Saturday, October 27, 2012

So Much For Code Enforcement


It's Halloween and we're all gearing up for a night of world-class decorations and trick-or-treating in Briers North!

You won't see anything on the news (several news agencies have been turned away already) so if you're going to visit for Halloween, here's the 411.

Some information for you if you are planning to join us:
  • Halloween is ALWAYS and ONLY celebrated on October 31st.  Rain or Shine!  For 2012, this will be on a Wednesday.
  • The passing out of candy begins at 6:00pm and stops at 9:00pm.  No one is admitted to the subdivision after 8:30pm.
  • We start closing the subdivision to automobile traffic at 5:45pm and we do not reopen until 9:30pm. There is NO parking inside Briers North subdivision. If you park outside, please do so legally. The North Peachtree Baptist Church (corner of Tilly Mill & Peeler) is accepting donations for the use of their parking lot for anyone wishing to park there (proceeds being given to the Boy Scouts).
  • Trick-or-treating in Briers North on Halloween is AT YOUR OWN RISK. This is a public event on public streets and is NOT sponsored by any association or group. Briers North assumes no liability or responsibility for visitors.
  • NO pets are allowed during this time (they get scared and some of the children get scared!)
If you enjoyed Halloween in Briers North in the past, or plan to visit this year, please consider giving a small donation.  Donations help to make this a SAFE event for everyone and are gratefully received!

There is something for everyone here.  Kids, adults, whoever.  For the local curmudgeon who isn't happy unless they are complaining about something, we have Code Violation Bingo.  Lots of unauthorized construction going on so you'll rack up your bingo in no time.  The free star in the center of the card is the outhouse on my front lawn.

But seriously folks....

My neighborhood is proud to welcome so many visitors from so many places this night.  Everyone is a knight, or a princess, or whoever they want to be regardless of their walk of life.  You learn a lot about people and more about yourself when you show hospitality to people you normally don't encounter.  I ran across this piece on Facebook recently.  Please give these words some serious thought if you are tempted to get frustrated with Halloween celebrations and encountering people you are not accustomed to.

With Halloween upon us, please keep in mind, a lot of little people will be visiting your home.
  Be accepting.  The child who is grabbing more than one piece of candy may have poor fine motor skills.   The child who takes forever to pick out one piece of candy may have motor planning issues.  The child who does not say "trick-or-treat" or "thank you" may be non-verbal.  The child who looks disappointed when they see your bowl may have an allergy.  The child who isn't wearing a costume at all might have a sensory issue (SPD) or autism.
  Be nice.   Be patient.  It's EVERYONE'S Halloween.

Friday, October 26, 2012

May I Have a Word(Press)?

Almost all web development these days is based on a content management system (CMS).  The most popular currently is WordPress.  WordPress began its life as a stand-alone blogging software package but evolved over the past several years into a full-fledged open-source CMS.  WordPress users can add pages, design elaborate themes, and add all kinds of functionality - including some surprisingly robust ecommerce capabilities.

Several of my current clients requested WordPress updates this year, including Atlanta Panhellenic, COCAP, Northside Tree, and there are more in the pipeline.   Most users find it easy to use for a layperson.  But WordPress is not the only CMS out there.  How do you know if it's right for your project?

Here's the breakdown:

Again, ease of use.  Many hosting providers, like GoDaddy or BlueHost offer "1-click" installation.  You don't have to know what you're doing, you just have to remember your username and password and the server does the rest.  Adding functionality ("Plugins") is also easy as a user can search for the right plugin through the site's administrative page and install with a couple of clicks.  You can truly get away with not knowing any code or how to interact with a server if you need to.

Flexibility.  Unlike specialized systems like Drupal or Sitefinity, WordPress will function on either Linux or Windows servers, so long as they support the PHP programming language.  99.9% of them do.

Support for non-Flash animations.  It is rare to see a WordPress site without a slideshow that is visible on tablets and smartphones.  That's because the standard WordPress installation has excellent built-in support for these functions.  Don't let slideshows fool you - they have a million moving parts and are NOT simple creatures!  WordPress has made it easy to install slideshow plugins and the plugins themselves are easy to learn.

Quality control of "plugins".   Plugins - additional functions that extend the capabilities of a basic WordPress site - are linked from a dedicated section of the main website,  However there are many duplicates and not all of them are equally useful or reliable.  Some are so generalized it is difficult to customize them to your needs and even require some coding knowledge.  That defeats the "ease of use" principle.  Others are so specialized they can't be used at all.  Further, there is no synchronization between plugin development and core evolution.  Plugins rely on community feedback to determine if they are compatible with the most recent upgrade of the standard WordPress installation, which is notoriously unreliable.  Plugins can be useful but choosing the right ones can be a crapshoot.

Little support for online communities.  Unlike WordPress' counterparts Joomla and Drupal, WordPress does not have major support for directories of users or custom profiles, or individual contact forms. Online community functions like bulletin boards are slowly emerging into sunlight.  WordPress assumes that all users with access to the admin page are there to edit content and not necessarily interact with each other.  The closest WordPress comes is a plugin called BuddyPress; however for the average user, this plugin - plus its over 300 companion plugins - is difficult to use and intended mainly for professional developers.  Most WordPress users I've encountered will use a separate bulletin board program, like phpBB as an additional installation for this purpose.

Weak internationalization.    If your target audience uses more than one language, you're going to run into problems.  Most WordPress plugins rely on automated translation (remember Babelfish?) which is never recommended by serious interpreters or translators.  If you have to have your content translated into different languages (or, if you want to deliver different content based on the audience's language) my personal favorite is Joomla with the JoomFish extension.  (I used this combo on the Cap Global Language Services site.)

When you're planning a website, make sure that you have a solid list of what you want it to do, how you want it to function, and what you want your visitors to be able to do when they get there.  That will help you and your webmaster determine the right technology and the right CMS for the job.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

What fair?

It's the middle of the weekend and I just happened to see a small sign promoting this fair at lunchtime today.

Does anyone know anything or am I just the last to know?  ;-)

From the meta description:  "The Dunwoody festival & Fair is a Community Festival that celebrates the History and heritage of the City of Dunwoody."

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

City Hall is Invested in Dunwoody Businesses - This Means YOU!

From this week's Crier:

Attention all 2,400 Dunwoody businesses—-the city of Dunwoody feels you are vital to the community and wants to foster your continued growth and success.
And, to help ensure local business owners and corporate leaders understand their importance to the city, Dunwoody’s economic development office recently launched a business retention “listening tour” to, in the words of one city official, “make sure businesses that call Dunwoody home are happy.”

Entire article online here.

Who are "Dunwoody businesses"?

According to City Hall's own statistics, almost 80% of these have 10 employees or fewer.  The most current numbers available indicate almost 400 of them are home-based.  (That we are sure of - many home business owners hide.  Some are deliberately trying to skirt the law.  Others feel their enterprise is so small it's not worth the effort to do the licensing paperwork at City Hall.)  That factors out to between 15-20% of your business community;  a huge amount.

It is in City Hall's best interest to pay attention to the small, local, family-owned, and home-based operations as much as if not more than the large corporations.


Because the overwhelming majority of these small business owners are Dunwoody residents.

They are businesses that can VOTE.

It wouldn't be wise to piss them off to the point they decide to vote as a block.

Contrary to the NIMBY party line, there is almost no deliniation between a business owner and a homeowner in Dunwoody.  They are not separate feudal kingdoms, eternally at war, with an alligator-stocked moat between them.  Dunwoody business owners are not out to ravage their neighborhoods (you know - the ones they LIVE in....) and transform them into polluted wastelands.  They're your neighbors.  Like 'em or not, they are the people who walk their dogs and jog and play tennis at the local club.  They're the people you buy products from.  Or who provide services in your home.  It amazes me that the occasional NIMBY uprising at some DHA meetings is so short-sighted they would alienate people they live with just for being a business owner.

But Michael Starling's office and City Hall for that matter aren't going to get drowned out by NIMBYs.  I believe that the meetings being proposed are a safe haven for business owners to say what they think without being subjected to a "Lord of the Flies" scenario by an angry, mindless mob driven by fears whispered in their ears.

No matter how large or small your operation is...  whether you work in Dunwoody Village, Georgetown, Perimeter, or at home - the invitation is out for YOU.  Take advantage of it.  Call Starling's office, make an appointment to visit, and say what's on your mind.  This is not speaking in public, so you're not going to make yourself a target by standing up for yourself, your employees, your colleagues, and your customers.

As a business owner if you want your rights defined and defended, the welcome mat is out and the next move is yours.

Mr. Starling - please check your voicemail.  I left a message for you.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

What's Cooking in the Incubator?

At the State of the City address in 2012, Mike included as part of his speech the intention to form a "business incubator".

Sounds good on the surface.  With the business community paying the majority of taxes and fees to the City, and a high number of entrepreneurs creating their own jobs, who doesn't want to develop small businesses and help them reach their potential?

I wish I could say there has been progress on this, but the fact is no one knows for sure.   All inquiries into this project - including from people who have worked in these endeavors before and have experience - have gone unanswered.

No one has defined what this "incubator" is specifically going to accomplish, what business sectors are going to be targeted, what time frames are for goals, and especially - where is the money going to come from and how much.

The following commentary regarding business incubators is from a TechCrunch blog.  It specifically discusses IT business incubators but I believe the points can be expanded to any business field.

It's important because there is a perception that money is getting thrown around like confetti on non-priorities  with no reason or end in sight.  The last thing the City needs is an ultra-high-risk project with no definitions corralling it and no information distributed.

90% Of Incubators And Accelerators Will Fail And That’s Just Fine For America And The World

Key excerpts below.  Entire article in the link above.

I would like to present the claim that 90 percent of incubators will fail. By “failing,” I mean they don’t return (or don’t exceed) the money that was put into them. On what basis do I make my claim? Well, the hundreds of incubators are really startups, and the oft-cited rule of thumb is that 9 out of 10 startups fail.\ 
Is there any reason why incubators would be different from other startup spaces? Just as we’ve seen with daily deals, mobile apps and games, it’s clear only a few (maybe four or five) will become leaders in the category. The rest will absorb more capital than they can return, shut down, or pivot into something else. 
1. Too Many Companies, Too Little Mentorship
2. No Clear Funding Path After The “Program”
3.  Lack Of Business Development Resources

So - what exactly is the status of Dunwoody's proposed "incubator"?

Sunday, October 7, 2012


January 8 story here.

UPDATE:  the break has been patched to some degree and the crew is finishing their cleanup as of now (10:15 PM)  Tilly Mill Road is back open.  There was no service  shutoff and no boil water advisory.  Dodged a big bullet there.  There's going to be some big metal plates in the road.  Heads up for those if you're passing through during tomorrow's traffic.

That growing lake at Briers North Drive is not the result of our subdivision rehearsing for Halloween.

Some time around 9 or 10-ish this morning a major water line broke under the street  just south of Briers North on Tilly Mill Road.

Tilly Mill Road is closed and Briers North Drive is closed to all non-residents.

There is no boil water advisory however if you live in the area, fill your bathtubs and stock up on drinking water.  They're expecting  repairs to be ongoing "through the night".

Just got pictures....

When we left for Mass this morning, this stream was  a small enough puddle that we thought a neighbor accidentally left their garden hose on.  Apparently not.

DeKalb County sent a crew out and they are working here to find the valve  (one of several required) to stop the water flow.  What's that in the background behind the crewman's right shoulder?

Oh, that's just the GEYSER created when the backhoe was brought in to dig into the street and find the leak.  It started as a slow-ish trickle up through a buckle somewhere down the asphalt.

Yes, this is real and when these pictures were taken was at least 20 feet high.  The water exploded through the concrete when the crew started digging for the leak.  This is at the Madisons subdivision.  Tilly Mill road is closed to all non-residents from Eidson  up to about Laurelwood.

Thank you, DeKalb on-call crew.

The scary part.  When the water burst through the paving, it literally RAINED chunks of concrete.  Right onto the crew trucks.  This windshield didn't survive.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

UPDATED How NOT to add pedestrian islands and other niceties on Dunwoody streets

"Harry Pothole" has broadcast a couple of features regarding "pedestrian improvements" on streets around Atlanta.

In the clip below, the pedestrian island made the street so narrow that it was difficult for vehicles to navigate turns.  Another similar story aired today at 5 PM but isn't available on at the moment.

Don't let this be one of the infamous "unintended consequences" of streetscaping here in Dunwoody.

CBS Atlanta 46

UPDATE:  Found it!  CBS Atlanta just posted the video from the other day.  The construction project in Midtown is *intended* to create a happy "pedestrian-friendly" streetscape.  But the construction has removed turning lanes and made the street so narrow that it is difficult to navigate.

Don't let this happen in Dunwoody.

(Here's the link in case the video doesn't appear below.)

CBS Atlanta 46