My name is Ale Fernandez. I live in Barcelona, Spain and I'm Chilean and Italian.
I am a web developer, artist and technical researcher.
I've lived in Scotland, Italy, Spain and England and career-wise I am interested in distributed systems and their applications to improvised performance and ecology.

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4/20/2006

Save our Chocolate Factory

Today the chocolate factory has been the talk of the neighbourhood. Already a yahoo group has been hijacked and is the subject of much discussion at the local volunteer run free wireless non profit, and maybe soon at the cube or even my work.


It's an old ramshackle looking chocolate factory owned by Elizabeth Shaw who used to be called Packer & Co and sell their fancy chocs to marks and sparks. So with the sparks not flying so far anymore, they are closing down.


The chocolate factory used to have 2500 employees, workhouses, a school and even the cemetery used to be a part of the ecosystem that was Greenbank in the last century. It was vital for all the people in the area. And this was a very industrial area, with the gasworks and the chocolate factory, the hawks gym - what was that? Mivart St... the big train station (I wish there had been a picture of the mural on that station - it's incredible). They all stand like giants in our wake. Now the tide is turning and I don't believe cities can stand to be so dependent on other cities, and especially not so dependant on dwindling fuel. In a way, Greenbank and Easton around it could go back to the 19th century in terms of want. It's not sustainable to want what we want these days. But up until the 40s I believe it was. It's not our fault the population grows exponentially. Well, um. make love not war? Oops...


Anyway I'm rambling. The factory is going to be closed down in June I think - oh it would be great to have a wee celebration and some flags to commemorate it. We could get Liz Shaw and pals to come too... Pity Miss Horner can't come.


Naturally, someone has come in and said "Hello everyone, I am going to demolish this old factory and build high density inner city flats which I will sell for the highest prices possible (he he) and then make a quick getaway before the housing market starts slumping again. Of course 30% will probably have to be affordable, or we won't get permission, and maybe we can have some shops or offices. But best of all you can all have sunlight in your back gardens, which will increase the value of your houses - chu-king!" I hear the tills in his eyes already. That someone is Persimmon, the construction company. I could be wrong but I hear they don't employ architects because they always build the same thing!


On our side, however we have Royce - local resident with a shiny yellow motorbike that looks like a hover bike, Sarah is a local VCP - very clever person - a researcher into usability and children's games in fact, who lives a few doors up and organised a meeting last wednesday with our neighbours to begin to oppose the planning. The companies it seems, have seen what has happened next door in Packer's field. They haven't even applied and did a public consultation (yesterday, at the church down the road that looks like it's built out of lego. Only a few original bricks remain. Maybe it was the blitz?).


Then there's Caroline - who I have no catchphrases for except she's really nice and really thinks about her children and wants them to take part in the campaign. They are from a road that little bit closer - where if you walk up the imposing building is just a part of life - and has become part of the family - it's amazing the difference in perspective from street to street. And she, through another neighbour showed me about what seems the best alternative to gentrification:


BedZed!


I'll drink to that!


Such quick growth in a campaign - really in the space of 10 days it's very impressive and further proof of how expensive those gardens should be if we have such good neighbours! But it's got it's teething problems and the first differences of opinion and allegiance are starting to emerge. Still - as long as we don't tell anyone, we can lead from behind and let everyone just be able to express themselves and they will be practicing anarchist management theory of participative organisation without even suspecting it!


Meanwhile I have stupidly volunteered to "do" the website. Fortunately, Beef have volunteered to do the design and hopefully the setup as well. I have to email them in the morning. Tall Paul has offered to get the domain registered, and now all I need to find is easy access hosting somewhere. I'm tempted to run it on sparror and will ask the nest, and bristol wireless too.


On Saturday there is going to be another meeting. I hope part social - that would help defuse things a bit... By then I have to figure out where to put the website (needs easy access so another person could replace me as admin so sparror seems more likely than my work - the ILRT, although the university provides I think 100 meg free space which we could use). Also what needs to be on the website:


  1. It should have a wiki

  2. Apache + PHP probably

  3. Reasonable storage space? I have no idea how much but it could be very little

  4. Hostname - DNS - http://www.saveourchocolatefactory.org.uk/ ? http://www.greenbanksweettooth.org.uk/ whatever we choose.
  5. ok this is a new idea: a video diary. We could store at my work or on the internet archive - and go around recording people's views on the chocolate factory. This could involve said children - and old people etc as they wouldn't have to log in to yahoo before they could take part. Would take a lot of faffing about with video cameras and sending huge files around...

  6. As beef are involved, and they did a brilliant little app involving texting your level of happiness to a google map application that then showed how happy/sad bits of bristol were, I want to get them to do something else with texts - unless of course that bit is too expensive... This would be "txt your views" - people could text and their view would appear on a smaller easton sized google map. This could also go in people's profiles.

  7. Profiles as well - ok this is me getting into social software stuff - as there are differing views that we need to embrace - even those of Persimmon and Elizabeth Shaw, and if it's a wiki that lets you log in for example (it would be cool if you didn't have to register but just said what house you lived in!), it needs to let you give a view. These would be displayed when you logged in, all grouped together like a tag cloud - so that you'd see all the differing opinions, and some would be similar so you could get the gist of them... And if you went to a user profile you'd get their individual ones. A bit like the one on flickr - http://www.flickr.com/photos/tags/


  8. And we need to get the children making chocolate! My secret dream in all this is that some of the chocolate making can survive - maybe even just a machine that very irregularly spreads cream on chocolates...



Ok that's it for now! Getting into a techie nightmare! I really want to explain what a wiki is properly to Sarah... I'm glad I've got the experience of Cog Coop and the Orchestra Cube behind me with using IT for decentralised organising, I hope we can put this stuff to good measure, but I really hope most of all that we keep having our well deserved chocolate...

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