to open up: I meant it to poke a little fun at some guys who were creating services I actually use and like, so I don't ever want to feel like I'm competing with them using their sites' design.) Watching China and Translinked have open signups, but I don't give them enough attention or promotion for people to want to participate.

If you watch my reading about community, you'll see links to some great articles about the subject:

What if you created a community site and nobody came? That question rang in my head when reading the above articles and thinking about it consumes a sizable percentage of my day. I continually have to remind myself that using the technology is about 5% of the work you put into building a community site. Public and private promotion (online and offline), maintenance of the site, user and content moderation, facilitation, participant retention, and technical support, not to mention participating yourself by creating the initial writing, video, audio, what have you, and continuing to participate in the community after it takes off constitute 95% of the time you put in. Soft skills, but hard work.

Tranlinked may or may not succeed as a place where people can write about Vancouver transit issues, but maybe I have to think smaller. Starting in April of this year, I created a group for Vancouver transit on Flickr for the sole reason that it didn't exist yet. Watching the 'translink', 'seabus', 'skytrain' tags, I politely ask people if they want to post their photos there (trying not to tell them what to do; that's a personality thing, but personality has a huge impact on the success of a community). I have quietly—via private messages, which felt more personal than leaving a drive-by comment on their photo—been building a small but already-passionate community using someone else's service. By piggy-backing on a photo-sharing community site I could carve out a niche for myself and others who think public transportation is an interesting aspect of their city.

In other words, I don't really have to build a community site or even a community: communities are usually already there. They just need a place to hang out and feel like belong to a community.