All about Rolling Stone magazine

About a year ago I started reading Rolling Stone magazine. It’s true what Taibbi says, it’s definitely not People or EW magazine. Yes it does have good ‘cultural’ coverage about music and art and so on, but the writing is good and interesting and very often has nothing to do with music. All the uproar about the Tsarnaev cover (I haven’t received the issue yet but I almost feel like I have) is so over the top.

I mean get over it people, it’s just a magazine cover. Anyway, Mike Taibbi below has a far more reasoned reaction to the outrage than mine, and it’s a good article.

Matt Taibbi Explains the Dzhokhar Tsarnaev Cover | Matt Taibbi | Rolling Stone:

It’s impossible to become too self-righteous in the defense of something like a magazine when the bottom line of this story is, has been, and always will be that people were cruelly murdered or mutilated through Tsarnaev’s horrible act. That truth supercedes all others and always will.  So this is a defense of Rolling Stone that I’m not shouting at the top of my voice. What happens to the magazine and its reputation is really of little consequence in the grand scheme of things. But I do think this has mainly been a misunderstanding, one that hopefully will be cleared up in time.


Carrots vs. Sticks in affecting behavior

Instead of charging extra (‘congestion pricing’) to drive your car during rush hour, how about giving me a reward (a lottery ticket) for driving using less congested routes? That’s a clever idea that is being tested by a Stanford professor:

“[…]So this spring, with a $3 million research grant from the federal Department of Transportation, Stanford deployed a new system designed by Dr. Prabhakar’s group. Called Capri, for Congestion and Parking Relief Incentives, it allows people driving to the notoriously traffic-clogged campus to enter a daily lottery, with a chance to win up to an extra $50 in their paycheck, just by shifting their commute to off-peak times. The program has proved so popular that it is to be expanded soon to also cover parking.[…]” (from The New York Times)

This is a really cool idea! I wonder if we can try it here in the city of Boston!

But what would it actually mean? In my experience, cars flow through openings and alternate routes in perfect proportion to the time it takes and the convenience it has. There are no ‘secret routes” to avoid traffic, because enough people know them that the ‘invisible hand’ guides just enough people to each option so as to make everyone arrive more or less at the same time.

That means I think that the reward has to be for taking routes that are clearly inferior. Perhaps if I am trying to get from the BackBay to the FInancial District, I might take Storrow drive, or go directly through the city streets. I am guessing that during rush hour those two obvious routes are equally congested. But if I instead got on the Mass Pike and took that to the Leather district, that might be rewarded. 

So a cool idea, but I wonder what actual traffic experts would say about it!

Ruby and Rails job boards in Boston

I get asked from time to time to recommend ruby, rails, and other developers in the Boston area, either for full time or part time gigs. I’m developing a list of good local job resources – started so far with the help of pal Brian D:

The Boston node of OSDV

I’ve been working quite a bit on the Open Source Digital Voting foundation project over the last 9 months or so. It’s really weird but I’ve turned myself into a mini-expert on how elections are organized and run here in the USA. It’s fascinating and way complicated.

OSDV is a non-profit organization dedicated to developing a suite of election (as in Democracy) hardware and software.

The umbrella name for that project is TrustTheVote: an open source project, which will work closely with election officials around the country to learn requirements and then develop software which in turn will be offered free of charge to those who want to deploy it. So we won’t be selling the technology, but we will be evangelizing it like crazy. Think Apache or Drupal.

Here are some links to satisfy your curiosity:

We are getting closer and closer to being properly funded with some major contributions so it is time for me to start finding people who might want to join the team. This being an open source project, the idea is of course that any interested person can look and work on the code.

But we also plan to hire 3 developers in the Boston area. Right now it looks like a good part of our code will be Ruby and Ruby on Rails. But that may change; it certainly will be broadened. Really more than anything I would ask if you consider yourself a really good software developer, who loves to design, write, debug and deploy code. And then secondly I would ask if working on a project that is mega ambitious and/but that has a chance to really have an impact on our society – whether that excites you.

Please contact me directly if you want to learn more or throw your virtual hat into the virtual ring.

Upcoming Web Innovators Group meeting

Just found out that the WebInno group is back in session after a summer hiatus. This is one of the best open meetings for techies and entrepreneurs to meet and talk and see each other’s stuff. Here’s the official blurb:

“The Web Innovators Group (WebInno) is comprised of people engaged in internet and mobile innovation in the Boston area. We aim to support entrepreneurs, visionaries, and creative thinkers in the field by holding events which foster community interaction.

Our regular meetings provide a forum for entrepreneurs from self-funded/early-stage startups to present new services to their peers, as well as an opportunity for everyone in the community to share and exchange ideas.

WebInno was founded and is currently led by David Beisel of Venrock.”

I am going! I suggest you may want to go too.

Click here to register. It’s free!

“What’s next in tech” event in Boston in June

If you live in the Boston area and somehow connected to technology professions you should be interested in this meeting being put on in June:

What’s Next In Tech – Where will the next waves of growth will come from?

Date: Thursday, June 25th
Time: 6:00 PM – 8:30 PM (ET)
Where: Boston University, School of Management, 595 Commonwealth Ave, Boston, 02215
Price: $40

(If you are a student interested in attending this event and would like financial assistance, scholarships are available through

Take a look at the program, Scott Kirsner of the Boston Globe has lined up an impressive slate of speakers, both successful entrepreneurs as well as folks from the VC community. There will be discussion about mobile software, videogames, robotics, social media, cleantech, cloud computing, all potential major growth areas for us in New England.

I’ve been very deeply involved lately in what you might broadly call government transparency. Specifically my work is in next generation voting (as in democracy) technology. With what’s going on in the economy, and what seems to be the commitment from the current president, I suspect that too will be a growth area. Yes, a lot of the work going on now is non-profit/foundation driven but I say it’s a growth business, just like enterprise software was a few years ago. I hope there’s discussion of that too at this cool event.

If you are a Boston area entrepreneur, techie, student with a big idea, or all of the above, you should definitely come to this event.