Wednesday, April 30, 2008


The Tipping Point & Napoli?

I haven't finished reading The Tipping Point yet but it has been a fascinating read so far. The part concerning crime on the New York underground is food for thought:

Back in the day, New York hired a new subway director named David Gunn who backed the Broken Windows way. "When you looked at the process of rebuilding the organization and morale, you had to win the battle against graffiti," Gunn said in an interview. "Without winning that battle, all the management reforms and physical changes just weren't going to happen." By preventing graffiti and cleaning subway cars after vandals struck, Gunn believed the city could also lessen subway muggings and undermine fare cheats. Transit Authority police chief William Bratton adopted a similar line of thinking. Rather than nailing felons first, Bratton urged coppers to pound fare cheats and public urinators. Such scoundrels were used to running amok underground. Under Bratton, however, they faced an arrest and jail time for minor crimes - a policy which often resulted in the cops finding guns on the criminals and nailing those with outstanding warrants.

I don't know if it really lowered the crime rates in New York but it certainly feels right. I also explains why people drop trash everywhere in Italy but hesitate before throwing a chewing gum on the road once they have crossed the border to Switzerland.

I wonder if the principle could be applied to Napoli. Instead of trying to beat crime “top down” by going after the mafia, why not start with the day to day stuff that makes people comfortable with breaking the law: many people driving on the same scooter without helmet, driving without seat belt and generally breaking every law there is… 

It just gets worse every day. The news today reported that doctors in Napoli have introduced a sign saying; pay 1 euro at the door. These are doctors that are paid by the public health system so the service is free (at least in the civilised parts of the country). 1 euro doesn't sound like much but the each doctor pull in tens of thousands of euros tax free a year and it hurts everyone, in particular the poor, old and sick.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008


Google App Engine

Got a great idea for a web site or web service but not the resources to host it? Why not try Google App Engine:

Google App Engine lets you run your web applications on Google's infrastructure. App Engine applications are easy to build, easy to maintain, and easy to scale as your traffic and data storage needs grow. With App Engine, there are no servers to maintain: You just upload your application, and it's ready to serve your users.

You can serve your app using a free domain name on the domain, or use Google Apps to serve it from your own domain. You can share your application with the world, or limit access to members of your organization.

App Engine costs nothing to get started. Sign up for a free account, and you can develop and publish your application for the world to see, at no charge and with no obligation. A free account can use up to 500MB of persistent storage and enough CPU and bandwidth for about 5 million page views a month.

During the preview release of Google App Engine, only free accounts are available. In the near future, you will be able to purchase additional computing resources.

I am not a big fan of Python as a language, but the service is too cool not to give it a try.

Thanks to Omar for the link.