Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Northern Voice 2013

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This post is being updated to include presentation materials as and when I find them

Last update 17 June at 1pm

The program encourages blogging, there is free WiFi, and there is something I need to say. About transit, and route frequency. To get from Arbutus Village to the Museum of Vancouver, I could take the #16 and walk down Burrard, or walk across to McDonald for the #22. I did not mention the #25 since I was sure that one would come along while I was waiting for the cross walk light, and I was right. In theory an intending passenger has to wait half the headway, on average. In real life, you always just miss the bus. Indeed, as I approached McDonald, a bus whisked around the corner, and left without me. There was at least a shelter and a seat for the wait while I watched other buses pass by.

Eventually I boarded. As the bus proceeded, it caught up to the #2 starting its run from 16th Avenue. And we proceeded as a pair, skip stopping until Cornwall, by which time we had caught up to the #22 in front, and could then move as a convoy. None of this is planned or deliberate, but it always happens, especially when its raining. And should be born in mind whenever you read that Frequent Transit is every 15 minutes.

I have not been impressed with my ability to live blog this event. For starters, you would think, wouldn’t you, that the organizers, when choosing a location would put the availability and quality of wifi high on their agenda. One of the organizers told me that they were still trying to fix it on Thursday, and resorted to appeals to those with wifi hotspots on their smart phones to make them available to all to ease the strain. There are actually two different logins for two wifi connections for different parts of the building – and even then the printed password they issued had an error in it. I did not bring my MacBook Pro as it is too  heavy, and gets too hot, to use as a real laptop. It needs a desk – and new feet, too. The little rubber ones it came with keep falling off. The tablet is not easy enough to type on either – and I noticed this year there are many more people using old fashioned paper notebooks with actual pens. Like the resurgence of vinyl LPs and film cameras, this is a lot more than a fashion statement. Just like digital watches lost popularity really quickly.

The catering this year seems to have been organized by someone from an earlier era too.

It's what's for breakfast #nv13

Though there was fresh fruit as an alternate. Lunch was better than in the past since the wraps were pre-made. The line moves faster when people are not practising their roll-your-own burrito skills. But there was still only one line – and it moved slowly as the people at the front always seem more interested in their conversations than letting anyone else get fed. And the after party had free beer and wine. Unsurprisingly no-one seemed to want to eat the standardized squares or fresh fruit – both of which looked more than a little tired by now. There wasn’t nearly enough bread and cheese – and people seem to have read the same articles I did about the dangers of salami.

There is not nearly the same amount of energy as at earlier NVs at UBC. For one thing there is no really obvious gathering place outside of the lecture rooms – and people wander off to look at museum exhibits, rather than engaging. There is much less going on as a result – which puts even greater pressure on the organizers.

Too many presenters are wedded to their computerized presentations – most of which add very little value anyway. Some electronic distribution of information to personal screens for those who wanted it would have worked much better and caused much less delay while the inevitable Mac/Windows incompatibility issues were sorted out for the umpteenth time. I hate Prezi even more than light background PowerPoint – but at least it is on the web for all.

Reading over this I realised I am overdoing my grumpy old man act. So I turned to storify to crowdsource coverage. It is much more positive – and I noticed that I tended to pick tweets that had pictures attached – whaddyaknow!

Someone either reads this blog or reads my mind. The breakfast on Saturday offers far more than doughnuts. Though still really heavy on the carbs.

Baked Goods

The view out the window is going to be more distracting.

Use the view

So far these are the only Prezis I have found: from the sessions I attended

“Improving Comments on your Blog” by Travis Smith

Story by Theresa Lalonde (which is a relief as otherwise I would feel required to transcribe my own scribbles)

because they used the tag #nv13

Sean McNulty “Getting Things Syndicated” one the many talks I did not get to because there are three streams most of the time.

John Bielher tweeted “A few people asked for my slidedeck from nv13…warning it’s a 144mb PDF:… (I didn’t have notes, just photos)”.

But then a lot of other people who did not present at this conference use that tag. And there are more than 1000 prezis using the tag “Northern Voice” (without a date)

Thanks to Vancouver Gadgets we now have the link to Darren Barefoot slides “Why we live the quantified life” and also on slideshare with the nv13 hashtag Dave Olson Vancouver: Untold Stories, Anecdotes …


But you do know, don’t you that Northern Voice has its own blog? At the present time its content is still mostly is “promote the conference before its happens” mode – but useful summaries of presentations – and presenters – are there.

So it’s a nice day and there is a farmers’ market down the road apiece. I think I should be there (see next post) and not “blogging the shit” out of the conference.

#nv13 wrapup at MOV

The keynote speakers : (l to r) Bob Goyetche, Dave Olsen, Mark Blevis
Photo by jmv on flickr

More people are now adding their photos to flickr these are the ones tagged nv13

Written by Stephen Rees

June 15, 2013 at 9:27 am

Posted in blogging, transit

Tagged with , ,

5 Responses

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  1. There is a book, “Why Do Buses Come in Threes?” that explains the mathematical reasons for this phenomenon (it also discusses the math behind other every day things).


    June 14, 2013 at 9:59 am

  2. Actually I really doubt that. I tried a Google search for this book, and the only sites that host it ask for a credit card “for verification” of a supposedly free download. And the download itself is not a pdf or ebook format but an .exe file. Since I use Mac, that’s useless, but I would not mind betting that it has an “interesting” payload.

    If someone can provide me with the pdf I will read it. But if you go looking for it please be careful. I think, but cannot prove, that this is a phishing scam. There are at least 12 different exploits that use pdf files to conceal executables.

    Stephen Rees

    June 16, 2013 at 7:45 pm

  3. Good summary, Stephen. I’ll mention your criticisms at our post-conference organizers’ meeting. Additionally, thank you for your contribution to the “Future” session.

    Duncan McHugh

    June 17, 2013 at 10:30 am

  4. Kind of you to say so, but I am much prouder of the Storify – which is harder to do than it looks!

    I thought the “Future” session was very well moderated – and could have gone on longer. Usually the best indicator of success is when a session leaves you wanting more.

    Stephen Rees

    June 17, 2013 at 10:36 am

  5. The #2 and #22 make every other bus in Vancouver look evenly spaced. I have been using some portion of the #22 route for much of the last two decades and can tell you that seeing five buses in five minutes is not uncommon on any part of the route.

    This fall TransLink is going to eliminate the #2 and instead operate a variety of #22s with endpoints at Knight Bridge, Kingsway, Dunsmiur, 16th and Dunbar Loop (plus the Knight to 63rd and Macdonald to 41st buses that are on their last run before going out of service). I applaud the effort and wish them well, but don’t expect much to change.

    I’ve done a lot of thinking about average wait time over the years and believe reality to be closer to 66% of headway than 50%. On a route subject to clustering I set my expectations at 75-100% of headway.


    June 18, 2013 at 1:55 pm

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