I call for whatever passes for the technology demimonde of Toronto to shun Joshua Errett, online editor of Now.

No ordinary sourpuss, Errett turned an early incarnation of the Torontoist into this city’s own Juicy Campus, a cultivated, curated, enabled, facilitated forum for cyberbullying. Temporarily exiled to Ottawa (almost far enough away), Errett later fit into Now like hand in glove. It’s an environment where balls-out capitalism masquerades as leftist critique and the entire corporate culture can be summed up in one word – nasty.

With his sneering, his imperiousness, his dismissiveness, all young Josh needs in order to cement his career trajectory at Now is shoulder-length hair. He’s so vicious he could run the place someday.

In his actual work output, Errett shows a toxic mixture of youthful inexperience and personal technology bias. Just last week Errett made an argument that seems improbable for a progressive alternative newspaper – the wholesale transfer of a public asset to a foreign multinational. Am I talking about water? the tar sands? the Northwest Passage? Nope – TTC and Toronto city data. For no apparent reason other than Errett’s own use of Google Transit, TTC and City of Toronto data should be handed over to Google pronto, he argued.

As this topic had been discussed endlessly on the Toronto blogs that should already be in the RSS feed he likely does not have, this was the last straw. In today’s issue, Now cunningly edited out the first graf of my letter to the editor, which read thus in the original:

With his ill-suppressed nasty streak and his ability to recapitulate conventional wisdom as though he originated it, Joshua “Reign of” Errett fits right into Now’s corporate culture. This hardly qualifies him to give advice to public bodies on how to use their data.

Errett may just love Google Transit, but what he thinks doesn’t matter when it comes to public agencies, whose offerings have to be accessible to people with disabilities. Google Transit isn’t. Google could reasonably become one of many nonexclusive users of public data (along with indie developers), but such data could not just be handed over to a foreign-owned multinational corporation. It’s public data. We are the owners and it’s got to stay that way.

Hence a TTC trip planner or the database of deep listings of Toronto city services has to be kept in public hands. Of course this takes longer. Giving away public assets to corporate interests may be expedient, but that’s a bug, not a feature.

What would shunning mean?

  1. Don’t help him with his research. If he even bothers asking you for a quote, ignore him. Don’t even say “no comment.”
  2. Don’t link to his pieces. (You’ll note I am not.)
  3. Delete his comments from your blog. In fact, block him from your system – already a tried-and-true method in this town.
  4. De-“friend” him on the Facebook (where, as of today, he has but one “friend”).
  5. Don’t post pictures of him.
  6. Block his Flickr account.
  7. If he shows up at a Camp, employ an ancient method of shunning: Isolate him in the room.
  8. Most importantly, block his Twits. This will hurt him worst of all.

When might we lift what amounts to a ban? When he finds another line of work. He’s still young and, I guess, otherwise employable.

The foregoing posting appeared on Joe Clark’s personal Weblog on 2009.09.03 15:03. This presentation was designed for printing and omits components that make sense only onscreen. (If you are seeing this on a screen, then the page stylesheet was not loaded or not loaded properly.) The permanent link is:

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None. I quit.

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