When The Broadway Diner Died, So Did Red Bank

In late July, the Red Bank Broadway Diner abruptly shut down; Growing up in Monmouth County, the spot was a rite of passage.

Elvis has left the building. The diner is out of business.

Bacon Cheeseburger. Medium Rare. And a Coca-Cola.

My usual. Every Friday and Saturday sometime after three in the morning for the last four years I lived in New Jersey at the Broadway Diner in Red Bank at the end of Rt. 35.

I moonlighted over the weekends as a bouncer at a bar a few miles up the road. Grew up in a neighborhood close by. And, during my tenure at that Diner’s counter, I made friends out of the waiters, waitresses, busboys and hostesses; threw out unwieldy customers, often for the reward of a free slice of coconut-custard pie; and learned every cranny of that greasy little spoon, including the wall-mounted jukeboxes at every table (which didn’t work).

Diners — especially those in New Jersey — are like that.

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#HackJersey: Reputational Risk Pitch

Politicians. Businesses. Banks. All are worried about their reputation.

It affects elections. It can determine stock prices. And it can create jobs — think about all those social media gigs created to hedge against disgruntled Twitter followers. 

That’s why so many are placing resources into sentiment analysis technology that promises to hedge against this type of risk. 

Technology giants such as IBM and SAS offer clients software packages that comb the Web for clues to consumer sentiment. Those programs parse language and attempt to understand the meaning of words, pairs of words or phrases, in context.

Luckily, rather than having to create a new methodology for this type of analysis, several Stanford students have published an API that takes care of the hard work for us. The software measures the positive and negative number of tweets containing specific keywords (for example, ‘BofA’, ‘SuperStorm’, or ‘Christie’).

The Guardian used the tool to analyze the sentiment around Rupert and James Murdoch in the wake of the British tabloid cell phone hacking scandal.

The Goal: 

Develop a site that has the ability to either track large publicly traded companies or elections using the aforementioned API.

At the same time, the visualization will also track stock price and company news, or polls to see if there is ever any correlation.

The Details: 

I’m open to how this news app might be designed, but I imagine it will have three main elements: some kind of score based on the number of positive and negative tweets; a graphic for each keyword, #hashtag or username; and a metric to measure a topic’s sentiment against, that could be polling results or stock prices or a map showing where the most negative and positive tweets are coming from.

Also, since the tool only counts current tweets, I’d recommend running the API at an interval (whether that’s several times an hour, a day or a week) to give viewers an idea of how sentiment around a topic has changed over time.

There are several different targets for this visualization. I’m open to concentrating on municipal government, polling results or publicly traded companies.

About HackJersey: 

On the weekend of Jan. 25, Hack Jersey will host the first hackathon in the state to invite journalists and coders to work together, competing to build innovative projects that can transform the way we use data and experience news in the Garden State.

The idea of a Jersey-based hackathon began with a conversation between Debbie Galant, director of the NJ News Commons at Montclair State University, and Tom Meagher, data editor at Digital First Media, at the Online News Association conference this September.  Since then, dozens of volunteers from news organizations, nonprofits and tech startups across the state have come onto our planning team. And Knight-Mozilla’s OpenNews initiative joined the NJ News Commons as a leading sponsor of our hack weekend.

Participants will meet at our launch party on Friday, Jan. 25 at Fitzgerald’s 1928 in Glen Ridge (RSVP here!). The next morning, through our primary sponsor, the NJ News Commons, our hackathon will begin at University Hall at Montclair State. Participants will break into teams and have 24 hours to create their open source projects. On Sunday afternoon, Jan. 27, a panel of media and tech judges will choose the winners and award prizes to the best projects.

To keep up with the latest news on our hack weekend, follow us on Twitter @hackjersey. You can find more information about preparing for the hackathon on our blog. Want to start brainstorming ideas for your projects? Check out our list of public data where you might want to start and be sure to read our rules for the competition.

Feel free to grab a hold of me over Twitter, Gmail or Linkedin. Or, better yet, just leave a comment below. 

Shovel Ready

From Inside Jersey magazine:

shovel head.JPG

Nestled among the binsof handlebars and boxes of motorcycle parts in Walter Gemeinhardt’s South Hackensack shop is his grease-streaked specialty: the shovelhead engine.

Harley-Davidson Motorcycle Co. has gone through several iterations of its signature motor, and the most infamous is the shovel, so named because of its shape, which holds a special place in Gemeinhardt’s heart.

The 45-year-old tattooed and bearded machinist — who spent decades touring with bands such as Alice in Chains and Bon Jovi as a drum tech — is the rare mechanic with especially large, fat-fingered yet deft hands.

The shovel’s reputation for leaking, breaking down and overheating is a result of poor maintenance, not a faulty design, says Gemeinhardt, owner of Kickstart Cycle Supply, which opened in 2006.


On Jersey Shore, Abandoned Boats Abound

As Sandy ravaged the Jersey Shore, the same swells that pulled boardwalks apart and sent sand from beaches blocks inland also lifted docked boats aground.

Several weeks later many remain, posing legal and logistical problems for owners.

Salavage fees, I’m told, can run into the tens of thousands of dollars — as much as half of what the ship originally cost. And opportunists may even have some legal rights to claim the wrecked vessels.

Here are some shots I took close to my father’s house in nearby Rumson and Atlantic Highlands over the holiday weekend:

Christie Tumbles, Tweets And… Eats

In the days leading up to his Keynote Address at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Chris Christie has launched his own Tumblr blog — complete with Instagram’d photos.

It’s Official! 

In the past, I’ve written posts about how Christie has used the bully pulpit to get his point across through Twitter. And I’ve blogged about how his supporters have demonstrated that he’s not all that bad of a guy over YouTube.

This latest social media venture, however, solidifies the New Jersey governor’s push to embrace social media.

From Philly.com (The Philadelphia Inquirer):

This is a classic move from the Christie communications braintrust. Before he delivered the State of the State speech this year, his office posted a video topromote it like a movie trailer. And to mark the 5 millionth view on his YouTube page, he posted a compilation of his most, well, memorable YouTube moments. The Tumblr, which includes behind-the-scenes pics, video of him practicing the speech and clippings from news accounts about the speech, is very much in the Christie mode of Political Communications 2.0.

Even the name of the Tumblr site, Words With Christie, is a play on the popular iPhone game Words With Friends.

Christie also has another undeniable presence on the blogging platform: Chris Christie Eats.


Chris Christie Apologizes?

From The Star-Ledger/NJ.com: 

OCEAN CITY — Instead of vitriol and venom today, Gov. Chris Christie’s interaction with a teary public school teacher ended with an apology.

Tia McLaughlin invoked the Republican governor’s frequent refrain that it’s “harder to hate up close” in telling him she felt betrayed by his treatment of teachers when he took office two and half years ago.

Maybe the governor is turning over a new leaf…