Focus on Project Samples

Growing Communities with Community Gardens

Type: Magazine article
Objective: Provide a balanced view of communities gardens
Purpose: Gain appreciation for community gardens 
Audience: Subscribers to digital magazine


Growing Communities with Community Gardens

by Jason Hall

Burrard and Davie – Now

Burrard and Davie – Then

It’s not magic. At street level it may look like magic, but community gardens are not the work of some cosmic Aquarian happening or even merely the work of avid gardeners. They are a carefully orchestrated balance between government, property owners, community advocates and, of course the citizenry you see toiling the soil. And therein, lies the beauty.

Take for example, the highly visible Davie Village Community Garden on the northwest corner of Davie and Burrard. A few short years ago when condo developments were sprouting on every corner of the city, Prima Properties (its property developers), wanted to cash in and redevelop the existing Shell gas station and mini mall into a new high rise condo tower, they were met with opposition from the West-End Residents’ Association and other area interest groups fearing that the character of the Village would be threatened.

This property, 1157 Burrard, falls in the cross hairs of many conflicting priorities. For example, nearby St. Paul’s hospital has an influence on the property and how it’s developed, but doesn’t own it. So when Prima properties applied for a permit to develop the site as a mixed-use high-rise development, the city declined it.

Community Garden Forensics

Before there was Prima properties (community garden), there was Omni Group (community garden). Sounds ominous, doesn’t it? Omni Group owns property at Pacific and Seymour and rather than it lying fallow for the years it took for development to commence, Omni Group offered the land up for a temporary community garden. Thus was born, Seymour Community Garden.

Today, Seymour Community Garden is no more and it is remembered with some bitterness by its former gardeners who were given a scant two weeks to vacate the property before the backhoes arrived. According to Jon Lau, a member of Davie Village Community Garden Committee, “Rumours undermined the truth” and in fact, gardeners were told that they’d need to vacate any time between January and April, but as it happened, January was the month and this took many gardeners by surprise.

Jon sees the Seymour Garden, with which he was also involved, as a learning process on the path to the Davie Village Garden. “If not for Seymour Garden, Davie Village Garden couldn’t have taken place”, he explains even while admitting that “each garden has its own personality”. Jon is philosophical about the impermanent nature of these gardens, “I don’t look at it from the standpoint of longevity…I ask what can we do with the time we’ve got?”

Community Integration

Jon reflects that the single most common question from those visiting the Davie Village Community Gardens during the Olympics was, “How did you guys do this?” How it’s done is through community integration.

City Legislators

In midsummer 2003, Vancouver City Council approved a motion supporting the development of a “just and sustainable” food system for the City of Vancouver.

The intention was to develop a system in which food production, processing, distribution and consumption would be integrated to enhance the environmental, economic, social and nutritional health of a particular place. City Council formed the Food Policy Task Force and in 2007, unanimously adopted the Vancouver Food Charter, an ambitious vision based on five principles:

• Community Economic Development
• Ecological Health
• Social Justice
• Collaboration and participation
• Celebration

Encouraging community gardens also dovetails nicely with the city’s own Greener City Initiative, a mandate for Vancouver to become the greenest city in the world by 2020.

Property Developers

Most of the city’s community gardens are not on private land; they are on public lands such as parks and transportation corridors (most notably Arbutus Victory Garden, as its name suggests owes its longevity to its origins as a Victory Garden during the war). Community gardens developed on private land are naturally beholden to the property owners, but the property owners are incentivized by various regulatory bodies that provide tax exemptions for hosting the gardens.

Under the Prescribed Classes of Property Regulation, property owners can temporarily have their properties reclassified from Class 6 (business and other) to Class 8 (recreational property/non-profit organization), which can provide them with up to 70% on taxes. It’s easy to see their generosity in putting up the land, including the garden infrastructure, in exchange for a 70% cut from their yearly (in the case of 1152 Burrard – $345,000) tax bill as merely a way of skirting property taxes.

Still, the property could remain fenced off and ugly as was the case with the property at Davie and Howe, which remained a hole in the ground for the better part of a decade. Opting to host a community garden on private property is not without its headaches. Take for example the South Central Farm in Los Angeles, which pitted developers against urban gardeners (including actor, Daryl Hannah), and went on to be the subject of documentary, The Garden.

“The developer has to really get involved”, says Jon. Prima properties needed to form a relationship between the community, foster a gardening committee and remain involved with the project; otherwise, it wouldn’t work.

To that end, they remain participants in other West-End activities, such as Davie Days. According to Jon, the success of this collaboration “shows in the garden”.

Community Advocates

There are numerous community groups with an active interest in community gardens. Vancouver Public Space Network (VPSN) has a mandate “to preserve and celebrate public space as an essential part of a vibrant, inclusive city”.

It has been instrumental in setting up several community gardens including both the Seymour and Davie Village ones. Also, West End Residents’ Association (WERA) with Gordon House and the YMCA are proposing a new community garden on land governed by the Vancouver Park Board.


As any avid gardener knows, a garden is a perfect reflection of the gardener’s well being—weeds, wonders and all. The same is true of a community garden: it is an accurate reflection of the health of a community.

One Davie Village gardener, Bob Cassidy, has three plots, which keeps him buzzing around on a daily basis. “I’ve met people of all ages and from all walks of life”. He described the monthly work parties, which bring all the gardeners together and, of course, the curious who are drawn to this inviting urban oasis.

With the large homeless population in the downtown core, it is natural to assume that light fingers might prevail and tomatoes go missing. Jon takes theft by local hungry and homeless folks in stride, “if you want to have a tomato, grow ten”. Other gardeners are more vigilant about protecting their labours.

There’s also the confusion arising from the perimeter plots (plots next to the sidewalk), originally designed to be open to everybody to garden, but this arrangement caused friction between gardeners, so all plots are now assigned. Perimeter plots continue to supply food to the nearby Burrard Youth Shelter.

Health care documentation and training plan

Type: Planning documents
Objective: Show how training materials could be improved
Purpose: Convey need for a single-source solution
Audience: Health care decision-makers

CKD Patient Registration

With CKD Patient Registration (designed for clinical staff to enter important kidney care information into the clinical software system), the first challenge with training was economising the efforts taken to create and maintain the documentation. I advocate for a single-source solution that organises information into chunks for re-use. While the ultimate solution is to use a topic-based authoring tool such as Madcap Flare, something similar can be obtained using less feature-rich software.

With the samples below, I started with that big picture of single-sourcing and drilled down to a lesson organised into different clinical scenarios for transferring patients. Although the Adobe Captivate elearning isn’t available to share here, I’ve included similar material (KCC Patient Transfers) that, for the first time, links the software features to real-world clinical procedures.

Selected files:

Trucking software user guide

Type: User Guide
Objective: Show how to use in-cab software
Purpose: Reduce calls to Tech Support
Audience: Trucking drivers and managers

Webtech Driver Center User Guide

Audience profiling is an important part of training and documentation. For this next sample, we already knew that our audience (truck drivers and dispatchers) was highly visual and independent. I recommended building a guide that was down-to-earth, and I tied each procedure to a task in the order that the user might encounter it during a typical work day. It might seem obvious, but this approach replaced a rather stuffy technical writer style of documenting every feature whether or not the user was likely to use it (we stuck to documenting 80% and left the remaining 20% to Technical Support to address should the user need arise).

Selected chapters from the guide (I designed this document in InDesign using some of its responsive design technology to allow readers easy reader whether on a desktop or mobile device):

Testing the Limits

Type: Blog post 
Objective: Highlight employee successes 
Purpose: Build trust in company offerings
Audience: Subscribers to GPS/telematics newsletter


Testing the Limits


When you master a skill, it can appear simple, almost effortless—but that’s just an illusion. Mastery takes hard work and dedication. This week, Webtech Wireless salutes our very own firmware engineer, Alireza Nematollahi (Ali), who’s been pulling in the gold as national kayaking champion while working to ensure Webtech Wireless hardware products are put through tests of their own.

Ali Tests the Limits

Ali works on hardware engineering projects at Webtech Wireless, either involved with new deployments or redesigning existing products and processes for increased efficiency. “Currently, I’m redesigning the automated testing hardware to improve how we test our locators”, he says and then explains that locators were tested manually, but “due to complexity of the locators, they are not human testable in a timely manner. By automating the testing, it will be possible to test up to 24 locators simultaneously.”

My impression of a slow hands-on testing process replaced by a faceless machine is dashed by Ali’s description of the rigorous test procedures in automated testing. Automation is more than just hurrying up (although that certainly is one aim). Automated testing improves how Quality Assurance analyzes the test data through improved reporting, and by analyzing the reports, they can continuously improve testing.

“I Will Be Fast!”

Ali has won a dozen or so medals over the years competing as a flatwater kayaker, and he credits his success in part to having “the best coach ever”.  Six days a week, you can find Ali training, either on his own in the gym or on the water with Kamini Jain, a two-time Olympian. Her motto, “I will be fast!”, must be what inspires Ali to say things such as, “You can do whatever you want”, and “I can be successful at my job and I can be successful at my sport”.

Overcoming Adversity

Although he’s not a professional, Ali has competed and won against the best in the field. He won the men’s gold medal at the national finals in Regina and won gold in Seattle’s Ted Houk Regatta K4, but is still content to have placed seventh this year in Montreal. “Does it seem like a failure to only place seventh after winning gold”, I asked, but Ali’s answer is a case in point of what a winning attitude is all about. “It’s not a failure. Seventh is very good, and failure is what motivates me to do better”.

On adversity he says, “I don’t let myself get caught up in comparison with others or my earlier successes. Comparison will tear me apart from the inside. I’m always thinking about the next regatta and the next year.” Then he adds, “Failure motivates you to do better.”

It’s pretty clear from talking to Ali that his training has prepared him for all the tests that life can offer, both at work and on the water. Congratulations for being an inspiration.

Navigating the Digital Oil Field

Type: Blog post
Objective: Describe "digital oil field" technology
Purpose: Improving budgeting and forecasting
Audience: Decision-makers of OnG trucking fleets

Navigating the Digital Oil Field

With supplies of easy oil running low, oil and gas companies are increasingly turning to technology to help them get the most out of the extraction process. Around the world, energy companies are advancing the limits of digital oil field technology, a recently coined term to describe this emerging segment of the industry.

The “digital oil field” describes computer technology deployed to automate oil and gas extraction, and it has been given a lot of attention for good reason. Digital oil field technology aids a wide array of Oil & Gas activities from exploration, surveying, development, and well completion to data integration of seismic imaging, drilling, process completion, reservoir modeling, and production optimization. This information is then fed to data centers in real-time, allowing experts in the industry to optimize production and minimize downtimes. According to Booz & Company, a leading global management consulting firm, “digital oil field technologies could increase the net present value of oil and gas assets by 25%.” The global digital oil field market is estimated to be worth $18.7 billion and is forecast to reach $33.3 billion by 2022.

While not generally included within the description of digital oil field technologies, telematics operates on the same principle—making better business decisions because you have the data to show where your vehicles are and what your drivers are doing in real-time. For example, with an automated tool for tracking vehicle whereabouts, IFTA fuel-tax information is gathered automatically and therefore accurately, and these accuracies save you substantial revenue from higher taxes. Also, you don’t miss out on additional savings if you operate in jurisdictions in which offer off-road usage earns fuel-tax credits.

As data accumulates over time, your ability to budget and forecast improves exponentially because you have accurate and historical data at your fingertips.


Saint John Transit gets Wireless Upgrade

Type: Case study
Objective: Describe how NextBus solution works
Purpose: Data-driven improvements to bus service
Audience: Municipal transit decision-makers


Saint John Transit gets Wireless Upgrade

Back in February 2010, Webtech Wireless expanded its InterFleet® implementation with the city of Saint John, New Brunswick to include an additional 100 public works and police vehicles—a contract valued at over $100,000. Now to complement the city’s Interfleet solution, Saint John Transit also plans to deploy a Webtech Wireless solution—NextBus.

NextBus will provide Saint John Transit with an AVL tracking solution for its 60 buses, allowing riders to check bus arrivals in real-time. Using PCs, landline phones, cell phones, or SMS text messaging, riders get real-time travel information (each bus is fitted with a satellite tracking system) designed to help them decide whether catching the next bus is a sprint or leisurely stroll. Currently, riders can only view a static schedule of intended bus arrivals and departures on the company’s web site.

NextBus will also install five LCD screens at various locations around the city, including McAllister Place Mall and the university campus (UNBSJ) and LED screens at bus stops. To help make public transport more attractive to potential riders (and as a nod to Saint John Transit’s already existing environmental initiatives), the service will add to the city’s existing hot spots with free WIFI for riders on all its buses.

About NextBus

A subsidiary of Webtech Wireless, San Francisco-based NextBus implements real-time passenger information systems used by dozens of transit agencies, universities and other transit operators across North America. Because traffic variations, breakdowns, and day-to-day problems faced by any transit provider can interrupt service, NextBus was designed to help keep riders on schedule even if their buses aren’t. NextBus uses satellite technology and advanced computer modeling to track vehicles on their routes.

As Canada’s oldest incorporated city and New Brunswick’s largest municipality, the city of Saint John has been providing municipal services for more than two centuries. According to Statistics Canada, the Saint John municipal area has a population of 122,389, with a population density of 36.4 persons per square kilometre.


Historic Saint John has been a transportation hub since long before confederation.

The Port of Saint John is one of Canada’s most important ports (its relatively mild maritime climate keeps its deep-water harbour ice-free year round when inland ports in the St. Lawrence Seaway must contend with ice). This keeps the city’s businesses and industries bustling throughout the year. In 2010 for the first time ever, the Port of Saint John exceeded 30 million metric tonnes of cargo in a single year.

About Saint John Transit

Saint John Transit was established in 1979 to provide scheduled transit service to the city. It replaced City Transit Limited (1948-1979) and a string of others dating back to the People’s Street Railway Company (1869-1876). Saint John Transit is the largest public transit system in the province, both by mileage and passengers.

Saint John Transit Statistics

Saint John Transit’s ridership is approximately 50 percent higher than the average for Canadian cities with a population of between 50,000 and 150,000.

  • Number of vehicles: 60
  • Ridership: 2.5 million riders per year

Current active fleet bus types:

Greening Saint John

To reduce auto emissions, the City of Saint John, along with the Federal and Provincial governments, is investing in public transportation between uptown Saint John and outlying communities. Branded as ComeX (Community Express), it provides a rapid bus transport service during peak commuting times.

Source: Statistics Canada, 2006 Census of Population.

Source: Statistics Canada, 2006 Census of Population.

With the implementation of ComeX, greenhouse gas emissions are projected to drop by 1,500 metric tonnes and downtown traffic will decrease by 800 vehicles a day over the next five years.

Training course design samples

Type: Training plans 
Objective: Describe how new course will be organised 
Purpose: Enable course designers to build course
Audience: Instructional designers, instructors


Course Design Samples

One of the major problems I encounter with technical training and documentation is that it so often focuses on product features rather than real-world tasks users need to do their jobs. My approach is to start with learning objectives and an audience profile and then seeing how the technological feature fits in.

The following samples show a sample course design done for a course at BCIT:

Discovering Vancouver’s hidden music makers

Type: Magazine article
Objective: Feature a local musical instrument maker
Purpose: Build appreciation for complete arts picture 
Audience: Subscribers to digital magazine

Up in the hills of West Vancouver, there is a house entirely furnished with harpsichords and other exotic early keyboard instruments. They are the work of Craig Tomlinson, one of Canada’s two makers of early keyboard instruments.

Craig began instrument building at 16 with a simple dulcimer. It now hangs on the living room wall, a reminder of his modest beginnings amidst the collection of harpsichords, clavichords, virginals, and fortepianos.

The revivalist movement in musical-instrument making began in the 1930s and, by the 1960s, classical music circles began to appreciate what original instruments could bring to performances of the great Baroque masters (Bach, Handel, Vivaldi and so forth).

In 1975, Craig was asked to work on a two-manual French harpsichord. The challenge of this task opened up a new world for him. He worked on kit instruments over the next few years, but could hear and see the limitations of factory-produced kits. So in 1978, Craig headed down to Berkeley to learn the craft of building early keyboards. This led him to a rediscovery of the building methods of old-world craftsmen, after whom he modelled his instruments.

“The harpsichord I envisioned combined a perfect balance between the tonal intricacies of the sound and the beauty of the instrument and its decoration,” he said.

My tour across Craig’s living room was chronological and, although time seemed to fly, I know 350 years of keyboard development passed before I reached the other side.

Gazing at the collection, I asked Craig if people who buy his instruments are performers or simply collectors. He said that most buyers are in fact performers, although he cited one large glossy magazine in Palm Springs, California that posited the notion that you’re not really on the ‘A’ list until you have your own French Double Harpsichord.


The grand old lady by the front door is an exquisitely ornate 1608 virginal. She was inspired by two 17th century Flemish instruments made by the Ruckers family of Antwerp. I was so entranced with the sheer beauty of this instrument that I could hardly follow his description of its nifty short octave bass, which expands the lower octave downwards by replacing the chromatic black notes with diatonic white tone pitches (although, you wouldn’t know to look at it). Sorry for the tech-speak, but I think this means that the player can play down to a G below the expected low C, but my eyes were feasting on the trompe l’œil, elaborate Latin mottos, and swirling arabesques.

As with all of his instruments, the virginal was painted by Craig’s mother, Olga Kornavitch-Tomlinson. An artist in her own right, she decorates the instruments by combining historical authenticity and her own instincts as an artist.


The harpsichord in is a replica of one Craig received a Canada Council grant to travel to Scotland to research. To research the instrument (this one was based on a Pascal Taskin of Paris, now residing in a collection in Edinburgh), Craig had to photograph, measure, disassemble, and incredibly, even get inside it.

Perhaps to dispel the notion that early music people don’t have a sense of humour, Craig told me the story about the Scotsman who snuck up on him while he had his head deep inside the 1769 harpsichord, and thundered the “biggest and loudest chord” Craig had ever heard played on any harpsichord.

Once again, there was a techie segment to the tour and Craig showed me the transposition block, a slab of wood used to shoehorn the instrument up and down in pitch.

In an age of globalization and standardization, it’s hard to imagine some of the madness that goes on in musical circles with regard to pitch. North American orchestra’s tune to A=440 Hertz, while their European counterparts tune to A=442 (or A=444 if you’re in Vienna, or A=444.5 on Kärntner Strasse between the hours of 3 and 5 pm). Geography plays a part in pitch, as does time. In fact, pitch has crawled up steadily since the heydays of most of these instruments. Since Bach was around, they’ve crawled up to the tune of a full semi-tone.

Curiously, this rise of an exact semi-tone makes the transposition block possible. Craig pulled the block out from the left side of the keyboard, shunted the keyboard to the left (into the vacant place), and then pushed the block into the right side and, voilà, the entire instrument now played a full (Baroque) semitone lower.


The clavichord dates back to the 1400s, but the instrument in Craig’s studio was a replica of one from 1784. Curiously, its visual simplicity seemed downright West Coast, reminiscent of the beautiful Arts and Crafts style furniture I’ve seen on Salt Spring Island and the Sunshine Coast. Craig attributed this to the cherry wood and, of course, its admittedly unembellished appearance.

He doesn’t play much any more, he said, but showed me how difficult an instrument a clavichord can be owing to its soft, but exacting touch. There’s no margin for error. He tapped a few neat and precise chords and the instrument whisper shyly. Take note you who might be thinking of buying one of those condos in False Creek—this is the instrument for you. It has a projectional range of about three feet, guaranteed to disturb no one, and it’s very soothing on frayed nerves.


There’s a funny thing about the origin of the name of the modern instrument, the “piano”. In 1713, when harpsichord maker Bartolomeo Cristofori invented an instrument that could play both soft and loud (unlike the harpsichord), he called it a “loudsoft” or fortepiano. This was the instrument Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven wrote for (well, before old Ludwig smashed his to bits that is), and it was the immediate precursor to today’s pianoforte. You say fortepiano, I say pianoforte.

The name difference seems moot, but the two are quite different. While the fortepiano can and does have dynamics, it was no match for the thundering sonorities in the age of Romantic composers (Chopin, Liszt, Rachmaninoff) and so it fell from favour when the robust pianoforte appeared on the scene.

In recent decades, an interest in authentic performances of earlier works necessitated the revival of the comparatively delicate fortepiano. In fact, the Vancouver Opera will be using Craig’s fortepiano in their performance of Mozart’s La Clemenza di Tito in February 2011. It is a beautiful instrument based on one Anton Walter built in Vienna in 1795. The original now resides in the Germanisches Nationalmuseum in Nuremberg.

Techie bit: The fortepiano doesn’t have pedals like modern pianofortes; it has knee levers. I’m sure it works better than it appears, but the fortepianist sustains notes by raising a damper rail—with his knees. “The right lever raises only the treble dampers and the left lever raises the entire damper rail”, said Craig. I tried not to resist the uncomfortable imagines of the poor player squirming away on the fortepiano bench, first knees, then legs and, finally buttocks join in.


We headed out to the workshop and passed Craig’s son, Brian. Craig remarked that Brian preferred the family Yamaha and the music of the French Impressionists (Ravel, Debussy), and then snorted, “Kids these days…”

Given that the focus of this article is about local craftsmen, I asked Craig if any of the materials were local. Outside of the holly and the occasional raven feather found in nearby Chatwin Park he has used in the quills (the plucking mechanism in harpsichord jacks), he found that he had to use the same woods that builders used two and three centuries ago. He experimented by building a harpsichord using local Sitka spruce, but found the sound “entirely different”.

For this reason, he makes regular pilgrimages to Mittenwald in southern Bavaria—a haven of fine European woods—to buy the Swiss pear, German spruce and boxwood his instruments need. He jokes about the time he beat the Steinway buyers there, leaving them only leftovers. Other woods, such as American poplar, come from the US East Coast.

The workshop has one harpsichord in the works and Craig showed me various phases of its construction. He showed me blueprints made from measurements taken in Europe, which he laid over the instrument, like a dressmaker. In the corner, piles of pear wood, cherry, popular, German spruce, and boxwood waited to be shaped into the exquisite instruments I’d just seen in his house and would one day grace the concert halls of Vancouver and the world.

To order a keyboard of your own or for more information about Craig Tomlinson, see