After more than a decade of chasing stolen bikes and bike thieves, Bike Index found itself with an interesting new problem: the absolute mountain of data that we collect on 'bad guys'.
'Bad guys' in this context is a long list of people doing bad things in the bikes sphere: think bike thieves, bike fences, black- and grey-market bike sellers, shop smash-and-grab bandits, bike shop scammers, various online fraudsters - you name it. There is unfortunately a very rich tapestry of idiots out there doing bad things in the bikes world, and we've encountered them all.
Every time we recover a bike, find a stolen bike being sold online, or catch a fraudster in progress - we collect some data on that person or group. It all adds up!
As Bike Index has evolved, we've come to value this data and the things that we can do with it. This information comes in handy when, for example, a new victim pops up with a 'bad guy data point' we've already seen before - and we're able to tie a existing name/email/phone number/CashApp/Venmo/Offerup account to a specific 'bad guy'. This lets us better define who we're dealing with - and sometimes do things like reaching out to the very same officer who arrested that bad guy the last time, or advise the new victim on the prior behaviors and methods of the specific bad guy we're currently dealing with.
Prior to today, this information lived in many different places - several inboxes, Google docs, in Facebook posts scattered across dozens of groups, in hand-compiled files and folders. It wasn't a good system, and it has been clear for years that we needed a better way to collect, analyze, and disseminate this information to our partners. Plus, we needed to do this in a secure and centralized manner, with dozens of Bike Index constituents across the globe.
Enter the PSU Senior Capstone program:
Months ago, I met a wonderful person here in Portland who introduced me to PSU's Computer Science Capstone program, where '…students design and implement new software to benefit a charity, government, school, company, organization or individual in our community.' This Capstone program pairs up community groups with specific problems they need solved with a team of coders to create and implement software to help those group's needs.
This seemed like a perfect match for Bike Index, so I submitted a pitch back in February - and was luckily paired up with an amazing team.
From humble beginnings, an excellent end product:
I sat down and hand-drew very rough details of a bespoke record keeping system for Bike Index, one that would allow things like
The absolute joy of handing off a loosely defined spec, letting the team get their hands on it, and then watching them run with it cannot be understated. And the team absolutely knocked it out of the park! Over the next several months the team would run code sprints, present to me their changes, ideas and improvements, and we would back-and-forth about how to best forge a solution for Bike Index.
The final product is several times more amazing than what I asked for. The team not only met my specifications, but they were able to come up with all kinds of improvements and additions I never even thought of.
It was truly a pleasure working with this crew and seeing them tackle this project and work with them to refine it into the final end product that we are putting into production today.
By the very nature of the system I can't share a lot of it here, nor are the screenshots very amazing because I've had to redact all the data. We need to keep our secrets a secret. But I'm not exaggerating when I say this new platform is going to save us hundreds of hours of labor each year. I'm very excited about using this going forward, and the ability for us to rapidly share the information we've collected with other key Bike Index users and partners.
Bike Index sends a massive THANK YOU to the PSU Capstone team for all their hard work, long hours of coding, and their dedication to this project - a HUGE thank you goes to
Thank you, team!
This system is not public, however if you are a law enforcement, cycling industry, or other anti-theft entity already working with Bike Index you can drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org