PogoData is Changing, May Shut Down

Motivations

Relevance is one of the strongest behavioral motivators, even exceeding those on the Maslow Hierarchy of Needs. First and foremost, relevance is what motivated ten years of work we put into PogoData. Hidden relevance is a better term because we have had very little feedback despite thousands of users. In January 2024 the site received 21,223 visits from 15,198 unique users yet the only feedback was redaction requests. Those numbers are nothing compared to large, high-traffic sites, but not bad for small, niche-interest, retirement (almost 25 years) hobby site. It is gratifying to know a lot of people are using the site despite not knowing who they are or what they are doing. That's relevance to us.

Right behind relevance, the opportunity to learn new technologies provided much of the motivation for the work. There were many but a few stand out: GIS - graphical information systems; databases and the SQL language; the Python language and its wealth of libraries; JavaScript, PHP, and HTML programming languages; website design, management, and security; data sources for jurisdictions, property, hazards, and environmental features; and much more. PogoData provided endless opportunities for learning.

Where there have been some successes like 21,000+ hits a month, there have also been some disappointments. One of them is not getting to know more users. More important, though, is that we never got traction by data custodians to use our extensive data analysis to improve the quality of their data - ModIV assessment data, SR1A sales data, parcel boundaries, and more.

Costs

The site had several costs, tops among them was the development time. As the site was evolving the project was like a full-time job, often exceeding a normal work day. Polishing the design, adding new features and datasets, fixing bugs, improving performance and security, developing site management tools, became an all-consuming obsession, interfering with family and social activities, household needs and even travel. As the site converged to its present form the time commitment diminished to aperiodic updates of new property data and a little development work on new features. But even those updates took a significant amount of time, especially with unexpected changes in the incoming data format.

There were financial costs as well - the cloud server hosting the site, domain-name registrations for the site names, and development server operating costs. The site is our hobby, not a business. It has no revenue - no advertising, no usage fees, and never asked for donations - but we were happy to cover the operating costs considering it a small investment for a hobby that produced a lot of satisfaction.

The Suit

On Friday, 23 Jan 2024, that all changed. We were served with a suit alleging failure to comply with Daniel's Law, which protects the privacy of people in law enforcement and criminal justice. Nothing could be further from the truth. Since its beginning, long before Daniel's Law, PogoData has honored all redaction requests from law enforcement, criminal justice, and mental healthcare with no explanation of the threat to their safety and only a minimal proof of employment.

A privacy company saw it differently. They allege we refused to comply with take-down request they have sent and that we continue to disclose the names of law-enforcement, et al. That is simply not true. First, we have never seen the requests they claim to have sent and second, all names of of law enforcement, et al., who have requested redaction at PogoData, have been redacted and remain redacted. We have neither the energy nor the resources to fight it, especially since it is only a retirement hobby. We certainly do not have the tolerance for stress it has already brought, and so we have to take drastic action. We have no way to know the identity of people in take-down notices we have not received (but which the privacy company claims to have sent). Our only course of action is to redact the name of everyone in our databases since that is, obviously, inclusive of law enforcement, et al. We hope the privacy company sees that as a show of good faith and an attempt to be responsive to the suit.

Cost / Benefit Trade-off

In any activity there is an ongoing balance between costs and benefits. Until the suit, that balance weighed heavily in favor of the benefits. The stress from the suit has become another cost that, when added to the others, now tips the balance the other way and so we're making a major change to PogoData and considering shutting it down.

As of today, 26 Feb 2024, all owners names in the assessment data and buyers and sellers names in sales data are changed to redacted-xx, where xx is a short identifier for internal use. The change applies to the Asmt and Sales tabs, the sidebar parcel display, and many tables in the Errors & Stats tab. We have not redacted the last names that appear in the word cloud, which is shown in the sidebar for jurisdiction as the word cloud does not link to addresses.

Does it Matter to You?

Please answer the following questions in the contact form below.

Depending on the response we will try to bring back the names. Or, we may shut it down completely. Ten years is a long time. It's been a good run. We've learned a lot, gave a couple of talks, made a few friends, probably a few enemies, but it might be time to move on something else, some software projects we've had on the back burner for a while, maybe something completely different.

The PogoData Team



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