Monthly Archives: November 2019

That feeling when your first user opens an issue

You know how new businesses frame the first dollar they earn?

I wrote an R package that interfaces with the SurveyMonkey API. I worked hard on it, on and off the clock, and it has a few subtle features of which I’m quite proud. It’s paying off, as my colleagues at TNTP have been using it to fetch and analyze their survey results.

The company and I open-sourced the project, deciding that if we have already invested the work, others might as well benefit. And maybe some indirect benefits will accrue to the company as a result. I made the package repository public, advertised it in a few places, then waited. Like a new store opening its doors and waiting for that first customer.

They showed up on Friday! With the project’s first GitHub star and a bug report that was good enough for me to quickly patch the problem. Others may have already been quietly using the package, but this was the first confirmed proof of use. It’s a great feeling as an open-source developer wondering, “I built it: will they come?”

Consider this blog post to be me framing that dollar.

Kids, cash, and understanding money

Last night my family dined out at Seva, a stalwart of Ann Arbor’s plant-based restaurant scene. The big kids nibbled quesadillas, I enjoyed the “Veracruz” tostada, and the baby toddler gobbled everything including the crayons. It was a nice treat on a Sunday night. The kids noticed that they were the only children in this upscale restaurant.

I paid in cash. Normally I’d use a credit card, but I’ve grown more concerned about Capital One skimming a several-percent cut of each transaction from local businesses. And I had exact change so we could make a speedier getaway, always good with kids.

The big kids were shocked to see the cash I plunked down (there were a lot of ones, so the fat stack caught their eyes). “How much money did you put in there??” They started counting it. “Wow that is so much money!” The 8-year-old gets $2/week as allowance and it would take her over half a year to pay for this meal.

Correct, kids: it was an expensive dinner. That’s part of why it’s a treat to dine out. We’re lucky we can afford it. But if I had charged it, they wouldn’t have realized this or asked questions.

I didn’t expect to spark a conversation by paying cash. It’s conventional wisdom that paying cash makes cost more salient to a purchasing adult, but I’d not seen it apply so clearly to kids too, who are still learning about money. I realized how my paying by credit card abstracts the cost of goods and services to children. Airplane tickets are expensive, but do my kids know that?

This may be a phenomenon of affluence, to have the luxury of charging everything and having kids blissfully unaware of cost. But for those lucky enough to be in that situation, perhaps paying in cash – especially for things the kids consume – will help them appreciate the value of money and be grateful for their good fortune.

Strava traffic on William St. Bikeway

The William St. Bikeway officially opened last weekend, though it is not yet finished and is in fact entirely closed in segments as construction is finished.  Here I am with my boy at the grand opening:

Sam and son biking on the new bikeway
A street that safely accommodates my four-year-old

I realized I should grab a “before” shot of the Strava cycling heatmap so I can eventually compare it to “after.” [the hardest part of data analysis is collecting the right data].  I took this November 1st, 2019, though a week ago would have been better:

heatmap showing cycling traffic on the Strava app

In it we see that William is less popular for East/West travel than either Liberty or Washington. This might have been due to its more peripheral location at the south edge of downtown, confusing lane changes, and higher traffic speeds.  The latter two are mitigated by the protected bike lane.

Will we see traffic spike? The biggest increase in ridership will likely be in the non-Strava-using crowd, i.e., regular people.  And that will be my explanation if this heatmap looks the same a year from now.  I’m not sure if those cycling for sport will find the protected lane more appealing.  The data service Strava Metro would allow for better analysis of this question, including  looking at those rides tagged as “commutes”, but I don’t have access to that data.

Incidentally, I’m curious about the “advisory bike lane” unprotected segment between First and Fourth.  With winter approaching, I don’t expect that segment to be painted anytime soon.  An informational poster on William St. describes how it will work and it doesn’t sound like anything I have seen around Ann Arbor.