Posts Tagged ‘driving


How to Report A Dangerous Driver

Traffic Safety Store

A review of five apps to report dangerous drivers over at the Traffic Safety Store blog:

“As motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians we all deal with them: The guy who pushes his way into a traffic lane without even glancing; the teenage girl who rolls through an intersection because she’s texting; the middle aged man who drives his sports car like he’s in a video game,” they write. “[Zapatag] may help you save yourself. Reckless driving tends to beget reckless driving by amping up the rage factor. Instead of getting angry, Zapatag lets road victims “get even” by publishing the offender’s license plate and violation on the inter-webs.”


Brand X on Road Rage

Michael Shen, who runs the L.A. Can’t Drive blog, wrote a piece for Brand X on sites like

Ranting on the internet is as common as ice in a freezer, but the possibility of diverting one’s anger away from the driver’s seat and toward the webisphere is an intriguing concept and one that could actually reap tangible results in the real world. Intuitively, this might make sense to a lot of people. But is there data to support it?

I concede that probably won’t make roads safer… but it still feels good to report bad drivers.


Almost to Beta

After some ups and downs, substantial progress has been made in Zapatag development. I can’t stop cringing at how ugly the site is, but as long as the code works, pretty can come later. If I hadn’t somehow broken the mapping feature yesterday, I’d be asking friends to start beta testing this week.

I think it’ll be another week, now, before other people can start poking around. And they will have to be people who won’t hold the clunky, PaintShop-esque design against me.

Some friends have forwarded me links to a couple of new license plate reporting services, which is always a “good news, bad news” thing: good because this is obviously an idea that people find compelling, bad because there’s a pretty good chance these other sites actually know what they’re doing. One looks more like a .NET database class project than a live site, but the other has a gorgeous “Web 2.0” look with a smooth, beveled blue look and ads already in rotation. Zapatag won’t have ads… but it won’t exactly be making money, either.



Twitter Logo

The simplicity of Twitter is part of what inspired the version of Zapatag that’s finally being built, so of course I wanted Zapatag to interact with Twitter in some way. If all goes as planned, you’ll be able to zap a tag via Twitter. Provided you’re following @zapatag on Twitter, and include your own Twitter username in your Zapatag user profile, you’ll be able to submit reports via Twitter (and therefore by SMS as well).

Just post a tweet beginning with “@zapatag” followed by a space, the two-letter state abbreviation, a colon, and the license plate number. Anything that follows the next space is the text of your zap. It sounds a bit more complicated than it is, but the format includes spaces and colons so Zapatag can parse the different parts of your Twitter post. For example, this tweet:

@zapatag HI:ABC123 Illegal left turn on Keeaumoku Street.

Will zap the Hawaii license plate ABC123 with “Illegal left turn on Keeaumoku Street.”

Of course, zapping tags by Twitter will mean you won’t be able to include every detail you can specify at the Zapatag site, such as car or driver descriptions, map points, or emoticons. But sometimes you’ll want to quickly post a Zap via Twitter’s mobile interface or via SMS, and this is a great way to do that. Please don’t zap tags while driving, however. You’re liable to get zapped yourself, or worse!

Eventually, I’d like you to be able to receive tweets posted in your area… but that requires more map and math magic than I’ve got right now!



It sounds simple. Probably too simple. A place on the web to rant about bad drivers, and terrible parkers. When it comes to conversation starters, they seemed to be second only to the weather… or at least in the top ten topics for small talk. For many, repressed road rage seemed a universal experience. Everyone rails against anarchy and abuse on public streets, but feels powerless to do anything about it.

I’d been imagining a website like Zapatag for years. I’d been imagining it for so long, in fact, that easily a dozen websites based on the same simple concept have sprouted up in the meantime.

In 2006, I was just stumbling my way around CGI scripts and thinking I might hack something together based on what I was using to upgrade the link directory I ran at Diarist.Net. Unbeknownst to me, however, Platewire had surfaced, and took off like a rocket. I distinctly remember catching creator Mark Buckman on CNN in the lunch room at the bank where I used to work, and it was as if he was reading my mind, live, on the air. Realizing my utter lack of originality, and dumbfounded by Platewire’s thousands of users, I was discouraged and humbled. I put Zapatag on a dusty shelf in my brain, only eyeing it wistfully now and then.

That was almost it.

Thankfully, I eventually accepted the fact that the “driver reporting” concept was incredibly common. After all, “How Am I Driving” call centers have thrived for decades. And I also realized that the idea could have a thousand variations. (See also: ycantpark, YouParkLikeAnAsshole.) There were several sites based on “virtual road rage” — numerous enough that Buckman proposed a data exchange last year) — but none worked exactly how I had envisioned Zapatag working. I knew there was a lot of room to innovate. I had to at least try and build a better mousetrap.

Except that I didn’t know how to build much of anything.

Fortunately, I was beginning to surround myself with brilliant people. There was a small but growing group of Web 2.0 enthusiasts and entrepreneurs in Honolulu, talking about a million ideas. We all loved Twitter and Flickr and social networks. I told them about Zapatag. They told me what they thought. I refined my vision. Not surprisingly, pieces of the site bore a striking resemblance to the web tools we all used. Simple. Social. Fun.

My good friend Aaron Dragushan was one of my key inspirations. He gave a lot of great ideas, while in the middle of launching his own brilliant site, Ask500People. My friend and coworker Beth Berry was also a great resource. She told me about her own Web 2.0 project, a fantastic online app that I can’t wait to see go live. She encouraged me to put together the first mock up of Zapatag. And while it was terrible in many ways, it was actually the first time I’d seen my site on screen. It was a turning point.

At the start of this year, I took my dream for Zapatag to the first Unconferenz. There, again, another group of creative, thoughtful types that gave me much food for thought. I told Burt Lum, the event’s organizer and a long-time friend, that I wanted to be able to actually demo Zapatag at the next one.

So I wrote out a spec. I created dozens of screen shots. And I got in touch with some developers to see what it would take to build. Though I dream of one day working with local talent or even doing development myself, I ended up working with a code house in India that Beth had been working with and recommended. I have a big plans, but a shoestring budget.

At this month’s Manoa Geeks meetup, I publicly showed off some of the screen shots for the first time. And the developers started coding in earnest. I don’t know how much will be done by the 2009 Unconferenz (scheduled for Feb. 7, 2009), but I’m proud of the fact that something is finally happening with my nearly abandoned idea.

Stay tuned!

July 2018
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