Douglas Crets


Giving Credibility to the Shadow Education System

From Big Apple to Big Data: Making Data as Powerful as New York’s Physical Experience

Looking south from Top of the Rock, New York City

Image via Wikipedia

It should be no surprise that New York City, run by a mayor who made his billions on data and information media, is one of the fast-moving cities trying to open up all of their data centers to provide a firehose of information to developers and other cities in an effort to making living in dense urban centers easier and more enjoyable.


At the forefront of this push is the city’s Department of Information Technology Telecommunications, which is behind an effort to create NYC Big Apps, an attempt to make an open graph of data for anyone and any department in the city wishing to make applications that can improve people’s lives. The city is even interested in sharing its APIs and data with other cities, but that may be a little further down the road.

I talked briefly with Nicholas T. Sbordone, Director of External Affairs, New York City Department of Information Technology & Telecommunications, about the NYC Open Data initiative and other moves the city is making to make the city more open. He offered me three bullet points. I’ve also included a video of Rachel Stern, who is the city’s data protagonist, below.

According to Sbordone, the city is trying to achieve the following:

        Replacing the old NYC DataMine, NYC Open Data provides datasets in a variety of machine-readable formats and as application programming interfaces (APIs) for direct connectivity to data feeds; enhanced browsing and search capabilities allowing users to search by full dataset – or by datum within datasets; visualization tools such as maps, charts and graphs; and discussion forums for user feedback and suggestions.

Moving forward, regular refreshes of data sets will follow, and we’re in the process of adding a field to the metadata that will tell users how often that particular dataset will be updated.

In parallel, we’re working to help City agencies automate the publishing of their data – so instead of their having to send it over periodically we’ll be able to refresh it on NYC Open Data as soon as they update in their systems.

Here’s a video of Sterne talking about open data and the city’s “Roadmap for the Digital City” at O’Reilly Media’s Web 2.0 conference a couple of weeks ago:


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Amazon Delivers Amazon Locker Service to New York City

USPS service delivery truck in a residential a...

Image via Wikipedia

I received an email today that will save me from the horrible customer service delivered by my local post office station.  Amazon is launching its Amazon Locker Service in New York City.

All Amazon customers in New York City now have the Amazon locker service available to them.  and it’s free of charge.



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Prison More Expensive Than Attending Princeton for One Year

I stole this wonderful infographic from The Atlantic today, but you should read the whole article there, which says that it costs more per year to incarcerate a single African-American inmate in a New Jersey prison than it does for a single African-American student to attend Princeton during the same time frame.

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Groupon is a Cyborg, Now Watch the Groupon IPO Roadshow Video

The most  amazing thing about the Groupon IPO Roadshow Video is that Andrew Mason, CEO and Founder, refers to Groupon as a Cyborg.


Groupon is a hybrid of human and technology

One of the reasons Mason believes this is because in order for his company to provide up to nine months of backlogs of potential deals is that the “Deal Factory” putting all of the deals together has to do sometimes ten different levels of preparation and fact-checking. If they don’t, “something can go horrifically wrong and erode the business base,” says Mason.

The company also employs over 400 people just to write exciting content.

Three of the top executives are from Amazon. One is from Google, and another is from

Another selling point that I thought was a pretty good indicator of future direction: online allows you to achieve the massive density that you need to make local commerce attractive. Groupon built the technology that allows them to extract the data that makes the proposition even more lucrative over time. The more data they can extract, the moer deals they can launch, and the more they can market to consumers who might want that opportunity. Scaleable over time.

They are able to determine how consumers operate, think and behave down to the granularity of Manhattan versus other people in Brooklyn or Queens. According to Jeff Holden, SVP or Product Development (formerly at Amazon), they are able to tell you if a person is at X destination they are likely to go next to destination Y.  And they obviously can tell you what they are likely t0 purchase.

Go ahead and watch the video. It’s Mason’s chance to start talking after those few months when everyone was slamming his company and calling it a ponzi scheme.

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