PRESS: Lost in the PDFs: Getting City Data in the Gotham Gazette

This month my work was featured in an article about civic data in the Gotham Gazette:

EveryBlock.com, which compiles information from agencies of several cities and presents it in a friendly format, has been trying to provide New York City residents with detailed information about crime. To get the statistics for New York, EveryBlock’s “people person,” Daniel O’Neil, has had to make phone calls and develop relationships.In Chicago, where EveryBlock got its start, residents wanting to know what crimes have occurred in their area simply type in their address or neighborhood and receive a list of reported offenses. Clicking on the crime brings more information, including a locator map. This comes directly from the police department’s records. By contrast, all the New York Every Block site offers is a weekly compendium of crimes by precinct, with no details on the reports and no indication of where in the precinct the alleged offense occurred.While EveryBlock has not been able to persuade New York City’s police department to make that information accessible, EveryBlock does provide access to New York restaurant inspections and building violations. The information is much more accessible on EveryBlock where anyone can search for violations in a particular ZIP code or by the name of a facility.O’Neil says it is absurd that city agencies leave it to third party projects like his to provide information access. “It’s unethical for cities to say that some external service is going to be essential to displaying city service requests,” he said.Making records accessible is not just a matter of honest government, O’Neil said; it’s a matter of being cost effective. “The city spends an enormous amount of time and energy and human resources and technical resources to create reports that are practically worthless,” he explained.

Independent Government Observers Task Force

I helped organize and participated in the Independent Government Observers Task Force

Municipal Governments (Working Group Chair: Daniel X. O’Neil). This group will focus on issues involved in citizens attempting to build interfaces around municipal government data. Technical issues such as harvesting techniques and presentation techniques will be covered, as will social issues such as negotiating for the release of public data.

Seal of the Great Seal of Approval

The conference was sponsored in part by public.resource.org.

Partnership: EveryBlock in Your Car with Dash

Today I helped launch a new partnership for EveryBlock with Dash Navigation. Here’s a snip of the blog post I published on the EveryBlock blog:

You can now view EveryBlock data in your car, thanks to Dash Navigation.

We’ve launched a partnership with Dash, which provides Internet-enabled GPS navigation systems for vehicles. The cool thing about the service is that you can subscribe to custom data sources that deliver information via the Internet.

If you’ve got a Dash device, you can subscribe to the EveryBlock DashApp to activate our service. This means that while you’re in your car, you can see public records and other recent news around your car’s current location — crimes, building permits and more. Here’s what it looks like on the device:

My role was partnership management and internal collaboration with developers on feed specification.

Launch: EveryBlock Philadelphia and EveryBlock Charlotte

Today I helped launch EveryBlock in two more cities— Philadelphia and Charlotte. Here’s the blog post on the EveryBlock blog: Two new EveryBlock cities are live.

My role was to find and coordinate the publication of all data in each city. I’m particularly happy with a new data type— Library items. Here’s more:

New library items — We’re experimenting with this fun new data type on EveryBlock Charlotte. If you live near a library, your EveryBlock block/neighborhood page will include books and DVDs that have recently been added to your local library’s collection. It’s a nice reminder of all the interesting items available to you.

LAUNCH: “Operation Crooked Code”

Today I helped launch the first EveryBlock Special Report, Operation Crooked Code. Here’s some notes on the work, from the announcement blog post:

The first EveryBlock special report is a great one: Operation Crooked Code. A week or so ago, 15 people were arrested on bribery charges as part of a federal probe into corruption in Chicago city government. We’ve analyzed U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald’s complaint documents and cataloged the specific addresses mentioned within. On the project’s front page, you can view every location we found, along with a relevant excerpt from the complaint. You can sort this data in various ways, including a list and map of all the alleged bribe locations.

We’ve found that this really helps the news feel closer to home, so to speak. Hearing about these indictments in the news is one thing, but finding out a bribe allegedly took place at the Dunkin Donuts by your office puts things in a new perspective.

If you happen to live near any of these locations, you’ll notice that the information shows up on your block page (example), with the rest of the local news you know and love.