Stay at the forefront of data & information management. Join to comment, vote, contribute and learn. Learn About Member Benefits & Join Now

Blog

  1. BetaNYC Meetup 3/5/2014

    Last night, I attended another BetaNYC Hackathon in Brooklyn, where I met another group of passionate citizens developing, and learning to develop, fascinating apps for Smarter Cities.  This week we were about 15 people in the room, and we started with a lightning round of “what are you working on” descriptions from project leads.  There were only three people in the room who had participated in the hackathon the week prior, and this is pretty normal.  BetaNYC has 1600 developers registered in their network and every week coders rotate in and out of meetups and projects in an endless and unplanned cycle that continuously inspires creativity and motivation by showcasing new projects.

    OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    The first project we heard about came from a local nonprofit called Tomorrow Lab, who have designed hardware that measures how many bikes travel on streets they measure.  It uses simple hardware and open source software that connects two sensors with a pneumatic tube that measures impressions for weight and axel distance that differentiates between bikes and cars.  Its called WayCount.  The text below is from their website.  In the room we discussed how WayCount data could be combined with NYPD crash reports to more accurately identify the spots in NYC where bike accidents per bike numbers occur and identify ways to remediate.

    WayCount is a platform for crowd-sourcing massive amounts of near real-time automobile and bicycle traffic data from a nodal network of inexpensive hardware devices.   For the first time ever, you can gather accurate volume, rate, and speed measurements of automobiles and bicycles, then easily upload and map the information to a central online database.  The WayCount device works like other traffic counters, but has two key differences: lower cost and open data. At 1/5th price of the least expensive comparible product, WayCount is affordable. The WayCount Data Uploader allows you to seamlessly upload and map your latest traffic count data, making it instantly available to anyone online.
    Collectively, the WayCount user community has the potential to build a rich repository of traffic count data for bike paths, city alley ways, neighborhood streets, and busy boulevards from around the world. With a better understanding of automobile and bicycle ridership patterns, we can inform the design of better cities and towns.
    The WayCount platform is an important addition to the process of measuring the impact of transportation design, and creating livable streets by adding bicycle lanes, public spaces, and developing smart transportation management systems. By creating open-data, we can increase governmental transparency, and provide constituencies with the essential data they need to advocate for rational and necessary improvements to the design, maintenance, and policy of transportation systems.
    The hardware and software of the WayCount device and website were designed and engineered by Tomorrow Lab.   WayCount devices are currently for sale on the website, WayCount.com.

    waycount

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    We also discussed some ideas to provide policy makers with better sources of Open Data to guide policy discussions, and then broke up into four groups focusing on different projects.  One group discussed how to save the New York Library on 42nd Street from the imminent transformation of its main reading room and function as a lending library.  Another group scraped web pages for NYPD crash data for an app comparing accident rates across the 5 boroughs.  Some people just spent time talking about who they are and what they want to work on, what they want to learn, and how to get more involved.

    I spent an hour with a young programmer who had worked on the NYC Property Tax Map I shared with you last week.  He showed me a Chrome Plugin he is working on that provides data about leading politicians whenever their names are mentioned on a webpage.  It is called Data Explorer for US Politics and it provides some nifty data on things like campaign contributions compared to committee assignments.

    politic

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    I asked him where he got his data and he showed me DBpedia, which “is a crowd-sourced community effort to extract structured information from Wikipedia and make this information available on the Web. DBpedia allows you to ask sophisticated queries against Wikipedia, and to link the different data sets on the Web to Wikipedia data. We hope that this work will make it easier for the huge amount of information in Wikipedia to be used in some new interesting ways. Furthermore, it might inspire new mechanisms for navigating, linking, and improving the encyclopedia itself. ”

    Then I asked him how he knows that DBpedia data is accurate and reliable and he just looked at me.  “It’s on the internet…”  Yeah, and so where weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.  But they were only on the internet and never in Iraq.  And herein lies a huge problem about Open Data on the Web; there is no corroboration of fact, no metadata describing where it came from, how it was derived, calculated, presented.  No one attests to its veracity, yet we all use it on faith which just ain’t good enough.

    This is why we have the W3C Data on the Web Best Practices Working Group – to create new vocabulary and metadata standards that attach citations and lineage, attestations and data quality metrics to Open Data so that everyone can understand where it came from, how much to trust it, and even how to improve it.

    At the end of the evening, we also discussed IBM Smarter Cities, the Portland System Dynamics Demo, and the possibility of hosting a BetaNYC meetup at IBM on 590 Madison Avenue.  It was a fascinating evening and I encourage all to check out the links provided in this writeup and get out and join a meetup near you.

  2. Open Data in NYC

    Last week, I participted in a BetaNYC meetup in Brooklyn, NY.  We were about 12 developers there to hear mini-presentation on current projects.  Chris Wong, the BetaNYC organizer, demonstrated a real estate property tax mapping application he built in Ruby on Rails.  His app scrapes data from thousands of PDF’s the city publishes on the individual property tax assessments, exemptions, and abatements, transforms them into a CSV file which gets imported into excel, checked for quality, and exported into MongoDB.

    Selection_098

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    On the above map, the Purple areas are tax exempt – Museaums, Hospitals, and Religious institutions.  The property highlighted, 5 West 86th Street, is the building where I was born and it pays nearly $800,000 in tax.  Just by looking at the map, for instance, we learned that many hospitals and religious institutions also own apartment buildings that have zero tax bills.  We all wondered how many in the city were aware of this.  Last week this was a prototype.  This week, its a public Beat.  That’s the speed of Open Data.

    https://nyctaxmap.herokuapp.com/

    Chris is a recent graduate of NYU School of Urban Planning and taught himself to code in 18 months.  He said the code libraries available for Ruby let him build his app in less than 2 months.  His map only covers the upper west side of Manhattan, but it was already fascinating to compare property tax values in those neighborhoods.  We in IBM often think that Cities have to curate their data before publishing, but what Chris demonstrated is that small teams of developers can work with what the City publishes (PDFs, incomplete data sets, errors, etc) and clean it up as part of their app development.  They aren’t using big application development environments and data cleansing tools.

    I asked Chris why he built this application and who he thought would use it.  He said he didn’t to educate himself on Ruby and to discover who was and was not paying property taxes in his neighborhood.  He hopes that residents of New York will use the app to discover property tax variations and press for more equitable and consistent assessments.

    After Chris, I gave a short presentation on the W3C Data on the Web Best Practices WG I am co-chairing.  Most in the room had heard of W3C, but a few hadn’t.  None had considered the role of open standards in Open Data so we had a conversation about best practices in data citations, data quality, and comparability.  One participant told me that the NYPD, NYFD, and EMS all had their own database of street names and often sent their crews to the wrong addresses because in New York, there can be up to four names for the same street and each database has a different name, ie:

    Sixth Avenue is also:
    Avenue of the Americas
    Lenox Avenue (North of 106th)
    Malcom X Bldv (new name of Lenox)

    Very few politicians are even aware that NYPD, NYFD, and EMS have their own databases, much less that their street names differ.  No cities are yet publishing their data with metadata that allows data to be compared within a city and across cities.  Most cities don’t even know what data they really have, where it is, or how old it is.  And few have any meaningful or standardized processes for determining how it should be published.  Its whatever seems to work at the time that gets it out there.

    BetaNYC is focusing their efforts to develop applications that support the City Council because politicians need more awareness of Open Data and BetaNYC wants to demonstrate the value by providing them with apps that make their jobs easier.

    The last speaker was a graduate student at Columbia who is working on an Open Data project in Cambodia – mostly around AID Data.  Many NGO’s operating in Cambodia don’t have electronic records of aid projects and the student was there to ask for advice on how to get this data.  I was surprised that anyone was even thinking about Open Data in Cambodia.

    Selection_099

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    This meetup was a great experience and I encourage everyone to join an Open Data meetup group in your local city.  These are engaged and passionate citizens working together and sharing skills and knowledge to build creative applications that solve urban problems.  We can only gain by participating and contributing.

  3. Garrick Utley, 1939-2014

    I met him seven years ago at a cocktail party in the German Consulate in New York.  At 6’6′, Garrick Utley was the only man in the room taller than me.  He had a deep baritone voice and an engaging curiousity from decades as an ABC, NBC, and CNN foreign correspondent.  He spoke German fluently, and for a while he and I, my wife and his, spoke German together.  Moments earlier, all of us had participated in a roundtable discussion about the lack of innovation in German Scientific Research, analyzing why so many German doctoral students went to the USA to take up professorships and how few returned to Germany.

     
    Garrick had interviewd Presidents and Prime Ministers, Albert Speer and Andrei Sakharov.  He had moderated Meet The Press for three years and several presidential debates.  But in the room, he was down to earth, funny, and engaging and we discovered many common interests.  We talked about living in Europe and the differences in working cultures and private life.  And we talked about IBM and his new role as President of the Levin Institute in NYC, which had just completed a major expansion of its main building on East 55th Street.  He invited to me to come and take a look and two months later I visited his office and took a tour of the building.

     
    We kept in touch, and in 2008 Garrick gave a keynote address on the importance of Data in Business at an IBM Data Governance Council meeting we had at the Wales Hotel in New York city.  Many in the room hadn’t heard of him before he arrived and only remembered him when he started talking.  Garrick had an unforgettable voice and he told us fantastically funny stories.  It wasn’t really about Data, but he was so funny, charming, warm, and engaging no one cared.  We were all entranced.

     
    In 2009, I hosted two Systemic Risk Calculation Symposiums at the Levin Institute.  It was in those meetings that we explored the causes of the Credit Crisis, the impact of poor Data Quality on Mortgage Origination, and the importance of Data Governance in Financial Regulation.  Later, in 2009, Garrick invited me to participate in a New York-London Roundtable Discussion on Financial Regulation and Recover sponsored by the Partnership for the City of New York.   We were neck deep in the crisis and the financial industry was already discussing how to protect itself from new regulations on bonuses, capital requirements, and operations.  I sat between Garrick and Archibald Cox, Jr., Chairman of Barclays and son of the Watergate Special Prosecutor.  We were surrounded by bankers and lawyers and there was blame and positioning amidst an atmosphere of patrician fear.  The Brits were pleading with the Americans to help them fend off pending EU regulations and protect London as a center of global finance.  We talked about the impact of regulation on skills and profits, reputation and red tape.  It was a fascinating meeting.

     
    We kept in touch after that and I stopped by Levin a few more times to see how the school was progressing.  I saw Garrick last in 2011, about the time he stepped down from his post at The Levin Institute.  He passed away last Thursday, February 20, 2014, at the young age of 74.  Over the years, I’ve met many fascinating people and a handful stick in my memory that I think about.  Garrick is one of those.  Tall, worldly, funny, warm, interested and interesting, caring and giving.  A great mentor and a great friend.

     
    Thank you Garrick Utley for all you gave us.  You left too soon.

  4. The Failure of US Internet Governance

    In April of 2011, I hosted a Data Governance Council Meeting at the George C. Marshall Center, in the US Embassy, in Paris.  One of the speakers was Guillermo Christensen, the Technology Policy Advisor to the US Ambassador to the OECD, who spoke about the Obama Administration’s policy of Internet Freedom and Net Neutrality.

    He was there because six months prior I spoke on a panel at the US Chamber of Commerce in Paris that was chaired by his boss, Karen Kornblu, then US Ambassador to the OECD.  Guillermo and I agreed that the freedom and openness of the internet was under threat from 40 odd nations that blocked, filtered, or monitored internet communications to control what their populations learned and communicated.

    Later, at the IBM event in Paris, I gave a keynote presentation (Data Governance Keynote Paris 2011) describing the kinds of disinformation and threats to Internet Freedom around the world and quoted then US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, “A new information curtain is descending across much of the world,” she said, calling growing Internet curbs the modern equivalent of the Berlin Wall.I went on to describe the history of disinformation and how dictators like Stalin removed historical facts and filtered information to keep the population under control.  Governments that can control what people learn assume the most dictatorial powers and are the most serious threats to democracy and freedom.  I declared then, and wrote in blog post later,  that the right to learn and read information without restriction on the internet should be a fundamental and universal human right.

    We were all gratified to read a UN memo two months later which affirmed this idea and recommended it be included in the UN Charter.

    None of us that day, or any day since, could ever have imagined that two years later it would be the verdict of the European Union, and The Committee to Protect Journalists that it is the United States of America which is the greatest threat to the Internet and the Freedom of Information.

    This is a failure of US leadership and governance of gargantuan proportions.  It undermines decades of Human Rights work by US presidents and ambassadors the world over.  It tarnishes our image and reputation abroad and it undermines the trust of the entire world in American leaders, policy, institutions, companies, and products and services.  And it angers and frustrates me to no end that our leaders were so shortsighted to allow NSA to accumulate so much power without oversight and accountability.  They put themselves above the law and above the constitution and above the interests of the 320 million Americans they were elected to serve, not to mention the 2 billion netizens worldwide who use the internet to learn and share and communicate and grow.

    In the late 1990′s neo-conservatives in America fretted over the potential decline in American power abroad after the end of the cold war and the declines in defence spending.  They persuaded a Republican Administration to invest in new military spending, launch two costly wars, and build the most sophisticated global spying operation in world history.  They never understood that American power abroad is also a reflection of our values, integrity, and honesty in policy, practice, and people.  Without trust, you have no reputation, and without a reputation, your power wanes.

    We’ve been caught lying, spying, and cheating and now the whole world distrusts us and the result will be changes in Interent Governance and a decline in American power and prestige.  This is the ironic turning point in American history the neo-cons sought to avoid.  I dread the Greek Tragedy putting these crimes to verse.

  5. Open By Default – W3C Webinar on Open Data

    The W3C Data on the Web Best Practices WG is organizing a series of Open Data Webinars with City CIO’s from around the world to collect first hand use case examples of Open Data Opportunities, Challenges and Requirements – what’s worked, what needs work, and what lessons have been learned that we can harvest as part of our open standards Best Practices work.

    These calls are open to the public and all content is contributed as Open Data under a Royalty Free license.

    Our first call will be on February 13th at 9am PT, 12pm ET, and our speaker is Jonathan Reichental, CIO of the City of Palo Alto in California.  Palo Alto is a beautiful city of about 100,000 inhabitants in the middle of Silicon Valley.  It is home to Stanford University and it has a diverse IT savvy population.

    Last Week, Palo Alto began a new policy initiative called “Open by Default” whereby the City seeks to be a model for Open Government and Transparency by publishing Open Data by default for all of it’s public activities.    Jonathan will talk about the goals of the Open by Default program, the cultural, technical, and political challenges the city faces implementing it and what we can all learn from their experience.

    A recording of this call can be found here:

    Open by Default – Palo Alto

    Title: Open by Default

    Speaker: Jonathan Reichental

    Date: February 13th 2014

    Time: 9am PT, 12pm ET, 5pm GMT, 6pm GMT

    +1 USA Toll Free: 888-426-6840 Participant Code: 70360994

    BRAZIL Access Type: Toll-Free AT&T Direct Number: 0800-890-0288 Dial-In Number: 888-426-6840

    NETHERLANDS Access Type: Toll-Free Dial-In Number: 0-800-363-6036

    UNITED KINGDOM Access Type: Toll-Free Dial-In Number: 0800-368-0638

    Webinar Information

    To Participate online:

    1. Go to the URL -http://www.webdialogs.com

    2. Click Join a Meeting button in the top right corner of the page

    3. Enter the Conference ID: 3208928

    4. Enter your name and email address

    5. Click the LogIn button

  6. Open by Default Webinar

    The W3C Data on the Web Best Practices WG is organizing a series of Open Data Webinars with City CIO’s from around the world to collect first hand use case examples of Open Data Opportunities, Challenges and Requirements – what’s worked, what needs work, and what lessons have been learned that we can harvest as part of our open standards Best Practices work.

    These calls are open to the public and all content is contributed as Open Data under a Royalty Free license.

    Our first call will be on February 13th at 9am PT, 12pm ET, and our speaker is Jonathan Reichental, CIO of the City of Palo Alto in California.  Palo Alto is a beautiful city of about 100,000 inhabitants in the middle of Silicon Valley.  It is home to Stanford University and it has a diverse IT savvy population.  Last Week, Palo Alto began a new policy initiative called “Open by Default” whereby the City seeks to be a model for Open Government and Transparency by publishing Open Data by default for all of it’s public activities.

    Jonathan will talk about the goals of the Open by Default program, the cultural, technical, and political challenges the city faces implementing it and what we can all learn from their experience.

    The call will be recorded, with Q&A, and comments will be documented by the Data on the Web Best Practices Working Group.

    Title: Open by Default
    Speaker: Jonathan Reichental
    Date: February 13th 2014
    Time: 9am PT, 12pm ET, 5pm GMT, 6pm GMT +1
    USA Toll Free: 888-426-6840
    Participant Code: 70360994

    BRAZIL
    Access Type: Toll-Free
    AT&T Direct Number: 0800-890-0288
    Dial-In Number: 888-426-6840 | Global Dialing Comment:
    LANDLINE ONLY

    NETHERLANDS
    Access Type: Toll-Free
    Dial-In Number: 0-800-363-6036 | Global Dialing Comment:

    UNITED KINGDOM
    Access Type: Toll-Free
    Dial-In Number: 0800-368-0638 | Global Dialing Comment:

    Webinar Information
    To Participate online:

    1. Go to the URL -http://www.webdialogs.com

    2. Click Join a Meeting button in the top right corner of the page

    3. Enter the Conference ID: 3208928

    4. Enter your name and email address

    5. Click the LogIn button

  7. OpenLab Stockholm

    I want to tell you about a really innovative program in Stockholm that delivers radical solutions to complex urban problems.  The program is called OpenLab and its a mentored undergraduate course offered to students at four Swedish Universities, with sponsorship and engagement from the City of Stockholm and its elected officials.  The idea is to bring really big challenges that the City itself has struggled to solve for many years to a group of young people with diverse skills and backgrounds and get them to develop innovative solutions.

    Sweden has a tradition of consensus oriented decision making.  Its common for companies to conduct several pre-studies before agreeing to a study needed to make a decision.  The motto of OpenLab is the exact opposite:

    DO FIRST

    THINK

    DO IT AGAIN

    One of my IBM colleagues at the meeting remarked that we call that “Fail Fast” in America and the Swedes said, “yes, we fail fast all the time in Stockholm, but we never try it again after.”  Normally, a think tank would be staffed by professors and experts distinguished by grey hair and long resumes, whose risk aversion and careful decision-making would all but rule out innovative ideas.  What I saw in Stockholm was an approach focusing on young students in their mid-20′s who have energy, enthusiasm, and a design-oriented methodology created by three professors who act as mentors and coaches.  The City brings forward the problems in the areas of:

    AGEING POPULATION

    FUTURE HEALTHCARE

    SUSTAINABLE CITY PLANNING

    And the students are then invited to discover the underlying issues, research past solutions, interview stakeholders, and try out different solution ideas on each other and develop prototypes.  The students teach themselves and the professors provide resources and access, guidance and coaching.  Their other motto is:

    WE ARE ALL STUDENTS OF PROBLEMS

    “We are not students of some subject matter, but students of problems. And problems may cut right across the borders of any subject matter or discipline”.  -Karl Popper

    Its not easy to focus on problems.  Most people want to exercise their experience to jump right into solutions, and many of the solutions we imagine come from the domains we’ve worked in and it’s all too easy to disregard the solutions from domains we don’t understand.  What’s special about OpenLab is that they purposefully bring together diverse groups of students from different domains to generate innovation from a diversity of ideas and perspectives.

    Innovation isn’t just about skills and capital.  It’s also about culture.  Stockholm gets this and I am deeply inspired by their leadership.

    Have a look at their presentation:

    OpenLab

  8. Big Data in Retail with System Dynamics

    Last year, we had webinars on System Dyanmics and Climate Change, Health Reform, and Financial Services.  Over 3000 people participated in those live webinars and viewed the presentations on our Youtube channel.  In December, we had a feedback webinar in which many of you provided fantastic feedback and ideas to improve the webinar series.  We’ve incorporated your feedback into a fresh quartet of upcoming webinars, with the first on Big Data in Retail and System Dynamics on Tuesday, January 28, 2014 @ 12:00 – 1:00 PM EST.

    Learn how System Dynamics can improve Big Data Analytics with Bob Eberlein, from iseeSystems, Inc.

    Big Data and System Dynamics belong together. While Big Data can analyze and forecast, only System Dynamics can predict how your ecosystem will respond when you act on those forecasts. For example, you might study price elasticity in a given market and then decide to change your product mix or implement special discounts. With System Dynamics, you can then model the impact of your strategies on your customer and competitor ecosystem to understand how they will react and how soon the value of your changes will degrade. You can anticipate how your decision will affect others, so you can be ready to change course before they do.

     


    Big Data can also populate System Dynamics models with live values, creating new operational decision-making tools so you can regularly evaluate changing market conditions and their impact on your decisions. With XMILE, you can integrate these Big Data Simulations into your IT infrastructure and identify component libraries, allowing you to re-use the pieces and combine them into new solutions with greater scope and complexity.


    Join us for this webinar as Bob Eberlein explores this symbiotic relationship between Big Data and System Dynamics.

     .

    This webinar is the fourth in the Big Data, System Dynamics, and XMILE webinar series jointly sponsored by IBM, isee systems, and the OASIS XMILE Technical Committee. The series showcases exemplar applications of System Dynamics in the areas of environment, business, health care, and public policy and discuss new opportunities that will be available as the XMILE standard is adopted.

    .
    Space is limited for this FREE event, so register today.

     

  9. The Art of Demotivation

    Following my last blog post on “The Importance of Play in Work,” a friend, as if on cue, sent me “The Art of Demotivation,” by E. L. Kersten, as a Christmas gift.  The gift arrived a few days late, in an unmarked envelope with a return address I did not recognize.  The book itself comes with two jackets, with an inner one to mask the nature of the book you are reading from your co-workers.   The outer jacket looks like this, and the first lines of the book read;

    ” This book is written for executives.  If you are not an executive, not intend to become an executive, or have no hope of becoming an executive, DO NOT READ THIS BOOK.  Early feedback from focus groups comprised of typical business book readers have repeatedly evidenced that non-executives find its contents confusing, controversial, and on occasion, offensive.”

    The rest of the book continues to parody demotivation as an executive tool for controlling employees.  It describes the Noble Employee Myth, that all employees enjoy human relationships and want to succeed personally and as a group, as a fantasy and instead labels employees as intrinsically lazy, self-serving, error-prone, immature, and exploitive.  As I read this book, I kept wondering “who the FCUK sent me this thing?”  At first I didn’t get the parody.  It is extremely dry, written in a scientific management style of prose.  Its shocking when you read it.  If, like me, you have worked in the USA for more than 30 years you have certainly experienced demotivational behaviours from management.  But this book proffers to make these offensive behaviours intentional, part of a strategy to make workers content with less.

    I didn’t understand it was a satire until I visited the website of the author’s company, Despair Inc.  The black humor would be very funny if the stories weren’t so realistic.  Watch a few of the videos and you’ll see what I mean.  This is a fantastic book I recommend to everyone.

    But here’s the question of the day: “What is the impact of demotivational behaviour on your Data Governance program?”  I’ll bet it easily overcomes the best frameworks, councils, maturity models, and processes.  Please check out the book, the website, and let me know what you think.

    Happy New Year!

     

  10. The Importance of Play

    his holiday season, I want to share with you a fantastic, inspirational Ted Talk video from my friend Dr. John Cohn on the Importance of Play at work.


    Enjoy

    Happy Holidays

ChatClick here to chat!+