Clean Stoves Can Save Lives

The World Health Organization reports that around three billion people cook and heat their homes with an open fire that burns biomass such as wood and coal. That’s HALF of all people in the world! Nearly two million people die prematurely from illness attributable to indoor air pollution from household solid fuel use. Eighty five percent of those people who die are women and children.

Those are staggering numbers! How many of us in the developed world knew about this? I mean the last time I lit a wood fire was on a recreational camping trip. Not to eat my next meal.

You may wonder why so many people burn wood, coal, or dung for heating and cooking. Simply it’s because these are often the only resources available and affordable. People use what they have to survive. Oftentimes they go to great lengths, like walking many miles, to get fuel such as wood.

Fortunately there are clean stoves that can greatly reduce the poisons that are emitted when heating and cooking with biomass. These stoves are based on the Rocket Stove.  It’s design helps combust all the material that are being burned. That way it doesn’t end up in the air.

One example is the StoveTec Stove developed by the Aprovecho Research Center.  They have models that burn wood, coal, and pasteurize water. They range in costs from approximately $90 to $115 USD. But you can buy one for someone in need for only $15.

For some of us in the US these stoves could be a great alternative to the gas grill you have out back. Do your part in reducing the demand for natural gas in the US. Use waste wood instead and put the remaining charcoal in your soil for the garden. Plus you can put fewer greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere and help slow global warming.

I’m going to get one for someone who really needs a clean stove and try it out myself too. Join me!

Tech for Good 001

The Aprovecho Institutional Rocket Stove (Video)

This is cross posted from Thanks to them for allowing me to post it here.

BarCamp RDU 2008

Registration for BarCamp RDU is open. Go over to the wiki and ad your name to the list. (I did) This event is one of the best techie unconferences. We start the day with pitches for session ideas. Then the group organizes the sessions into time slots. Finally we break up into groups and learn from each other. Food and coffee is also involved. All of this at Red Hat’s headquarters in Raleigh. Lots of fun. Great opportunity to meet folks and LEARN. Even if you don’t consider yourself a blogger or a techie… GO!

i.e. Planning a BarCamp, BarCamp 2007 was great!

Local Conversations WNCN – NBC 17 Interview

Community Building with Brian Russell from waynesutton12 on Vimeo

Wayne Sutton the Community Content Manager over at WNCN NBC 17‘s Local Conversations blog met me at the Open Eye Café in Carrboro for a quick video interview. He asked me about blogging and other social media. I shared my thoughts on how to start blogging and how this new social media would effect the 2008 presidential campaign.

We met at 12:30pm. Its now 4pm and the video is already up. (Thanks to the Town of Carrboro WiFi) Fun to watch Wayne work with the small HD video camera and a laptop. I’m really impressed with what Wayne is doing. Its a cool blend of Main Stream and Citizen Media.

Techies Building Community in RDCH

So I told you about the creation of the other day. Its a google calendar and blog about local tech events here in the Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill area. (That includes Cary, Carrboro, RTP, Morrisville, etc.)

Well.. some of the coolest events recently have been happening at the new Refresh the Triangle. They are organized by the folks over at Viget Labs. A new web design consultancy in Durham. Last night they had an event. Sadly I couldn’t attend. Next time hopefully.

So far there are seven people who can add events to this calendar. Today I added Peyton Crump to that list. He’s the Creative Director over at Viget Durham.

I’m blogging about this seeming mundane activity because I think its a milestone. Why? COLLABORATION! A bunch of cool people who organize amazing events are working together to inform a ton of people.

You would think this would be an easy thing to do. What with all the web 2.0 collab software out there. But… its not. I mean try to get a bunch of people to meet on a regular basis. Its hard. Syncing individual schedules is tricky. A group calendar is a good step towards making this easier.

In some ways the fractured nature of community is ok. Individuality is an important concept. We all have individual lives. But the concept of community is important too. I’m looking for a balance between the two.

To see the desire of people to get together and build community is awesome. We can all benefit from our collective intelligence. The more we come in contact with each other the smart we all become.

We have so much going on around here and lots more ways to find out about it. Very exciting times to be living in this part of North Carolina!

Props to the Refresh the Triangle folks for making a cool website for their events. Social Carolina isn’t a unique idea. I’m glad many of us are on the same page.

Social Carolina: Tech Events Calendar

Wayne Sutton is on top of local tech events in our area. So a couple of us asked him to create something to keep track of these events. He set up a blog at and I created a google calendar. Plus we have the Twitter user RDCH to follow and stay up-to-date.

Know about a cool event that involves technology of some kind? Is it happening in the Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill area? Then contact us with the blog form. We’ll put it up on the calendar and promote it. We already have a few cool events up there. Check it out.

One Lesson from Startup Weekend Chapel Hill

I had a good time at Startup Weekend Chapel Hill. It was exhausting but a worthwhile experience. Here’s one lesson that I learned.

Find Data then Write an Web Application For It

When we brainstorm ideas for creating web applications we think about what you can do to data. Like how to present it, manipulate it, rearrange it, etc.. That seems to be the logical way to go about it. We take for granted that there is data out there to use. But is there really? Where is it?

For example: messaging, IM and SMS, is experiencing a serious surge in popularity. Web sites like are gaining mass use and expectance. The mobile web is another big frontier being explored by web developers. When we think of new applications to build we base our decisions on what we’ve used and what is popular. This can be a good strategy because it positions your app in a highly visible place. (ex. Pownce got bought by Google after cloning Twitter.) Plus if one app is popular there must be a reason for it. So why not make something like it.

The problem with this approach is not the lack of originality its the direction with which we think about it. Lets think about the data first. What data will our website application use? Where will we get the data? How much data do we need? And most importantly HOW CAN WE CREATIVELY PRESENT THE DATA TO MAKE IT UNDERSTOOD AND USEFUL?

At the end of the Startup Weekend Chapel Hill we came to a realization that their wasn’t enough data. For people looking for a place to work you need data about those places. For someone who wants to advertise a place you need data about people who want it. I believe the core team who will take on will find the data and put it out there. Lack of data is why the site was released as a invitation beta. A wise move IMHO.

The spark that got me thinking about this was Jake’s comment that we should purchase some data to fill in the database to start with. I didn’t know there where companies that sold data like this. But it makes perfect since. Sadly I don’t think we can buy quality real estate and user data we need. That is up to the community who will use WorkPerch. They must provide this so it can be useful.

My suggestion to future Startup Weekends and web app developers in general is to brainstorm your app idea but then collect a bunch of data first. With so many people working on a project you could easily distribute the effort to find data. Thirty people could gather a ton in a few hours time.

Then the team could verify who owns the data. Is it in the public domain? Do we need to license it? How much will it cost? Next the data could be shared and merged. Once its in a common file format like xls or cvs the data could be put into a relational database. Then the structure of the web app could be determined. How will the user navigate this data (flow)? How will the web app logic parse this data and represent it? (graphs, print to screen) How will the web app users add to the data or manipulate it?

This way of looking at web apps isn’t new. But just having another angle to think and to apply I found really constructive. Thank you Startup Weekend Chapel Hill participants for creating an environment where we could learn so much.

Oh and one more thing. Chapel Hill Startup Weekend was in The Town of Carrboro. That is NOT Chapel Hill. No matter how you parse it. I don’t care that its a few feet away. You can not lump RTP and Carrboro together. You can not lump Chapel Hill and Carrboro together. You can not dismiss the creative vibe of this small Town. UNC may be next door but its Carrboro where cool companies like Blog Ads flock. So much more than semantics. Dig it! 😀

Obama Supports Net Neutrality

I recored a video question for the Presidential candidates the other day for about Network Neutrality. So did someone else. He did a much better job than I. 🙂

So Move On sent out a email with a link to this great video and within hours it was at the top of the voting pile. (Matter of fact on the same day that the email came from Move On, Oct. 28, this video was voted for 4,332 times. 83 against and 4,250 for. See Voting History data.) Here’s the video:

Because this video question was the top vote getter it was asked to Sen. Obama at the MTV/MySpace forum. They played the entire YouTube clip on MTV for the local audience and the TV audience. Luckily we have a copy of this on YouTube here.

Sen. Obama did a good job of explaining what is at stake and why we need Net Neutrality. Something that college age citizens really understand. I’m very happy to hear his commitment to protecting our somewhat level playing field online. Fact is the democratic party wouldn’t have so much power from its base if the Internet wasn’t as free as it is. I think it could be even more free but we MUST protect what we have. (How could it be more free? For starters we need the HIGHEST speed broadband made available to EVERY home in America.)

This is a pretty good example of participatory democracy in the 21st Century. We created our own questions, voted for them, and had them presented to candidates live on global TV. This is how the CNN YouTube debates should have been done. This is only the start of creating a more participatory and just democracy in our country.

What really blows my mind is the power of email and web advocacy to promote a cause and insert our collective concerns into a National debate. The work isn’t done yet. Now we have to get other candidates to talk more about Net Neutrality. (Back in May Sen. Edwards spoke at Google and addresses Net Neutrality) [video] Learn more about Net Neutrality at the FAQ.

I’m going to call the Kucinich Campaign next.

Jackson Fox at Refresh the Triangle

On October 25 at 6:30-8:00PM Jackson Fox is speaking at a new event series called Refresh the Triangle. I’m signed up via Upcoming.

Refresh 001: Building User-Centered Web Apps in a Crunch

Durham, NC—Thurs, Oct 25, 2007, 6:30-8:00PM
Jackson Fox is a User Experience Engineer at, and a graduate student in Information & Library Science at UNC Chapel Hill. He is responsible for the community and marketplace functionality on, and is currently learning why MySpace is definitely not a “platform.” He and his wife live in Durham.

Its in Durham at Viget Labs, The Brightleaf District, 908 West Main Street, Durham, NC 27701

via Wayne Sutton