Passive Solar: Is Passive Lunar the Next Big Thing?

Daniel Chang emailed me a few days ago with some cynical observations about the state of passive solar in Austin and in the country today. “Maybe passive lunar contemplation will lead to something,” he says.

As we all know, active solar and solar panels get all the hype while passive solar design is often invisible to the untrained eye. To most people, “solar energy” is active solar. But passive solar is still a reality, just like the thermal properties of stone, earth, and wood are an enduring reality.

A quick survey of information about passive solar shows that, although architects and builders in parts of the country are using passive solar concepts, there’s no discernable trend toward increased use of passive strategies. So although passive solar is effectively free (can you imagine a national TV campaign for free passive solar?!?) there’s still plenty of room for improvement — and for increased energy and utility bill savings. For a lot of homeowners and commercial property managers, this is money on the table just waiting to be taken, but these savings have to be realized well before the construction stage.

Our key discovery was a report entitled Energy Policy by Kelly Kruzner, Kristin Cox, Brian Machmer, and Leidy Klotz. In it, the authors performed a satellite image inventory of 1000 homes across the country and evaluated the homes for their orientation to prevailing sun, roof color, and sun/shade exposure. They found that home orientation in some parts of the country is trending toward conforming with passive solar strategy — but at the same time roof color in many areas of the country is counter to passive principles. And as mentioned earlier, there’s no trend overall toward better passive solar design.

Here’s hoping passive solar becomes more well-known. There’s no reason it shouldn’t be.

The Best Parking App Finds You a Space

parking-appCircling for a Parking Space in ATX? Try ParkTag

The best parking app on iPhone and Android is ParkTag, and we need to start using it in Austin. Not only does it remember where you parked, but it lets you know where to find garages and even free street parking. There’s even a feature where it’ll autodetect when you park (based on your GPS) so you never forget where you parked. And it’s free.

Based on our unscientific yet fairly thorough search of and the iTunes Store, we believe this is your best bet for these vital functions. The app is just hitting New York, favorably rated, responsive, and well-designed. Austin pay garages are well-represented in their locations database, too.

What the Heck Is a Parking App?

You may not know what a parking app is, but you’ve probably cursed the population boom in Austin while trying to park your wheels downtown. ParkTag to the rescue. Launch the app and if you have sufficient credit, you can search for spots marked by other charitable ParkTag users.

Are you leaving a spot? Launch the app and hit the “POST” button to share your parking space with others, and you earn points. If you’re running Autodetect, the app even posts your parking spot automatically… and you can earn points from that.

Lastly, the app has a “SAVE” button that you tap when you want to remember where you parked. Very handy in the madness of SxSW or ACL Fest!

Why Sharing Your Parking Space Info Helps the Planet

Not only does parking space sharing help others and make you feel warm and fuzzy, but it earns you credit you use to find spots, doesn’t cost you anything, and it makes Austin function more efficiently. The fewer maddened drivers circling for parking downtown, the better off we all are. And of course there’s less noxious pollution in the air when cars are finding parking spots quickly. That’s what makes ParkTag such a genius app. Frankly, there aren’t a lot of Austin ParkTag users right now, but there need to be.

How ParkTag Could Be Improved

ParkTag still isn’t all it could be, though. In our opinion, other than snagging a larger userbase (perhaps by putting postcards on the dashboards of parked cars at SxSW, hint, hint), ParkTag must:

  • improve the incentive for drivers to share a spot when they drive away. IMHO the social aspect needs to be amped up. For example, when someone pulls into a spot that you shared, you should get notified in the app, and they should get points if they send a prewritten or personalized message to thank you. This kind of direct acknowledgement is often what’s lacking in our compartmentalized worlds, and it closes the narrative that is created when you choose to share.
  • improve other social elements. As mentioned in this TechCrunch article, the founders realize the potential the app has for connecting neighbors, but the app doesn’t really have a way for you to message someone who set you up with a sweet parking spot. It also needs to provide connections while allowing people to maintain their privacy.
  • make it clearer how points are earned and used.
  • make it clearer how the timer works and how Auto-Detect works.
  • crystallize their message so people can quickly tell exactly what the app delivers. There are lot of lousy “remember where you parked” apps out there, and this isn’t one of them.
  • tune some of the grammar in the app. Little errors make it clear their team is from Germany.
  • allow users to add notes to parking spaces they share so they can warn other users of hazards or navigational issues.

So that’s ParkTag. Check it out on iOS or Android…!

Can’t See Job Descriptions on LinkedIn? Yep, It’s Broken


LinkedIn Job Listings Are Currently Broken

If you or your friends have been browsing job opportunities on LinkedIn lately, guess what: this major website is broken right now, and yet no one seems to care. I believe the employers who are paying for these listings are unaware that they are busted, so the only people being directly inconvenienced are users who are almost powerless to change the problem. Contacting them through the website is a Herculean task because the helpcenter routes you through a maze of vaguely relevant pages without any apparent way to flag a human being.

There is a thread about the problem here which indicates that this issue has been going on for almost an entire month. Don’t be fooled by the link to “ask them” — this user posts that same answer to multiple threads on the site.

So Why Aren’t Employers Complaining?

It could be that this is a problem that only affects certain users, or certain listings. In any case, I think the core problem is that the users (jobseekers) are not the customers who LinkedIn really values. Those customers (employers) aren’t looking at their listings. You see, employers are already employed.