Creator of GhettoTracker Deletes Site: "It's Not Worth the Trouble"

The 30-something Tallahassee man behind GhettoTracker.com has taken down his vile crowd-sourcing experiment in travel guide segregation. Now, instead of a map that invites users to mark off "ghettos" in red, a message shows up saying: "This site is gone. It's not worth the trouble."

UPDATE: Guess it was worth it after all: the site is back up.

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Pending approvalOriginal post by Nitasha Tiku on Gawker

Creator of GhettoTracker.com Surprised by All the "Negative Baggage"

Creator of GhettoTracker.com Surprised by All the "Negative Baggage"

GhettoTracker.com is just as deplorable as its name suggests. The website, which surfaced yesterday on Hacker News and PandoDaily, invites users to rate neighborhoods based on "which parts of town are safe and which ones are ghetto, or unsafe." Unsafe to whom? Well, the gleaming white family on its "About" page, of course.

GhettoTracker's "ghettos" aren't identified based on mugging statistics or murder rates—or any hard data at all, really. Instead, "ghettos" are determined by the site's users and delineated by their prejudices. It's a new, crowd-sourced twist on stop-and-frisk: Just drop a little red dot anywhere you think upstanding folks should stop-and-avoid.

It might be the most cynical use of technology since some marketing asshat tried to turn homeless people into human Wi-Fi hotspots at South by Southwest.

Creator of GhettoTracker.com Surprised by All the "Negative Baggage"

But the racist and classist implications of the site were lost on its creator. Yesterday afternoon, he relaunched GhettoTracker as "Good Part of Town," and shuffled the deck of stock photos to include Black and Latino families, as if that made it better. The Twitter and Facebook accounts for GhettoTracker have also been deleted. Although not before someone screengrabbed GhettoTracker sharing an article about "ghetto booty" on Facebook.

Creator of GhettoTracker.com Surprised by All the "Negative Baggage"

In response to questions from Gawker, citing "borderline threatening responses" to his innocent plan to literally ghettotize entire neighborhoods, the website's creator would only identify himself as a "30 something and based in Tallahassee, Florida."

On Twitter, programmer Clint Ecker and Ars Technica editor-at-large Jacqui Cheng think they identified the man behind GhettoTracker as Casey Smith, the president of Florida-based company named Tallahassee Web Design, citing a link—later deleted, but visible in the cached version—to the company.

Through a Tallahassee Web Design email account, Smith denied that GhettoTracker was his brainchild: "We built the site for the client who came to us with the idea," he said, declining to name the client. The person answering questions from the info@ghettotracker.com email address also told Gawker he wasn't Casey Smith:

Tallahassee Web Design is the company that did the programming for the site and Casey Smith owns that company. The website originally had the company credits in the footer, as many websites do. I'd rather not give out my personal information to random people on the internet, but that's not me. I also wouldn't cite Twitter users as a source for a story.

Whoever the creator is, he's vacillated on his reason for launching. GhettoTracker initially told PandoDaily that the site was meant to both satirical and functional, but told us his well-intentioned travel guide was not a joke:

This was originally seriously developed as a travel tool and the name "Ghetto Tracker" was meant to be something that people would remember. Well, it worked, but unfortunately, it appears to have brought a lot of negative baggage along with it.

Imagine that.

He also revealed that he was inspired to change the name GhettoTracker because of two unexpectedly moving responses to his master troll:

I expected some flack, but I received 2 emails in particular that made me want to change the name to something less offensive. One woman had family who was relegated to an actual ghetto in WWII and another email was from a man who grew up in a bad area who ended up graduating from Rutgers and overcoming his upbringing.

(Quick, put a red dot on Rutgers, someone who grew up in a ghetto bad part of town once studied there!)

Besides, he added, if anyone sees the words GHETTO TRACKER and think about race, well that's on them, pal:

I am not concerned about racial implications between good areas and bad areas. If a certain part of town has a lot of crime and is considered a bad area, I can't be held responsible for the assumptions people may make in regards to factors like race and income. I've seen comments on blogs and in twitter that are trying to say this is encouraging racism or social stratification and that was never our intention. The ideas was to make it social, as if you were asking a friend, "Hey, I'm going to be visiting {your city} and thinking of staying at {some hotel}, is that a good area?".

Just a friendly {not-racist} planning a travel itinerary!

The site doesn't plan to make money and has no financial backers, he noted, offering to look into less intrusive ads, as if that were the ugly part of his creation:

This is not a for-profit site. Since it went viral, it crashed my cheap little hosting so I put up some Google ads to help offset server costs (and the ads aren't even coming close to paying hosting fees). Other than that, the site will always be 100% free to use and, if necessary, I'll look into non-intrusive ads to help offset hosting costs.

Although the man responsible for GhettoTracker hails from Florida, his worldview would not be out-of-place in Silicon Valley, which has turned its disrupting gaze towards weeding out less fortunate members of society.

Recently, the startup sector has also become enamored with the idea of apps that can police the streets (like, say, a neighborhood watch). On PandoDaily—which yesterday called Ghettotracker "the worst site on the Internet"—founder and editor-in-chief Sarah Lacy has argued that citizen-reported crime in the "very urban neighborhood" where she lives is the "killer feature" behind the social network Nextdoor, which has raised $40 million.

Amid the critical responses on Hacker News, one commenter was happy to find someone else on his wavelength: "I just thought of the same idea like this the other day. Then I thought maybe Waze/Google would buy it out to make better routes on their maps...."

Here's the full email:

Hi Nitasha,

As you may have noticed, we've changed the name of the website because it was detracting from the serious purpose the site was meant to serve, which is to help people who are unfamiliar with a particular area to stay safe.

I am the creator of the site and I haven't worked on anything like this in the past. I'd rather not have my name published since some people have given borderline threatening responses to the site. I am 30 something and based in Tallahassee, Florida.

This was originally seriously developed as a travel tool and the name "Ghetto Tracker" was meant to be something that people would remember. Well, it worked, but unfortunately, it appears to have brought a lot of negative baggage along with it. I expected some flack, but I received 2 emails in particular that made me want to change the name to something less offensive. One woman had family who was relegated to an actual ghetto in WWII and another email was from a man who grew up in a bad area who ended up graduating from Rutgers and overcoming his upbringing. They were both very heartfelt, well thought out emails and I truly felt bad about stirring up such negative emotions in these people. I have seen a lot of people making noise about the name on twitter, but these 2 people were different. So, in order to get back to the original purpose, I decided to ditch the failed attempt at humor and go with a more mainstream name. I also personally replied to these people letting them know that their comments are what made the difference and that I appreciate them taking the time to share their stories with me.

The only investment I have is the cost of the site and hosting, which are both minimal. I truly want people to use this site as it was intended because I like to travel and I will be using the site myself before visiting a new city. To me, that alone is worth the investment. If more people can benefit from this service, that's even better.

The information, or ratings, come from people who are familiar with the area. As with every other rating system, like Google's ratings, we rely on people being honest. The site was also programmed to anonymously track information about each rating so we can analyze the ratings to look for people trying to game the system or add fake ratings.

I am not concerned about racial implications between good areas and bad areas. If a certain part of town has a lot of crime and is considered a bad area, I can't be held responsible for the assumptions people may make in regards to factors like race and income. I've seen comments on blogs and in twitter that are trying to say this is encouraging racism or social stratification and that was never our intention. The ideas was to make it social, as if you were asking a friend, "Hey, I'm going to be visiting {your city} and thinking of staying at {some hotel}, is that a good area?".

I've honestly never heard of Nextdoor until you mentioned it so I had to Google it; I wouldn't consider us as being very similar. I don't want to make a social network. I just want people to see our site and, hopefully, offer their opinion on a few areas they know to be safe, unsafe, or anything in between. By doing this, they can help many people who they may never meet or socialize with. It's a way of helping people on a large scale with very little effort. Speaking of other apps, a friend sent me a link to an iPhone app called "Ghetto Tracker" and I am not associated with that at all. At the time I purchased my domain, I didn't see anything else out there with this name.

This is not a for-profit site. Since it went viral, it crashed my cheap little hosting so I put up some Google ads to help offset server costs (and the ads aren't even coming close to paying hosting fees). Other than that, the site will always be 100% free to use and, if necessary, I'll look into non-intrusive ads to help offset hosting costs. There will never be pop-ups or ugly ads all over the place; I love browsing the web and checking out new sites just as much as the next guy and I hate sites that are covered with ads. I just need to cover hosting and I'll be good.

Above all else, I hope this can be viewed as a lesson to people who are thinking of starting a new website. I have been portrayed as a racist all over the internet just because of a domain name and that couldn't be further from the truth. I also realize the site wouldn't have gotten as much attention as it did and you wouldn't be writing me if I hadn't named it "Ghetto Tracker". The name was not a publicity stunt, I honestly thought it would be a fun site for people to use. Since I have been proven wrong, I have changed the branding and, hopefully, people will still use the site because the good intentions are still there.

If you have any other questions please don't hesitate to ask.

Thank you

Stay safe,
The Good Part of Town Team,
http://goodpartoftown.com

To contact the author of this post, please email nitasha@gawker.com.

[Image via GhettoTracker.com]

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