Mark Bult Design: San Francisco, CA, Established 1988

Web design and development for small and large business, e-commerce, b2b, b2c, SAAS, and community websites. User experience design and usability testing.


Monday, May 18, 2009

Mayor Peter Drekmeier

I’m a bit late reporting this, so I assume most people who’d care will have already heard, but for any of my far-flung readers who hadn’t already heard: Peter Drekmeier was elected mayor of Palo Alto early this year. Palo Alto’s mayor is elected from the ranks of the city council by his/her peers. Peter was elected by the public to the City Council in 2006, and he served as vice mayor last year.

I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Peter for 15 years, since first redesigning the official international 1990 Earth Day logo for 1993’s Bay Area Earth Day. I did a lot of designs for Peter, Earth Day, and Bay Area Action (BAA) over the years, and he later asked me to join BAA’s council (their term for the board of directors). After BAA’s merger with the PCCF in 2000, Peter returned to the newly-renamed organization, Acterra, to be co-executive director, and he told me that one of his goals was to hire me full-time. It took a couple years, but it happened. I was grateful, since it was at the time the closest thing I’d ever had to what would have been my ideal job.

While I don’t get to work with him or see him all that much anymore (now that I live in San Francisco), we do get to work together occasionally still: I designed a logo for him a couple months ago, and did most of his campaign materials when he was first running for Palo Alto City Council in 2005. Of course, Peter was also our officiant at Mark & Velma’s Hitchin’.

If you still live in Palo Alto you may be interested in listening to Peter’s State of the City Address, given March 9, 2009, and available as streaming QuickTime audio from the Community Media Center. Not surprisingly, if you know Peter, he talks quite a bit about the environmental challenges facing Palo Alto, surrounding communities, and the nation.

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Friday, November 14, 2008

Introducing DianeChoplin.com



I spent much of this week coding and testing a new site for my friend (and client) Diane Choplin.

Diane is a longtime friend whom I met through BAA, where she was the coordinator of the Schools Group for a year or so. These days she directs the documentary photography program at SF’s Academy of Art.

I bought Diane her first domain years ago as a gift, and put up a rather rudimentary gallery featuring some of her photos from her time in the Peace Corps in Niger. We’d both neglected the site ever since, but a few months ago we decided to do something about it.

While I’d been working on the designs here and there for a few months, we had a mad rush to finish this week as Diane was applying for a fellowship and had a deadline. So the site was built entirely in the last week and a half, using Photoshop, Lightroom, SlideShowPro, Soundslides, Dreamweaver, and W3C-compliant XHTML Strict and CSS.

It’s not completely finished. There are always some loose nails to be nailed down (although I’m just happy it validates and works in all the major browsers), Diane didn’t have time to finish some of the galleries yet, we need to tweak some little things in SlideShowPro, there’s a Discussion section to be added later, and the whole thing needs to be converted to Wordpress.

But it was done (enough) for her deadline, and all the pages but one validate. The one that doesn’t contains some poorly generated code from Soundslides, the Flash app she used to make her multimedia slideshow (their fault, not Diane’s), so I’ll have to fix that later.

Let me know what you think of DianeCholpin.com. Leave a comment.

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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Peace One Day

Through LinkedIn I learned that BAA Schools Group alum Megan O’Grady Greene is working for London-based nonprofit Peace One Day.

From the website: “In 1999 filmmaker Jeremy Gilley decided to try and establish the first ever Day of Peace with a fixed calendar date. In September 2001 the Member States of the United Nations unanimously adopted the first-ever annual day of global ceasefire and non-violence — Peace Day, 21 September.”



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Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Bike to Work 1997

I found this email I sent out 11 years ago about a Bike To Work fundraiser I did for Bay Area Action, and I thought I’d archive it here in the journal. I did survive the 42-mile ride. I don’t, unfortunately, remember how much I raised.



A little personal spam from your friend Mark don’t-hate-me-it’s-a-good-cause Bult...

5/19/97

Dear friends,

In celebration of Bike To Work Week 1997 and as a fundraiser for Bay Area Action, I am asking my friends to participate in what I’m calling Mark’s Annual (Maybe If I’m Crazy) Bike To Work To Raise Money For My Favorite Environmental Nonprofit Organization Day, otherwise known as MAMIICBTWTRMFMFENOD.

There is no obligation to participate, and I promise I’ll still speak to any of you who decline, but I can’t promise that you’ll stay on my holiday card list (hey, wait, I didn't send out my holiday cards from LAST year yet).

I’m going to set off on a 42-mile round trip bike to work and back this week or next (depending on how many of you respond right away with huge pledges), and I’m asking friends to pledge a certain amount of money for each mile I cycle.

The cause is a good one. Some of you are undoubtedly familiar with Bay Area Action, the environmental nonprofit of which I am a member. In case you aren’t familiar with some of the great things we do, you can find out more on our website (go to www.baaction.org [edit: that archived site is non-active], then check out the projects pages), or I’ve included a brief description of our projects below.

But first the pledge!

Anything you’d like to donate would be greatly appreciated, but obviously the more you’re willing and able to pledge, the more Bay Area Action can do to better our community and our environment. All donations are tax deductible to the fullest extent allowed by our gracious IRS, and I pocket nothing (100% goes to BAA).

Pledge levels (or make it up yourself):
(Round trip Los Gatos to Palo Alto = 42 miles)
42 miles @ 50 cents/mile = $21.00
42 miles @ 75 cents/mile = $31.50
42 miles @ $1.00/mile = $42.00
42 miles @ $1.50/mile = $63.00
42 miles @ $2.00/mile = $84.00
42 miles @ $2.50/mile = $105.00
...or surprise me!

If you’re interested in pledging a donation, please email me back with your pledge amount, or call me at my office [old phone number removed].

The route:

The trip will take me on a slightly hilly journey through the western side of Silicon Valley and up the Peninsula. I’ll be leaving from my home in Los Gatos and heading up Highway 9 into Saratoga, where I’ll continue up De Anza Boulevard into Cupertino. I’ll skirt around De Anza College and pass some of the more interesting high tech companies most of you would be familiar with — Apple Computer, Symantec, Power Computing, etc. Then it’s up Stevens Creek and a rather steep but short hill, where at this point I should be thoroughly drenched and in possible need of bypass surgery. If I’m still alive I’ll pick up Foothill Road, heading toward Los Altos Hills, where it becomes Foothill Expressway, then from there it’s all up and down little hills until I get to Arastradero Road in Palo Alto. Then I head toward the Bay, cross Alma and the CalTrain tracks, head north parallel to Middlefield, and then into destination Midtown Palo Alto, where my office is located. Once there I might collapse and need resuscitation, but Stanford Hospital is not far. The return trip, should I live, is much the same route (but in reverse — and I don’t mean I’ll be biking backward!).

The cause:

Bay Area Action (BAA) is a 7-years-old environmental action and education nonprofit organization. Among our programs is the Arastradero Preserve Project, a unique public-private partnership with the City of Palo Alto that sees BAA serving as steward and habitat restorer of a prime 600-acre open space preserve owned by the City (and therefore the citizens) of Palo Alto. Our joint High Schools Group and Youth Environmental Action projects focus on teaching Bay Area youths about ecology and preservation issues through in-class presentations, fun and active meetings, an hands-on activities like creek cleanups. The Urban Agriculture Project operates two community gardens in Palo Alto and East Palo Alto, where plots are made available to families and community members to learn about organic gardening and raise their own plants and vegetables. As well, we have an Electric Vehicle Project with two battery-powered pollution-free cars, and a Habitat Restoration Project which coordinates hands-on habitat work in creeks, watersheds, baylands, and mountains. We have a number of other worthwhile projects like the annual Earth Day events and the Forest Action Team, but I won’t waste any more space when you can find out more by just asking me or hitting the website.

By the way, if you’re not already a member, any pledge over $25 gets you a full year of our nifty newsletter (designed by yours truly), plus that warm-all-over feeling of having done something material to help protect our environment.

Sincerely, thanks for your time,

Mark Bult
Western Front Graphics | Bay Area Action

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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Where have all the citations gone?

A few lifetimes ago I was a marketing and communications specialist for nonprofits, most notably for Bay Area Action and its later incarnation as Acterra.

For a few years I wrote and/or edited weekly email newsletters and action alerts. I started doing this for the Headwaters Forest Project at BAA, then created a weekly EcoCalendar of events all around the Bay Area, and later founded Acterra's first general email newsletter.

During that span of about eight years, I also performed a lot of other communications functions, especially surrounding the Headwaters issue. For a few years my website and email list were the best sources for news on the controversies emanating from the North Coast, and I fielded inquiries from small and big sources alike, everyone from elementary school students to the big media outlets such as Time and CNN.

I spoke at events (the Green Party's state convention comes to mind) and universities (I presented to a Stanford law class once, which was a bit unnerving, but then I reminded myself they were just students), I did radio interviews, I fielded calls and emails and faxes from reporters all over the world, and my email list contained addresses from places as far-flung as Japan and Australia and people from the press, government, and even Hollywood.

Copy this, please

This all happened in a time when the migration of such information to the Internet was much, much less frequent, and a lot harder to do. Nevertheless, lots of people copied my emails and forwarded them along to others. Which is what we wanted. Unlike commercial material, for which one might have copy-protection concerns, we wanted this information spread far and wide. Granted, we didn't want people to re-edit the information, so I simply attached a footer to my email template that stated that permission was thereby granted to forward the email in its entirety, for non-commercial purposes.

And people did it. In droves. They forwarded it on to their friends and family, co-workers, whomever. Some maintained their own large lists of concerned citizens interested in environmental issues, and they sent my emails along to them. Others posted my newsletters and action alerts on their AOL and Geocities homepages, on university listservs, and lots of other places.

Here are a few examples, still archived in various niches of the 'net:
Later, as search engines became more adept at crawling and indexing the content of the web (this had all occurred before Google existed), I'd be doing Headwaters research on AltaVista or Yahoo! or Dmoz, and come I'd across some of my old emails and articles scattered across the web.

Fading way

In more recent years I've noticed that Google's algorithm seems to be devaluing these old (nearly ancient in Internet time) posts, probably for fairly legitimate reasons (the HTML of those old web pages would not withstand semantic rigors of modern search technology), so they rarely show up in results, or if they do, they're buried many, many, many results pages deep. It's probably that a lot of those pages are simply gone now too, as people fold their old accounts or Geocities pages get closed down, or whatever.

When I first started noticing this, I must admit that it was a little sad, as it seemed almost as if my contributions were disappearing from the universe. I know this is not strictly true, but in a world where we seem to rely increasingly on Google to provide us with what we want to know (I'm certainly guilty of this reliance), it's disappointing that the content of those older articles is devalued in large part because the method used for archiving them did not use the modern HTML standards.

It's a little like devaluing the best encyclopedia in the (physical) library because its publishers have not yet made it available online. Perhaps the actual content contained in that encyclopedia is of better quality than anything published on the web, but most people would never know it because they'd never see it.

I'm conflicted about this on many levels. Partly because I believe passionately that people should have access to the best quality information (so I want people to go the library, or wherever they need to go for that single best source), but I also want that high-quality information to be much more widely accessible than that. Let's face it, the researcher in Prague seeking information on West Coast salmonids can't easily get the 700-page document off the dusty shelf of the tiny library of the Northcoast Environmental Center in California, can he? But what if it's the single best source, and it's not available online at all?

Technology will catch up

I believe (nearly) all of these documents will be available online someday. It may be a decade or more away, but it will happen.

And I will do my part. I have archived all my data from the Headwaters Forest years, and all my BAA articles and photos, and while they're not really in any usable order right now, I am confident that technology will continue to advance in ways that make the data easier to sort and publish. It's already been happening, with sites like Flickr making it easier to share photos, and tools like blogs and wikis making it easier to publish and collaborate.

Not all my contributions have faded away

Interestingly, search technology has more recently broadened to include the content of printed books too. Google Book Search began scanning the collections of several leading universities in 2004. While Google's tool is still in beta and it comprises mostly academic works, I was mildly surprised to see my name turn up with a few results. I was cited in Earth for Sale: Reclaiming Ecology in the Age of Corporate Greenwash, by Brian Tokar, and Writing for Real: A Handbook for Writers in Community Service , by Carolyn Ross, Joseph M. Williams, and Ardel Thomas. I'd forgotten that I was also thanked in Inciting Democracy: A Practical Proposal for Creating a Good Society, by my friend Randy Schutt.

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Monday, May 14, 2007

The Gap's "4 Kids by Kids" clothing line



Okay, if you don't get it, here are a couple clues:

A) It's the Onion (if you still don't get that, I can't help you, you just have to come out from under the rock you've been living under for the past 15 years and experience the Onion yourself).

B) The Gap uses sweatshop labor.

Bay Area Action's Schools Group started a campaign against the Gap in 1999 and did tremendous work over several years, educating the public about the Gap's sweatshop labor practices and applying public pressure by means of public protests, signature gathering, and more. Eventually, one of the Gap's VPs called up our high school students and invited them to the Gap's headquarters in San Francisco to talk.

Since then, the Gap's been the target of lawsuits and multiple campaigns by numerous human rights, labor, environmental, and social investment groups.

In 2004, CEO Paul Presser said, "When I decided to join Gap Inc. in the fall of 2002, one of the first things my teenage daughter asked was, 'Doesn't Gap use sweatshops?' " Read the article...

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Saturday, March 24, 2007

BAA History Project

I made some updates over at the BAA History Project.

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