Category: New York City

Visualizing CitiBike Share Station Data

CitiBike Share launched yesterday. I finally got my fob activated, but since its raining, I haven't had a chance to take the bikes out for a spin, so I decided to take their data for a spin instead.

Jer RT'd Chris Shiflett's link to the CitiBike Share JSON data:


asking for a "decent visualization" within half an hour:

So I fired up R and after a couple of minutes of JSON-munging, threw together this graph plotting the # of available bikes per station against the total number of docks of that station:


Not surprisingly, there's a positive correlation with the number of docks a station has and the number of bikes available for that station.

But some of the outliers represent stations that are popular and have fewer bikes available, places where CitiBike Share might consider adding capacity. For example, East 33rd street and 1st avenue had 60 total docks, but 0 available bikes.

In contrast, stations like Park Place & Church Street (middle of the graph) lie on the identity line and represent stations with close (or exactly) 100% available bikes for their docks. They may be examples of over-provisioned stations.

I also colored the name of the station based on its latitude to give for a very rough proxy for how "downtown" the station was. This glosses over the fact that Brooklyn has a downtown which is distinct from what people normally consider NYC's downtown, but is interesting to note that some uptown stations (lighter blue) appear to cluster towards the right of the graph indicating uptown stations have been granted more total docks overall. More space in midtown I guess.

I'm not proud of the R code I used to hack this together, but I spent about 10 minutes on it:

CrowdFlower NYU Event

I did a panel on Crowdsourcing at SXSW this spring with Lukas, the CEO of CrowdFlower. Even if you made it to that, you should definitely know about this great event at NYU on April 13th:

CrowdFlower and NYU present: NYC Crowdsourcing Meetup
Join CrowdFlower for its first ever New York City meetup co-hosted with NYU

Wednesday, April 13
6:30-9pm
44 West 4th Street, room M3-110

Pizza, beer, and thought provoking conversation about the future of work.
Come listen, ask, and debate how crowdsourcing is changing everything from philanthropy and urban planing to creative design and enterprise solutions.

Confirmed Speakers:

Bartek Ringwelski, CEO and Co-Founder of SkillSlate
Panos Ipeirotis, Associate Professor at Stern School of Business, NYU
Lukas Biewald, CEO and Co-Founder of CrowdFlower
Amanda Michel, Director of Distributed Reporting at ProPublica
Trebor Scholz, Associate Professor in Media & Culture at The New School University
Todd Carter, CEO and Co-Founder of Tagasauris

See you there!

Google Now Selling Virtual Ads on Real Real Estate

Last year I posted on Google modifying representations of reality (Streetview) and hypothesized about the potential problems. Now we have a potential real world test case as Google might be selling advertisements inside Google Maps:

This patent, which was originally filed on July 7, 2008, describes a new system for promoting ads in online mapping applications. In this patent, Google describes how it plans to identify buildings, posters, signs and billboards in these images and give advertisers the ability to replace these images with more up-to-date ads. In addition, Google also seems to plan an advertising auction for unclaimed properties.

Read more at RWW.

DeCSS and (My) Radicalization

Philosophy Club Poster

I made this poster for a meeting of the Philosophy Club at Wilton High School. Admittedly, my definition of "philosophy" was pretty loose and this poster's point was pretty incoherent (apologies to MLK), but I had found myself talking about the 2600 DeCSS case Universal v. Reimerdes so much with my friends, that I figured it might be good to found a club where we could keep similar conversations going. Since our school didn't have a debate club at the time (there were rumors about an ill-fated trip involving a school bus sinking in the Norwalk River), we didn't really have any other venues to do this besides study hall.

Luckily, my father happened to be a working philosophy of science professor and had enough spare time to help us get the club off the ground. I think I organized the first session and ranted about the DeCSS case, but we later moved onto more academic subjects and discussions. The club was a high point in what was mostly a difficult period in my life and school. I think I still have some photos that we intended to submit to the yearbook and if those turn up I'll try and post them. Unfortunately the club never survived after our class's graduation as we were unable to find a faculty adviser or enough student interest. I would later use the skills I developed to launch Free Culture @ NYU, so I suppose I was on the right track.

The polemical writings of Emannuel Goldstein, editor in chief of 2600 and the main defendant in the case, about the magazine's choice to publish DeCSS had galvanized me. Goldstein articulated that the issues at hand in the suit were really ones of freedom, source code, and speech, not piracy and profits. As an early adopter of Linux (Slackware 3.3 anyone?) as well as a kid who loved movies and was incredibly excited about the potential of DVDs, the practicalities of the case were quite clear to me: why shouldn't I be able to run whatever software I wanted to play my own DVDs? Who says I can't read *that* source code? Jon Johansen, the teenager hacker who cracked the DVD encryption scheme, CSS (not to be confused with the other CSS), played the role of sympathetic hacker who I, not incidentally, looked up to.

Free speech on the internet, heck, freedom itself, appeared to be at stake, threatened by a very bad part of a very new law that sounded like it was bought and paid for by the exact interests suing our magazine.

During the case's 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals trial in May of 2001, I wore a t-shirt featuring the censored source code while sitting in the audience. The Wall Street Journal interviewed me that day and it wasn't until last year that I discovered my quote actually made it into the article in the paper:

Looking back, I now realize my interest and involvement in this case marks my early foray into the world of radical online free speech activism and copyright reform. I knew the 2600 case was important (clearly, I spent a disproportionate amount of time thinking about it, debating it, and following it closely), but I did not estimate how much these issues would continue to shape and influence my life and career. I've now been involved in this community for almost a decade, and it's only beginning to get really interesting.

Obviously, I was not alone. This case and these issues not only radicalized a generation of free software developers and enthusiasts, but also trained them with a set of skills necessary to successfully navigate these issues in the future.

My friend and now colleague at NYU, Gabriella Coleman has written an article about our story called "Code is Speech: Legal Tinkering, Expertise, and Protest among Free and Open Source Software Developers"  published in the academic journal Cultural Anthropology. Biella's paper is one of the best overviews of the conditions that precipitated the birth of a generation of internet and free speech activists. Biella concludes by arguing this type of political activism and legal autodidacticism represents a new kind of engagement with democracy, which of course, I completely agree with and am proud to be part of.

Download the PDF of her paper here, or look for it in your copy of Cultural Anthropology.

RiP: A Remix Manifesto Screening with Me & Aram

This Sunday UnionDocs is hosting one of the first screenings in NYC of the new Girl Talk documentary RiP: A Remix Manifesto. I'll be part of the discussion afterward with my friend Aram Sinnreich.

Email bodega@uniondocs.org for reservations.
7:30pm, May 3rd 2009
322 Union Ave in Williamsburg.
L train to Lorimer / G to Metropolian / J,M,Z to Hewes.
Suggestion Donation: $5
Reservations will only be held until 6:55 pm.

Here's the trailer:

I hope to see you there!

What would have Twitter looked like on 9/11?

I spent the first week of college living through September 11th in and around New York City and have since endured recurring plane crash nightmares.

Which is why I was relieved to find out after the fact that today's close call with Air Force One and two F-16s was a photo-op rather than another generation-defining tragedy.

Reading the New York Times' extensive coverage of the episode on their blog had me wondering about how the event unfolded on everyone's-favorite-real-time-reporting-source: Twitter. What was the first tweet that observed the fly by? Was it panicked? How many people retweeted it? What would have Twitter looked like on 9/11?

We'll never know, but I've done a bit of searching for terms related to today's news ("nyc plane")* and have discovered one of the first tweets at around 10:30am (around the time of the first flyover) by n8s8e asking JetSetCD whether Obama was supposed to be in NYC:

Shortly after, @The_Pace asks a similar question, and then @hugoyles mentions that Goldman's trading floor was evacuated. Then @ChicagoSooner reports that CNBC had confirmed the sightings. @Rithesh asked if there was a plane crash in lower NYC, and then @grapejamboy breaks the news that the Pentagon confirmed the flights as a photo-op. From then on, most tweets cover the story properly.

It's clear that Twitter beat traditional news outlets today in relaying that something was happening with a plane over NYC's downtown skies. However, as @Rithesh's tweet demonstrates, there is potential that misinformation gets disseminated (there was no crash) as well, so the system is not noise proof.

There's also a limit to what can be gleaned from Twitter search at any given moment, and a very real chance that all the signal will itself become noise. As commentators smarter than I have observed, this makes Twitter a fantastic "raw material" in a journalist's process, but not a final product itself.

But really, what's the difference between leaving a search open in Tweetdeck and leaving CNN on in the background?

UPDATE: Zander points out this great piece in the Nieman Journalism lab breaking down the Twitter accounts of today in much better and greater detail than I did.

*This search is not scientific at all and is probably leaving out earlier sightings. I tried searching for "plane" but Twitter's search is frustratingly limited to narrowing queries by day as opposed to hour and minute (which would be ideal here) and will only deliver a max of 1500 results for any term. There are obvious security reasons for this, but it presents a fantastic example of how Twitter can capitalize on search: I'm  willing to shell out a couple of dollars for access to do more sophisticated searching.

Things I've Been Caught Up With

Apologies for neglecting this blog for a bit. I'm have got lots of drafts saved so some more posts are on their way.

I wanted to announce that in conjunction with my day-to-day job as Outreach Manager at Creative Commons, I'm now working at Eyebeam (a digital arts space in Chelsea) a day or two a week as a research associate with Michael Mandiberg and Patrick Davison. Michael and Patrick and I are developing a project called "One for the Commons" for Eyebeam's Open Culture group which will help contemporary and notable (notable as defined by Wikipedia's hive mind) artists release their work into the commons. We've done a lot of work to prepare the project, but there's still a bit more to do before the site launches; you should see something here about it soon.

I've also joined the board of Rhizome, which is an digital art organization at the New Museum. This is a great honor and I'm looking forward to helping them grow. You can help Rhizome now by purchasing space on their $50,000 homepage; an homage to the original Million Dollar Homepage. Also check out my 35 Million Pixel Animated gif from 2006.

Aside from that, I've been Creative Commons stuff has taken up most of my other time. It's been great, we've seen a lot of interesting and fantastic things happen in 2009, and there is lots more to do. In case you don't follow my twitter/facebook feed, I was recently on RTE Radio 1 in Ireland talking with Dave Fanning about the future of the music industry, and today I'll be on a panel at Cardozo talking about why Network Neutrality is important for Creative Commons.

Also, I posted a trance mix I made in high school and got a funny (positive) reaction on facebook about it. Download DJ_Mecredis_-_Bad_Old_Trance.mp3 or listen here: