Today is the last day at the conference. In fact, the morning has two sessions and then we are off. It has been a great conference and I am really glad we opted to attend. Lots of good information here and I welcome you all to peruse through my notes and get out of them what you can.


The 10 Best Free Web Applications

Today I am starting off with a download of free web applications. Community Growth Institute has always tried to use a cutting edge approach to technology, with small-town budgets in mind. This has often ment free versions or low-cost versions of software that we can get our communities hooked up to easily. I am hoping to get some new ideas here. The speakers are involved in editing Planetizen,which is pronounced phonetically by them instead of the long "i" I have been using.

  • Google Maps Mashups

The City of Burbank puts all of their applications online with Google maps so people can click on them and get information. We have talked about doing this for public hearings.

  • Video

This is the idea of using YouTube to display your video. The video can be imbedded within your web site. Yep.

  • twitter

A microblogging service where people who are interested in what you are doing can sign up and follow you. Gave examples of a council member using it for notifications. APA also has a twitter feed with a running update on what is going on at the conference.

  • Virtual Meetings

Showed a website called Dimdim, which is a webinar with more interactivity. The program offers one live video feed on the free version, more on the premium version. He also listed webex, which is the company that we have used for our online meetings, although they are using gotomeeting for their webinars.

  • Wikis

On-line collaboration. We are quite familiar with wiki technology as we have actually had a collaborative plan editing in the City of Afton. They are showing a similar approach in Melbourne which got 1,500 people to participate. They are using a website at We have been fans of using a service at, which is really easy to use.

  • Social Networking

Sites such as LinkedinFacebook and I am involved in the first two. They showed some examples on how communities have used facebook to organize people through groups. This is a great way to notify people on what is going on in a project.

  • Blogs

I agree - a great technology. I should at this point indicate that we looked at a bunch of different services for blogging and found that fit us best. There is a small monthly fee, but it is really powerful, has good features and they have decent technical support too. Some of the other ones we tried were not as user-friendly, intuitive or powerful. We've been blogging through this site since November of 2008 and, based on that experience, would highly recommend squarespace.

  • RSS and Alerts

RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication, a way of providing updates from a site. There is a youtube video called RSS in Plain English that explains RSS. They also presented Google Alerts, which I also use - an amazing service that provides updates when keywords appear on the web. 

  • Crowd Sourcing 

My wife, the journalist, would be proud. They are presenting the concept like this: 

  1. Post a creative project.
  2. Watch the world contribute ideas.
  3. Choose the one you like.

They showed a website from the Obama transition team at where people could suggest ideas and then others could review and prioritize. The most popular ideas rise to the top. 

  • Texting 

They asked how many people text daily. Funny. I have texted about five times during this session. They presented a site where you can update people via text called TextMarks. The notion is that people sign up and then would be notified by text of an upcoming event. They did a demo of an application called Poll Everywhere where audience participants were able to vote live (and see results live) and what applications they thought were best during the presentation.


Renewable Energy Systems for Small Towns

The last session of the conference, and pickings were pretty slim at this point. They are  beginning the discussion talking about wind farms, which are actually not that exciting to me. I'm not really interested in having all of the local land use fights with NIMBYs that wind towers create, especially for a technology that has not yet shown that it can be a major, reliable form of energy. Build me a large battery and we can talk. Until then, I feel like we are fighting over a fad, at least to some degree.

Issues for siting a tower: 

  • Tower Height
  • Tower Setbacks
  • Noise Levels
  • Tower Construction Materials
  • Shadow Flicker
  • Climbing hazard Avoidance
  • Decommissioning
  • Overhead or Underground Wires
  • State Law

The presenter knew what he was talking about and did a good job, but there was not much that I felt important to write down. I apologize to anyone who was hoping for more notes out of this session.


This has been a great conference. We got a lot of good information and new ideas to bring back to our communities. We got a chance to see and spend some time with old friends - Rudy Schoolderman, Jenny Shillcox, James Lehnhoff, LisaBeth Barajas and Beth Elliott among them. There was some good food, good baseball and good discussion. All in all, time well spent.

Thank you to those that have followed this blog throughout the conference or are using it to catch up now that the conference is over. I'm hoping to see you next year in New Orleans.