Category: Travel

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:

FAIL Blog FAIL

Someone submitted my FREE BEER photo from Sapporo to the FAIL Blog:

Here is my original from Flickr:

Free Beer

There are a couple of things that are frustrating about this. For one, they didn't follow my CC license and attribute me and release the modified version under the same license. That's forgivable because I made the photo basically impossible to find via a text search (so this person could have found it through an intermediary) because I hadn't tagged it.

Whats more annoying is that the FAIL blog seems to have posted this because people think its an example of Engrish in Japan:

That’s my only theory, really. Poorly chosen Engrish name. Then again, I’m also curious as to what the orange text reads - I can’t quite make it out on my own.

Someone named "Stallman" seems to have attempted to correct all of the failures of communication towards the end of the thread:

To understand the concept, you should think of “free” as in “free speech,” not as in “free beer.”

But something tells me its not really RMS, as he doesn't use a browser, so I don't think he's submitting comments on FAIL blog.

This doesn't exactly inspire a lot of confidence in possibility of a future world in which "free" suddenly means "libre" and not "gratis."

Noneck, The Peoples Republic of China and Fair Use

My friend and fellow-NY-techer Noel "Noneck" Hidalgo was deported from China last week. He got rounded up as one of the people documenting the "Free Tibet" protests in Tienanmen square. Here's the video he shot:

What's interesting is that Facebook seems to be censoring Noneck's posts about his deportation -- his original status updates were deleted but the comments referencing them stayed. My friend Elizabeth observed that all of Noneck's Facebook status updates that referenced "deportation" have been changed to

a:6:{i:0;i:672053;i:1;i:672054;i:2;i:672056;
i:3;i:672057;i:4;i:672058;i:5;i:672059;}. 10:08am Co

Anyone familiar with what this could mean? At first I thought it was geo-coordinates, but that doesn't seem likely as they aren't recognizable longitude / latitude numbers. Update: Here's a screenshot:

Olympic Rings from Wikipedia

In other news, the IOC is now using copyright to assert ownership over their trademarked logo. They have sent a take-down notice to YouTube demanding that video of a demonstration in NYC be removed since it uses their logo. YouTube is in the habit of taking any videos down if there's a copyright claim, so it is not surprising they obliged the IOC. But what's not clear is why the IOC thinks they have a copyright claim over their logo. Usually the only infringement claims regarding logos are founded on trademark law, not copyright law.

Copyright is designed to restrict use of creative original works by granting a limited monopoly to the works creator. In the United States any work copyrighted prior to 1923 is in the public domain. Even if the Olympic ring logo was copyrighted at the time of its inception (1913), it would now have lapsed into the public domain, so the IOC wouldn't have a copyright claim to it.

Wikipedia seems to have come to a fairly schizophrenic conclusion about this. On the one hand, it states that the logo is in the public domain. But on the other hand, it says the use of the logo is restricted by the IOC's manual, which is a whopping 105 pages. Pages 20 and 27 have information about how the logo is used, but it's not totally clear to me what laws the IOC believes protects their copyright in a logo created prior to 1923. Wikipedia also states that the logo is an insignia and its use is restricted and is independent of any copyright claims. I've heard that the IOC will simply refuse to allow a country to bid in the city-selection-process if they feel that their rights are not being protected there.

If anything the logo is protected by trademark law, which is designed to give legal recourse to manufacturers and corporations against counterfeits and confusingly similar marks. Typically use of logos for journalistic purposes or even incidental use by anyone else, is not grounds for claims of trademark infringement. Thus, it makes little sense that a video could infringe on trademarks (so long as they weren't using an NBC logo in the logo in the corner, etc.).

My feeling is that the IOC likes to squash Tibet-related videos involving the IOC's logo. Their dubious DMCA take down notice is a clear example of a corporation using copyright to stifle free speech.

Anyway, I am not a lawyer, so this is shouldn't be construed as anything but a lay opinion.

Picchu in Sapporo

Originally it was supposed to be me and my friend Henrik heading out to dinner. Then it was me, him, and Henrik's girlfriend Maj. Great. But then when we finally met in the lobby it became 3 more people.

And I made my disclaimers. I did. I said I had no idea if this was going to work out, that people would just have to follow me. That it was Italian food. But I had to go. The review was too fanatical to miss -- this was the only concrete recommendation I found for Sapporo. People complained and hemmed and hawed and tried to avoid committing but I just said I had to go. And our party of 2 became a caravan of 6, following me out of the hotel.

I had had the prescience (perhaps from a previous trip to .jp) to attain directions from the hotel desk but was not exactly confident. Flashbacks of menu items featuring "live chicken liver w/ hearts" came to mind. One block down, 5 more before we had to turn left for another 5 blocks, but the Japanese don't really use street addresses, so what did it matter? I lost count but guessed that we had to go through the pedestrian mall.

When we finally ended up at the block it was as if we were in ex-urban Sapporo. No more street attractions or well lit alleys. Loud bars that smelled of the horrible cigarettes which everyone smokes in Japan.

I start frantically looking around; one of those "mini" blocks that cuts the block in half and suddenly multiplies the number of corners I have to worry about.

Henrik says "I usually don't see Fred this confident, so its OK." I ponder what happens when we can't find the place and we're 2 miles out from the hotel with no plan.

I turn the corner and its there. Picchu. Why would they have the 'h' if they have the double c? Anyway, its undoubtedly the place so we step in after cautiously asking if they're open. Who knows where the chef is.

When we get the wine menu it is surprisingly decent. I recognize the Chianti and the Barba D'alba and some other wines. They rank them in order of price; typically efficient Japan.

We order the D'Alba. Fine.

Then Juan-Carlos says he's from Italy, so he knows.

Somehow I dragged an Italian to eat the cuisine of his home country in some backwater Japanese restaurant in Sapporo.

So we get the first course. Seasonal spring pickles. Surprisingly good.

Then the second course of a pate on bread that no one can identify. I'm just happy that there are no vegetarians with us.

We are all impressed with the wine and the Europeans are more so -- the dollar is weak against the yen but the euro goes a long way. And that the dish we're having now is from Juan-Carlos' home town. Its a garlic paste with anchovies served with raw vegetables to dip.

After 10 minutes of hearing the sous-chef beat a whisk we're delivered "the best carbonara I've ever had" says our friend from Piedmont. The chef doesn't speak any Italian so we're totally spooked how he's pulling this off. But we keep eating. A little later we demand bread for scarpetti. And he spends 5 minutes grilling and toasting a dense mix between challah and focaccia to use to scoop up the rest of the fluffy carbonara sauce.

And the courses keep coming and we keep ordering more wine.

It was a spectacular evening and as we headed back to the karaoke and bars everyone who wasn't there was asking me "about this Italian place." I tried to explain to them that it was the Internet, that it was a lonely post on Chowhound that go us there, and nothing more. But somehow, despite this crowd, it doesn't register. And that's fine.

iSummit 2008

iCommons iSummit 2008 Panoramic

So I figured I'd do a little follow-up on my trip to Sapporo for the iSummit. As with most conferences the action was really in the hallway chats and impromptu meet-ups over dinner and FREE BEER, but there were some highlights in the sessions and  keynotes.

CCi legal day was very productive and had a lot of jurisdictional leads talking and sharing notes. . Prodromos Tsiavos' presentation about the participation cc-licenses list kind of blew me away, but that's mostly because I'm a license / list junkie. Giorgos Cheliotis' graphs about license adoption were sobering as well -- license "liberalizing" tends not to happen as much as we might think or hope, but there is a lot of data to parse (he doesn't, for example, look at individual users' choices to modify the licenses of their work over time) but he's on to something good and is really leading the way for commons based research. Later in the conference he announced plans for a "Commons Research" conference in 2009 and it sounded like space and funding had also been secured.

During the iSummit, individual tracks had varying degrees of cohesion. Aside from the keynotes, I was personally only able to attend the DIY Video Session and Open Business. The Video Session started off really great -- Mimi Ito (Joi's fantastic professorial sister) made a solid point that we shouldn't really confuse DIY Video with Open Video. The desire for definitions ran throughout most of the conference sessions, and the DIY Video track was no exception. But Mimi suggested that we mark a clear boundary between the idea of Open Video (or content for that matter) and DIY Video. Like Free Software, Open means something and implies an orthodoxy, something Mimi thought  might be in conflict with the style of the communities of practice she studies. That is, it is all fine and well to have a defintion of Open Video, but don't try to apply it directly to DIY Video, which generally involves people who only have basic understandings of the copyright issues implicated by their work. Trying to encourage Vidders or AMVers to use open licenses might be barking up the wrong tree.

Nevertheless, the open video definition evolved into something relatively obvious -- created by open tools, released in open formats online in such a way that the source material is reusable and meaningfully licensed for such future use. People seemed to be interested in encouraging video makers to release "b-roll" footage or stuff that ends up on the cutting room floor as much of it goes to waste sitting on hard drives. One of the best features about the Video session was that everyone there had 'skin in the game' as producers, directors and so on. This meant that they were able to speak well and cogently about the challenges they face.

Henrik Moltke & Jamie King

Later on Jamie King (Steal this Film I + II) and Henrik Moltke (Good Copy Bad Copy) went back and forth about the economics of releasing work for free and what an ethical ask is -- whether Radiohead / GirlTalk / NIN's approach for selling access to free work was reasonable. Henrik thinks if he made another film he'd be open to something along the lines of what Radiohead did, whereas King thought this was unethical.

What was interesting is that King felt that for the most part, putting any terms on the distribution of a work is unethical. Henrik later showed numbers of income for how GCBC did and the results were a little surprising. Most of his revenue came from traditional licensing deals with larger networks, and very little came from donations. It's been a long time coming, but I now feel that donations-based revenue streams are a very weak business model and free culture has a lot more potential looking elsewhere for innovative models.

One of the big issues we debated is the "novelty" or "scene" factor inherent to making these films. Even though STF and GCBC did well (though not outstandingly so) they depended on a particular community that had access to BitTorrent and the Pirate Bay. What happens when someone releases a Golf Documentary? Peer distribution and support for non-tech-niche video may be difficult for a long time.

Anyway, later on I visited the Open Business track which promptly broke into two groups. Jon and I were supposed to give a CC+ presentation but that somehow got taken off the docket. Our groups had to answer the question "What is Open Business?"

Almost totally independently both groups to came to the conclusion that the term is nothing more than a marketing ploy (see: Amex Open Business Card) in the vein of "green business." The overwhelming feeling was that business is business is business and that you cannot survive now without being a little open. Whether this means letting people share your content, access your API, or just understand your finances, openness has become a market constraint and it behooves consumers (users? citizens?) to put even more pressure on businesses to open up.

Here are some random observations that may or may not be interesting:

  • The conference hall was actually really nice and comfortable. If anything it was too much space, but I didn't get that "worn out" feeling that was happening a lot at previous conferences.
  • The green tea ceremony was awesome.
  • The t-shirt printers (C-Shirt) were awesome too.
  • Paul Keller's collecting Society keynote was fantastic.
  • Sapporo is ridiculously far away.

More photos are here.

Next I'll post a story about finding a wonderful Italian restaurant in Sapporo via Chow Hound.