Mi’kmaq Economic Benefits Office of Nova Scotia

The new Mi’kmaq Economic Benefits Office of Nova Scotia is a unique project providing training and work experience in the shipbuilding industry, the spin-off economy, and other growth sectors.

The new website (and accompanying Facebook, Twitter, and email newsletter) is their answer to the question:

“How do we communicate in a timely manner with 13 First Nation communities that are spread out from one end of the province to the other, from Acadia to Membertou, from Bear River to Indian Brook, more than 20,000 Mi’kmaq across Nova Scotia,” says Owen Fitzgerald, executive director of NSAEP and Unama’ki Economic Benefits Office in Membertou.

The Unama’ki Economic Benefits Office (UEBO) was established in 2007 in Membertou. It negotiated a Tar Ponds set-aside agreement worth $19 million, and has since helped create 200 full time jobs and $72 million of dollars in contracts. The process has evolved into a unique First Nations model for economic development, delivering valuable experience, building capacity, expertise and confidence for local Aboriginal businesses and individuals.

Seaweed and Sod B&B and Farm

A vacation in Cape Breton can change your life. Just ask Terri Shobbrook. In 2009, Terri and her partner Dave took a 3-week holiday in the East Coast. Six of those days were spent in Cape Breton, and within 3 months they had quit their jobs, pulled up stakes and moved their farm from Seaforth (Huron County), Ontario to Kempt Head, Cape Breton Island.

This place has a tendency to put a spell on people, and their story is actually a pretty familiar one. Except for what they brought with them: cats, dogs, llamas, several heritage varieties of chickens, Naragansett turkeys, Muskovy ducks, Cotswold sheep, Belgium mares and Percheron horses!

“Come for the sunset, Stay for breakfast” goes the slogan of the 100-acre organic farm and Bed & Breakfast that Terri now runs in Kempt Head. Terri’s also an avid photographer, so the website I made for her features a Facebook-like gallery at the top of every page to showcase her photography.

Cape Breton Music Industry Cooperative @ Nova Scotia Music Week

CBMIC (Cape Breton Music Industry Cooperative)* is sending some musical ambassadors to the mainland for Nova Scotia Music Week 2012. The festival and conference runs ’til Sunday in Liverpool, NS. It features performances by Carmen Townsend, Carlton Stone, Breagh MacKinnon, Crowdis Bridge, Sprag Session, and Mary Jane Lamond & Wendy MacIsaac.**

With over a hundred artists performing throughout the weekend, CBMIC wanted to showcase its own. The mini website I made is designed to do just that. And it’s designed with conference delegates in mind. They’re likely travelling, and likely viewing the site on a mobile device. So the website is built to be “responsive”. Its layout changes based on the device it’s viewed on — smart phone, tablet, any mobile device, in addition to computer.

*CBMIC is a volunteer, not-for-profit organization developed to grow and support Cape Breton’s music industry. Want to learn more? Check out Albert Lionais’ IDEAS: Powered by Passion talk.

**To see a full list of Cape Breton talent attending NSMW, and the awards they’re nominated for, see the Cape Breton Post.

Tom Fun

The Tom Fun Orchestra is embarking on a “Canada World Tour” in support of their sophomore release, Earthworm Heart, the follow-up to 2008’s You Will Land With A Thud. But you already knew all that.

What you might not know is that when lead singer Ian MacDougall plays solo/acoustic at Wentworth Perk, my kids sing back up. Or that the lyrics to Animal Mask (“Running out of methadone/get me to the clinic”) become “Running out of cookie dough, get me to the Sobey’s.”

The website I made for them is based on the new album’s cover art — a 75-year old photograph of Ian’s great-uncle fishing in Margaree River (or something like that). Find tour dates, get free downloads, and pre-order the new album at tomfun.ca.

Get smart, go mobile

In 2009, George Colombo produced a New Yorker cover using an iPhone app called Brushes. When neighbours referred to him as the guy who draws on his phone, he corrected them: “I occasionally make phone calls on my easel!”

The ability to make “calls” is no longer what distinguishes a mobile phone from other tech. I can make voice calls on my laptop using Skype or Google Voice, right from Gmail even! Indeed, the smart phone is closer, on the evolutionary tech tree, to a laptop computer than it is to a cell phone. (A cell phone, in turn, is probably closer to a rotary phone than it is to a smart phone, let alone a computer.)

As smart phones become more and more powerful, they become more and more indistinguishable from tablets, laptops, and desktop computers (the same, only smaller). And last year, more smart phones (not cell phones, but smart phones alone) were purchased than home computers (desktops, laptops, and tablets combined). So then the “year of mobile” was, like, two years ago. We’re firmly in the smart phone era. (An era these days might only last a week.)

So what does this mean for web design, if more and more people are viewing websites — big, beautiful, complex websites — on their teeny, tiny little phone-ish computers?

It certainly adds a new element of variability to the already cumbersome task I described two years ago when I wrote about the effect differences between web browsers has on web design:

print designers see the finished product as it will be seen by end-users. Web designers, on the other hand, have to account for all sorts of variability in end-use, including differences in users’ screen resolution, computer and internet speeds, and choice of web browser.

“Difference in screen resolution” used to mean accounting for whether the user was looking at your website on an older, smaller monitor or a newer, wider one. This usually meant playing to the lowest common denominator.

But now with mobile handsets and tablets in addition to laptops and desktops, there is an infinity of variability! And to cover all your bases you’ll need to build infinity versions of your website! Oh no!!

Just kidding. Instead, we’ll build one website that responds differently to different screen resolutions. For example, compare the two views above of miketargett.com: In the MacBook view, the navigation menu is big and floats to the right; in the iPhone view, where we have much less space to work with, the nav menu shrinks and lines up in a neat little row below the header. Same website, different layout depending on the medium. It’s called “responsive web design.”

In the past, web design involved a fair bit of wrestling (mainly with the differences between Internet Explorer, Firefox, etc) to ensure your website looks the same across all browsers. Now, it’s not so much about making your website look the same on all screens, but good on all screens.

(Also see “Responsive Design: One size fits all” in the Globe & Mail)

CBU Press

For 35 years, CBU Press has served as a link between Cape Breton University and its broader communities, publishing (mainly) works related to Community Economic Development, Culture and History – “literature of significance to Cape Breton Island and that which enhances knowledge about the Island, its history and cultural preservation.”

With this redesigned website, we hope to continue to serve this function, cultivating a reading community both online and off. Look for more interactivity and even an e-book or two in the future.

Continuing the tradition of making connections within and between communities, CBU Press recently published The Failure of Global Capitalism: From Cape Breton to Colombia and Beyond, by CBU professors, academics and social justice activists (and good friends of mine) Terry Gibbs and Garry Leech.

The book looks at how two coal-mining communities are deeply effected by globalization as companies in the global North (Canada, the US and Europe), taking advantage of free-trade deals and neoliberal policies in general, exploit the natural resources and cheap labour of the global South (Latin America, Africa, Asia). The result is “militant labour struggles, repression, economic insecurity, population displacement, social inequality and environmental devastation” – in both hemispheres.

Published in 2009 but written prior, the book exposed the failure of transnational capitalism – before the global financial crisis made it plain for everyone to see.

CBU Press has also published local calls, a book of poetry by another good friend of mine, Sean Howard of Main-à-Dieu. Click here to read my introductory remarks from the book launch.