Canadian Mobile Payment Services Attempt to Circle Square

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Mobile credit card readers have started to proliferate in Canada with at least one sufficiently provocative spin — becoming available in the country before Twitter creator Jack Dorsey's well-funded startup Square.

Does being a few steps ahead of such a hype-driven competitor assure any kind of long-term adoption? Last week, GoPayment announced its plan to debut north of the border. But any news that Square has completed Canadian paperwork would quickly overshadow such momentum.

So far, promotion by GoPayment owner Intuit seems to coast on being ahead of the curve. This evidently requires making it clear that the pricing model — a 3.7 per cent cut when manually entering credit card information into the device and 2.7 per cent for a swipe — is not setting out to pinch small businesses.

Yet another newcomer, NetSecure, is squarely focused on the Canadian market. The founder, Dan McCann, conceded to the Financial Post that a face-off with Dorsey's firm is inevitable. But the winning solution will be the one that can assure actual security.

A Few Lessons From YouTube School

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The ongoing transformation of YouTube is a feature story in the current issue of The New Yorker — a reflection of the fact that Google has developed more plans for it than just hosting user videos in perpetuity. Getting people to watch its content with the same dedication still granted to cable TV is the next natural step.

A growing consensus is that all the platform needs to show itself worthy of many billions more in annual advertising dollars is the first must-see smash hit series. Where exactly the breakthrough is going to come from remains a bit of a mystery.

While the company has developed partnerships with amateur content producers, the bigger news has been a $100 million investment in the rollout of professional channels, designed to hook in viewers for more than an occasional distraction. Whether that means an increased potential of exposure for independent productions, or if the most oddball ideas will have to work harder to draw eyeballs, also remains to be seen.

Metaviews at the Academy of the Impossible

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The first day of 2012 was also the first day of formal operations at the Academy of the Impossible, located at 231 Wallace Ave. in downtown Toronto, whose programming will include the Hacking Reality series presented by Metaviews.

Please consult our calendar page for detail on regular events that are either open to the public or exclusive to subscribers.

The Future of Health — Metaviews Research Project 2012

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How will emerging technology affect the medical system? Will social networking evolve into a more effective outlet to discuss health issues? Will doctors be able to fulfill a growing demand for virtual patient consultations?

These will be some of the questions addressed in the Metaviews major research project for 2012: "The Future of Health."

Dialogue about communication trends has tended to overlook the area that will ultimately be of interest to everyone — how to stay alive and well. But demand for services that effectively connect people to this information will only grow.

How these options can successfully integrate with the existing system remains to be seen. The adoption of basic eHealth programs has proven enough of a challenge. Yet any disruption will also have to consider the ongoing need for physical examinations.

"The Future of Health" will also look into topics like the marketing of pharmaceutical drugs, the ways in which digital media is being used in proactive promotion of wellbeing and lobbying efforts to maintain or shake up the status quo. Debates over medicine during the U.S. election, the challenges facing Canadian provinces and other examples from around the planet will be on our radar.

Metaviews.ca Minecraft Server Established

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The recent "MineCon" conference in Las Vegas saw the official 1.0 release of MineCraft, a 3-D "Lego world" immersive sandbox online multiplayer game (mentioned previously at Metaviews). The release was expected by everyone of the millions of players who had already played in many beta versions, all downloaded and played on the internet. A sizeable Minecraft community, including celebrities (though not for skill at play, but for reinterpreting worlds in their videos that take place in Minecraft) has emerged — some videos have above 10 million views on YouTube.

Canon Trades Theatre Sponsorship For Cinematic Gamification

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The decision to not seek a new corporate sponsor for a storied Toronto stage, which will be named instead after the late impresario Ed Mirvish, was announced with an uncommon comment from his son.

"They were good partners and I would work with them again in a minute," said David Mirvish upon news that the Canon signage would be coming down. "But I never felt that sponsorship should drive a theatre. It should be the icing on the cake."

The position is an increasingly radical one, particularly in a town where expenditures for public libraries and other attractions are under unprecedented scrutiny, and the idea of selling names of subway stations has entered the realm of reality. Do dramatic arts benefit from being seen as more sacred?

For the renamed Ed Mirvish Theatre, the shows booked for the 2,200-seat palace depend on the optimum level of commercial marketing clout, primarily achieved through mounting productions of musical movies like the current Mary Poppins. So, a Japanese camera company is just one additional branding layer.

Open Government Risks Being Run by Cap'n Crunch

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The potential for Twitter integration on all revamped Government of Canada websites made for an intriguing Globe and Mail online headline this week — even if the actual news could be encapsulated in the form of a tweet.

Certainly, the item did its job of riling up the commenters, who are mostly blind to the fact that a social media platform supplies more freedom to rage about Treasury Board of Canada president Tony Clement than a newspaper website does. But who would be paying attention?

Bureaucrats being reliably reached in the future via 140-character rants would be a leap indeed. Customer service departments of service industries have fielded Twitter-based feedback with mixed results. No doubt, any reports of a smooth conflict resolution via social media is seen as good publicity.

Whether civil servants are really prepared to have their interactions aired is one of the challenges of Open Government. Frustration would ensue if much of the bureaucracy used Twitter in the vein of Cap'n Crunch — whose account @RealCapnCrunch depicts a breakfast mascot who is too eager to acknowledge every mention.

The Alberta Spring: What Will Follow Occupy Calgary?

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Calgary skies are being occupied by surveillance military choppers. Every day they fly low over empty streets, shaking homes with the sound of war. They peruse the public at low altitudes without call or cause. It’s as if we are under martial law.

Meanwhile, CBC and CTC report that Occupy Calgary protesters have gotten the boot and TransCanada will continue getting the loot. A few social justice awakeners down at city hall have to go to court and yet the dirty pipelines of oil are presented as viable and necessary business deals.

In the heart of the knowing at the belly of the beast, Nicole Running Rabbit reports that, “Damages to Olympic Plaza have been paid back to the ‘city of Calgary’ in advance, to the tune of billions of dollars in oil royalties & other non-renewable resources that are scraped out of our mother earth & off the backs of Siksika/Kainai/Peigan/TsuuTina/Nakoda People, while some of us have no clean water to drink in our homes, if we are lucky to even have homes on reservation”

Robot Politicians May Be Required for Open Government to Work

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The inaugural PS Engage learning and networking event in Ottawa on Monday provided a stage for the Canadian government to announce formal guidelines for playing the social media game.

Yet the lukewarm reception to the idea that layers of bureaucracy must continue to be involved in the most elementary interactions with the public served as a reminder that the future of communications can't be left to career policymakers alone.

Fortuitously, that evening, a second Metaviews salon in the capital city picked up where the October event left off, by asking the question "Will There Ever Be Open Government?"

This question wasn't going to be definitively answered in one night, of course, but a mixture of insiders and outsiders — all of whom have wondered about a more effective evolution of online public service — seized the opportunity to swap thoughts.

Disruption was the central theme of one conversation — as everyone in the room has closely observed the transformation of all media industries over the past decade. Open Government can similarly provide a breakthrough for the younger generation of civil servants. Currently, the way most of them interact on the job compared to in their personal lives remains a century apart.

'The Globe and Mail' Pay Plan Signals the End of the Newspaper Columnist

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An announcement by The Globe and Mail that some of its financial coverage would be restricted to subscribers next year drew a curious reaction from commenters — many of whom are certain that it will represent the start of a slope that they won't pay to climb.

The backlash might be viewed as validation for the company — which now fends for itself after being unclenched from Bell Media — considering the emergent competition that led the Globe to previously unlock all its content in March 2008.

Back then, the trial paralleled an effort by The New York Times to offset the cost of reporting news online by charging for access to opinionators. But the market value of a sermonizing columnist was in free-fall before social media kicked in.

After all, if merely spouting off was a sufficient business model, then it would allow the wealth to be spread to those who leave feedback. Yet many newspaper old-timers would still rather not acknowledge their respondents. More typical in the web journalism field is a feeling of contempt toward those "conversation" joiners.

Web 2.0 Comes to Ottawa With Red Tape Attached

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While tents are being forced down at Occupy sites across the country, the Treasury Board of Canada has finally gotten around to erecting its virtual one, with the publication of "Guideline for External Use of Web 2.0".

What could have been an opportunity for the Government of Canada to present a new wave of information in a different light, though, has taken the form of another bureaucratic document.

Does information have to look so officious in order to be taken seriously? Treasury Board president Tony Clement has attached his name to something that resembles the Terms of Service agreements that no one would ever read. So, it's up left to more scintillating social media services to dissect its significance for the public service, and the public it serves.

"The federal government has hit the like button on social media," was the best the Canadian Press could extrapolate to sum up the guidelines. Just in case you thought that NDP MP Pat Martin's use of four letter words to describe Conservative tactics on Twitter might have led it to be banned from Parliament Hill.

Shopping Applications Want to Know Where You Stand

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The announcement of Visa's new digital wallet service is being heralded as the best bet for mobile payments to enter the mainstream. Privacy concerns don't seem to play into it. After all, the bills serve as a reminder that there's essentially no such thing as a confidential electronic purchase. Yet.

Still, how much about their shopping habits are people willing to reveal when presented with a choice based on their precise positioning?

Loyalty programs offer rewards in exchange for consumer disclosure, although that requires an actual purchase being made, rather than the browsing that draws people to retailers.

The new wave of shopping applications, however, are designed to keep tabs on consumer movements from one aisle to the next.

These developments could be seen as an opt-in equivalent of the involuntary ways in which online retailers can chase your business around the web — it's never a coincidence that you keep seeing banner ads related to products you recently researched. Bringing these methods between the walls of a mall — which is still generally perceived as a public space — might be a different challenge.

For now, the companies behind location-based shopping apps are either being cautious about presenting these innovations to the public, or have some lengths left to go before they catch on. Bee Media, which first tested its surveillance at the downtown Toronto location of Canadian Tire, has stated its ambition to go global.

Stephen Harper is Still Turning Down Your Friend Request

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Government could never have invented something like social media. Yet, more than anyone else, politicians are expected to be accountable to the public when using it.

Ottawa Citizen reporter Glen McGregor was recently inspired — by a similar Slate monitor of Sarah Palin — to track potential Facebook comment deletions on the part of Stephen Harper's squad. And he was rewarded with evidence that many comments critical of the prime minister didn't last long — although some remained.

Should there be a federal standard for which responses are considered acceptable? What if they're attached to a page that fully verified where the commenter was coming from?

Curiously, there are two different official Facebook pages for Harper. The more popular one — with over 67,000 followers — is run by the Conservative party, while a more obscure one is maintained by the Prime Minister's Office, even though their content has been nearly identical. So, the lack of civility might have something to do with its assertively partisan origins.

These issues related to effective communication have now become an inextricable part of the discussion surrounding Government 2.0.

The First Day of the Tim Hortons Twitter Account

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When it comes to the Canadian economy, Tim Hortons is like the Beatles — to the point of being able to adopt new systems of information delivery in its own sweet time.

Case in point, the chain's Facebook page was up to 1.7 million followers before it committed to Twitter. The easy ride Tim's has received in the national media no doubt contributed to the lack of hurry.

Yet the recent corporate turmoil — which led to the cushioned exit in May of chief executive Don Schroeder — also reflected a lack of success at interacting with customers. After all, they were counting on more Roll Up the Rim to Win prizes to offset any social media backlash. A profit slip was subsequently blamed on the giveaways.

While Tim Hortons could still count on a steady flow of stories for opening in Dubai or introducing lasagna, it faced a potential public relations snag last month when it was learned that a reverend apparently had an overly amorous lesbian couple ejected from a location in Blenheim, Ont. The company seemed to let the outcry run its course — by saying as little about the incident as it could.

Stepping into the public arena of Twitter, though, might also be an invitation to blunder. No doubt, given the effort to plant a Tim's or two in every neighbourhood in Canada, people will eventually expect responses about issues more complicated than a latte.

Occupy Utopia: Trouble For One Spells Trouble For All

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Halifax, home of Occupy Nova Scotia, has been one of the first Occupy protests in Canada forcibly cleared out by law enforcement. Their eviction will probably not be the last, and it forces the movement to ask itself some questions. But it should force the public, who may or may not feel part of the “99 percent,” to ask themselves some questions, too.