Required Reading

At OpenPlans, we’ve hired two new Project/Product managers within the last month. I couldn’t be happier with the hires, and they are already doing great work.  Jeff Maki is handling our work with public transit agencies (like the OpenTripPlanner and our shiny new real-time bus tracking project with MTA, building on the fabulous OneBusAway package).… Continue reading

Tumbling on

Most of the action is happening on my Tumblog these days.  For some reason I can’t stop posting there, and I can’t start here… Continue reading

Elevator pitches, weddings and babies

At OpenPlans, we’re busy signing up new clients for our products & services, and we’re also spending a lot of time fundraising (from individual donors, foundations, etc.).  As such, I’ve been thinking about how we pitch our organization, and have recently spent some time over the past few days reading some of the great stuff… Continue reading

Missed Connections

In her bathroom, a friend of mine has some really beautiful illustrations of posts from the Craigslist Missed Connections section.  If you’ve never looked at missed connections, you should — there are some really wonderful notes in there (also some sketchy ones).  Here’s a beautiful one from today: 7 train glances on monday – w4m… Continue reading

Wanted: Aggregated Group Playlist

I love music, but I am really bad about keeping up with new stuff.  My iTunes library is only so-so, so I spend most of my time listening to playlists on 8tracks.  This is good for variety, and great for finding the right background music for a BBQ or party, but there’s something missing: my… Continue reading

Unplugging (sort of)

This week, we’re on vacation in Cape Cod with my wife’s family.  They’ve been renting the same tiny cabin by the beach for the past 35 years, and coming here is pretty much the highlight of our summer each year.  Last summer, we brought Theo here when he was just three weeks old.  This morning,… Continue reading

The optimism of the traveler

This morning, I drove from Boston to Cape Cod, alone with my thoughts except for Theo sleeping in the back seat.  Once we were out of the city and smoothly on the highway, I got to thinking about work, and things really started clicking.  I found myself reaching for my iPhone to record voice memos… Continue reading


I’ve been thinking a lot about fitness lately, mostly spurred on by the great stuff coming out of Clay Johnson’s new blog, InfoVegan. Clay has been drawing a parallel between physical obesity and information obesity, and has been diving deep on what it means to have a “healthy information diet.”  It’s inspiring stuff, and definitely… Continue reading


I spend a fair amount of time thinking about LifeHacking.  Getting my inbox filters just right so I can get to “inbox double-zero,” syncing my iPhone and my Google Calendar, setting up ssh keys in all the right places, etc. But something I’m still not that good at is “LifePruning,” that is, the continual process… Continue reading

Talking transit tech @ the MTAdev conf

Next Wednesday, I’ll be on a panel at the MTA Developers Unconference.  I’m very much looking forward to the event, because among other things, one of my fellow panelists will be the new MTA Chief, Jay Walder.  Here, I’ll give an overview of what I’m hoping to discuss on the panel; any feedback would  be… Continue reading

Introducing OpenPlans, and the evolution of a brand

After many moons of plotting and scheming, yesterday we announced our organizational rebranding: The organization formerly known as The Open Planning Project (or TOPP) is now OpenPlans.  I am excited, and I think this is a welcome development. For years, there has been mass confusion (chaos! pandemonium!) around our name.  Our emails were, our… Continue reading

Interview on the Engadget Show is live

A few months ago, I did a short interview for the Engadget Show on the state of real-time bus information here in NYC.  The interview was for a video segment which led into a live interview with the reporter I worked with, Rick Karr.  The whole episode is now available online.  Before our section is… Continue reading

Say hello to Civic Works

Thank you so much to everyone who helped us think through our re-name of TOPP Labs yesterday.  Your feedback and insights were absolutely invaluable to our process. After a long night and day of deliberations, we’ve settled on our new name. Drumroll please… (and this is obviously unnecessary since it’s in the title of the… Continue reading

TOPP Labs needs a new name

For the past year or so, the group at TOPP that I manage has been known as TOPP Labs.  TOPP Labs was originally chosen not because it was the best or most compelling name, but because as we were dialing back work on the OpenCore project, we needed a name that was better than “The… Continue reading

Phone Idol: an experiment in web-enabled telephony

At work recently, we’ve been exploring the idea of integrating voice and/or SMS into our applications.  Much of what we do has to do with people responding to their physical environments — their neighborhoods and the streets and public spaces that constitute the bulk of our public experience. So, I decided to take on a… Continue reading

Making cities easier to use

I always have a hard time explaining what we do at The Open Planning Project.  The front page of our website reads: “TOPP is a catalyst.  We empower civil society through software, media, and smart urban policy.”  While this makes sense if you think about it for a while, when I first say it to… Continue reading

Knowing the tone of the room

One of the toughest things I’ve encountered, as I attend meetings, speak on panels, do interviews, and go to conferences, is that you never quite know what the tone of the room will be like until you get there.  In other words, there are always a ton of different approaches you can take to a… Continue reading

Optional scope contracts

For an upcoming project at TOPP, we’re talking about setting up an optional scope contract [PDF] — where we specify the time, cost and quality, but leave the actual scope of work open.  This approach has many advantages, which I’ll just quote from Beck & Cleal’s document: Customers can change their minds Suppliers aren’t encouraged… Continue reading

jPlayer sprites SVG

For a little side project, I’m using jPlayer, a nice jQuery-based audio player.   I wanted to skin the buttons a to suit my project, and while jPlayer does support jQuery ThemeRoller skins, I liked the basic look and feel of the standard jPlayer controls.  So, I just traced the default sprites in Illustrator in… Continue reading