Pathways

Open data win in NYC; in France, the right to disconnect; Pentagon eyes artificial intelligence; and more.


  • “It’s the most open and honest response I have received from any New York City agency to date,” writes I Quant NY’s Ben Wellington, of the NYPD’s response to his data analysis showing that they had regularly ticketed legal parking spots across the city to the tune of $1.7 million a year. “THIS is what the future of government could look like one day. THIS is what Open Data is all about,” Wellington writes, optimistically (might be harder to see it that way if you drive a car in the city and have received one of these erroneous tickets). “Imagine a city where all agencies embrace this sort of analysis instead of deflect and hide from it.”

    “Democracies provide pathways for government to learn from their citizens,” Wellington continues. “Open data makes those pathways so much more powerful. In this case, the NYPD acknowledged the mistake, is retraining its officers and is putting in monitoring to limit this type of erroneous ticketing from happening in the future. In doing so, they have shown that they are ready and willing to work with the people of the city. And what better gift can we get from Open Data than that.”

  • Un-civic technology: Writing for The Verge, Colin Lecher has the story of the family that decided to fight back against the system in which a 15-minute phone call in prison can cost more than $17 dollars, putting an excessive burden on the families of the incarcerated and sometimes ending communication altogether.

  • Brave new world: John Markoff reports for the New York Times on the Pentagon’s “aggressive turn” to artificial intelligence. Best to quote verbatim here:

    “In recent weeks, Deputy Defense Secretary Robert O. Work has repeatedly emphasized the importance of A.I.-related technologies that he believes will help create a new class of “Iron Man”-style fighters armed with increasingly smart weapons.

    He has invoked the concept of “Centaur Warfighting”—systems that combine A.I. with the capabilities of humans, resulting in faster responses than humans alone could achieve…The Defense Department will need Silicon Valley’s help with that technology.”

    But, Markoff reports, Silicon Valley technologists are wary of partnering with the military.

  • Marc Caputo reports for Capital New York on the Clinton-Sanders proxy fight taking place in Florida between Democratic National Committee chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz and her challenger, the progressive Tim Canova, who will have pulled in $1 million in donations by this weekend, mostly from small-dollar donors who also have supported Bernie Sanders. A sign that the excitement around Sanders won’t all be for naught?

  • The Observer’s Jillian Jorgensen profiles Manhattan Borough President (and Civic Hall member) Gale Brewer, writing that her passion for preserving city records once included an effort to save VHS and Betamax tapes of city meetings.

  • Vator.tv’s Steven Loeb lists six initiatives that Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf has implemented to bring greater “#Tequity” to the city.

  • The French President Francois Hollande is about to pass a law giving employees at medium and larger-sized companies a “right to disconnect,” Hugh Schofield reports for the BBC, in which there are specific evening and weekend hours (generally) during which emailing is a no-no.

  • In a New York Times op-ed, Texan Richard Parker explains why Uber and Lyft lost so badly in a recent Austin referendum. It has something to do with keeping a place weird. Not everyone—or even every community or city—wants to be ‘disrupted.’

  • Life in Facebookistan: “The New York Times, among others, recently began an initiative to broadcast live video,” writes the Times’ Farhad Manjoo. “Why do you suppose that might be? Yup, the F word.” He joins a loud chorus of internet voices to say that Facebook is really influential, really media, and really edited, citing Data & Society research analyst Robyn Caplan, who says, “Algorithms equal editors…With Facebook, humans are never not involved. Humans are in every step of the process—in terms of what we’re clicking on, who’s shifting the algorithms behind the scenes, what kind of user testing is being done, and the initial training data provided by humans.”

  • Danny Yadron writes for the Guardian that Facebook isn’t likely to be the last technology company accused of media bias in its news products, pointing out that Apple, Twitter, Snapchat, and Google have hired former journalists to shape what is and isn’t a top news item.

  • Google will stop giving ad space to payday lenders in July, Shane Ferro reports for the Huffington Post. Google defines payday loans as those with repayment due within 60 days of issuing the loan or loans with an APR of 36 percent or more.

  • Apply: The theme of Digital Methods Summer School this year is “Only Connect? A Critical Appraisal of Connecting Practices in the Age of Social Media.” It runs from June 27 – July 8 at the University of Amsterdam. Applications due May 24.

  • Pitch: Submit an app, product, or feature to share with the Netroots Nation this summer as part of the Great Netroots New Tools Shootout. Applications close May 23.