David and Goliath

Malcolm Gladwell (author of among others, Tipping Point, Outliers, What the Dog Saw) has a new book out, David and Goliath, Underdogs, Misfits, and the art of Battling Giants. As usual, he’s controversial, outspoken, and is causing quite a stir. It has been lambasted by critics and scholars around the world. It seems that he doesn’t take the science he uses to back up his positions seriously enough, and therefore his conclusions may be flawed.  Not ARE flawed, but MAY be flawed.  Hmmmmm

He talks about the “fish in pond” issue in choosing a college and has gotten a lot of flack for his position on education. Briefly it goes like this. If a person is a straight “A” student and works and studies hard, that doesn’t necessarily mean they will succeed at certain schools. He uses the example of a woman who excelled in high school and could go to any college she wanted, she selected an Ivy League school and became a ‘small fish in a big pond.” She got her first “c” and although she worked hard, the competition was extremely rough, she did not succeed. and dropped out. Had she gone to a very good State University near her home she would have been a ‘big fish in a small pond,” and become very successful and happy as a PHD marine biologist. It was not to be.

This doesn’t seem like heresy, but simple logic.

He is criticized by his description of the Biblical fight between David and Goliath. It turns out that Goliath may have been handicapped, and David was using relatively high tech weapons, a sling that wielded properly produced a missile the speed of a bullet. Critics say that therefore, actually David was Goliath and vice versa. Its the perception that I think was his point. Goliath and his masters thought he was the sure winner and expected a similar opponent. When David showed up with his sling shot, Goliath was dumfounded; he didn’t know how to fight on that battle field. The result was preordained.
Isn’t that the point?

Gladwell doesn’t claim to be a scholar, but a story teller.  His books are fun to read and cause you to reconsider about some of the ‘truths’ we hold dear.

In his story about ‘rich’ middle school girls from Silicon Valley who ended last in a basketball league  because they had everything except knowledge, physical prowess, or skill needed to win. Their coach considered a strategy, taken from John Wooden at UCLA half a century ago, that if the girls were in good physical condition and could run against the opposition, using a ‘full court press,’ they had a better chance to win. If you are short, unskilled, and ignorant of the game, you can at least get into good shape. The team ‘almost’ became champions, certainly surprising both themselves and their confused opposition. The opponents couldn’t react quickly enough to the new tactics.

Just seems like using the skills you have and changing the game to fit them. Heh.

David and Goliath may not be the stemwinder that “Outliers” was in that the previous book was a metaphor for success through hard work and perseverance, but it does help us reconsider the ‘facts’ that the big and powerful always must win and that attending the ‘best’ school may not always be a winning strategy.

Read it. You will like it.




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Parking Enforcers Aren’t Nazis

A Salt Lake City writer has been busy chronicling the bad behavior of local parking officials. It seems parking in Salt Lake is an endeavor fraught with legal and financial risks. Paul Rolly of the Salt Lake Tribune says people in the city are being ticketed for having faded permit tags, parking more than 12 inches from the curb in a secluded residential area, and for pausing for 1.5 minutes  to pick up their kids at the curb of the Capitol Theater.

Worst of all is a glitch that causes the meters to fail to register payments or print receipts. Customers think they’ve paid and just don’t have a receipt – but they end up with a fine.

“Benjamin Roberts, the compliance director, told me there are technical glitches with some payments not being registered. He said his office is working with the meter vendor to work out the bugs.” Rolly writes.

All the commotion includes people writing to the mayor and refusing to visit downtown SLC or park anywhere where credit-card capable meters are used. It also includes a radio announcer named Cary Hobbs throwing around the word “Nazi.”

Nobody wants a parking ticket and everybody feels persecuted when they get one. It’s possible parking enforcers are hated only slightly less than dentists. I don’t think that justifies the use of a word the represents the evil of the Holocaust, but some people do.

I got a ticket once that was absolutely a mistake on the part of the enforcement officer. I parked at as meter and put in a pile of quarters; when I returned there was a ticket on my windshield and time left on the meter. I simply followed the directions on the back of the ticket to contest the fine and enclosed a letter outlining the situation and naming the three people with me who could corroborate my claim. The ticket was cancelled. Not a pleasant experience, but nothing at all like a concentration camp.



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Faith Meets Finance in Parking

A Houston area church is in a bind because it’s been asked to pay for the parking it’s been getting free for 60 years. St. Thomas Episcopal Church and School are situated between a mall and a residential area. The mall’s owners allowed church members and students to park in its lot, but the mall was recently sold to Fidelis Realty Partners, which wants the church to pay $380,000 a year for parking privileges.

While Fidelis declined to comment for the article, which ran on click2houston.com, the Rev. David Browder spoke openly about what this means for the church.

“For the entire history of our church and school we’ve had access to this parking lot,” said Browder.

Browder said he’s trying to negotiate with Fidelis. But he is also searching for other options and leaning on his faith.

“It might not be exactly what we want to do right now, but it may be where God is leading us, to say, ‘Hey look, you all better start thinking about this, thinking about the future for St. Thomas,’” said Rev. Browder.

In a place where faith and finance collide, the faithful are apt to sound extraordinarily naive. In turn, the money-minded appear to be greedy and cruel. It’s hard to believe a church could operate without parking of its own and do so with the belief that its free parking scenario was a perpetual promise. And it’s hard to believe an investment company would make a public relations mistake as serious as keeping God-fearing Texans from their place of worship and and grade-school children from their place of education.

I can’t say if there is a middle ground or where that middle ground might be, but I have faith in people, and I think somehow they’ll come up with a compromise.

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Equal Coverage: Students Ticketed During Hailstorm

It always helpful to consider both sides of a story before you leap to a conclusion, and it’s even more helpful when the news media provide both sides of  a story to readers.

In this article published in Oklahoma State Universities The Daily O’Collegian, both sides of a parking dispute are represented fairly. It’s  surprising that a college news service could provide a better example of sound journalism than CNN.com, but there it is.

According to the article, OSU students who parked in a campus garage without parking permits were ticketed during a recent hailstorm. Hailstorms in this area can be particularly devastating, and people go to great lengths to find covered parking.

“The Oklahoma State University Department of Parking and Transit Services issued 64 tickets in five hours.”

The students were naturally unhappy to receive the tickets and expressed their opinion that the extreme circumstances should warrant an exception. However, they acknowledged that rules are rules.

The parking enforcement offices outlined ways students can protect their cars during storms, but emphasized the rights of permitted patrons.

“The department wants to do everything it can to help students, but it has to help customers who pay to park in the garage first,” said Steven Spradling, director of the department of parking and transit services.

Further, parking officials reassured readers that the citations were issued as part of  routine enforcement, not a stake out of students who sought shelter without permits, and offered details on how to appeal tickets.

This article made an impression on me because it was fair to both sides of the argument. The same situation, covered by a larger mainstream news service, would generate an article that would vilify enforcement officers and support a misguided public perception that “rights” are exempt from rules.



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I’ve been saying this for years, but nobody listens…

Seattle has gone out for a test so I can replace its existing Pay and Display system.  Fair enough. A local online news source “Crosscut.com” happened to have its offices on the street where the test took place and jumped at the chance to see what all the fuss was about.

They went downstairs and through the eyes of reporter Eva Conner, who also happens to be a member of Tactile, a product and design firm located in Seattle. Who better to review our best efforts. The article is here:

I have some excerpts that you might find interesting:

On first glance, it was clear that SDOT was attempting to offer drivers more options, but we felt that most of the seven prototypes missed the mark in terms of usability for the following reasons:

  • Feature creep. By adding a QWERTY keyboard, more time options and shortcuts, all of the pay stations wound up feeling cluttered. As a result, the machines’ primary function (paying for parking) got lost and users ended up feeling overwhelmed.
  • Inconsistent visual language. Most pay stations had a mess of colors, button shapes and stickers, all of which created confusion. Icons seemed arbitrary, with no symbols in common with other Seattle signage.
  • Weak information architecture. Aside from hard-to-read type both on-screen and on the buttons (forget trying to read them at night), one of the biggest challenges we saw was a lack of visual organization. None of the pay stations presented a bold, simple set of 1-2-3 instructions for selecting time and payment that felt intuitive. There were extraneous buttons in strange places, or arrows pointing to other buttons that suggested reading more instructions on-screen — not exactly a clear and quick directive.
  • Poor haptics. It might seem like a minor detail, but more responsive buttons would help assure the user that their selections have registered correctly. A solid button feel and tactile feedback could mean the difference between an error-free ticket purchase and accidental overpayment.

Unfortunately, SDOT didn’t establish any specific usability criteria or define an optimal pay parking experience, which would be the first step for a user experience designer. That’s partially the result of budget cuts, which forced the city to eliminate the centralized design office that might have overseen a cohesive visual system or user experience mandate.

If you read the article, you will find that Seattle also has PaybyPhone and this author greatly prefers it to any of the choices given. However she admits that only 3% of the transactions in the Emerald City are a result of pay by phone. However she points out that that is most likely to the lack of general knowledge about the program.

This line is telling:

But for smartphone-carrying, tech-loving, efficiency-craving drivers — particularly those who park in South Lake Union, downtown and Capitol Hill — PayByPhone is a boon.

Get that — Tech Loving, Efficiency Craving,  –

Pay by Phone aside, the problem as I see it is exactly as described above.  They machines are hard to understand, virtually impossible to read, and well,.,,you know the rest.

Our industry has done a poor job in this area. Maybe they need to hire Eva


By the way — I have gone to booths of suppliers and tried various P and D solutions, finding most of them exactly as described above. I am happy to eat those words if someone can offer a solution that actually works. I”ll be in Dallas and you know how to find me.


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Parking Becomes a part of our Culture

It seems strange to me, but it must be true.

NPR did a short piece on what the first questions are when strangers meet. It seems that it depends on where the meeting took place.  In New York City, its “What neighborhood do you live in?” In Washington DC is is usually “What do you do?” In Vermont you might hear about a persons ski experience, or the small boat they own.

Here in LA, its different. The question usually is “How did you get here?”  ie, “I came down the 405 and then took the 10.”  The next follow up questions is “Where did you park?”

In Manhattan, discovering where someone lives tells you a lot about them. If they are from the Upper East Side or Brooklyn, then you may know something about their income or background. In DC, what a person does tells you a lot as to whether they can be of help to you in your climb up this or that ladder. Folks in New England are more interested in outdoors and the like.

But folks in LA LA Land are always searching for a better route from here to there. And of course, the illusive parking space. If I am going to be returning to a certain area and the person next to me has a ‘great’ parking space. That knowledge is golden.

I don’t use freeways if I can help it, unless its 10 PM or 5 AM. I take surface streets and know many back alleys and neighborhoods through which I can find short cuts. I am always looking for a new way to get from here to there.

Parking – “You can park at the bank at the corner after 5″ or “At 6 pm parking is free on Venice.”  That little bit of info sometimes is a big help.

It makes a difference where you are, but in certain cities, LA being one, Parking is right up there with what do you do or where do you live. Who would have thunk it?

Listen to NPR here


H/T  Laurie Keller – IPS

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Marc Pens a Book

I received the following from Marc Slavin, President of DC’s Marcpark. Seems he has written a book. I immediately ordered it and will let you know what I think.


After spending over 40 years in the parking industry, gaining a wealth of knowledge and making a bunch of mistakes along the way, the time seemed perfect to compile my experiences.  I am proud to announce that I have authored my first book, Parking CarsParking Cars is not only about the parking industry, but also about my first hand experiences, relationships and great people that have been a part of my life.    I tried to make it fun and at the same time provide some tips to teach young people that working hard, keeping your word and doing the right thing will ultimately bring you success.   It is a short read.  Have fun and don’t hesitate sending me your comments or post them on Amazon please.     Please click this link Parking Cars by Marc Slavinto purchase my book.

I have  put off writing my ‘great American novel.” Its great to hear someone else actually did it.

All the best, Marc




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Oh Brother — Please read post before you call me

On April 1 — That in itself should give you a hint — I wrote a blog. It was about rumors I heard at various shows I attended in March. YOu can find the post here:


Most of the post was so outlandish that I assumed (you know what that does) that most people would dismiss it out of hand. But if they didn’t the last line was:

“If you believe one word of the above, you are an April Fool.

I should have know better.  I have been receiving calls from all over the country yelling at me for putting rumors in my blog and causing much harm to the parking industry.

Its fairly routine for media to play April Fools Jokes on its readers.  When I ran the Fillmore Herald I ran a story across eight columns of the front page.  Basically it said that a freeway was coming through town and the main street would be torn up and the downtown destroyed.  I noted that I had spoken to four of the five city councilpersons and they approved of the plan.  What made it so timely, was that surveyors had been noticed working on the main street.  Of course, the story was jumped to page 7 and on page 7 I wrote “If you believe that you are an April Fool.

Of course few turned to page seven and an unruly mob showed up outside my office.

It just goes to show — before you overreact, read the entire story.











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Baby born in parking lot, again

Some things aren’t as extraordinary as they seem. At least once a month, this headline appears in national news: “Woman Gives Birth in Hospital Parking Lot.”

Now, having a baby in anywhere but a nice hospital room, or for the daredevils, their own bedroom, is a little unusual, but not a lot unusual. It’s so commonplace, in fact, I vote hospitals do a little better job accommodating the women who deliver in the parking lot. I think a special reserved spot is in order. It should be close to the entrance, have a gurney on stand-by, and a hose within reach to rinse off your upholstery.

A  permanent sign would be in order, as well as a mention of the space during the obligatory “maternal readiness” hospital orientation tour. Hospitals could annex the space as part of the actual facility. That way, those who find themselves in reach, but falling short of the hospital doors have a place to deliver their baby and the headline can be retired.

If people keep having babies in parking lots, isn’t it time to treat the event as a probability instead of a reason to call the news crews? And charge those women the hourly rate for parking, instead of $3,000 a day.

For yet another article about parking lot births, read here.

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Editor Takes Extreme Career Risk..Women Take Over PT

Coming in June. An entirely different Parking Today. A famous radio host calls letting his audience set the topics for his show an ‘extreme career risk.’ Well I am doing something similar in PT June. I am having nothing to do with the writing or editing of the issue.

That’s right, next month the entire issue of Parking Today will be filled with articles and opinion from Women in Parking President Colleen Niese and her team.
I have been asked what possessed me to turn the reins over to others and frankly, I admitted the I am lazy and if someone else will do the work, fantastic. In addition, I think readers can become slightly bored with my stick and sometimes a different point of view is refreshing.

I have no concerns about the quality of the material, compared with some of the things that find their way into PT under my tutelage, it’s going to be super. Colleen already has an editorial menu prepared and has lined up Tiffany Yu, Kirsten Dolan, Michelle Porter, Lisa Bahr, Barbara Chance, Laura Longsworth, Karen Pradhan, Sarah Blough, Nicholle Judge, Michelle Wendler, Kathryn Hebert and a host of others to fill the blank space between the ads for PT June. There will not be a male byline in the issue.

When we got the idea for Women in Parking three years ago, I was told that all one needed to do to get it started was get some meeting space, invite a bunch of women, and shut up. It took Ruth Beaman to remind me of the last instruction, but her dedication, along with Colleen and a dozen others got the organization off the ground and the rest is history.
They just completed their first convention with over 100 members heading to Chicago for what I’m told was an extremely successful event. I expect that it will continue to grow and prosper.

The concept of a Women in Parking Edition of PT came to light and I took a similar approach to the founding. I called Collen, told her what I proposed, and then shut up. Well, OK, perhaps I gave just a little direction so our graphics staff would know what to do, but all in all, this is their show.

PT June will be unique, and certainly a ‘keeper.’


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