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September 11, 2013

This Week's Issue: Augmented Reality, School Calendar Reform and a Booted Reporter

This week's Seven Days has something new attached to it: augmented reality! Now you can interact with the old-fashioned print edition with the help of a smartphone or tablet. All you have to do is download the Layar app and scan whenever you see the little symbol, and the page will come to life. In the screenshots below, you'll see what happens to the cover...


With Layar, dancers start to dance across the paper! Whoa! We are living in the Harry Potter universe, people.

Once you're done with that, there's lots of good news and politics content for your consideration, too.

September 10, 2013

Burlington Climate-Change Study Fails to Address City's No. 1 Culprit

618-LM-IBMSix months ago, a global team of experts from IBM came to study Burlington's carbon footprint and to make recommendations for how the city could reduce its output of the so-called greenhouse gases that are changing the world's climate. Working in conjunction with the Miro Weinberger administration, the six IBMers produced a 60-page report last week that makes a half dozen policy recommendations.

None of them, however, squarely addresses what the report itself identifies as the leading source of greenhouse gas emissions: transportation — which is to say, private automobiles.

Asked why the report didn't at least mention alternate forms of transport, such as walking and cycling, Marian Lawlor, a spokeswoman for the IBM team, said, "I can't answer that question for you." She added that the three-week-long assessment "should have" paid more attention to transportation issues generally. "They just didn't bubble up" during the interviews the IBMers conducted with numerous city officials and other local leaders, Lawlor explained.

Chapin Spencer, who was director of the Local Motion alternative transportation advocacy group at the time, echoed Lawlor's comments in an interview on Monday. "I wish it would have dealt more with transportation," said Spencer, who was recently appointed head of the city's Department of Public Works.

Continue reading "Burlington Climate-Change Study Fails to Address City's No. 1 Culprit" »

August 28, 2013

This Week's Issue: Natural Gas, Intervale Angst and a Look at Lisman


After you're done with the big cover story about the future of Burlington's urban farmers, dig into this week's news and politics stories:

Get this issue now in print, at the links above or via our iOS app.

August 14, 2013

This Week's Issue: Drones, Vaginas and Cholera

CoverYou know the drill — another Wednesday, another Seven Days. No epic website outages here today (knock on wood!), so here are the news and politics stories you can read right now:

Grab it on newsstands, online or on the app.

July 26, 2013

How Many Vermont Lawmakers Are on Social Media?

Ipad_person_iconHow many state senators are live-tweeting lunch? Can you track down your rep on Snapchat? We don't have answers to those questions, specifically, but a new survey attempted to determine how widespread the use of social media and email is in the halls of the Statehouse.

Organized by the Vermont Technology Working Group, the survey asked all 180 state legislators what technology they use to keep in touch with constituents. Only 42 responded. But it's a start toward understanding which platforms are popular among lawmakers. A few key points:

  • Ninety-eight percent of lawmakers use email in their capacity as elected officials. (The one legislator who said he/she doesn't use email is probably not reading this blog post.)
  • Of those, 36 percent said they use email "less than monthly."
  • Sixty-nine percent of legislators said they use social media; 31 percent said they don't.
  • The city effect: 73 percent of Chittenden County legislators are on social media. In the rest of the state, 60 percent said yes.
  • Which platform is most effective for speaking with constituents? Facebook and email tied for the lead, with 36 percent each. Fourteen percent of legislators picked Front Porch Forum as their top social media platform, and Twitter got 5 percent.
  • Email is more popular for connecting with media, with two thirds of lawmakers picking that method to communicate with the press.

Regrettably, the survey did not ask how many have tweeted photos of their junk. Sorry, Carlos Danger.

Click here to see the full survey rundown.

June 17, 2013

VPR Interactive Tracks FEMA Irene Relief Money

Screen shot 2013-06-14 at 5.03.15 PMAs the geek-in-residence at Seven Days, I love it when an online news story comes with a good interactive or multimedia element — a "news app," as the cool kids say. That and I have a laughably tiny attention span, such that pushing buttons is more appealing than reading 3000 words (don't tell my bosses).

The NPR mothership has long pioneered the use of web-native technology in journalism (a recent favorite is their exhaustive guide to "Arrested Development" jokes), and now that's trickled down to their Vermont member station. Vermont Public Radio published a great multi-part interactive breaking down which towns and organizations have received the $185 million in grant money FEMA doled out after Tropical Storm Irene.

Continue reading "VPR Interactive Tracks FEMA Irene Relief Money" »

June 12, 2013

Shumlin Says IBM Layoffs Will Affect Vermont

Updated below with comment from IBM spokesman

Gov. Peter Shumlin this morning confirmed what has been rumored for weeks: IBM is laying off workers nationwide — and employees at Big Blue's plant in Essex Junction are expected to lose their jobs.

Exactly how many is not yet clear. IBM is one of Vermont's largest employers. 

Shumlin put out this statement this morning:

"We heard from IBM today that sites around the United States, including the Essex facility, will be notified of a workforce reorganization that will result in layoffs.  I am always concerned when we learn that Vermonters face job losses. Our hearts go out to the affected workers and their families, and I pledge my administration's resources to help their transition.  The Vermont Department of Labor has mobilized its rapid response team and is prepared to assist all laid off workers.  

"Vermont's partnership with IBM is very important, but our state is not immune to the forces that are driving this decision in the larger organization. IBM has assured us that it remains committed to Vermont.  It will continue to invest in new and transformational opportunities that will lead to higher value for the company and its workers here.  Job losses are always hard, but it is important to remember that Vermont currently has the third-lowest unemployment rate in the country.  Many employers in Vermont are ready to hire those with the skills and education of these workers.  We will work hard to maximize the Vermont job opportunities for those who face these layoffs."

Stay tuned to Off Message for updates...

Update: 12:44 p.m.

Jeff Couture, spokesman for IBM’s Essex facility, confirms that layoffs are occurring there today but would not indicate how many workers will be let go. Couture also declined to specify the current size of IBM’s Vermont workforce.

“We’re not publicly discussing our strategic plan,” he told Seven Days.

Vermont Labor Commissioner Annie Noonan adds that the state has not yet been notified of the number of layoffs at the Essex plant. She notes, however, that a Vermont Labor Department rule requires notification within 24 hours when more than 25 workers receive pink slips. Noonan says she anticipates receiving such a notice from IBM on Thursday.

State employment officials are ready to assist IBMers who lose their jobs today, Noonan says. “Rapid-response teams” — consisting of counselors, job trainers and other specialists — will be available to help those affected, she said.

Couture is bullish on the long-term prospects for the Essex chip-making plant. “Our business strategy is sound, our products are strong,” he said. “We’re targeting fast-growing business segments, particularly wireless. Most chips we produce go into consumer apps — for example, smart phones and other mobile devices.”

“The long-term business perspective [for the Essex plant] remains positive,” the Big Blue spokesman declared.

Meanwhile, the website [email protected], which calls itself "the official national site for the IBM employees' union," is filling up with anonymous reports from people who say they've been laid off from IBM.

Editor's note: A previous version of this post incorrectly stated that the state Department of Labor had not yet been notified of the layoffs on Wednesday. In fact, the state had not been notified of the number of layoffs.

Winooski's MyWebGrocer Lands New Investor

Tarrant-brothersOne of Vermont's fastest-growing tech companies has a new majority owner. Silicon Valley equity firm HGGC has acquired Winooski-based MyWebGrocer — the New York Times reported the news today on its DealBook blog; the company also distributed a press release.

In an interview in his Champlain Mill office overlooking the Winooski River, CEO and co-founder Rich Tarrant Jr., confirmed that HGGC has invested "a great deal of money" in his online grocery biz. "They are firm believers that we are on the right track,” he said. Tarrant declined to disclose the terms, but DealBook wrote that sources close to the deal confirmed it was within the $25 to $100 million range. 

Read more on the Vermont Tech Jam blog.

File photo of Brian, Rich Jr. and Jerry Tarrant by Matthew Thorsen.

May 30, 2013

Morning Read: Sen. Bernie Sanders, King of Reddit

MorningreadReddit! It's not just for underage girl "creepshots" and failed amateur detective work anymore. Just kidding — the so-called "front page of the Internet" is one of the web's top aggregators of whatever's interesting. (It's also BuzzFeed's favorite place for, um, inspiration.)

Reddit's anything-goes attitude and meme-centric culture might not seem a natural fit for a 71-year-old politician. But Sen. Bernie Sanders, always internet-savvy, is making it work. Take it away, Business Insider:

Sanders has taken to the Vermont "subreddit" to invite constituents to a showing of Lincoln in St. Johnsbury and a hangout session afterward.

He has also asked young Redditors for stories of unemployment that he later incorporated into floor speeches and a running YouTube channel. 

Continue reading "Morning Read: Sen. Bernie Sanders, King of Reddit" »

April 18, 2013

IBM Advises City: "Make Burlington Synonymous With Green Tech"

IBMOn April 1, the city of Burlington welcomed a team of six international experts from IBM's "Smarter Cities Challenge Initiative." Their goal: Spend three weeks meeting with Burlington stakeholders to figure out how to reduce the city's carbon footprint. Seven Days previewed their arrival in the March 27 story, "IBM Wants to Help Burlington Reduce Its Carbon Footprint — No Strings Attached."

On Thursday night, April 18, after more than 40 meetings with over 150 people, the IBM team reconvened in Contois Auditorium with their findings and recommendations. Their advice was summed up in six words by IBM team member Christian Raetzsch of Prague: "Make Burlington synonymous with green tech." In other words, Raetzsch advised, build off Burlington's unique strengths, culture and infrastructure and use them to create a "new ecosystem" of sustainable, renewable energy.

The IBMers, who hail from Germany, France, the Czech Republic, Brazil and the United States — and whose consulting services over the past two weeks are worth an estimated $400,000 — focused their efforts on five areas: transportation, Burlington's new smart grid metering system, renewable energy, energy efficiency and stormwater lake protection. The team offered up four major recommendations, all of which will be spelled out in greater detail in a written report available within a month. Those recommendations include:

Continue reading "IBM Advises City: "Make Burlington Synonymous With Green Tech"" »

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