Open Street Map is having a moment

Joe Morrison:

Well, anytime the wealthiest institutions in history are quietly collaborating on something, I think it’s worth noting. I’m not sure there is a precedent for such a collaboration — if you know of a case where otherwise embittered mega-corporations worked with a global community of volunteers on a public dataset…let me know. I’d love to learn about it.

The question on my mind is how idiosyncratic this situation really is. Does OSM represent a model for strategic corporate sponsorship of public goods moving forward? Or is it tragically inimitable?

For instance: I work for a company called Azavea that, among many noble efforts, maintains Cicero. It’s a database of elected officials and legislative districts in several countries around the world that gets updated daily. You can imagine that this should be a public good — like, doesn’t the government already have this information? Turns out…nah. Cicero requires ceaseless, grueling work to keep updated, and that means serious investment of time and money.

One of the key differences between Cicero and OSM is a community of contributors. Community is what makes OSM special. Without it, the project is “default dead,” as they say in Silicon Valley. Much like elected official information, map data goes stale fairly quickly and therefore requires constant life support.

Why the data wobbles

Erin Kissane:

We compile and publish COVID-19 data organized by the date on which it’s reported, rather than by date of specimen collection, data of symptom onset, date of death, etc. To see how holiday delays affect this data, we can look at the way weekends and holidays have caused predictable dips and rises in the numbers we compile every day from US states and territories.

If you’ve been following the data we report, you’ll probably be familiar with the day-of-week effects that make many state-reported COVID-19 metrics so jagged on the charts. On Wednesday through Saturday, we tend to see peak reporting for tests, cases, and deaths. Sunday and Monday, on the other hand, are usually very low in comparison. (This is the main reason we use—and advocate for the use of—seven-day averages for most COVID-19 metrics.) 

The reasons for these effects are many, and extend from test administration all the way through to the process of getting the data onto an official website. On weekends, fewer doctors’ offices and other testing sites are open, so fewer people get tested, which means that fewer tests make it to labs. The reporting systems, too, are affected: Fewer results are reported to health departments, and fewer health department staff are at their desks to turn those results into the data points we eventually see under tests and cases. 

Facebook’s Latest Error Shakes Advertisers’ Confidence

Alexandra Bruell and Sahil Patel:

Facebook Inc. is offering millions of dollars in credits to some advertisers after discovering a glitch in a tool that tells advertisers how effective their ads may be in driving results, such as getting consumers to download an app or purchase a product.

Facebook’s “conversion lift” tool overestimated some campaign results for 12 months, the company quietly told its advertisers this month. The glitch skewed data that advertisers use to decide how much money to spend with the company.

It isn’t the first problem Facebook has discovered in its systems to measure advertisers’ campaigns, and it is not likely to dent Facebook’s ad revenue. But some ad buyers said the latest gaffe has hurt confidence in the company’s metrics at a time when many businesses are navigating the pandemic by trying to cut costs and make sure their ad spending performs.

Thankful; 2020

Another Thanksgiving, near the end of a fascinating year. Yet, it is wonderful to reflect on my endless blessings.

I’m thankful for:

The Lord and Christ, our savior.

My wonderful, patient wife.

Two fascinating, beautiful daughters.

Remarkable, healthy and resilient parents/in laws.

Family, siblings & relatives.


Our time of plenty. Food is widely available.


People willing to serve others.

Tremendous business partners and friends over the years.

Bill, my decades long mentor


Local and long distance friends.

The internet.



Interesting technical skills worldwide.





The seasons.




Story Telling.




UW Arboretum.




Motivated Educators.



Streamed church services around the world



Business Model Innovators.

The ability to publish around gatekeepers.

The Seasons.

People who try something new.

People who say yes.

People who return calls.

Entrepreneurs in Evergreen.

The retired couple on the west coast.

Friends in Vancouver.

The Honolulu entrepreneur.

The Stanford doc.

Foodie friends.

Mad literary club

The book club.

School activists.

Creative investors.

Internet Gadflys



Dave Winer

Interesting blogs.


Trees vs forest

Appropriate and timely use of the “boiling frog” fable.

Tulsi Gabbard’s advocacy.

The lost mysteries of Thanksgiving by Larry Kummer.

President Lincoln’s Thanksgiving message.

AMA is a tax exempt hedge fund and licensing entity

Ben hunt:

In 2018, the American Medical Association made $158.6 million in 100% gross margin revenues by licensing its name and logo and membership lists to everyone from its own insurance brokerage subsidiary – the AMA Insurance Agency – to every pharma co or medical device co or whatever co that was willing to pay for that stamp of approval and halo of authority.

That’s how the AMA makes its money. Not so much by selling TO you – the doctors of America – with membership dues and overpriced PPE and merch, but by selling YOU – the doctors of America – to anyone who wants to buy your name and your reputation.

The Best Writing Against, For, and On Substack

Applied Divinity Studies:

Many good points have been made on both sides, I’m compiling this writing here. If you’re aware of other examples, please send them over.

Against Substack

Packy McCormick (#11 Free): Personal Email

their product velocity is dog shit… don’t do anything for discovery… it crashes all the time… It absolutely blows my mind that they’ve raised as much as they have and have improved the product as little as they have.

Gwern: Comment on Reddit

One additional aspect of this is that Substack, technically, [is] just not very good. When I moved over, I ran immediately into multiple problems: the tracking links are so long that my newsletters get cut off, subscripts/superscripts just don’t work, etc. (Other problems have come up: AlwaysKillSticky is broken on Substack because they do really abominable things with comments, and we never did figure out why a Substack page is constantly firing off requests to the server.) I don’t aspire to make my newsletters as awesome as my website, but I expected Substack to at least be as decent as your raw dumped-HTML Mailchimp newsletter.

The Scholar’s Stage: Why I am Bearish on Substack

This is a recipe for intellectual sterility. A media ecosystem composed of the New York Times, a few other large newspapers, and a swarm of hungry Substackerati will starve itself out. The big Substack names will continue to rake in subscriptions, of course, but what will they have to talk about? Only the same old ideas they had been playing with for decades.

“We do these things not because they are easy, but because we thought they were going to be easy”


Now, all this is nice, but how do you fit this into your own app? The answer, unfortunately, is that it’s still being worked out. But given that it will probably be in the same language as your application, it makes sense to keep everything in the same repo. It still requires a separate tool to run (Pulumi), but you can think of this like just another tool in the toolchain. If that is the case, other than using the same language for building my app and the cloud infrastructure that it uses, what’s the point? If I have to use a separate tool just for this, then it’s not all that different than using Terraform, for example. This is where the Pulumi automation api comes into place.

I remember a client strongly advocating for “self describing xml” years ago.

Our Political Class; 2020

Robin Abcarian:

But it’s Kinney’s role as a lobbyist that sounds alarms. For people in his job, it’s important to show the world you’ve got the governor’s ear. Doing so can help bring in business from companies eager — or desperate — to get the governor’s attention.

Thanks to Politico we know, for example, that Kinney’s lobbying firm represents several small amusement park operators who have been pushing the governor to let them reopen their rides. (They were allowed to briefly reopen before COVID-19 cases spiked and the restrictions were reinstated.) His firm’s biggest client is Marathon Petroleum, which, according to Politico, “is a member of a powerful oil industry organization that battled proposals to ban hydraulic fracturing.” In September, Newsom made what some think was a halfhearted call to ban fracking in the state.

“The buzz this weekend among lobbyists,” wrote Politico, “was how Kinney couldn’t have asked for better advertising of his close ties to Newsom.”

So, for anyone keeping score, a governor violating pandemic restrictions to attend a birthday dinner for a lobbyist may be a terrible look for the governor, but it’s a brilliant business move by the lobbyist. Was Newsom played? I guess it depends on who squealed to the Chronicle about the party.

Patrick McGreevy:

California lawmakers who flew to a conference in Maui amid the pandemic broke their silence over the controversy Wednesday, defending the trip by calling it safe despite officials in their home state advising people not to travel during the current surge in COVID-19 cases.

The travel by more than half a dozen state lawmakers has drawn sharp criticism back in California, where observers say it sends the wrong message for legislators to leave the state and gather at a resort when COVID-19 cases are surging, leading to tougher restrictions on the movement of average residents.

The annual conference hosted by the San Diego-based Independent Voter Project has also been blasted by watchdog groups because corporate and labor interests that lobby the Legislature pick up many of the lawmakers’ tabs for a chance to schmooze with them out of the public eye.

“In normal times it is an abuse of office to have oil, utility and other big companies that lobby in the Capitol paying for an Hawaiian getaway replete with golf, hula show and mai tais,” said Jamie Court, president of the group Consumer Watchdog. “In COVID times, it is an abomination that legislators would break quarantine to play in the sun at a four-star resort.”

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