Regulating with Data

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At this year’s Personal Democracy Forum, the theme was “the tech we need“.

One of the areas I’ve been focused on here is the need for “regulatory tech”.  In other words, tools & services to help broker the individual / government & corporation / regulator relationship.

In a nutshell: we are entering the information age, and as such our fundamental models for accomplishing our goals are changing.  In the case of regulation, that means a shift from the industrial, permission-based model to the internet-native, accountability based model.  This is an issue I’ve written about many many times before.

In order for this transition to happen, we need some new foundational technologies: specifically, tools and services that broker the data sharing relationship between government and the private sector.  These can be vertical services (such as Airmap for drones), or horizontal tools (such as Enigma).

You can see the video of the talk (10min) here:

And the slides are here:

The timing is apropos because here in New York State, the senate & assembly just passed a bill banning advertising for short-term apartment rentals.  This is a very very coarse approach, that declines to regulate using an accountability-based model rather than a permission-based model.  Now of course, this particular issue has been fraught for a long time, including claims that Airbnb manipulated the data it shared with NYS regulators.  But that situation is in fact a perfect example of the need for better tools & techniques for brokering a data-based regulatory relationship.

Cable boxes, ridesharing and the right to be represented by a bot

Here are two tech policy issues that don’t seem related but are: the FCC’s current push to open up the set-top-box, and the lawsuits challenging Uber’s and Lyft’s classification of drivers as independent contractors rather than employees. The way to see the connection is through the lens of control vs. competition.  More specifically, they are… Read more »

Crypto debate: separating Security from Control

For the past few weeks, I’ve been following the FBI / Apple phone unlocking case, and digging deep into the debate around encryption, security and privacy. This debate is as old as the sun, and the exact same arguments we’re going through now were fought through 20 years ago during the first crypto wars and… Read more »

The Freedom to Innovate and the Freedom to Investigate

Earlier this week, I was at SXSW for CTA‘s annual Innovation Policy Day. My session, on Labor and the Gig/Sharing Economy, was a lively discussion including Sarah Leberstein from the National Employment Law Project, Michael Hayes from CTA’s policy group (which reps companies from their membership including Uber and Handy), and Arun Sundararajan from NYU, who… Read more »

Internet meets world: rules go boom

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Since 2006, I’ve been writing here about cities, the internet, and the ongoing collision between the two. Along the way, I’ve also loved using Tumblr to clip quotes off the web, building on the idea of “the slow hunch” (the title of this blog) and the “open commonplace book” as a tool for tracking the… Read more »

Big innovation and small innovation

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Yesterday at one of our bi-monthly team deep dives at USV, we got into the conversation of essentially “Big Innovation” vs. “Small Innovation”.  Those who have followed USV for some time know that at the core of the investment thesis is a belief in “decentralized”, “bottom-up” innovation — the kind that really became possible with… Read more »

Beam should have a hardware API

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We’ve got a few Beam telepresence robots at USV, and use them all the time.  Fred has written about them here.  We had a team meeting today, and we had two beams going at once — Fred and I were the first to arrive, and we were chatting beam-to-beam — he in LAUtah, me in Boston,… Read more »

Learning to skate

For the past few winters, I’ve been teaching my kids to ice skate.  Above is my son Theo at hockey practice a few weeks ago. At a certain point along the way, I got the bug and realized that skating was awesome and hockey was a beautiful sport.  So for the past year or so,… Read more »

Zero-rating: putting Net Neutrality to the test

It’s been an intense 10 months since the FCC approved its latest Open Internet rules (aka Net Neutrality). On the wired side, we’ve seen the unbundling of content, as channels such as HBO (via HBO Now) and ESPN (via Sling TV) have split from cable to go “over-the-top” with direct-to consumer offerings.  These are a direct result of the… Read more »

Hello, 2016

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Breaking the ice — been off the blogs for quite a while now. Looking forward to this year, the way I tend to every year.  2015 was a tough one for me personally — went through a bunch of shit on the family front that both demonstrated how tough life can be and also how… Read more »

As Massachusetts ponders ride-sharing regs, where’s the data?

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Today, hearings begin at the Massachusetts state house over how to regulate the budding ride-sharing / on-demand transportation industry (Uber, Lyft, et al). Adam Vaccaro over at Boston.com has a good summary of the various competing bills — a pro-Uber bill that welcomes new Transportation Network Companies (TNCs) with relatively light-touch regulation, and a pro-taxi… Read more »

Supporting workers in the gig economy

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If there’s one thing I’ve learned throughout my years as a human, it’s that life is hard and people need help in order to make things work. That help can come in many forms: family, friends, co-workers, teachers, unions, healthcare providers, agents, assistants, coaches, therapists, strangers on the internet, you name it.  Point is, we… Read more »

Pain x Resistance = Suffering (the case for throughput)

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For the past nine months or so, I’ve been seeing a therapist specializing in mindfulness. Perhaps the best decision I’ve ever made. One of the things we spend a lot of time talking about is resistance – everyone has their own quirks and issues, and that’s one of mine.  The tendency to hit the brakes when… Read more »

Brutal honesty delivered kindly

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On my way to SF this week, I stopped over in Boulder, visited Techstars and then had dinner with Brad Feld, where got to talking about the dynamics inside and around venture firms.  He has obviously been doing this for a long time, and for me, less of a long time (3-1/2 yrs at this point)…. Read more »

The Blockchain as verified public timestamps

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Two weeks ago at USV’s annual CEO Summit, Muneeb Ali from OneName explained the blockchain in a way I hadn’t heard before, and which I thought was really helpful: the blockchain is time. That’s a somewhat abstract way of saying it, so more concretely we could say that: The blockchain is database of verified public timestamps. Every… Read more »

The more things change…

Here’s a slide from 2009, when we were convincing transit agencies to open up their data, and then later building MTA BusTIme:   And here’s one from yesterday, from a talk I gave at the Shift Conference (blog post to follow w more on that):    

Regulation, the Internet way

Today at USV, we are hosting our 4th semiannual Trust, Safety and Security Summit.  Brittany, who manages the USV portfolio network, runs about 60 events per year — each one a peer-driven, peer-learning experience, like a mini-unconference on topics like engineering, people, design, etc. The USV network is really incredible and the summits are a big… Read more »

Where do web standards come from?

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I’ve spent the better part of the last six years thinking about where web standards come from.  Before joining USV, I was at the (now retired) urban tech incubator OpenPlans, where, among other things, we worked to further “open” technology solutions, including open data formats and web protocols. The two biggest standards we worked on were GTFS,… Read more »