Travel through time with the Boston Atlas: A 2-minute look at Boston from 1775 to today

In 2000, after we sold Wildfire, I wondered what to work on next. I had already been very involved with the City of Boston, and had made a movie (see below) for the 2000 celebration in the Boston Common. I decided to combine my interest in maps with a desire to understand the huge changes going on in Boston with the Big Dig and other projects.

So I started a non-profit called, and created a new kind of mapping tool called The City of Boston still uses MapJunction for a tool they call The Boston Atlas. Working together, the City, the Boston Public Library, and a few others contributed a huge array of maps to the Boston Atlas. Even though the tool is over ten years old now, it's amazing what you can do with it. I love giving "maps over time" tours of various areas, and the short video (my first using will give you an idea of what you can do with the tool.

Try it for yourself. Just click here to start the Boston Atlas already loaded with the maps you see in the video. Note that it will open with each map group opened, while in the video I had already clicked on the "-" button to make each map show as one line. Also, I put some |||| bars at the beginning to get a sense of timing of the map. Old maps are to the left. Newer have more bars and are to the right.

This is the Boston After 2000 video that was shown on the Jumbotron before the Millennium fireworks. It's fun to watch. Back then, the Red Sox were for sale, and a new stadium had been completely designed. We got the 3D CAD files, and showed where the stadium would have been. Wow, it's scary to look at this now. I remember that the previous owners had said that the original Fenway could never be made to work for a modern ball club. That it couldn't be renovated, and had to be torn down and replaced. Even scarier for me, is that I believed them.

The video also shows the Zakim Bridge, which at that time was just few (still short) concrete foundations. Few people had any idea of what the bridge would eventually look like, and we took the same 3D cad approach and modeled the bridge and showed it in place in the video. Very cool.

The movie ends with a look at what is now the Greenway. I think that the Big Dig is beginning to show the amazing transformations of Boston that were promised. 

Free Pickup: Summer is a great time to clean up clutter - and support Big Brother Big Sister

Go online and schedule a pickup (really easy). They'll come to your house and pickup good stuff that you no longer need. The Big Brother Big Sister Foundation sells it to thrift shops and donates 100% of the proceeds to Big Brother Big Sister programs locally. They are a well-run organization, and they came when they said they would.

Try it! It's really easy, and you can finally part with those great electronic toys you bought five years ago and never use, and with some of those great shirts that don't really fit any more.

What they won't take (click the "Non-acceptable items radio button on the right)
Call them with any questions: 800-483-5503

Who Doesn't Love a Picnic? From Scott Kirsner: August 18 On The Charles. Be there.

Scott Kirsner has come up with another great idea to get people together, and this one is truly old fashioned: A picnic! The aerial photo above shows Charles Park. Be there!

Check out details here on Greenhorn Connect.

An excerpt:


Come to Charles Park in Cambridge any time between 5:30pm and 8:00pm on Wednesday, August 18th.

 (If it turns out to be rainy that evening, we’ll shift to August 25th. Check the @bostechpicnic Twitter feed for weather-related updates.)

Charles Park is a five-minute walk from Kendall Square or the Lechmere T stop, and also pretty easy to get to by walking over the Longfellow Bridge from Boston

Some Historic Maps and Photos Centered on Charles Park
And because I love old maps, here is that area from 1955, and then from a recent aerial, and also with a 1775 map overlay.
Cambridgeport, 1955 (USGS Aerial Photo)
You can view these aerials by here: Follow Link (a mapping system I designed in a prior life.)
Cambridgeport (undated, Bing aerial photo)
This map is made using the Flash client for the MapJunction mapping system that we made at
It allows aligned overlays of old and new maps.
Follow Link to see this map live in the mapping system. Check and uncheck the layers to "travel through time."

Technology Required to Create a Photo ID At MIT in 1977

I've been doing a giant scanning project using to blast through piles and piles of old slides, negatives, and prints. I'm just going through the results, and this one cracked me up. Look at what it took to take a photo for the school ID!. Hmmm, and does anyone know David W. Pomerantz? He was probably MIT class of 1981.

[If you send me your old school photo ID's, I'll add them below....]

Reed Sturtevant

@billwarner memories! here is my MIT ID photo from 1975, shot in the same setup

Shocking! Prints Look Exactly the Same, and Off-Brand Ink Costs 1/5 as Much as HP Ink - My Personal Lab Tests

HP and re-manufactured ink appears to be identical in these mixed prints.
I have a relatively compact family. My wife, my son, our dog, two birds, and two HP photo printers. But it seems that of all, it's the HP printer that always wants something, and what it wants is expensive. One of its six ink cartridges is always empty. When printing photos, not a day goes by without popping in another $10 piece of plastic with ink in it. I've saved all of these little gems since I bought the two HP printers (A D7360 and C6180) and the photo above shows 92 cartridges, or about $920 worth of spent ink!

In an effort stem the micro-BP gusher of milliliters of spilt ink money, I started getting HP's "combo pack" cartridges with all 5 color inks. With free shipping, that comes to $8.60 each.
Then, when ordering these on Amazon, I saw the ad below. $6.60, and for the high yield version (50% more ink). Costs $4.99 for shipping, and you get a black cartridge as well. Just comparing apples to apples, (ie only the 5 color cartridges) this comes out to $2.32 per cartridge. (Actually, if they really are high yield, the cost comparison goes to $1.53. (And you get a black cartridge for free...even though I seldom need these.)
I figured I just had to test these and see how bad they were. They couldn't be even close to HP, but for a factor of 5.6 in cost, I just had to find out, and then I'd have to decide how much the absolutely beautiful HP prints were worth to me. Could I compromise a little, or maybe even a lot if $920 became $164? What's $756 of unspent money on ink worth to me? What's my price in quality?

I found a nice test print photo here. I downloaded it and printed it first with the ink cartridges that were already in the printer, the HP ones. Then I put in the re-manufactured cartridges and printed again. I could see no difference! Worried that maybe some old HP ink was still in the printer, I printed 5 more prints using the cartridges from "Sophia Global" (SG) in Lawrence Kansas. They were all identical and the same quality as the HP ink.
Closeup of the comparison print. I used a paper cutter, and cut a border between the two prints. You can see the two borders in this zoom of the scan. But which ones are what kind of ink?

The "SG" on the left are cartridges from "Sophia Global" (785-865-3725) that I ordered through Amazon
This is a scan of the HP ink print using HP Premium Plus Paper, and the "normal" quality setting. I tried one one "best" and could see no difference, but I do believe it aids HP's profits by using a lot more ink.
Here is the SG ink, HP Premium Plus Paper, and the "normal" quality setting. I was unable to see any difference at all between the two prints.
Here are the 5 SG cartridges. They come wrapped in a vacuum-seal plastic, and no other junk. Simple. The HP cartridges have a blizzard of packaging for each one.
My HP D7360 printer loaded with HP cartridges. Note that the fatter ones on the left are the "XL" "High Yield" cartridges. They hold 50% more and cost about 50% more, but at least you don't have to change them as often.
Here's the same printer loaded with the Sophia Global remanufactured cartridges. They don't look fat like the HP XL's, but the Amazon listing says they are High Yield.
No, the printer doesn't say "Genuine HP cartridge loaded" on the screen after you put these in, but it doesn't complain either. And the ink levels read full. And it only cost me $6.60 for the bunch of cartridges. (okay and another 4.99 to get them from Kansas to Boston). I wonder if I went to Kansas, could I pick up a pile of cartridges? It could be worth the plane flight!)

Hmmm. Sometimes you DON'T get what you pay for. Maybe sometimes something that seems too too good to be true, isn't. Does anyone out there have experience with this? Please add your comments below.

Anything Goes Lab - Two Week Program Update From Day 2

Anything Goes Lab Two Week Program  is up and running and going great! The program is based on my "How to Build Your Startup From the Heart workshop (watch a video of a recent one here.) Over 40 people are participating in the program which combines two weeks of co-working space with a program that helps individuals build their companies from the heart, and create company teams that I call "co-flows." (More on that in later posts.)
Note: The teams on each board are individuals. They are all working on different things, different companies. If multiple people from the same company came to the program, we put them on separate teams. The teams are designed to help each other, not to work on one invention together.
Here Anything Goes co-founder Nick Tommarello demonstrates a new mock-up of his invention (more on that later, also.)
This photo shows folks in co-working mode, but also shows the "storyboard" for each team. Importantly, we also see the Pizza from Oggi Gourmet being unloaded from the dolly. Microsoft bought dinner for the team tonight. Thanks Microsoft! (Abby Fitchner is also participating in the program, and lending her expertise from her days in Agile development.)
The last two days have been amazing, actually. We've created five teams, each with a storyboard like the one here. They are bonding around understanding each other's intentions, inventions, and beliefs. The inventions are incredibly varied.... from GSM base stations to social networking tools, to stylish high heels that instantly convert into walkable low heels.

A Fun 2-Minute Video Look At Anything Goes Lab and CIC

On Monday, July 12, over 40 people will converge on the Anything Goes Lab on the 9th Floor of Cambridge Innovation Center, at 1 Broadway, in the heart of Kendall Square. People are coming from as far away as New Hampshire and Washington, DC, so I thought I give them a quick preview of our digs here in Cambridge. 

Our space opens at 9 am to attendees, and the official program begins at 2 pm. So you can arrive any time between 9am and 2pm. I look forward to meeting all the new people on Monday!

(By the way, the lab is open 24 hours / 7 days once you have the right gizmos.)

I'm Excited! Anything Goes Lab Starts Two-Week Alpha Program On July 12

It's funny how long it can take for something to form, and then in an instant, everything is happening. In 2004, I started working on the idea that maybe intention (shoutout to Wayne Dyer's Power of Intention) was the key energy behind entrepreneurs, and that maybe getting the connection right between intention and invention was a hidden factor behind my sense of satisfaction with Avid and my frustration with Wildfire.

Fast forward to today, July 7th, 2010. In these six years, I've started a book (wrote 5 chapters), created tools to help people around intention, and made investments in entrepreneurs that I've helped with these tools.

But things started to really come together when I created the idea for an improved book: Love Machine: How to Build Your Startup From the Heart. People liked the name, and the idea. So then I thought, how can I take the advice I give others? Figure out how to do something now, that's in your control, that helps your people in the way you intend. So I created a 90 minute workshop called "Build Your Startup From the Heart."  Watch here.

This led to more workshops, and eventually to the idea that we could build a startup accelerator around the workshop. Just a few weeks ago, Nick Tommarello and I took over the C3 space on the 9th floor of the Cambridge Innovation Center, with a new concept called the Anything Goes Lab. Just last week we came up with the idea of a two week program at the Lab so entrepreneurs can try out the concepts and the space for $125 for two weeks.

And now we have over 30 people signed up to try out Anything Goes Lab, and we still have room for a few more. So if you know entrepreneurs who have an idea, or people who want to join a startup, send them our way.  Click the apply button at the top. It just takes a few minutes.

Over six years, things moved slowly. In the last month, its been amazingly fast!

A Good Exit: Isn't That an Oxymoron? Do We Need a New Way to Think About Funding?

Isn't it strange the language we use about events that are supposed to be so great? We get our company to a crucial stage in its life, and for some, it's all about leaving. A good exit. You get in, and hopefully, you get to leave. A good exit.

We graduate college. We don't call that an exit. We're an alum for the rest of our lives.

Our kids grow up, and we don't call that an exit. We're parents always.

We get off the highway. Okay, that's an exit.

So are our investments like highways? An on ramp, a drive, and then an exit? If there's no exit are we forever a part of the companies that have failed? And we only get to leave the good ones? As if leaving is the whole idea, a good in and of itself. Seems to me that exits are really only truly a good thing when it comes to jail, fires and highways. (Okay, I'm sure you can think of other things that are good to exit from.)

And this idea of exits isn't just about investors. You'll hear it too for entrepreneurs and executives. "How was your exit?"

In the last 15 years, we've used the Internet to reinvent commerce, and to create entirely new norms of sharing among people who barely know each other, as well people who've known each other since grammar school.

How about creating a new way to fund companies? One that's aimed at continuity and liquidity instead of exit events that create giant disruptions.

Oh wait. We used to have such a thing. It was called the public market. But while technology companies need dramatically less money to get started, they still need significant money to grow. And in today's world, the only way to get that is to be acquired by a large company with deep pockets. (Is this progress?) We've made the process of going public even more expensive and difficult than it used to be, to the point where small public offerings make little sense given the costs.

So, what to do? I say we figure it out. Let's create a new, all-digital, fully transparent, micro-cap public market. Instead of regulation, have every single transaction available for scrutiny. (Maybe with some delay for the purposes of secrecy)

I propose we'd need these three components:

1. Create a new type of chartered corporation: The Micro Public Corporation (MPC)

2. Create a new set of online banking tools available through any bank. Micro Public Transaction System (MPTS)

3. Create a new online Micro Public Stock Exchange (MPSE)

Let's say you want to create a new technology company. Go to your friendly state, and form an MPC. Now you're a corporation. One form. Online. Then go to your favorite bank. Open an MPTS bank account for your company. Set your number of shares; set your share price. Put some money in. Now you own some shares. All an online transaction.

Now you start running your business. There are no regulators. Everything you do, everything you spend is public. Every transaction. Because an MPC cannot do anything, anything at all, without doing it through MPTS. Want to buy something? Just buy it through an MPTS account. Want to enter into a contract? It has to be simple and online. Something people could create and read. And posted on MPTS, with all financial ramifications clearly spelled out. Want to hire someone? Easy. Just hire them. All the paperwork and costs are automatic on MPTS. (Yes, if you work for an MPC, your salary will be public. But maybe you're doing it also because the stock is already valuable). Do you need to file paperwork. No. With MPCs, EVERYTHING is online and automatic. (Am I dreaming? C'mon we can drive a Zipcar with no paperwork.)

After some amount of time and some amount of transactions have occurred, you can opt for some kind of a mini public offering. People can invest in you and your company. Others can provide feedback about what you're doing. It's all totally transparent. There might be limits on what you can raise as you move along. Somehow, the system needs to guard against fraud and scams. But I believe that the wisdom of the crowds, along with a good model that limits the ability to abuse the system, will let companies grow from tiny seedlings into small saplings, and maybe into full size trees with a single funding system.

And no exits.

Radical, Low Cost New Tool For Startup Entrepreneurs: Anything Goes Accelerator Lab

I Intend to Help People Follow Their Heart
Recently, I've been giving a talk called "How to Build Your Startup From the Heart." (A recent talk in Waltham at Innovation Breakfast was recorded on video. Watch it here.) I believe that we are often pushed to follow our head as we innovate, and I believe this takes us away from the true energy that drives innovation: the intention energy that comes from our heart. The energy that powers us to help the people we love. To help "our people," the ones  for whom we invent. (For a great book about intention, check out Wayne Dyer's The Power of Intention  This book is also available as an audio program, and its read by Wayne Dyer, who is a great speaker. I highly recommend it and have been greatly inspired by Wayne Dyer's work.)
I believe that giving this talk over and over spurred me to think about a new way to help the people - the ones who need help in following their heart - to create great startup ventures.
What follows is the story of how Anything Goes Accelerator Lab came about. 
Born at C3
Nick Tommarello and I met at the original Cambridge Coworking Center (C3) on the 10th floor at 1 Broadway in Cambridge. C3 is a new co-working offering from Tim Rowe's Cambridge Innovation Center (CIC), which has been operating for years by offering a variety of "slices" of space in the MIT-owned building earlier known as the "Badger Building"
Nick and I met simply because we were both using the C3 space. I met him and his business partner when I asked them what they thought of a coupon idea I had for Oggi Gourmet, a restaurant I co-own with my brother-in-law, Steve Welch. They both said it was a terrible idea, and I why didn't I use the iPhone app that they were working on instead? I was interested, and we started to get down to details.
As I got to know Nick better over time, simply because we shared the same space, I found he had a much bigger idea than coupons for restaurants. So we started working on that, and it became I later invested in the company, and Sparkcloud also just completed the TechStars Boston program.
Changes to C3
Tim had warned us that the C3 space was temporary; that the 10th floor would undergo renovation soon. A couple months ago, the renovations began, and Tim moved C3 to bigger space on the 9th floor. But the friendly and active smaller space didn't translate, and the new C3 soon became more like a library. I felt sad every time I came to the office. It was so quiet. People were not working together. New companies were not forming, let alone new friendships.
Tim, Nick, and I knew something was wrong. 
Nick and I had long discussed the idea of creating some new kind of accelerator/co-working program, but the idea was on the back burner as he pursued Sparkcloud and I was focused a series of speaking engagements and upcoming events.
Tim scheduled a meeting for Wednesday, May 26h, to discuss the issue. The meeting went in a fairly predictable way; we discussed the issues and some ideas on how to fix things. Then, right at the end, Tim changed the game. He said he'd come to the conclusion that C3 was stuck in the middle of two paths, and need to move in two ways. One way would be a "curated" C3 where someone like myself and Nick would own the space and create the programming. There would be a big social component. The other space would be more for people who want to work around other people, need an affordable solution, and the social needs would be light.
Further, Tim said he intended to announce the changes next week, on June 2, at a "Town Meeting" for C3 that he had previously scheduled to address new approaches for C3.
Anything Goes Accelerator Lab is Born - With A Crucial Push from Tim Rowe
So, Nick and had been talking about taking over the C3 space, and now we had a couple days to decide. We both decided to jump in, and the Anything Goes Accelerator Lab was born.
Tim's role in this is crucial, and multifaceted. First, he created the initial C3 as an experiment to see what would work and what wouldn't. Nick and I saw first hand just how it could work, and that was exciting. We also saw what happened if the density went to low, if the environment got too quiet, or if there were too few startup-type people. Tim created the atmosphere of experimentation that has led Anything Goes.
In my talk at the TechStars Demo Day, I recalled a great line from the movie "Top Gun." The two pilots were walking together, and at the end of their conversation, one said the other "I feel the need for speed." I used this line in my talk and said that sometimes moving fast is crucial, in and of itself. I believe that moving fast means you have to use your heart more than your head, and that leads to more results in less time.
C3 was headed for an announced change in one week, and Nick and I had a choice to lead that change or not. As the one who had recalled that line, "I feel the need for speed," I took my own advice, and I jumped on it. (I did discuss it with my wife over the weekend, so it was Tuesday, one day before the announcement, that I told Tim "We're in, with both feet."
One Lab, Three Minds
Nick and I have some different views about what Anything Goes needs to become, and therein lies it's strength. I believe it will be better than the sum of our ideas.
Nick is more focused on the co-working aspect of the space. I'm more focused on the program overlay of the space, and that the program can work even if you're not using the co-working space. Nick's tag line for Sparkcloud is "meet awesome people nearby." What could be better than meeting the person sitting next you, and forming a company together.
Tim Rowe is playing a very active role in the design of the program. First of all, he's taking all the financial risk. He's not asking us to pay a monthly fee for the whole space. Rather, he is willing to bet that Anything Goes will generate a sufficient (and we hope more than sufficient) number of $250/month co-working clients for CIC. Even more, he is handling ALL of the logistics for Anything Goes. His team will handle billing. They will give tours to prospective clients, for whom Anything Goes is just one co-working option. And for anyone else thinking about doing something like Anything Goes, CIC is expanding and will have a total of 5 or 6 co-working spaces when the work is completed. So others might want explore the "curated" co-working space with Tim.

A New Kind of Accelerator Program
The Anything Goes Accelerator Lab is different than any other accelerator program that I know of. For example:
1. Anything Goes can work even if you are working full time - I believe that some of our best potential entrepreneurs are in companies waiting for the right time to launch their idea. At the same time, they need help to do that. For a total of $1050 for three months, a person with a full time job can be a full member of the program, and can use the co-working space on nights, weekends, and perhaps on some vacation days.
2. Anything Goes is based on Agile Development - Avid Technology has adopted Agile over the last year or so, and now they are able to create a new, useful and working build of the Media Composer code base, some 6 million lines of code - every month. And they release to the customer twice a year, with one major, and one less major update. (full disclosure - I don't really know much about Agile beyond what I learned recently at Avid, but I was that impressed to base this program on the help me learn!). What I love about Agile is it's focus on story, and on individuals making real progress, and on groups (scrums) helping and pushing each other. Given that my intention in creating Avid was "I intend to help people tell their story," then Agile, with it's story-based approach, is a natural.
3. Anything Goes Help Begins with Peers - While other accelerators are focused on mentorship, Anything Goes starts with peer support as the core. The idea is that by taking whatever complex technology you are working on and forming it into a simple human story of who you want to help ("your people") and how you want to help them (your intention), then a peer group of entrepreneurs can help each other, even if they have little expertise in the technologies being used. The nice thing about this is that the help scales with the size of the group, so fundamentally, I believe that Anything Goes can become a widespread technique for accelerating early stage ideas, and even later stage ideas.
4. Anything Goes is Story Based - Not Technology Based - If we are to be true to our name, we can't say, "Anything Goes, as long as it's Internet-enabled or software based." So the focus on story not only lets peers help each other, it allows stories to be told to anyone, regardless of their understanding of the underlying technology for that innovation. We intend to become a source of stories through blogs, audio, and video, and we intend to link these stories in useful ways to help entrepreneurs around the world. So one of the requirements for acceptance at Anything Goes is that you must be willing to be a teacher, as well as a student. You must be willing to tell your story.
(This brings up an interesting issue regarding "stealth mode" projects. What we're thinking for now is that we will have stealth projects that will not be part of the broadcasting part of the program. But those companies must be willing to share freely within the Anything Goes group. And, their stories will be captured, and broadcast later. Think of it as a very long "tape delay." Bottom line: To get into Anything Goes, you must be willing to teach now, and share eventually.)
5. Anything Goes Is Extremely Low Cost - The amazing thing about co-working is that you can have great space in a great location if you make it financially affordable through density. So the $250 per month that goes to CIC eventually pays for all the space, and the free food and snacks, free drinks, conference rooms, you name it. The additional $100 per month per member pays for whatever else. If we got 60 people into the program that is $6,000 per month. Nick and I are not taking any salary for this program, so these funds will mostly be used for equipment, expenses, and scholarships. Eventually, though, we see additional Anything Goes labs being formed, and if each one achieved 60 users, this monthly funding will be enough to pay for some full time management for the program.
6. Anything Goes Takes No Equity - We don't ask for any equity, and don't plan to. The idea is to make the program so low cost that it really isn't an issue. I'm very excited that for just over $1000 for three months, an entrepreneur can make huge progress, AND have a full time place to work with like-minded people!
7. Anything Goes Can Be Free (and even better than free) Through Sponsorship - With low cost, and with no equity, Anything Goes can ask people who've benefited from our local economy to give back with a very simple and small ask: "Will you help an entrepreneur spend three months to make tremendous progress on their idea, and will you write a check for $1050 to make that possible?" I believe that we will get all the checks we need to make Anything Goes affordable to entrepreneurs. Furthermore, I'm thinking of this ask: "Will you add $599 to that check to pay a $200/month stipend to an entrepreneur for whom that extra money will make a crucial difference?" The $599 means no 1099 needs to be filed.) I believe that we'll have more sponsorship than we can accommodate.
8. Anything Goes Builds On Our Local Diversity - Boston has more universities, more research, more diversity, and a greater flow of new talent than any other city in the world (anyone have actual data to prove this? I believe it to be true.) The idea of Anything Goes is to have a low cost but high performance accelerator that can build on our local talent, no matter where they live, no matter if they have a full time job, and no matter what technology they seek to use in their innovation.
9. Anything Goes is Focused on Entrepreneurs, Not Companies - The idea is to grow entrepreneurs from the earliest moments that the entrepreneurial bug takes hold. Some teams will join, and that will be great. But also some individuals will join with a great idea they want to pursue. Others may join with no idea, but with a belief that they are an entrepreneur at heart. I believe that great teams and great companies will form at Anything Goes. We intend to help people who know they want to be entrepreneurs find a path to making that happen.
Nick, Tim, I and many others will be working on the design of the Lab this summer, with the first official class starting in the fall. Want to help? Email me at, or Nick at Also consider following us on Twitter at  and
Thanks, and stay tuned! (Watch funny 1 minute video of our "instant furniture move")