Why we won’t be allowed to drive cars one day

I love driving on big, empty, curving roads. I love racing (on a track).  But commuting? I’d rather have a computer do that for me.

For one, it’s safer. Look at how this [expletive] driver turned right in front of oncoming traffic. It would have been a very bad collision if it weren’t for Tesla Autopilot’s microsecond reaction time which saved everyone.

As self-driving cars continue to demonstrate their superior safety capabilities, don’t be surprised one day if, like Elon Musk said, we won’t be allowed to drive our own cars.

I know I certainly would be in favor of taking away the offending driver’s privilege to drive, that’s for sure!


iWatch will be to watches what iPhone was to phones

Remember what you had before iPhone came along? That’s what’s going to happen to your wristwatch.

When should you give up?

That’s a trick question

Mele Kalikimaka!

Wishing you a very, merry Christmas! I wanted to expand on the Christmas card we enclosed with our gift to you and thought it would also be a good way to demonstrate use of QR codes and/or short links. Mahalo for playing with us on this experiment!

The True Meaning of Christmas

The art of the cover of the card is a modern interpretation of an ancient Greek Orthodox icon of the Nativity Scene and I specifically chose it for two reasons: first, because I am a Greek Orthodox Christian and second, because for me, it brings the essence of Christmas back to its roots.

For many, the Christmas season is a busy time, whether its for shopping, selling, closing out the year, final exams, or just trying to get enough work done in advance in order to enjoy the holiday break.  That card we sent and this page is intended to remind us all of what Christmas is really all about.

Christmas, simply, is celebrating the birth of Christ, whom is seen as a savior to many. Regardless of one’s specific faith, the influence of Jesus Christ on our world has been perhaps more significant than any person in the known history of mankind.  I remember years ago when I was on the steps of the Acropolis in Athens hearing the tour guide describe the transition between the pagan gods of Zeus and Athena to Jesus.  She summarized it beautifully:  “These were the key temples used to pray until Jesus, the God of Love, came”.

The birth of Christ represents the birth of a new philosophy, one that is based on love, forgiveness, and the complete giving of oneself for the betterment of others.  And whether you are Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist,or Atheist, there is much to be gained and little to be lost by embracing this philosophy wholeheartedly, if only for 12 days.

I deeply appreciate your friendship, kinship, and support.  Have a Merry, Merry Christmas and may its true meaning warm your heart throughout the year.




Platform First: Engineering a robust government web ecosystem

Hawaii’s tech community is getting a rare, unprecedented opportunity to make a big impact on how the City and County of Honolulu delivers services over the Web and related technologies.

On Saturday, Dec 3, you’ll want to attend City Camp Honolulu, “an unconference focused on innovation for municipal governments and community organizations.”

According to the site,

CityCamp Honolulu is just the first step in an effort to explore and document ideas, lessons learned, best practices and patterns that can be implemented within the City & County of Honolulu and shared across municipalities. Our primary focus is the use of social/participatory media, mobile devices, linked open data and leveraging the Web as a platform for transparency, Open Government and civic engagement.

A Golden Opportunity to Get it Done Right

As the tech community, we should take maximum advantage of this situation for everyone’s benefit.  We have a choice at this conference whether to get myopically focused on small, useful applications or whether we can leverage the momentum of this event to set in place a lasting legacy of exceptional engineering.  I say we go for the latter.

Build API platforms first, then websites atop those platforms

Do we want to build a few cool apps, or do we want to create a platform and a policy  which will give developers API access to all published Web data?  What kind of potential innovation will we unleash if any time the city creates a website, developers know that they can access the site’s underlying data through standardized data access and format standards? If every city website was powered by a public, documented API that was available to all, the mashup permutations would be near-infinite and the potential for ground-breaking innovation quite real.

Riffing on Dave Kozuki’s seed idea to “Break through the bureaucracy. Pass an ordinance to require city departments to provide data through APIs.”  and his corresponding blog post on the idea. I would propose something along the following lines:

All city public websites are built in two parts.  First, the data powering the website is exposed via standard protocols.  Second, the website is built exclusively using the API,  meaning that the city’s website does not directly access the data any other way except via the documented, public api that any other developer can use.

This is an important distinction and vital to building a innovative city data architecture.  You can’t build the website first and then decide to “get to building the API” later for many obvious (to geeks, anyway) reasons.  For one, if the API is an afterthought, it simply won’t get done.  Second, if the website doesn’t go through the API to get its data, it will be nearly impossible to synchronize website changes with API changes.   Third, the website accessing the API serves as a “killer app” and “reference application” (ideally making all source code publicly available) to guide developers on best practices in accessing data. Finally,  if we want to build a true platform for city data, you must require that all city websites use the platform and only the platform.

I recognize there will be difficulties in implementing this policy for existing legacy sites but I think we we can build in sufficient flexibility so that those sites don’t have to be refactored until a modification is made or a certain somewhat distant date is reached. The real key is to get expose all data via an API from this point forward.

The politics needed to get this done

Sorry Geeks, we’re going to have to exercise some lightweight politics here. We need to be prepared and pre-determined to make CityCampHNL work for us.  If you support the idea of an ordinance that puts the “Plaform First” requirement into place, i.e. law, here’s a partial list of what we’ll need to do to get the ball rolling:

  1. Organize ourselves before the meeting so that sufficient numbers speak with a unified voice.
  2. Be clear on the outcome we would like to see.
  3. Garner a significant support from the local tech industry.
  4. Identify the folks inside the City and County that support this concept and make sure we support them. The good news here is from what I’ve gathered so far, there is good support for this. That’s an incredibly important and positive element.
  5. At the event, first gain consensus on the general concept of “Platform First” and then collaborate with the participants to identify the proper standards and protocols we should follow. It’s critically important that we do a good job of both (a) identifying technically robust standards and (b) maintain and inclusive and collaborative atmosphere to accommodate genuine concerns that are raised.
  6. Before the event closes (and by “closes” we mean when key city officials are about to walk out the door), we get:
  1.  A general commitment to the overall approach
  2. A firm commitment on what the next step will be
  3. When that next step will be taken, and
  4. The planning required to execute it. We aren’t going to achieve the whole thing in one day, not by a long shot, but we need to be incredibly clear on what the next step will be in the process.
  • Identify a small group of local tech leaders who will follow up on this process, inform the community as to its progress, and see it to its natural, successful completion.

It really does come down to job creation

Hawaii has a great combination of entrepreneurial spirit and innovative developers. If we could access all public (i.e. on the web) city data, we would be gaining access to a massive collection of raw materials on which to build and deliver value to everyone. And where there is value creation, there is wealth creation. And where there is wealth creation, there is job creation. This might sound cheesy but if we can tie job creation as a genuine potential outcome of creating a “Platform First”, it will give this effort a very good base of support to carry it through the byzantine path from concept to reality.

Where to go from here

First, register for the conference.  You at least will get a t-shirt and lunch which is worth more than that $25 event fee.

Next, connect with the community and make your voice heard.  Burt Lum has put together the following resources:

Please follow us on twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/citycamphnl
Like us on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/CityCampHNL
Idea central: http://citycamphnl.uservoice.com/forums/133940-ideas-for-city-camp-honolulu
Join us on TechHui: http://www.techhui.com/group/citycamphnl
Google Group: https://groups.google.com/forum/#!forum/citycamphnl
Finally, get prepared for action and participation.   We’ve got a good “shot at the title” here to create some long-lasting change. Let’s do it!

Special thanks goes to Dave Kozuki for doing a better job in posting the API idea to citycamp than I did,  Burt Lum and Daniel Leuck for encouraging and supporting the API idea, and Ryan Ozawa for supporting the Citycamp concept overall .

Calling All Honolulu Geeks

The Honolulu tech community is going to have a fantastic opportunity on December 3rd to participate in conference that is designed to shape the future of the city’s online services. I’m going and I hope you will too.

Honolulu citizens creating solutions for open government

CityCamp Honolulu (CCHNL) is an unconference focused on innovation for municipal governments and community organizations. It is a collaborative effort to re-imagine the way the web, applications, technology and participation will shape the future of Honolulu.

In an unconference format the session topics are participant driven. Over the next few months leading up to CCHNL we will solicit suggestions from the community. As an unconference, content for CCHNL is not programmed for a passive audience. Instead, content is created by participants and sessions are coordinated by facilitators. Participants are expected to play active roles in sessions. It’s peer-to-peer interaction. This provides an excellent format for creative, open exchange geared toward action.

CityCamp Honolulu is sponsored by the City & County of Honolulu and has four main goals:

  1. Bring together local government officials, municipal employees, experts, programmers, designers, citizens and journalists to share perspectives and insights about the cities in which we live
  2. Create and maintain patterns for using the Web to facilitate local government transparency and effective local governance
  3. Foster communities of practice and advocacy on the role of the Web, mobile communication, online information, and open data in cities
  4. Create outcomes that participants will act upon after the event is over

CityCamp Honolulu is just the first step in an effort to explore and document ideas, lessons learned, best practices and patterns that can be implemented within the City & County of Honolulu and shared across municipalities. Our primary focus is the use of social/participatory media, mobile devices, linked open data and leveraging the Web as a platform for transparency, Open Government and civic engagement.

Contact us or learn how to sponsor CityCamp Honolulu.

Steve Jobs: his memory will be eternal

Steve Jobs was more than just a a tech industry visionary and genius. Historians will see him in the same genre as the Henry Fords and Nelson Rockefellers. Let’s just think about what Apple-channeling-Steve brought to our world: from a strictly product perspective: Apple ][, Mac, iPod, iPhone, iPad, and iTunes. From a cultural perspective, he brought us the personal computer, the mp3 music player for the rest of us, the smartphone for the rest of us, the tablet for the rest of us, legitimized digital music and movie downloads, and he essentially led the entertainment and telecom industry into the 21st century. I count myself fortunate to have been at the right place at the right time to have not only witnessed this history, but to have played an active role in it, starting my tech career with assembly language programming the hardware in the Apple ][.

The nearest possible relevant comparison is Bill Gates. Even though Gates is a giant in the industry, he doesn’t even begin to compare to what Steve brought to our world.

When one passes on, the Orthodox Christians say, “May his memory be eternal”. Regardless of your belief system, the memory and legendary “Reality Distortion Field” of Steve Jobs will eternal as the man that represents more than any other our entrance into the 21st century.

Aloha, Steve Jobs