Thursday, May 21, 2009

Police earning revenue from tickets write more when they need the money

I would guess that we in America have the least corrupt police forces in the world. I'll even bet that there is not much overt corruption when this situation happens. But when the incentives are there, there will be pressures (maybe even unconscious ones) that bring out an unjust situation. Heck, maybe this means of revenue is the least-bad of all the funding options for police. But let's not ever forget that bad things will happen whenever the incentive exists, no matter how good the institution.

Here is a summary with a news video. And here are some of the articles themselves: "Are Traffic Tickets Countercyclical?" (summary, with a PDF download link) and "Red Ink in the Rearview Mirror: Local Fiscal Conditions and the Issuance of Traffic Tickets" (PDF).

Use Cases for Genealogical Semantic Data

I'm involved with the Thomas Tolman Family Organization (focused on genealogy work and family histories), and there's a discussion going on in the FamilySearch developer network about the potential utility of semantic data along with the genealogical data. I wrote the following examples of ways this could be beneficial to us. (I'm including it in this blog because these ideas touch on future projects that would give extra meaning to people as they do family history research.)

  • The source and/or genealogist who submitted the data has an impact on how trustworthy the data is. This is especially important since FamilySearch contains competing data; there are many places where existing FamilySearch data is not correct for our family. Naturally, there are genealogy researchers whom I trust more so I would prefer to see their datasets. Also, we'll tend to trust that data which has the largest number of references (and some references are more trustworthy than others), so that may be a criteria for what data I want to search through. Even though we're not actively working on integrating with FamilySearch right now, it seems that this issue comes up every month in our executive meeting.
  • When doing genealogy research, the source locations and/or genealogists can be good information to correlate. After our president came back from a trip to Boston, he heard about a source site that he was near and could have visited, but he didn't know about it at the time; our genealogist spends time contacting people in America and Europe besides hours in libraries locally, and it would be nice for her to be able to see what other lines she could extend by asking a few more questions at the same source; we maintain old documents and we just learned of some old journals that were donated to a library because the person didn't know there was a family organization, and he is now making extra effort to either recover them for us or get us copies. These are cases where we would benefit from tools combing through the meta-data, much of which is now simply contained in notes. This could even be the beginning of another social network, where genealogists might find, collaborate, and even rank the dependability of other genealogists. :-)
  • This one may not apply directly to genealogical data: my interest is in the personal histories, and allowing people to find histories for their ancestors and search for (and tag?) the things that are meaningful to them. These free-form documents will benefit a lot from semantic tags, allowing people to find correlations with concurrent historical events, with other families, and maybe even with other living individuals with the same interests.