Travel plans: Morocco, December 2011

Tomorrow morning (Thursday, Dec. 7th) at the wee hour of 6 am, Michelle and I are headed to Morocco for the first time. We’re taking a bus to Madrid, and a 2 pm flight (EasyJet 7869) to Tangier. I’m writing these notes up as I research places to stay, things to do, etc. Yes, I am aware I’m planning extremely last minute.

Based on recommendations from friends, we’d like to see Chefchaouen and Fez. Ideally, we’ll bus from Tangier to Chefchaouen tomorrow evening. I’ve read mixed things about how often the buses are, so it might be Friday morning instead. We’ll spend a day or so in Chefchaouen (unless it’s absolutely stunning), and then bus onward to Fez, where we’ll stay until Monday. Monday morning, we’d like to get an early train back to Tangier to catch our 3:05 pm flight (EasyJet 7870) to Madrid.

Chefchaouen notes:

  • Transportation will be on a thru bus to Fez.
  • Hiking sounds like a must, either Rif Mountains or Jebel al-Kalaa (9 hours round trip).
  • Lots of cheap lodging near the medina, especially considering it’s the off-season (Lonely Planet search). Casa Hassan, Dar Meziana, Hostal Gernika, and Mahaliya sound like good choices.
  • Shopping and such in the medina.
  • According to Michelle, if we get arrested, we have the right to contact the nearest US Embassy (Rabat).

Fez notes:

  • Walking around and exploring the sights/sounds of the medina is the highlight of the city.
  • The main street is the Talaa Kbira, which runs from Bab Boujloud to the Karaouiyne mosque in the heart of the medina.
  • “Don’t eat the seed-pod like things the proprietor offers you. Although he’s eating them also, they are very high in estrogen and can cause a man’s nipples to be sore for several days afterwards.”
  • Check out the view from the hills surrounding the city.
  • For lodging, I found a few hotels across the entire price spectrum (Lonely Planet search): Riad Jean Claude (10 bis Derb El Miter), Dar El Hana (22 Ferrane Couicha), and Dar Drissi (24 Derb el Menia Kbira)
  • There are several trains a day to Tangier that take 4.5 hours.

A final note: No laptop this trip, although I have an international data/SMS plan for my phone. I’ll try to check my personal email account a couple times per day, and will be available by SMS whenever.

Ushahidi’s Swift River

The announcement of Jon Gosier’s addition to the Ushahidi Swift River project led to a bit of very interesting speculation from Suw Anderson:

I’m curious to see if there is a reputation system built into it. As they say, this works based on the participation of experts and non-experts. How do you gauge the expertise of a sweeper? And I don’t mean to imply as a journalist that I think that journalists are ‘experts’ by default. For instance, I know a lot about US politics but consider myself a novice when it comes to British politics.

To take a step back, Swift River is a project to “crowdsource the filter” for real-time crisis reporting. Ushahidi provides a platform for aggregating the information around a crisis but, when a crisis situation explodes metaphorically or literally, the information coming in can quickly overwhelm the people trying to make sense of it. Swift River will enable an observer to create a new instance for a given situation, add RSS feeds from various sources including news publications and Twitter, and then additional users will be able to come in as “sweepers” to curate those incoming bits of information and float the most important to the top.

In the comments, Jon mentions that the three “most critical aspects are the trust algorithm (veracity), predictive tagging and filtering out redundancies and inaccuracies.” The first, in my opinion, will be the most challenging, and hopefully most rewarding, piece of the riddle. They’ll be able to scale their ability to float accurate information if they focus on identifying the trustworthy people instead of the trustworthy information.

A couple of weeks ago on Twitter, I observed that the crowd is the least important part of crowdsourcing. More often than not, you could care less about the opinion of the crowd on a whole. What you really want is an authoritative answer, or field report, from the most knowledgeable person in that crowd.

Interview with Deo of Village Health Works

Video removed on the request of Village Health Works.

Isaac Holeman chats with Deo, the Executive Director of Village Health Works in Burundi, about his clinic in Kigutu supported by Partners In Health, what the need is (Burundi is the poorest country in the world according to a 2006 World Bank report), and where he hopes to take the project in the future. If it isn’t conveyed in the interview, Deo has had a tremendously lucky life that he’s taken full advantage of. At the conference Isaac and I attended last week, we were fortunate to hear Deo speak on two occasions, a panel on “How Poverty Enters the Body” and a Saturday keynote. The PIH bio on Deo is another good source of information on his experiences and current work.

A couple of notes on from my end. First, apologies for the shakiness. I’ve learned that, for Flip interviews over 5 minutes, tripods are a must. Second, I didn’t realise at the time how distracting the background noise would be. We’ll make sure to find a quiet place next time.

Podcasts for the ride home

In the interest of sharing my favorite podcasts of the previous year with my friend Shane, I thought I might open the recommendations to all. While on the drive home to turkey day, these are three “world changing” conversations you should consider listening to:

Howard Bloom on “The Global Brain” – IT Conversations

Howard talks with Jon Udell about collective consciousness and self-organizing species, and why the mass collaboration we think is emerging right now isn’t really all that unique. Shane, DJ, and I did discuss the episode on a Fertile Ambition call a month or so ago, but we ran into a headlock about the multi-tasking theory Howard presents.

“Is Aid to Africa Doing More Harm Than Good?” – Intelligence Squared U.S.

Brilliant arguments both for and against, and listening to the entire debate lends a better understanding of what the difficulties are in helping to bring basic needs to Africa.

Daniel Suarez on bot-mediated reality – Long Now Foundation/ FORA.tv

So thought-provoking I’ve listened to it twice. The first time put me in a trance for part of a train ride back down from Seattle. In short, the premise is this: we’re creating untold numbers of automated bots, or narrow artificial intelligence, on the web for specific purposes. When left unchecked, as many are, these bots have the potential to cause very messy situations which could have negative real world implications. One of the author’s proposals is to build a second, secure network of only verifiably human entities.