I am writing today to let our readers know that I will be taking a hiatus from writing at Ocean County Politics. Some readers have expressed concern about why I have stopped writing, so to address any potential speculation or questions from the public, in this post I will lay out the reasons that have led me to this decision.
When I began writing back in the winter of 2016, I grounded this site in several principles to ensure the integrity and quality of my work. Namely, I pledged to myself that I would not accept advertisements from the political campaigns I covered in order to ensure the integrity and independence of my work. Secondly, I also pledged that I would always publish my best work – or not at all. I have held true to these ideals in my 3 years of writing here.
Because of my current commitments, I no longer have the time to consistently produce content up to my standards on a regular basis, so I have voluntarily decided to take a step back until I have the time to write again.
Politics has long been a passion of mine and I’ve always enjoyed following new developments. I am thankful for all of the people I have met in the course of dedicating my life to covering the stories we have told here, even my critics and public officials that balked at public scrutiny. Many of my readers have become trusted friends and supporters. Your support and thoughtful discussions have made all of this possible.
I began down my current path in late 2017 when I launched the OPRAmachine statewide freedom of information platform. The site has been growing faster than I could have anticipated, processing over 5200 requests for public records and hosting gigabytes of documents provided by government agencies on our servers.
We now have a large constituency of users on that platform, which started out just covering Ocean County. Now it is a statewide platform that is actively used in all 21 counties throughout the state and has become the driving force behind OPRA compliance and many government transparency initiatives. Our users include individual citizens, academia, journalists, real estate agents and property management professionals, nonprofits, private investigators and even public officials. This is also the only site that is dedicated to automatically tracking how government agencies comply with the OPRA law in New Jersey.
In just under two years of running OPRAmachine, I have seen firsthand how civic technology can positively impact democracy and public participation. It is for this reason that my work now centers on building out these platforms, as it has had a far greater impact across the state compared to what I have written here.
I have spoken with numerous media outlets that have profiled me for this work, and you can read some of their articles on my personal website here.
The demand for our resources has only continued to increase, and it has required me to invest a substantial amount of time in maintaining the server infrastructure and software that has made this all possible, as well as fending off legal issues, providing support to our end users and planning future upgrades to ensure that we can scale with user demand.
Most recently, I gave a presentation to some students at Ocean County College, who as a part of an assignment I developed, used the platform to send OPRA requests to municipalities throughout Ocean County – including Toms River, Jackson, Beachwood and others – to study the state of the opiate crisis. We will be building on this research in an upcoming web application that I am coding, there will be more to come on that soon.
Last year, in 2018, I launched another interactive web service, OC Radio Live. That service is monitoring and recording nearly every public safety radio channel in Ocean County using a distributed network of software defined radio (SDR) receivers and cloud infrastructure. It includes time-shifting capabilities beyond those offered by any commercial police scanner on the market today. I had the pleasure of presenting this project at the DEF CON computer security & technology conference in Las Vegas, NV over the summer. This, too has required significant time commitments.
I am also working on public policy research and consulting projects for my clients in the legal and insurance industries. Unfortunately, my current research is proprietary and for a private client, so beyond that I am not at liberty to discuss its substance.
Because of everything I am currently working on, I am already over-committed. To prevent my work from suffering by being stretched thin, I had to make the decision to end on a high note and take a step back from writing day-to-day as I realign my priorities.
This should not be read to indicate that I am out of the political arena, intimidated, or giving up by any means. I’m just getting started. To that end, I’ll have some exciting announcements to share in the future as I build upon my work to use technology to empower citizens and shine a light on the activities of government.
During my hiatus, I will also continue to accept letters to the editor and proposals for op-eds from the community for publication here on Ocean County Politics. I still may occasionally write long-form editorials and pieces, but not on a regular schedule. Please email us or use the contact form to be considered.